Annual reports are usually not a fun read, but the annual reports of Berkshire Hathaway may be an exception. Warren Buffett, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, writes his annual reports in a direct, witty and engaging style. So it is not surprising that he wrote the Preface to “A Plain English Handbook: How to create clear SEC disclosure documents” for the US Securities and Exchange Commission. His advice is good for any type of writing, not just annual reports:
One unoriginal but useful tip: Write with a specific person in mind. When writing Berkshire Hathaway’s annual report, I pretend that I’m talking to my sisters. I have no trouble picturing them: Though highly intelligent, they are not experts in accounting or finance. They will understand plain English, but jargon may puzzle them. My goal is simply to give them the information I would wish them to supply me if our positions were reversed. To succeed, I don’t need to be Shakespeare; I must, though, have a sincere desire to inform.
No siblings to write to? Borrow mine: Just begin with “Dear Doris and Bertie.”
For more writing lessons from Warren Buffett, check out Away With Words.