Challenges in economics and finance writing

Understanding your audience’s profile

Although all writers should bear their target audience in mind, this is particularly critical for economics and finance writing.

Jargon can confuse and alienate, especially for general audiences. Words that are accurate and helpful terminology among experts can baffle non-experts. Always balance the need for accuracy with ease of reading among all the likely audiences.

Also ensure that you consider the different circumstances of different members of your audience. Attitudes to risk, financial security, savings and job security vary greatly. If you wish to appeal to a wide audience, you must consider vastly different individual risk profiles, ages and life goals.

‘… finance is a part of economics and economics is a part of social science, which is essentially the study of how people think, behave and make decisions.’ (Fei Xie, Professor of Finance, 2013)
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Presenting balanced information

Economics and finance writing can affect decision making for individuals, companies and governments. Economics and finance writing must provide readers with a balanced and careful view, grounded in real-world applications.

Economics and finance writers should provide a flexible view, where possible, with room for different assumptions and scenarios, and a careful description of the risks associated with these assumptions and the ultimate outcome. You will need to outline both pros and cons of any course of action.

Many economic and financial theories and models can only be tested in the real world. Careful writers can still conduct scenario analysis with a range of assumptions, and test their model using historical data.

The evidence for economics and finance writing can be both quantitative and qualitative. Always evaluate the quality, methodology and diversity of your sources, and communicate their strengths and weaknesses clearly. Even when the evidence is not as quantitative, precise and unequivocal as might be desired, it can still be presented in a clear way that sets out its strengths and limitations, and clearly differentiates between reliable conclusions, interpretation and supposition.

See Writing about evidence for advice on types of evidence, and how to use clear and unbiased language when writing about evidence.

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Accurately describing risk

It is important for economics and finance writers to identify the key risks to their models and assumptions, and explain how changes to these assumptions would affect their analysis.

Economics and finance writers often have to detail the results of particular situations playing out over many years. Small changes to key assumptions can have large implications for the ultimate outcome. For example, given the compounding effect of investment interest, a small change to the assumed rate of return over a long-term investment will significantly change the expected value at the end of the investment period.

In addition, real-world context is impossible to control. Economies and financial systems are interconnected, so events in one economy affect others. Economies are also sensitive to social, political, legal, environmental, health and technological factors (eg a declaration of war, the development of a disruptive technology, a change in regulations, a pandemic). These may be difficult or impossible to foresee, yet should be acknowledged and considered in any analysis of economic or financial risk.

See Writing about risk for advice on how to use clear and unbiased language when writing about risk.

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Legal and regulatory requirements

Much of the writing in economics and finance is highly scrutinised and regulated, and there may be limits on what writers can assert and how they can distribute their writing.

Take care with the following:

  • Disclaimers, disclosures and legal advice. Some publications must be accompanied by disclaimers or disclosure text, which discusses the risk factors and limitations of the analysis. You may need to obtain legal advice before distributing your publication, and the audience approved to receive the publication may be governed by particular regulations.
  • Requirements around publication timing. There may be legal or regulatory requirements for the timing of publications (eg deadlines by which information must be released, blackout periods during which particular information may not be published).
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