Add a touch of Hemingway to your next finance report

What did the authors Raymond Chandler, John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway have in common? Well, aside from being American, they all had a writing style that was direct; they did not waste words.

Sometimes I like to read a book with a lyrical style but for the most part I prefer the direct style of Chandler and co.

When it comes to writing financial reports I encourage you to adopt a plain, direct style. If you do not then, at best, your reports will be over-written and, at worst, you will obfuscate the message you are trying to communicate. (I suppose I should, on that basis, permit over-writing if your intention is to obfuscate!)

It is easy to fall into the trap of over-writing. When I first qualified as an accountant I wrote letters that included phrases like “I would be grateful to receive your remittance at your earliest convenience.” Now I would write, “please pay promptly,” or, better, replace promptly by a deadline date. This is much easier to understand, and takes fewer words, too.

None of us are in the league of Nobel prize-winning authors but we can improve through practice. When we write something of any length we can always read over it with a view to simplify it. These days we can also use technology to help us. Recently I came across a web service called Hemingway. All you need to do is paste the text you have written into Hemingway and it will assess the reading age needed to understand it and highlight sentences that are long and complicated, and words that can be replaced by simpler words.

If you’re interested, the first draft of this post had a reading age of Grade 10, 5 of its 17 sentences were hard to read, and 3 sentences were very hard to read. Using the app I fixed four of those problem sentences and got down to Grade 8.

If you want some help to improve your writing it is worth checking out As well as the free web version, you can pay for a desktop version for Windows or macOS.

Hemingwayapp screenshot