Back in 2017 I went to a paraplanning event put together by the awesome Paraplanner Assembly, the topic of which was report writing.
This subject probably doesn’t quite have the same appeal for advisers as it does for paraplanners.
This event probably had the most prolific impact upon the way I write, especially the presentation by a young man by the name of Joe Craig from a company called QuietRoom. QuietRoom’s strapline is “We’ll help you make your complicated subject more meaningful to more people.”
Why am I writing this for an audience that is primarily advisers?
Well because what immediately became apparent was the number of paraplanners who were saying that the advisers they worked with would be reluctant to embrace the changes being suggested.
The research behind his presentation was very compelling and I think advisers need to move away from the formal style of writing to embrace the way that people now want and should be communicated with.
What Joe presented so very well is how you can say the same thing, using different words and get a completely different reaction.
Joe went on to highlight how different companies use their words to say the same thing but make them stand out. I absolutely love this example:
So, what do the FCA have to say about reports?
“[We need to] make them more accessible for consumers and reduce the time firms spend preparing them. This includes, for example, layering information so the most important material is included towards the start of the report and simplifying the language used.”
Distilled this translates to
- Easy to write
- Easy to read
Joe’s presentation was backed up by a study by Professor Daniel Oppenheimer ironically named the Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity. Which rather demonstrates his point, which is the problem with using long words needlessly.
One of the quotes from his study is as follows:
“Contrary to prevailing wisdom, increasing the complexity of a text does not cause an essay’s author to seem more intelligent. In fact, the opposite appears to be true… Complexity neither disguised the shortcomings of poor essays, nor enhanced the appeal of high-quality essays. The mediation analysis suggests that the reason that simple texts are viewed more positively than complex texts was due to fluency. Complex texts are difficult to read, which in turn… lowers judgements of an author’s intelligence.”
Professor Trudeau carried out a study of people’s responses to legal documents and found There was a statistically significant correlation between educational level and the likelihood that a respondent would choose the plain-language version. That is, as education increased, so did the preference for plain language.
How many times do you see a report that says something like,” in preparation for retirement?”
Joe asked why do we not just simply say? Getting ready to stop work?
For me this is such a powerful message as the two sentences mean the same, but one evokes a much different emotional response.
So, my message to advisers is, ask yourself:
Who is it that wants an official tone of voice to be used in your reports? Is it you or your clients?
Who is it that wants your reports to be longer than required? Is it you or the FCA?
Who is that dictates that a clients’ objective needs to more than simply, you want stop working at age 65 with an income of £35,000 each year?
Which of the two pictured examples would you prefer to read?
In conclusion, make the words count, simplify, personalise, and identify how your clients really want to be communicated with.