Scroll down for writing prompts, bloggers & newsletter writers.
In my occasional series of publicly (and respectfully) editing business writing, this time I offer unsolicited advice to PIMCO, a leading global investment management firm, which publishes respected and widely-read newsletters.
Today I read The Ring of Fire, written Mr William H. Gross, a founder of PIMCO who oversees the management of more than $800b of fixed income securities (among many other things). It started off well enough with a personal reflection on his long and distinguished career and the careers of others, but I’d have shortened this part by a couple of paragraphs.
Then the segue:
There have been numerous changeups and curveballs in the financial markets over the past 15 months or so. Liquidation, reliquidation and the substituting of the government wallet for the invisible hand of the private sector describe the events from 30,000 feet. Now that a semblance of stability has been imparted to the economy and its markets, the attempted detoxification and deleveraging of the private sector is underway. Having survived due to a steady two-trillion-dollar-plus dose of government “Red Bull,” Adderal or simply black coffee, the global private sector is now expected by some to detox and resume a normal cyclical schedule where animal spirits and the willingness to take risk move front and center. But there is a problem. While corporations may be heading in that direction due to steep yield curves and government check writing that have partially repaired their balance sheets, their consumer customers remain fully levered and undercapitalized with little hope of escaping rehab as long as unemployment is at 10-20% levels worldwide. “Build it and they will come” is an old saw more applicable to Kevin Costner’s Field of Dreams than today’s economy. “Say’s Law” proclaiming that supply creates its own demand is hardly applicable to a modern day credit-oriented society where credit cards are maxed out, 25% of homes are underwater, and job and income creation are nearly invisible.
OK, before you look at my table of edits below, ask yourself “What does he want me to know? What should I expect next?” Myself, I didn’t predict that he’d head into a global economic analysis since the segue focused exclusively on America. This isn’t fiction, or even narrative nonfiction, Mr Gross, this is business writing. Point the headlights where you intend to steer the vehicle.
Surgical edits to what WAS written
|Instead of||I’d write|
|There have been numerous changeups and curveballs in the financial markets over the past 15 months or so.||The financial markets threw us a number of changups and curveballs these past 15 months or so. (drop the passive voice)|
|Liquidation, reliquidation and the substituting of the government wallet for the invisible hand of the private sector describe the events from 30,000 feet.||The invisible hand of the market has been replaced by the government wallet and we’ve seen liquidation and reliquidation. (the sentence is more active now and that cliche– ‘30,000 feet’– removed)|
|Now that a semblance of stability has been imparted to the economy and its markets, the attempted detoxification and deleveraging of the private sector is underway.||Now that the economy and its markets have achieved some semblance of stability, the private sector’s detoxification and liquidation is underway. (isn’t that more clear?)|
|Having survived due to a steady two-trillion-dollar-plus dose of government “Red Bull,” Adderal or simply black coffee, the global private sector is now expected by some to detox and resume a normal cyclical schedule where animal spirits and the willingness to take risk move front and center. But there is a problem.||However, there is a problem in the thinking that the private sector can resume a normal cyclical schedule after two-trillion-dollar doses of government “Red Bull,” Adderal or plain black coffee. It just doesn’t work that way. Here’s why: (and then go into bullets)|
I’ll say this, the article is full of writing prompts
My editing scalpel safely retired to the autoclave, I took some points from Mr Gross’ article to help bloggers and newsletter writers in search of a juicy topic.
- The PIMCO Ring of Fire includes the US, Japan and six European countries whose public debt is most likely to reach 90% of GDP (with an ensuing 1% fall in growth). If you look at the graph (a nice one) you’ll see that the countries identified as less likely than those in the Ring of Fire to stumble are Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, Canada, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Australia. Mr Gross says these countries are “considered to be most conservative and potentially more solvent, with the potential for higher growth.” If you’re a Forex trader advisor or investor, does this have any bearing on your recommendations or holdings?
- Mr Gross argues for tilting growth-focused (and currency) assets toward countries like China, India and Brazil. What’s your position and why, advisors and investors?
- If you want to avoid developing economies, Mr Gross says look north to Canada, our more conservative neighbor (I wrote about this here). He also says to avoid the UK. How does this inform your investment strategy?
- Last year Denmark (one of the countries farthest from the Ring of Fire) was named “The happiest country on Earth” by social scientists at Blue Zones Project . ABC ‘s 20/20 story homed in on the social egalitarianism of Danes, who don’t derive great personal status from their job choices. “Denmark is what is called a ‘post consumerist’ society. People have nice things, but shopping and consuming is not a top priority. Even the advertising is often understated. Along with less emphasis on ‘stuff,’ and a strong social fabric, Danes also display an amazing level of trust in each other, and their government.” Comment on what this might foretell about the path of American deleveraging– do the Danes lead you to believe the deleveraging Mr Gross describes might not be all that bad after all?
- While we’re on the subject, Danes pay some of the highest taxes in the world — between 50 percent and 70 percent of their incomes. In exchange, the government covers all health care and education, and spends more on children and the elderly than any country in the world per capita. What say ye about health insurance reform, Americans?
- In the most recent study of happiness, directed by University of Michigan political scientist Ronald Inglehart and administered from Stockholm, “the survey found that freedom of choice, gender equality, and increased tolerance are responsible for a considerable rise in overall world happiness. The results shatter the more simplistic and traditionally accepted notion that wealth is the determining factor, says Inglehart.” Is it possible that we Americans can learn to see ourselves — and each other — differently after this shared economic hardship?