Simple Questions That Can Improve Your Writing

Today, a guest blogger…

The Blueleaf Blog would like to welcome Susan Weiner, CFA, as today’s guest blogger! Susan works with financial professionals to increase the impact of their writing. Today she’s stopping by to explain how family and friends can add value to your writing process.

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The Curse of Knowledge

Yes, you’re an advisor, but whether you realize it or not, you’re also a writer. You write emails, articles, blog posts, financial plans, whitepapers, marketing materials and more. You’re constantly communicating with clients and prospects through writing, so it’s important to make sure you’re doing a good job of it.

As writers we all suffer from the curse of knowledge. It’s hard for us to critique our own writing because we know “what we meant to say.” Often, we can’t see where our readers may get stuck. This is where our family and friends can help.

Getting A Third Opinion

Outside readers can be especially helpful when they’re members of your target audience. The key is to consult people you know who share key characteristics with your target audience. They can review your writing in light of their interests and knowledge. It’s awkward to request quick-turnaround reading and detailed suggestions from clients and prospects, so it’s best to ask friends and family for this feedback. Before you send an article, white paper, or other written piece with your clients or prospects, have an open and honest conversation with your family or friends.

4 Questions that spark helpful discussion…

    1. What did you like about this piece?
      It can feel awkward for your family or friends to critique your work because they don’t want to offend you. Starting the conversation with a positive question like this relaxes them. Another benefit: Your readers’ answers will point you toward positives that you can reinforce, such as writing style or a topic that grabs your target market’s attention.
    2. What is the main point of this piece?
      If there’s a gap between what you and your readers think is the main point, then it’s time to edit your draft. If your readers seem to get the main point, then dig deeper. Ask them to explain your main points in their own words. The “in your own words” part is key. Parroting your words back at you suggests that they don’t understand. If they didn’t grasp your point, you have more work to do. It could be that your language is too technical, so you need to rewrite using plain English. For example, you could replace “headwinds” with “challenges” or “obstacles.”
    3. What questions do you have about this piece?
      Questions may reveal things that you need to fix for your original document to succeed. Perhaps there’s a concept that demands more explanation. On the other hand, questions may give you ideas for new articles, blog posts, or other communications.
    4. Are there any improvements you’d like to suggest?
      I believe that questions 1-3 will provide the most useful feedback in a nonjudgmental way. Next, it’s time to ask about improvements. This is also the time to ask about typos or grammar mistakes. As with question 3, the answers may affect the piece you’re reviewing, or they may provide ideas for the future.

It boils down to this. The more you understand your target audience, the better you can communicate with them. Family and friends who belong to that audience offer you a great opportunity to learn more.

susan_headshotSusan Weiner, CFA, is the author of the book Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients, which is tailored to financial planners, wealth managers, investment managers, and the marketing and communications staff that supports them. Read her blog or follow her on Twitter, Google+ or the Investment Writing Facebook page.
Carolyn McRae Carolyn is Blueleaf’s in-house marketing guru. She writes on The Blueleaf Blog to make advisors’ lives easier, offering practice management and client engagement tips where and when they’re useful. Outside of the Blueleaf offices, she can be found running a 10k or cooking her famous chili. Chat LIVE with Carolyn on Twitter @BlueleafAdvisor!
  • Susan Weiner, CFA

    Thank you for hosting my guest post!