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POINTERS: 10 Top Powwow Tips and more when writing suitability reports

15 October 2017

At last month’s Paraplanners  Powwow, attendees shared some of their top tips when writing suitability reports for tackling writers block, making space in your day for proofing reports, getting the right tone in a report and one major mistake to avoid.

Paraplanner and campfire facilitator Kat Mock (pictured centre) highlighted key points she took away from the sessions, including:

1. Move to a different part of the office or change position.

2. Walk away for 5/10 minutes.

3. Move on to a completely different part of the report. You don’t have to write the report from front to back, there may be sections you can complete and then come back to that part having made progress.

4. Proof the report the next day with a fresh head where you can.

5. Proof read more than once, focussing on different things i.e. spellings, objectives, rationale.

6. Proof read back to front – so you’re concentrating on what’s in each paragraph not a linear pathway.

7. Consider how you may be using passive and active voices. Using the active voice gets across the point in a clear and succinct manner, whereas the passive voice can depersonalise. A useful video on this can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHPQpgkNJb0&t=26s

8. Keep a list or spreadsheet of all previous work so you can refer back to it when looking for help with a particular issue.

9. Use plain language where possible – it’s shorter and easier to understand.

10. Imagine explaining it to your mum/grandma. Would they understand it?

Report writing tips

In other sessions, when asked for tips when writing a report, one delegate said that to help ensure their report was easy to understand, they asked someone in the administration team to read it. “I use them as a sounding board. They have financial services knowledge so if they can’t understand something in the report, it’s not likely that a client will.”

To make the report easier to understand, one paraplanner said they used terms the client was most likely to have heard in the media, for example, using ‘tax free cash’, rather than the more unwieldy and befuddling ‘uncrystallised funds pension lump sum (UFPLS)’.

A large warning flag was waved around cutting and pasting text into reports from other sources, with horror stories of other client names being included in the middle of reports.

One way to avoid this if using standardised or templated text, is to have standard wording in black text and anything that will need changing in a different colour so it is instantly recognisable.

When tackling technical or complex issues, it was suggested the executive summary should be written in plain English that the client can understand, that could be referenced to a more technical explanation in the body of the report.

Or, write a high level summary, which can then be referenced to a medium level of detail and if the client wants to dig even further, a far more technical level, maybe in the appendices.

Visuals are also becoming increasingly important in reports. It was pointed out that while paraplanners are used to reading text and interpreting technical documents, clients will often best understand concepts and advice if it is presented visually. One example given was a simple one explaining the consolidation of three platforms into one. Having a visual that showed the three platforms being given up as separate icons, with lines from all three leading to the new platform, while it was an extremely basic visual had worked very effectively in getting across the point. Paraplanners were urged to think about how they can use visuals, even where it does seem overly simple, to help readers understand what is happening and to break up what can be large chunks of text in a report.

See the October 2017 issue of Professional Paraplanner to read the full article.

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