January 23, 2018 Write less, say more
Looking back at the Financial Reporting Council’s (FRC) guidance over recent years it is perhaps of little surprise that one constant theme is the need to be clear and concise. After all, who wants to wade through multiple pages of tortuous script when a simple summary may have sufficed? On the other hand being too concise can distort meanings, leading to misunderstandings or incorrect assumptions.
So those tasked with preparing company reports have to walk a fine line; ensuring that they not only provide sufficient information to inform potential and current investors, but also that they do so in a clear and concise manner. With this in mind we were interested to see an article along similar lines on the Companies House website. Written by Donna Maksimovic, the Digital content editor at Companies House, the article explores the importance of writing content with end users in mind. For government publications this means being aware of the one in six UK adults who for a variety of reasons struggle with reading.
It’s a lesson which could be taken out into the wider corporate world. It can be all too easy to think of investors being steeped in corporate life. But what about those for whom English is a second language, or who are dyslexic, or who may be new to the world of corporate investment? Would they receive a true and fair understanding of your business from your publications?
There is no one size fits all answer. In her article Donna Maksimovic highlights pair writing, working with a subject expert to both understand and explain the complexities of a topic. Whether this would work with corporate reporting will depend on the company and its situation. After all, the typical company report is made up of information gathered from a range of sources and individuals. And yes, bringing in external scrutineers may have company sensitivity implications. That aside, arranging for the report to be sense checked may just highlight some areas which require further clarification or explanation.
Write less, say more, isn’t a new concept. In 2014 FRC Chief Executive, Stephen Haddrill, said “investors still express concern that the key messages about the business are buried in too much verbiage of little value or are obscured by boilerplate.”Company reports aren’t some 10,000 word essay in which you will lose marks if you deviate from the accepted word count. Nor will you receive any credit for padding. If something needs saying, include it. If something needs explaining, make that explanation clear. It’s as simple as that.