Weighing Words

“Words had meaning. He revered them and used them scrupulously, even in insult” - from the obituary of Antonin Scalia, US Supreme Court justice in The Economist

Antonin Scalia was a renown conservative for whom the law, and in particular, the United States Constitution, was written in words that meant what they said in a very literal sense. His conservatism required him to interpret the words as they were written by the Founding Fathers in the 18th century.

Scalia relied on the precise legal meaning of the way words were originally laid down in law. He therefore shunned "judicial engineering" that might allow more modern interpretations of that document. He thus opposed abortion and same-sex marriage of which the Founding Fathers were, presumably, ignorant.

The term “financial engineering” describes the bespoke strategies and products those in capital markets – investment banks, hedge fund managers and private equity investors - use to create financial opportunities for their clients. It is this flexible interpretation and innovation that adds value to the process.

FinanceWriter has (rather brazenly!) played on that term in its slogan, “Precision in Verbal Engineering”. Our clients approach us to create opportunities by communicating through financial writing. They ask FinanceWriter to “engineer” the right messages via the right channels. They want to precisely target the right readership and audiences through thought leadership articles, speeches, blogs, websites annual reports and annual reviews they commission us to write.

The “precision” we offer is in our choice of words and in the way we construct verbal opportunities by structuring an argument, laying the foundations for a brand or building the marketing case.

Scalia was said to “revere“ words and “use them scrupulously”. Does that suggest that financial copywriting should adhere to “Scalia’s Law of Words”? That words should mean what they say and be wholly unambiguous?

Weighing words

It’s a strange notion because the icon of the very justice that Scalia dispensed is Iustitia (Lady Justice) bears scales for weighing the balance of evidence. The device she holds in her left hand suggests that evidence, which is largely presented in the form of words, has to be “weighed up”: but allowing for a degree of subjectivity, the plasticity of meaning and interpretation and, of course, conceding to the principle of reasonable doubt

The articulation of evidence through the opening and closing speeches of court advocates or barristers, of the testimony they extract from witnesses through cross examination can, on the one hand, appeal to the emotions and on the other be inexact, sometimes purposely so!

More literary than literal

Dry legal utterances are handed down with the unilateral majesty and authority of the law. In direct contrast to unbending legalities our strategy is not to dictate, but to engage.

Our approach is to carefully choose words, use language and adopt a preferred “tone of voice” not so our messaging is imposed, but so that readers and audiences interact, react or become absorbed.

With perhaps a more literary than literal emphasis we select words that resonate with both the intellect and the emotions of the audience. We seek to convey the underlying values of a brand; encourage the adoption of a message or an alignment with a set of principles.

Using verbal branding FinanceWriter unashamedly seek to bias the reader in favour of the values a company’s brand seeks to project. We deliver a clarity and a consistency to which laws cannot aspire; as the wording of Second Amendment of the US Constitution, concerning the right to bear arms, enduringly proves.

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