The world of investing can sometimes feel intimidating, when financial advisers and other industry professionals use complex language. But using plain English can bridge the gap between the experts and the average investor, says Melissa Mebus.
If you’re not a finance expert, the world of investing and its language can be confusing and hard to understand.
Take this sentence: “The equities have achieved significant upside over Q1 of FY18. Guidance suggests profits will increase in excess of 100%.”
But why not just say this? “Early this year, shares grew a lot in value, and the company says profits are likely to double.” It’s much simpler. Trust and understanding play a large part in the success of any relationship.
As a potential investor, I’d like to hope an adviser would put the same effort into helping me understand my investment as I’ve put into earning it.
Building trust through clear communication
In one of her regular radio columns on RNZ, personal finance expert Mary Holm recently talked about how to find a financial adviser who has your interests at heart.
Holm settled on two main points to focus on when you’re looking for an adviser. First, you have to feel you can trust them. Second, you have to be able to understand them.
If an adviser doesn’t pass this screening, Holm warned, keep looking for someone who does.
A specific language for experts exists for a variety of reasons. Experts often need this kind of language when talking to each other. But they can forget that the meaning they understand so well may not be clear to others. And sometimes, expert language is used to exclude or baffle.
Plain English forms solid relationships
Communications given in plain English close the divide between expert and reader. Plain English uses clear and simple terms to build trust and transparency. By communicating in a way that’s easy for a reader or listener to understand, the gap between the two parties closes.
Plain English enables readers to quickly understand any actions that are expected or required of them. The reader doesn’t run the risk of feeling inadequate because they don’t understand. They save time by processing information faster.
Information written in plain English can help an investor feel more in control of decisions related to their money, which adds a sense of security. That’s extremely important because information about investments affects decisions that have far-reaching and long-term impact.
Keep it clear and concise
The Financial Markets Authority expects ‘clear, concise, and effective’ guidance for investors and other participants in financial markets, though this is not (yet) regulation.
Many organisations in the finance industry are now applying plain English techniques to all their communications – whether intended for staff or people outside their organisations. They’ve discovered the rewards of clarity, and the costs of being obscure.
First published 28 May, 2018
Story by Melissa Mebus
Melissa Mebus is a plain language consultant, and project manager of the 2018 Plain English Awards, plainenglishawards.org.nz
JUNO does not contain financial advice as defined by the Financial Advisers Act 2008. Consult a suitably qualified financial adviser before making investment decisions. This story reflects the views of the contributor only. Content comes from sources that JUNO considers accurate, but we do not guarantee that the content is accurate.