Monday, September 29, 2008

Writing sample: Three key lessons from "Schwab and TD Ameritrade Financial Stability"

Sometimes a little tweaking can make your email message more compelling to your readers. That's especially true when you make your message reader-centric.

Below you'll find a "before" example of a message I received recently and the "after" version with my edits to make it more client-focused.


BEFORE:

Schwab and TD Ameritrade Financial Stability

We received a number of phone calls the past few days about the financial stability of Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade who we use to custody client accounts.  I am pleased to report that they are both in fine shape, as they are not investment banks.   Investment banks create products and sell them to institutions such as insurance companies, pension plans and banks.  In addition, your accounts are separately held and each account has both SIPC and supplemental insurance far in excess of your accounts' value. For more information about SIPC and supplemental insurance please click on the following link:



AFTER MY EDITING:


Schwab and TD Ameritrade are Financially Stable
 

Has the recent financial turmoil made you worry about the  financial stability of the firms that provide custody for your accounts with us?

Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade are both in fine shape. They are not investment banks and they have strong balance sheets.
In addition, your accounts are separately held and each account has both Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) and supplemental insurance far in excess of the account's value. For more information on SIPC and supplemental insurance click on the following link:....


Comparing the before and after


What are the key lessons from the two versions?
  1. Use headings to convey your message. My heading, "Schwab and TD Ameritrade are Financially Stable" conveys a lot more information than "Schwab and TD Ameritrade Financial Stability." It puts readers' minds at ease quickly and may spare them having to read the entire message
  2. Talk about you, not us. The first version starts with "we received..." and talks about "we use to custody...." The second begins with a focus on you.
  3. Don't assume that your reader understands acronyms. Spell out that SIPC is short for Securities Investor Protection Corporation.
Still, I give the authors credit for e-mailing their clients promptly. It's not easy to craft a perfect communication when time is short.

_________________
Susan B. Weiner, CFA

Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.

Copyright 2008 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

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