Archive for ‘Style’

August 18, 2011

If @GuardianStyle says …

… today is International Apostrophe Day, then it must be true. Did you know there is an official Apostrophe Protection Society?

And for a special bonus, here’s a picture of Lynne Truss (author of Eats Shoots and Leaves) patrolling the streets with her magical apostrophe wand.

Courtesy of:

August 6, 2011

PBS Mini-doc on Typography

Type is everywhere. Every print publication, website, movie, advertisement and public message involves the creation or selection of a fitting typeface. Online, a rich and artistic typographical culture exists, where typefaces are created and graphic design seeps in to every image.

Here’s the PBS link.

August 4, 2011

Plain Speak from the SEC

Often enough it takes all my powers of concentration and a good dose of caffeine to wade through various SEC rulings and other dispatches. (See my earlier post on model-generated quant recs.)

This primer, intended for individual investors, is a refreshing exercise in clear and direct communication.

I also think it should be published into a little booklet and included in every IA’s marketing kit. Handy!

August 3, 2011

The Elegant Basics

One of the phrases I see most often in research writing and like the least  is “that having been said”. Ugh. Right up there with “at the end of the day”. Cringe.

Usually, a simple “however” or “therefore”  will do — or neither — as in, a qualifier is not necessary at all.

Not to mention the misuse of a number of other common phrases … and that’s where our stalwart pals, Strunk & White come in.  Check this out for some stylish simplicity. See? That wasn’t so painful, was it?

And for a lively rant against the hallowed status of The Elements of Style, see this.

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August 3, 2011

Home Office Decor

I have a very large version of this poster hanging on the wall in my home office. It manages to encapsulate a few of my “nerd-ities” all in one blow. Sweet.

(And, okay,  a bit gratuitous … our blog here was looking a bit too “texty” so I added a pretty picture!)

August 2, 2011

House Style

John McIntyre, over at The Baltimore Sun, writes:

House style is often an arbitrary choice between two equally acceptable ways of writing something. Therefore—deep breath, fellow copy editors—it doesn’t matter except for maintaining internally consistent practice at a publication.

You Don’t Say

And this is why I love him. Any self-respecting editor knows that many of the decisions we make are arbitrary; we simply prefer one (correct) treatment over another and that’s it, a purely subjective choice.

Clear communication is what’s paramount, of course, so honestly, who cares about arcane rules of grammar if an analyst is successfully presenting a well-paced argument? But to appease the sticklers, sure, we will admit that as it turns out, to convey a convincing thesis, you just kinda naturally gotta use good grammar anyhoo!

Consistency is almost as important as clarity. It’s one of those invisible aspects of editing we wrote about earlier … you don’t notice when it works, but it can be jarring, even if subconsciously, when it doesn’t.

YES! Every research department should develop and use its own style guide! I don’t care if the acronym for barrels of oil equivalent is written in upper or lower case — it doesn’t matter — but make a choice and stick with it!

July 31, 2011

“Typography is what language looks like …”

July 30, 2011

The Subversive Copy Editor

I found this blog through a link from CMOS and now follow it on FaceBook. If, like me, you read books on grammar for fun (what? I do!), then you’ll enjoy this blog as well, promise.

July 28, 2011

They’ll Never Know

As editors of written copy and report presentation, our job is to be invisible and help the author shine. Sure, we could let a badly capitalized headline go out and 99% of the readership probably wouldn’t consciously notice. But we notice, and we know the report has more authority when small details like have been corrected.

And therein lies some of the frustration of having a career in financial services in such a role. This business, like any other business, is results oriented. Quantified. But for the multitude of us who work on the support side, making direct sales or getting a client to pay for our efforts isn’t an option. Yet we make a solid contribution to the final product and sometimes, I think, our role is wildly misunderstood, if not outright overlooked.

By ensuring that proper disclosures are in place every single time, we might have saved the company a headache with the regulators and possibly a steep fine. But that’s what they pay us to do, right? We know that.

Or we might have caught a valuation metric that was an anomaly in the comp table, questioned the analyst, and requested some clarification in the text. Or simply done the math and discovered the target wasn’t matching up. This kind of observation and intervention can help the analyst side-step the awkwardness of having the sales desk or a client scratching their heads asking, what the heck? But what’s it worth?

And sure, we might have helped the company avoid a million-dollar lawsuit by rephrasing an analyst’s pro-oil diatribe against an aboriginal leader who was backtracking on development plans … but by the time the report hits the wires, nobody knows we did that. Or really cares.

Or we tweaked a graphic just a few points higher to better position it in the story, maybe cropped out some extraneous noise, changed a font style/size, searched a source on the web. All important details, all contributing to the polished look of the finished project, perhaps even helping build an analyst’s ranking, yet all necessarily covert.

These little details matter A LOT to us, even if we know that few end-users consciously notice or even realize at all that deliberate thought has been put into every.single.thing. And sure, stuff can slip past our notice as well … but the dread upon realizing that has happened is — whew — at least somewhat mitigated in this day and age by the ease of making a correction and reposting the file. Nobody dies, right? so try to keep some perspective will ya?! : )

I guess this ramble is all by way of saying, keep the faith fellow editors. What we do matters, even if it’s invisible!

July 23, 2011


There’s no avoiding them, particularly in equity research, and there’s a gazillion of them! Not to be confused with abbreviations, acronyms certainly have their place; after all, how many times does anyone want to read or write Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin when a simple WCSB will do?

However, analysts often assume that we are all so familiar with their respective sectors that we’ll automatically know what any odd acronym stands for. Not true! And for those of us who are familiar with this or that acronym, it sometimes doesn’t hurt to be reminded.

One resource I have found crucial in my research editing career has been this:

I have used this site countless times and almost always get it right because of the handy categorization, which means you’re not likely to confuse a medical acronym with an oil & gas term for example.

ALWAYS spell out an acronym the first time it appears in text. And it doesn’t hurt to pepper a sectioned report with the full spell out either; sometimes readers only want to look at the Valuation and/or Recommendation section(s), for example, so help them out if it’s been awhile since the acronym first appeared in the text.

July 22, 2011


One of the greatest pleasures of working with research analysts is that they are so darn smart! Total experts in their respective fields, whether it be biotech, mining, oil & gas, or paper & forest, etc., and they’re also major brainiacs when it comes to financial analysis. Yet nobody’s perfect and financial analysts are not always the strongest writers in the world.

Engineers, geologists, oncologists, physicists, MBAs, CAs, CFAs, PhDs — generally wonderful people with excellent minds, but English grammar and usage might have escaped their full dedication while they were busy earning degrees! That’s why there are editors … like me! : )

One of the most difficult jobs I have when editing for these awesome professionals is trying to get them to minimize the use of clichés.

At the end of the day, on the back of, colour (when used as an equivalent of “detail” … ugh), well those are just a slim few examples that are oft repeated, not only across the department, but even several times in one short report.

And I get it. The core material is detailed, sometimes dry (quarterly earnings maintenance reports, for example), and it’s natural that an analyst might want to liven up their writing with a few “out of the ballpark” clichés. But don’t. Please.

Why? Because what is otherwise expert analysis becomes diluted by the use of these hackneyed phrases. What is presented as a professional document is rendered casual and chatty. Sure, there is a place for loose talk, the morning meeting for example. Use all the insidery, cliché-ridden language you want in conversation. It still makes me wince, but that’s my problem. Just don’t put it in print!

I stumbled across a cliché site and am posting  the link here for reference purposes. Not to provide a place to find a new cliché to use (!), but to help identify where clichés have been incorporated into a report and as a reminder to avoid them!

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