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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
- Submit one entry per person to email@example.com
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
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org).
Winett Associates provides market analysis and writing services.