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Avoid Common Grammar Mistakes with Clients

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Financial advisors often describe themselves as investment counselors, financial planners, client advocates and asset gatherers. Yet, many advisors neglect to describe themselves as communicators, which may be a crucial mistake.

After all, communicating is the essence of capturing new clients and growing existing relationships. Indeed, an advisor’s communications could simply be called client prospecting and relationship management. More recently, the rise of social media has increased advisors’ use of writing to reach out to clients.

At the same time, the popularity of tweeting on Twitter and using abbreviations and acronyms when text messaging has caused some advisors to believe that the formal rules of English grammar and communication no longer apply. The bottom line, however, is that some clients will inevitably view advisors who write poorly and take grammatical shortcuts in these new mediums as being poorly educated or simply lacking the energy to be thoughtful when crafting messages or performing other advisory functions. This can, at times, put an advisor at a competitive disadvantage.

With that in mind, advisors would be well served to avoid common grammatical mistakes. Here are a few pertinent examples:

Misuse of an absolute term

Absolute terms such as “unique” and “dead” are all-or-nothing concepts. More specifically, a product is either unique or it isn’t, so it’s improper to say “most unique.” Likewise, someone or something is either dead or alive. Therefore it’s redundant to write that an investment idea is ‘very dead.’

Using a singular antecedent and plural pronoun

An antecedent is a noun that is later referred to by a pronoun. For example, a ‘team’ on second reference may be referred to with the pronoun “it.” Today, many writers incorrectly view a signal noun, such as “team,” as a plural, and use it in a sentence such as “The team announced disappointing result after saying they failed to win the contest.”  In that example, the word “they” is incorrect – it should instead be “it.” The problem also occurs frequently with referring to a company or a club as “they.”

Breaking a sentence with a colon

Colons should not be used in the middle of a sentence or when a sentence is completed with a list. For example, the colon in the following example is inappropriate. The product provides:

  • Management by experienced professionals
  • Low fees
  • A diversified portfolio

The colon should either be eliminated or the beginning phrase should be changed to a complete sentence, such as “The product offers the following advantages:”

The conditional tense of “was”

Many speakers instinctively use the conditional form of “was,” which is “were,” when making statements similar to “If I were you.” Yet, many fail to use the conditional form in other instances. For example, rather than saying “if the legislation was passed,” a speaker should say, “if the legislation were passed.”

Advisors can also improve the quality of their communications by having a peer or other coworker review written communications before distributing the materials via social media of through traditional channels.

In many cases, writers are less likely to catch their own typos or grammatical mistakes, so a second pair of eyes can go a long way in helping to avoid blunders. Advisors may also want to follow blogs that discuss common grammar mistakes in the media and identify other issues, such as words that have become cliché’ or overused. One helpful blog is After Deadline.

These grammatical points may seem minor to some, but your written words on a website, in a Tweet or an email are the public face of your business. Sloppy, avoidable mistakes can harm your business and send the wrong message to existing and potential clients.

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