That vs. which: Which is right?

Tuesday, Feb. 24th 2015

Writers often use “which” when they should use “that.” The reverse is also true. It took me a while to learn this myself. This post offers some guidance on your choices.which vs. that

The “That” rule

“That” is for essential clauses. The sentence doesn’t make sense without the clause.

Take a sentence like the following:

Inflation that rises rapidly may hurt bond prices more than gradual inflation.

Omit “that rises rapidly” and you get “Inflation may hurt bond prices more than gradual inflation.” Does that make sense? No! Thus, “that” is required to reflect the presence of an essential clause.

The “Which” rule

“Which” is for nonessential clauses and requires at least one comma.

Consider the following example:

Inflation was rising rapidly, which was inflicting pain on bond holders.

Delete “which was inflicting pain on bond holders” and you still have a sentence that makes sense: “Inflation was rising rapidly.”

 The British exception

The British have different rules for the use of “which” and “that.” As Shea Ammon states in Bad English: A History of Linguistic Aggravation, they use both for essential clauses. However, they agree with Americans on using “which” for nonessential clauses.

 

For another take on which vs. that, read my post “The Which Trials” according to “Woe is I.” That post also contains links to more resources on which vs. that.

 

Note: The title of post was edited on Feb. 24, 2015, when I learned that “that” and “which” may not be considered pronouns in this context.

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Copyright 2015 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

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Should your investment commentary be different?

Tuesday, Feb. 17th 2015

“Should your investment commentary present a distinctive point of view?” That’s the great question posed by a participant in one of my presentations on “How To Write Investment 3Cs of investment commentary InvestmentWritingCommentary People Will Read.”

My answer? It depends.

What is the distinctive point of view?

If a distinctive point of view means ideas that hold their own vs. leading investment strategies, that’s easier said than done. Not everyone can be an original thinker.

Another challenge: Competing with top investment strategists may also require access to world-class data to support your contentions. That may be tough if you’re at a small company with limited resources.

On the other hand, ideas aren’t the only way to distinguish yourself. You can stand out with the way you express your ideas, instead of the actual content of your commentary. Perhaps you show some personality or you’re an elegant or humorous writer.

Your audience matters

Investment commentary that displays thought leadership appeals to some audiences more than others.

For example, if you sell your firm’s tactical asset allocation services, readers will care about the originality and accuracy of how you assess markets. In short, thought leadership matters if it is an important part of your appeal as an investment manager.

Some readers won’t care whether your ideas are original or common. This is particularly true of individual investors. I believe they’d rather know that you understand them and their needs. In their case, investment commentary explaining how a recent event or trend affects their portfolio may be more powerful than groundbreaking commentary on the stock market.

What do YOU think?

I’m curious to learn your thoughts on this topic. Please comment.

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Posted by Susan Weiner, CFA | in marketing, writing | 4 Comments »

What Napoleon’s first battle can teach writers

Tuesday, Feb. 10th 2015

Imagination is a powerful source of story ideas. This is what a picture of Napoleon Bonaparte’s first battle made me think when I visited the Bonaparte home on the French island of Corsica. And it can help you when you write.

Do you know what is portrayed in “Napoleon’s First Battle”? A snowball fight. It’s unlikely that the artist saw it firsthand, but the image offers a refreshing perspective on Napoleon.Napoleon's First Battle

What’s the lesson for you? If you’re targeting a specific audience—for example, pre-retirees in their 50s who work as cardiothoracic surgeons—write about earlier stages of their lives. You don’t have to go back to their childhood. However, showing some understanding of how your ideal prospects reached their current state will help them to trust you.

For example, you could refer to their long training, including residencies and internship, which has shaped some of the pressures in their lives.

Another idea is to write or blog about the challenges your 50-something prospects face in their 30s or 40s. This could help you to build a pipeline of ideal clients.

Have you ever tried imaging your audience at a younger age? How did it help you?

 

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How I’ve benefited from Twitter—and you can, too

Tuesday, Feb. 3rd 2015

Twitter didn’t appeal to me at all in the beginning. I asked, “How can I benefit from reading an overwhelming volume of one-liners?” But @BillWinterberg and my writer friends TWITTER WORKSconvinced me to try it. I’m glad I did.

Here are 4 ways I’ve benefited from Twitter.

1. New clients

Twitter has brought me new clients, directly and indirectly. Sometimes it was as easy as tweeting that I was looking for more paid speaking gigs. One of my followers responded to that tweet. Soon, I had another chapter of the Financial Planning Association as a client for “Writing Effective Emails.” I described my tweeting for clients process in my guest post, “Secrets of a speedy sale via Twitter,” on the Social Marketing Technology blog.

Sometimes the client cultivation process started with meeting someone new on Twitter, whom I might never have met otherwise. In one case, after trading occasional tweets, I met a Twitter friend in real life for a conversation that deepened our relationship. Eventually, I snared some work for that person’s firm.

2. Greater awareness

Twitter has boosted prospects’ awareness of me. I measure that partly in an increased number of Twitter followers and newsletter subscribers since joining Twitter. My website’s Google Analytics statistics show that 24% of its visitors come from Twitter.

One prospect’s comment—“I see your name everywhere!”—made me think about how Twitter contributes, along with my blog and other social media.

Twitter has also spread the word about my new blog posts, books, presentations, and other services. I couldn’t have reached as many people prior to the arrival of social media.

3. New connections

I’ve met many new people through Twitter. While some are prospects, others are sources of new ideas or ways to solve problems.

I also enjoy the social side of Twitter. I can hop on briefly for a conversation and then hop off. That disrupts my workday less than hiking into Boston for a meeting or even chatting on the phone. Plus, the less immediate nature of Twitter exchanges is easier on an introvert like me.

4. Information

I find news I can use on Twitter. It’s a great way to get a sense of what people in my niches are buzzing about. Plus, sometimes I can ask a question and get a quick, authoritative answer from an expert.

Try Twitter, you may like it

Not convinced of Twitter’s merits? Consider the following steps to get the most out of it.

  1. Follow a diverse group of people. This means experts, colleagues, prospects, and friends.
  2. Don’t try to read every tweet. Avoid information overload using something like Hootsuite. Set up columns to monitor topics or groups of people of particular interest.
  3. Post links to original content to engage more readers. This is easy for bloggers. If you don’t write linkable content regularly, then share your own take on other people’s content when you link to it. This is how to establish your value in the eyes of other people on Twitter.
  4. Interact with others. Show that you’re not a robot. You have a personality.
  5. Don’t promote yourself relentlessly. That’s a quick way to lose followers. Guy Kawasaki says, “…promotion should be one out of 20 posts,” in “Talking tweets with author, media guru Guy Kawasaki.”

What’s worked for you?

I’m curious to learn about YOUR approach to Twitter.

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Copyright 2015 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

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Posted by Susan Weiner, CFA | in social media | 1 Comment »

Is your free report “complimentary” or “complementary”?

Thursday, Jan. 29th 2015

Offering a free report to folks who sign up for your email list is a great marketing technique. However, you risk making a mistake if you substitute a multisyllabic word for “free.”complementary misuse example

Look at the example in the image to the right, which shows a sticker that appeared on a local newspaper. I feel confident the advertisers wanted to push the benefits of a free class. Too bad that’s not what they offered.

“Complementary” doesn’t mean “free.” It addresses the relationship between two or more items. Taking this ad literally, it suggests that if you pay to take a music appreciation class, it will enhance your experience in the other courses, lectures, or seminars offered by the advertiser.

“Complimentary,” meaning “given free or as a favor” is the word the advertisers needed.

When you offer a report at no cost to your newsletter subscribers, please consider making it “free.” You’ll avoid an embarrassing mistake. Also, the single-syllable “free” is easy for your readers to absorb.

If you must go multisyllabic, please use “complimentary.”

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Top posts from the fourth quarter of 2014

Thursday, Jan. 22nd 2015

Top PostsCheck out my top posts from the last quarter!

They’re a mix of practical tips on investment commentary (#1 and 2), white papers (#3 and 7),  writing (#4, 6, and 10), and marketing (#8). One of the posts features insights from a guest expert, Dave Grant (#5). All of my 2014 guest bloggers appear in #9.

I put a lot of thought into #1. I’m glad to see that my readers found it helpful.

  1. Writing sensitively about tragedy in your investment commentary or blog
  2. Famous quotes make your commentary memorable
  3. 4 reasons you shouldn’t write a white paper
  4. Free help for wordy writers!
  5. How and Why to Use Sliding Pop-ups ←guest post by @DaveGrant82
  6. Financial website writers, match headlines to content or lose readers
  7. E-book or white paper: which is better?
  8. Boost your newsletter list’s power with this tip
  9. Guest bloggers: 2014 in review
  10. Blog topics: Break the 3-S rule on your blog

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8 lessons from my marketing mishaps

Tuesday, Jan. 20th 2015

As I reflect on 2014, I’ve learned some lessons that may help you. Two of my anchor clients—clients who gave me work at regular intervals—took their work in-house last year. Althoughlight bulb a couple of one-time projects replaced that income temporarily, I eventually fell behind. Catching up would have been easier if I’d done some things differently.

Lesson 1: Don’t stop marketing.

Complacency plus unrealistic expectations. That’s what hurt me.

On the complacency front, I had stopped actively contacting new prospects because I had plenty of work. I didn’t want to have to turn away work that I was too busy to take on. I did, however, continue raising people’s awareness of me in a general way via social media, my blog, my weekly and monthly e-newsletters, and public speaking.

As for unrealistic expectations, I’d dreamed that publishing my book, Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients, would sweep my business to new heights. Publishing my book was a wonderful experience. I’m thrilled by the enthusiastic reviews from my readers. I’m confident that it has brought me to the attention of new people. However, the book hasn’t directly created scads of new business for me.

Lesson 2: Use LinkedIn to meet targeted prospects.

Following the advice of some fellow writers, I experimented with sending letters of introduction (LOIs) to a group of prospects. I used LinkedIn’s search function, focusing on keywords, to identify people who might hire me. Then I sent a letter of introduction via LinkedIn that focused on how I could help them, rather than how they could help me.

I gained three new clients from LOIs in 2014. Though some may call that a low success rate, it nicely complemented clients gained from other sources.

Lesson 3: Be politely persistent.

People can’t hire you if they don’t have a need. That’s why polite persistence pays by keeping you in front of your prospects until they’re ready to hire.

When I meet people, I ask if I can add them to the distribution of my monthly e-newsletter of practical communications tips tailored to financial professionals. It’s great if I can win their permission to enter their email inbox. Sometimes that gentle reminder is the key to winning new business. However, I don’t add people without their permission. My newsletter has been an ongoing source of new business for me.

If somebody sounds like a great prospect for me, I try to follow up quarterly with a quick email asking about current needs. When possible, I share a link to an article of interest to that person. I’ve gained work this way, too.

Lesson 4: Go with the flow when new opportunities arise.

Sometimes opportunities take you in new directions. In 2014, my opportunities to speak for pay to professional associations and corporate clients increased dramatically. It felt as if most of these opportunities fell into my lap. However, in every case I had some sort of personal connection with the organization through my newsletter, social media, or previous speaking engagements.

Feeling very pleased with the response I received from my audiences, I shared the information via social media and in my newsletters. Talking about my paid speaking gigs generated more opportunities. In fact, one time a simple tweet saying that I’d like more paid speaking gigs led directly to a new opportunity, as I described in “Secrets of a speedy sale via Twitter.”

Lesson 5: Try something new.

I wondered about offering new products or services to attract business from individuals instead of large companies, which spurred me to offer my first self-sponsored paid webinar. In June 2014 I delivered a webinar version of “How to Write Investment Commentary People Will Read,” which I’ve also presented to CFA societies and corporate clients.

I was pleased with the enrollment and student participation. The technology drove me crazy, but that’s another story, which I’ve described in “Tech tips for your educational webinar–Learn from my experience.”

The webinar helped me indirectly, too, by giving me something to talk about with prospects and others.

Not every new initiative paid off with big sales. I’m glad I created Investment Commentary: Best Tips from InvestmentWriting.com, but I haven’t recouped my production costs yet. It’s hard to make a significant amount of money from selling inexpensive items in a narrow niche.

Lesson 6: Fine-tune your old techniques.

My newsletter has been the foundation of my success, but sign-ups have lagged somewhat over the past year or so. As I discussed in “Your call-to-action choice makes a difference,” I initially thought the position of my call-to-action box was a problem. I moved the box back to the upper right-hand corner of my website. That seemed to help some. Still, new newsletter sign-ups lagged previous levels.

I mulled over adding a pop-up newsletter subscription box to my website. I don’t like them on the other people’s websites, but people whom I respect reported that pop-ups boosted their sign-ups. I heard this from Michael Kitces of Nerd’s Eye View, Blane Warrene, and fellow writers. Dave Grant of Finance for Teachers boosted my interest further when he guest-blogged for me on “How and Why to Use Sliding Pop-ups.”

I added the free SumoMe pop-up at the end of September 2014. Since then my newsletter sign-ups have increased. About one-third to two-thirds of my newsletter sign-ups come via the pop-up, according to my weekly reports.

Lesson 7: Track your results.

Look at what techniques have yielded new clients in the past. I describe my approach to this analysis in “Learn what works in winning clients.” I’m able to write this blog post because I look at which tactics yield new clients.

I wish there were a quick and easy formula for me to win new clients. But there isn’t. My new clients come from a diverse array of sources including referrals, my newsletter, my LOIs, and my general presence on the Web. One new client told me, “I see your name everywhere.”

Lesson 8: Get your focus right.

Your website should clearly communicate your business focus. If it doesn’t, you’ll get inquiries from people who aren’t a good fit for your services and products.

I’m still working to get this right. My online presence attracts more individual advisors than marketers and other managers from larger investment and wealth management firms, the ideal clients for my writing and editing services.

This mismatch is my own doing. I like writing blog posts that help individuals learn how to write better. My book, Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients, is a self-help manual for these folks. I can’t stop writing this kind of content because I enjoy it too much. I also get satisfaction from my paid speaking gigs about “Writing Effective Emails” and “How to Write Investment Commentary People Will Read” for local groups of the CFA Institute and Financial Planning Association.

It’s time to tweak my website messaging. Emphasizing my white paper and commentary work to attract more ideal clients is on my “to do” list for 2015.

What about YOU?

Do you see ways that these lessons might apply to you? What are you doing to fine-tune your marketing this year?

Image courtesy of  KROMKRATHOG at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Copyright 2015 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

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Posted by Susan Weiner, CFA | in marketing | 1 Comment »

Help your readers by linking to definitions

Tuesday, Jan. 13th 2015

Using words that your audience doesn’t understand can cut your readership. That’s why I recommend using plain language or defining terms by writing parenthetically. But what if 95%ID-10066454 of your readers prefer terms like “quantitative easing” and “duration,” but you want to accommodate the remaining 5%?

Link to online definitions, but cautiously

Glossaries can help you cater to a small number of less sophisticated readers. You can link from technical terms to their definitions. This works well in online content, such as websites, blogs, and even in PDFs that are read online. In printed documents, you can refer to a glossary at the back of the piece or at an easy-to-type online address. However, be aware that it takes a very motivated reader to click, read the definition, and then return to your document. I’d only use this technique when less sophisticated readers are a small minority.

You can find good definitions online, with glossaries such as InvestorWords, Investing in Bonds, or the Morningstar Investment Glossary. You can also do a Google search, typing “Define: Term.”

Don’t blindly accept any definition you find. Read the definition carefully to see if you agree with it.

Create your own glossary

Another approach is to create your own glossary that lives on your website. This may be the only solution if you have concerns about linking to third-party websites. Your compliance professionals may worry about seeming to endorse someone else’s website or being vulnerable to changes that occur in the content after you post your link. Plus, what happens if that page disappears? Broken links disappoint your readers and damage your credibility. This gives you control over the definition and your readers’ access to it.

Another potential advantage: You can cross-link from your glossary definition to other relevant content. This could increase readers’ engagement with your website.

 

Image courtesy of  arztsamui at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

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Do your grammar, punctuation, and usage affect your credibility?

Thursday, Jan. 8th 2015

Does the quality of your writing matter?

Please answer my two-question survey to provide insights into your opinions on whether the quality of your writing can hurt or help your credibility. I’ll report on the results in a future issue of my monthly e-newsletter.

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Breaking your writer’s block with Robert Benson and Eric Maisel

Tuesday, Jan. 6th 2015

What can you do when writer’s block paralyzes you?

Dancing on the Head of a PenSitting down at your desk and going through the motions of writing is one place to start, according to Robert Benson in Dancing on the Head of a Pen: The Practice of a Writing Life.

Benson suggests that you establish a daily routine of turning on your computer and going back to the most recent stopping point in your work. Paraphrasing an NPR interview with Eric Maisel, he suggests, “If you are a writer, type in the last few bits you wrote.” You can find direct insights from Maisel on YouTube, as in “Understanding Goal-Oriented Creativity.”

I think the idea is to find an easy entry into writing. Once you start, you may build momentum. As Benson also says,

… something… magical may happen to writers if they go to their rooms and take up their tools each day.

Perhaps writing will capture them.

This reminds me of advice I read or heard long ago to stop your daily writing in the middle of a paragraph or thought. That way you’ll have an obvious path for resuming your writing.

What works for you?

What helps you lick writer’s block? For another take on this topic, see “Beating financial writer’s block with author Julia Cameron.”

 

Disclosure: If you click on the Amazon link in this post and then buy something, I will receive a small commission. I only link to books in which I find some value for my blog’s readers.

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