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Investing Blog Roundup: Advice/Tips for Writers?

I was recently asked by a new personal finance blogger if I had any writing tips to share. All I really had to offer was my general writing philosophy: Never make two points when you can make one instead. (This applies to sentences, paragraphs, and, perhaps most importantly, articles.)

So, for those of you with experience writing, I’d be interested to hear what tips, advice, or resources you have to share. I’ve enabled comments on this post, so please feel free to click over to the blog and share your thoughts!

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Comments

  1. Great question (and I like your answer). When you’re just starting out there are two things that help: (1) Read a lot from the writers you respect and (2) Make writing a daily habit even if you don’t post all of the material you write.

  2. Don’t search for perfect words on the first draft. You’ll spend more time debating with yourself and thumbing through the Thesaurus than actually writing. Write down your thoughts or arguments naturally, as if explaining a topic to friend over a couple beers.Then: revise, revise, revise.

  3. It is easy to want to “overwrite”. However, what I have found with my blogs and newsletters for my clients that they are much more engaged and interested if my ideas are to the point, use language that they understand (limit the industry jargon – that doesn’t impress most people anyway), and are relatively brief in overall length. There are times when the content requires that the writing be lengthier, but if you can condense your message that should make it easier for your reader to digest. Simplicity, in most things, is very powerful. One of the best examples of this ever is the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln delivered it in 2 minutes. Possible the most profound words ever spoken by a politician. The speaker prior to Lincoln spoke for 2 hours. His speech was quite powerful too. However it has been completely overlooked by the simplicity and power of Lincoln’s words. He sent a letter to Lincoln the next day saying that he hoped his message, delivered in two hours, would be as important Lincoln’s, which was delivered in 2 minutes. It is a great story and message for anyone that has an audience.

  4. I think the best advice, style-wise, is to understand and apply the basics of Plain Language. Finance is an industry that’s rife with jargon and needless complexity. There’s a lot of free plain language training out there (much of it’s available through http://www.plainlanguage.gov). And John Lanchester’s recent book *How to Speak Money* is a great overview of just how confusing the language of finance can be to non-professionals. Simplicity and clarity are difficult ideals, but they pay off massively and are worth the time and work they demand.

  5. I echo what I read in previous posts. Basically keep it simple and explain it in as plain language as possible. I keep my blog posts down to a single idea and then try to develop that idea as plainly and as straightforwardly as possible. I too am a great fan of Lincoln’s writing style. Not that I can emulate that, but I do admire how he conveyed thoughts so directly and succinctly. I also think writing every day is important, although I’ll be the first to admit that I’m sorely lacking in that regard. Which brings up another point, never give up, just keep trying to improve.

  6. Thanks for revealing your secret Mike. “Never make two points when you can make one instead.” That’s a really powerful way to think about good writing. It also relates to one of my principles — avoiding redundancy, which I learned as a software engineer. Never use more words, sentences, or paragraphs than needed to make the point. Use your reader’s brainpower, and patience, efficiently

    I’d like to say that applying these principles always results in short blog posts. But that hasn’t been the case for me. I like to wrestle with some of the bigger retirement-related questions, and get all the pertinent facts, plus my personal experience, down in one place. I want my posts to be comprehensive resources on a given topic. I use them as references, and hope readers can do the same. I do believe a blog will do better, in general, with a higher quantity of shorter posts, but mine does OK anyway.

    Two final points: I believe good writing stems from good reading. It’s hard to be literate without regularly reading the other strong writers in your domain. Lastly, unless you’re incredibly gifted: edit, edit, let your writing sit awhile, and edit again. If possible, get a trusted family member or friend to comment. If there’s something they don’t understand, then fix it. Don’t argue. The reader is always right!

  7. Having taught college English for many years, I think I have something to offer. But since I was too lazy to come up with examples myself, here’s one from a source I found (http://writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/CCS_prepphrases.html).

    Unnecessary phrase: The obvious effect of such a range of reference is to assure the audience of the author’s range of learning and intellect.
    Correction: The wide-ranging references in this talk assure the audience that the author is intelligent and well-read.

    The “before” and “after” here illustrate several good principles:

    1) Tighten your sentences. For instance, I could have started above by writing, “Having been an instructor of English writing at the college level for a great many years . . . . “

    2) Write using verbs. Compare the first example, where the main verb is a form of “to be,” with the revision using “assure” as the verb. Verbs create energy and strength in writing.

    3) Avoid strings of prepositional phrases, which typically indicate you are not writing with verbs.

    But in one sense the initial version above is better. The strongest positions for any word, paragraph, or article are at the beginning and even more, the end, and “intellect” in the first version is a strong ending to the sentence. So I could correct the “correction” to read:

    Correction further corrected: The wide-ranging references in this talk assure the audience of the author’s intellect and erudition.

    Tighter, more emphatic, more energetic.

  8. lisa doricchi says:

    Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable

  9. Keep your reading grade level as low as possible. Flesch Kincaid score of 7 or less and you writing will be really easy to follow and understand. Microsoft Word has a tool where you can check this. Short syllable words and short sentences work wonders on getting the FK score down.

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