October 28, 2011

Props To USA Today Money Section – Seriously

October 28, 2011

Props To USA Today Money Section – Seriously

Covering markets for consumers is harder than doing so for finance pros. You must simplify—but not oversimplify—complex concepts into terms everyone can understand. The exercise is best summed up in a fortune cookie phrase taped to my monitor: “It is a simple task to make things complex, but a complex task to make them simple.”

That said, I read the USA Today Money section cover story Friday morning while waiting in line for coffee: U.S. Stocks Cheer Eurozone Deal. It’s incredibly well written because it lays out an insanely complex topic for consumers in about 450 words: the deal outline, near-term market reaction, longer-term outlook, and sources cited throughout.

If you think this is easy, read that fortune again. Then try it.

Here’s what I wrote for consumers Thursday morning on the exact same topic using 444 words.

Mine is more complex. I’ll grant myself that I had another layer beyond the EU deal and stocks: the bond/rate reaction and outlook. Plus I don’t have an editor. But I’m taking a lesson from USA Today for two reasons:

(1) Their consumer focus makes simplification a core objective. Simplification should be the mission of every writer. It must be the mission of a market writer targeting consumers.

(2) Their print format forces brevity. On the web you can go long, but you shouldn’t. You should always be trying try to polish.

Interestingly, right after I wrote #2 above, I went to get the USA Today link to this story. Their web version of the story is 863 words, and much less clear. Go figure! Still, I’m sticking to the lesson.

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