3. Is it conversational?
Tone is important too. Although institutional audiences theoretically may be more sophisticated than retail readers, long-winded academic pieces that aren’t easily readable will get tossed into the wastebasket or filed into the “read later…much, much later” pile.
Some investment writers shy away from a more personal tone because they think it makes a piece less professional, but this is far from true. If a topic can be explained in simpler terms that the reader can quickly absorb, you’ve just empowered your audience with knowledge.
Explore some of the asset management websites that rank high on Visible Thread’s readability index. These firms feature content that adheres to the rules above. And they’re not afraid to break the rules sometimes.
For instance, starting sentences with conjunctions (see previous sentence) and ending with prepositions is no longer considered taboo—as long as this approach is not being overused. It’s also acceptable to use pronouns—it makes the content more personal and readable.
Don’t Forget the Graphics
Graphics can provide a much-needed break to a text-heavy piece. But they shouldn’t solely be used as a visually appealing pause in a string of words: graphics should make it immediately clear what the written point is trying to convey.
Referencing illustrations, graphs or imagery where applicable in the piece and labeling them accordingly allows readers to make a quick visual connection. Also, if data-driven charts are being used, can the graphics be varied?
Consider using different chart types (e.g., line, pie, bar) to break up the monotony and keep readers engaged longer.
Tech Can Help Too
Visible Thread’s study also suggested that asset managers use technology to measure content clarity. Services and software are available to analyze readability statistics, but word processing apps that most writers are already using also have tools that can help.
Microsoft Word and Google Docs can scan a document and provide readability statistics through the Flesch Reading Ease and the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level tests.
While these tools are not often used among investment writers when they draft content, maybe it’s time they adopt this strategy—these are also the tests that Visible Thread employed when conducting its study.
With industry credibility at stake, isn’t it worth it to take strides to ensure clearer, more concise, conversational content? The steps mentioned here will go a long way in reaching the goal of more transparent writing—and ultimately help in the quest to gain more trust among investment audiences.