Conquer compliance bottlenecks, part 2: Qualifying Words

Investing in the stock market is always a safe bet. 

The financial market will improve, and so will your portfolio. 

Everyone knows that these savings products can greatly improve your returns.  

Notice a problem with these statements? They’re loaded with qualifying words, and they’re the bane of all compliance people.

If you’re having a tough time getting the green light from compliance for your financial content, read on!

Choosy writers choose uncertainty

In Part 1 of our compliance series we discussed how to stop overdoing financial advice in writing. 

In this post, we’re talking about showing restraint when you’re writing about how well something (a product, service, the market, etc.) may perform. 

Compliance people keep us in check when we over-promise results, give specific financial advice, guarantee something we can’t be sure of, or overstate claims and arguments.

And let’s face it, an internal compliance edit is a lot easier to handle than a call from FINRA, FTC, or the SEC.

Financial writers must be careful to not make universal claims or make an assertion that results are always true, all of the time.

But skilled writers can still write convincingly without watering down an argument or losing confidence in your command of the subject. 

The judicious use of qualifiers allows you to present an argument with a “confident uncertainty,” which helps make your writing sound less like a sales-pitch, and more like a thoughtful consideration of different financial goals and needs.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of potential qualifiers:


• Will
• Every, all
• Never, none
• Always
• Certainly, definitely
• Impossible

No-no example: 
“Mutual funds are certainly the best choice for your financial goals.”


• May, might, could
• Many, a majority
• Few, a minority
• Frequently, commonly
• Probably, possibly
• Unlikely, improbable

Yes-yes example:
“Mutual funds are a popular choice for investors with diverse financial goals.”

3 best practices for compliant qualifiers

Choosing the right words can give your readers the breathing room to choose what works for them, and get fast-track approvals from compliance.

Make sure to:

1. Watch out for qualifiers that tend to make your claims sound universal.

2. Don’t be afraid to recognize in writing that your claim or argument has limits. 

3. Instead of making claims with words alone, use as much data as you can to make the argument self-evident to your readers.

And if you’re concerned that compliant writing might water down your ability to sell effectively, fear not. Readers will appreciate the balance in your writing rather than doubting your product, service, or expertise. 

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