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Words not to use in your financial services content

Words not to use in your financial services content

Contrary to what many writers think, creating great financial services content is not about boggling minds with financial jargon and convincing readers you know more than them. It’s also not about assuming that the high-net-worth reader automatically has a B.Comm or is some kind of financial guru. 

Working off this premise only  alienates your audience, and you may even trip yourself up if you don’t know your earnings from your revenues.

Annual reports are a case in point when it comes to the overuse of financial lingo that the investor, generally a regular person, needs to decode. The writing of this onerous task is often outsourced, and if you stop to think what a vital communication tool it is about the financial health of a company, not only for shareholders but also for banks and lending institutions, it’s concerning that many of them are just too complex to wade through.

Perhaps you write for financial institutions, for your own fintech startup, or you’re part of a communications team? Feeling bogged down in jargon and financial writing pitfalls? We are here to help.

The Flesch Reading Ease score

Ever hear of it? It’s a formula that calculates the ease of reading text using sentence length and the number of syllables per word. So short sentences and words are better than longer ones and the higher the score, the easier the material is to read. (According to the Flesch Reading Ease score, comics score 92, Sports Illustrated scores 60 and The New York Times 39)

There are many websites featuring readability formulas such as Flesch, the Gunning Fog Index, and we’ve even found one called SMOG (‘Simple Measure of Gobbledygook’) into which you can simply paste your text to analyse its complexity. This service is free on some, paid-for on others, but still well worth using as a tool, considering that even the US Department of Defense applies the Flesch Reading Ease test to all its documents. Now there’s an organisation that needs to be absolutely clear on what it’s saying!

According to www.readable.io, you only have seven seconds to grab your reader’s attention, so the rule of KISS (keep it simple, stupid) still applies, yes, even in writing financial services content! So don’t use jargon if you can use an equivalent everyday word.

Some explanations of common jargon:

  • Equity is commonly bandied about and all it really means is ownership. So you if you have equity in a company, you own shares in it. Simple.
  • Amortisation — this is a really big word for paying off debt on a regular basis. Think of your monthly car repayments. So if you’re writing about vehicle finance, for instance, talk about car repayments rather than the amortisation of vehicle debt.
  • Bull and bear market — probably familiar because of movies like Wolf of Wall Street, but still a confusing term to many. Used to explain the state of the stock market, it’s about appreciation and depreciation. So when a market’s bullish, it’s on an upward trend and share prices are increasing. A bear market is on a downer with share prices dropping.
  • Capital — an amount of money that’s being invested.
  • Garnishment – seizing the personal property of someone in debt to pay off the debt.

And now, our pick of jargon you can eliminate forever (but there are many more, trust us):

DON'T USE THAT WORD    USE THIS WORD
capital gain profit (from selling a house or investment)
remittance payment
liquid assets cash
credit loan
divestiture sale (of an asset, business unit)
liabilities debts

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Want to take your financial services content to a whole new level? We can help you!

Want to decode the financial jargon you come across? We love http://www.investopedia.com/dictionary/ with more than 13 000 financial terms explained.

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