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11/13/2013

Writing Investment Research Reports: Elements of Style


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The security analyst profession is changing, and that's because your clients' needs are changing. Clients today are more demanding than ever. They want useful information, and they want it now. They want your report's recommendations in a clear, concise, and compelling style. They want information that's logically presented and easy to understand.

Here are some tips to help you meet those requirements:

  1. Aim for a Balanced Perspective: When conducting your research, delve into sources that go beyond the usual approaches to researching the long-term health of the company you're covering. Is there bench strength in the C-suite? Does the company invest in training employees to ensure they have the skills necessary to execute its strategy? What about the company's website? Is it easy to navigate? Is it customer focused?
  2. Organize Around Your Conclusions: Carter Daniel's Reader-Friendly Reports advises writers to present their conclusions at the start of the report and to organize the report around those conclusions. Readers today are time starved. They have no interest in reading a lot of evidence before the writer finally gets around to the report's bottom line.

  3. Mach Creative
  4. Avoid Unprofessional Errors: Of course, the firm you work in will not publish a report that has embarrassing mistakes in spelling, punctuation, and grammar. However, for career purposes, you want your management to view you as someone who's truly a professional, not someone whose work frequently has to be "cleaned up." Writing for a living is hard, mainly because it's so cerebral. Still, be sure you revise your work constantly. Read your report backwards, word for word. Ask a colleague to look it over before it goes into review. Avoid having to be informed: "You wrote a run-on sentence." Or: "That's not how you spell [fill in the blank]."
  5. Edit for Brevity: Regardless of the length of the report you're writing, be sure every sentence, every word, every syllable carries weight and helps you advance your argument. Doing so will be a refreshing change for your clients. Every day we are assaulted with literally thousands of messages and a wide array of distractions. Break away from the competition. Make sure your report cuts through the chaos. No matter how complex the issues or massive the data, aim for a style that's crystal-clear and that packs tons of key facts into a report that is economically written.

–Susan Mach, PhD

Susan Mach, PhD, is a communication coach, trainer, and strategist. She teaches management communication part time at major NYC-area business schools, and investment research report writing at NYSSA.

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