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It Was a Dark and Stormy … Business Document?? (Marketing Memo, December, 2004)

The annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest for "the worst novels never written" attracts entries of the "dark and stormy night" variety (See Winett Associates is holding a Murkiest Writing of 2004 Contest. Send us examples of convoluted, ill-constructed, and poorly-written business or professional documents -- documents in which excessive verbiage obscures the writer's main point. Contest information is below.

Murkiest Letter in 2003

A well-known investment bank wrote the murkiest business letter to cross my desk in 2003:

Effective as of October 1, 2003, the investment manager and its affiliates reduced the amount of their voluntary expense reductions. This decrease in expense reductions will result in an increase in actual expenses borne by each Portfolio and can be expected to result in a decrease in a Portfolio's yield from what would have resulted if the greater expense reductions had continued.

Shining Light on the Murkiest Letter

Murkiest letter's first sentence tells us that something undesirable is happening on October 1, 2003. The second sentence says a decrease will result in an increase, which results in a decrease caused by discontinued reductions! Finally, we uncover the main point: portfolio yields are decreasing. The following revision explains more clearly why the yield is changing. The revision also adds some good news that makes the bad news more palatable:

Lower expenses allowed us to increase portfolio yields in 2002. Because of rising expenses, yields will decline slightly starting October 1, 2003. However, portfolio yields remain 0.5% higher than average yields in the industry for similar portfolios. See the attached table….

Contest Information

  • Submit one entry per person to by December 31, 2004.
  • Entries may be from one sentence to two paragraphs in length.
  • Do not submit entries that contain personal or company confidential information.
  • Criteria are clarity of intent, appropriateness of details, usage, grammar, and brevity.
  • Provide the name, address, and email address of one person who might like to receive our bi-monthly newsletter. We will ask their permission before sending our newsletter.
  • The winner will receive a Barnes & Noble gift certificate.
  • We will publish the winning entry in the next newsletter.
  • Call or email if you have any questions (508-877-1938 or

Winett Associates provides market analysis and writing services.

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