I am an equity research associate in NYC and as a non native English speaker my biggest weakness is my writing ability. Can you guys recommend classes or other approaches to improve my writing ability. Has anyone ever been in the same boat?
Hi Arrow, Which part of writing you really want focus on? Write in details.
Your best bet is to read more books. It goes hand in hand.
been there, done that. Generally the most difficult aspect for brand new, young, er associates is learning how to write. books are a good idea for general writing, but for research writing i suggest you focus your reading. every day i’m sure your shop puts out a package with all the notes published the night before. It’s tedious, but i strongly suggest you read it daily. that way you’ll learn to write ‘investment’ writing.
agreen with hueion, but i would read research report instead of just books, remember, your are doing equity research, so it important that you get used to the writing style. question, didnt they ask you for sample reports, while in the recruiting process? if they did and hired you, then you shouldnt worry about that. even during the interview process , they must have noticed that you were non native English speaker so dont really think too much about it. you should be fine
There are a few aspects to writing to think about as you learn to write in another language: 1) Organization: this is on the overall structure of a piece of writing, generally at the level of paragraphs and large sections. This generally can translate from one language to another fairly well, although there are sometimes cultural differences in whether you start with generalities and move to specifics or vice versa. Western and Asian cultures tend to differ here, because (and this is in danger of being an overly gross generality) Asians frequently have a preference for giving the overall context first, whereas Westerners tend to go for a more-or-less linear cause-effect chain. I personally like getting the context, but it sometimes means it takes longer to read, and people - especially in the West - may not have the patience to read it. Most professional report writing in the West is structured around stating key conclusions up front (often as bullet points), followed by a very brief context and then the justification/derivation for those points (and maybe some additional minor points) 2) Sentence structure: This is how sentences themselves are constructed and how the flow of the language works. When you are learning to write in a new language, this is often the trickiest part to internalize. Probably the best way to do this is to pick up research reports and attempt to copy how they are written. At first, you might just directly copy a report (word for word) in order to feel the words go through your mind as you put them down - obviously it’s not plagiarism, as long as you don’t pretend you wrote it. Next step is to try to imitate the style on another closely related topic (e.g. you read a report on Exxon, and try to write a report just like it on Shell, then on Coca Cola or something). You could take a class, of course, but I’m not sure there is one specialized enough for the industry, and a good class will probably have you do the very same stuff anyway. Maybe you can find a language tutor on craigslist to help correct any mechanical and grammatical things that you might not be able to identify easily on your own. That would probably be cheaper than a class anyway. When you choose a model report to imitate, though, you should ask around for what people think is a good, well-written example… it would be unfortunate if you ended up modeling your writing on some trashy stuff just because it was the first thing you were able to get your hands on…
Your best bet is to take some writing classes, but let me tell you one thing – as long as your senior analyst doesn’t complain about your writing abilities, you have nothing to worry about. In fact, in a lot of franchises, your best bet is to try to pick up your analyst’s writing style because as long as you can write in a similar fashion as him/her, you should be fine. Overall, my suggestion is just to learn on the job and not get too self-conscious about your writing…trust me, if you were really that bad, it would have been mentioned on your review. Also, let’s not kid ourselves here – while there are a lot of good writers in equity research, there are also a lot of people who just can’t write very well, so don’t be too ashamed. Sometimes I see some senior analysts trying to “teach” their associates how to write, when their juniors actually write better than them. It really makes me want to laugh out loud at some of these jokers.
bchadwick, I think you have given some pretty good advice on how to improve ones writing skills. Thanks from me, too. Your second point sounds particularly helpful for me. While I think it will be a long and hard process, I also think it will yield the hightest rewards. Once I have identified a structure that is common to most successful research reports, I will probably feel much more confident (and comfortable) about my own writings.
check this out - from a charter holder. http://www.investmentwriting.com/speeches_workshops.htm
I would take the recommendations above as credible. However, too strong of a focus on investment writing could carry over to your general writing. This could cast you as too “technical” or “academic” which is also critical. Either way, just read more. Does anyone remember that movie from the 80’s, Better Off Dead? There were the two foreign student who learned how to speak English by listening to Howard Cosell. Their speech pattern was also of Cosell’s. Still Hilarious. I could see a similar outcome if you only focus finance reading.
Thanks for the help guys. I am a very good speaker of the language but it is just that I take a lot of time to write even a 2 or 3 page note (about 2-3 hours).
I think maybe you are trying too hard. I know this probably runs contrary to what some other people might advise, but my suggestion is that if your boss isn’t complaining about your writing, don’t worry about it. In fact, if you find that it takes you 2-3 hours to write a 2-3 page note, next time you have to write a note why not set yourself a mandatory 1.5-2.0 hour time frame? That way you can force yourself to get it done sooner. It could be an efficiency issue, but you know, if your analyst isn’t complaining about it, maybe you’re working harder than you really need to…I guess my point is, if you find yourself spending so much time on notes and nobody complains, maybe you can actually try to scale down your workload just to make things easier on yourself. Not having seen your writing abilities, I can’t be sure if your writing is really as bad as you think, or if you’re just being too hard on yourself. That’s why I give the advice that I provided above.
numi Wrote: ------------------------------------------------------- > Your best bet is to take some writing classes, but > let me tell you one thing – as long as your > senior analyst doesn’t complain about your writing > abilities, you have nothing to worry about. In > fact, in a lot of franchises, your best bet is to > try to pick up your analyst’s writing style > because as long as you can write in a similar > fashion as him/her, you should be fine. Overall, > my suggestion is just to learn on the job and not > get too self-conscious about your writing…trust > me, if you were really that bad, it would have > been mentioned on your review. > > Also, let’s not kid ourselves here – while there > are a lot of good writers in equity research, > there are also a lot of people who just can’t > write very well, so don’t be too ashamed. > Sometimes I see some senior analysts trying to > “teach” their associates how to write, when their > juniors actually write better than them. It really > makes me want to laugh out loud at some of these > jokers. Imagine an analyst covering the meat packing industry, he/she probably comes from the industry. Not much writing there…
I assume investment reports are not creative so as long as other people understand you you will be fine. However if the reports are for clients that is a different story.
Having been there and been equally frustrated… Most of the commentary so far is pretty much what you need to remember. As an associate you need to learn to mimic your analyst’s style and if they’re open to it, work to improve it. Most of the stuff you’ll need to learn, you can pick up from reading a few good newspapers. I’m still surprised at how much a good research report reads like well written journalism. Bear in mind that the target reading level for “sophisticated” papers (WSJ, NY Times, Globe & Mail, IHT) is about a Grade 7 reading level max. If you have specific questions about structure or other technical writing points, I would recommend you look at Purdue’s OWL site. http://owl.english.purdue.edu/
LOL @ MEAT Packing. Willy