- New York
Consider how much of your professional life is spent creating content about events that have already happened. Hours spent writing market overviews, executive summaries and conclusions.
Yet people often write about the past in a way that doesn’t deliver value. After reading this article, you’ll know how to avoid that pitfall.
It’s very simple: the way to turn old financial news into fierce investment writing is by forming a narrative to link all these past events. The focus of the writing then becomes the narrative, not the events.
Let’s do this step by step:
Say you’re discussing a bunch of incidents that have taken place in the financial markets over a set period of time.
Well, people often write by reflecting back, listing past events, often in chronological order:
It’s easy to spot, because it sounds a bit like a nursery rhyme:
Inflation went up
Investors got nervous
Markets went down
But in this context, there is no reference to the present—and what readers are most seeking is INSIGHT.
Flour, butter, sugar, eggs: a grocery list does not show you the cake. Similarly, a list of events contains no insight; it’s just a list.
It doesn’t help that this writing style usually appears right at the top of the document, squandering the precious moments when readers are most attentive.
So let’s decode what you want your copy to achieve instead.
You’re hoping that, through your text, readers will infer a continued trend or dynamic. Readers should be able to understand that, rather than being isolated occurrences, these events form a body of indicative evidence.
For readers to actually do any of this, you need to make your intention clear. Do this, and EVERY SINGLE PIECE you write about the past will exude authority.
Using our earlier example, let’s present a theme, and echo it with each of the events recounted:
Our theme is that persistently high inflation has impacted monetary policy and, in turn, moved markets.
I’d like to stress the point about LINKING statements to the narrative.
Financial writing often starts with a sweeping thematic sentence. But once stated, writers might rush on, neglecting to link it directly to other bits of the text. They assume that readers, having read the initial statement, will form the link themselves.
We already know that readers are unlikely to read your mind. But worse, by not linking the information to the theme, you risk readers inferring something completely different.
Here’s an example:
Higher inflation has pushed the US Federal Reserve to begin tightening monetary policy. Official statements by the Fed will typically move markets.
Is there context to the last statement?
We don’t know. As a result, we’re left with no insight on why we should invest or remain invested in equities.
Yes, writing this way can be more challenging than regurgitating old news. It requires extracting the essence from the information or embedding a view. That’s not always easy to do, but these three tips help make the job easier:
1. Be selective with information
Invariably, you can’t list everything that’s happened over the period.
Investment commentaries, for example, usually cover periods from one month to a full year, with many covering a three-month financial quarter. Choose information that is relevant to the theme and non-repetitive.
2. It’s not about what came first
Great stories are not necessarily structured linearly. In business writing, often what matters is not timing but GIRTH.
Imagine your events as pebbles thrown into water—those sending larger ripples are central to the narrative, and therefore should come first. Other events can then be placed in context. Was there a buildup? Was there a backlash?
3. If it’s complicated, don’t make it murky
A LOT of stuff can be boiled down to a single theme, and time spent crystallising your argument will pay dividends in output quality.
But sometimes, there are various themes at play, in which case, facts must not be piled together. Maintain your focus on thematic writing; make sure events are separated according to themes and referenced accordingly.
Arguably, the most critical message asset managers seek to communicate is that their deep understanding of market dynamics translates to generating returns for clients. Crucial to this message is how you write about the past.
It all boils down to this:
Old financial news can be turned into fierce investment copy by forming a narrative to which all events link directly. The narrative should be stated explicitly in the text as early as possible, and echoed when describing events