Writing Appreciation: Unpack the SPAC
Explaining financial technology to a dual audience of uninformed and in-the-know readers is hard. In this Writing Appreciation Corner, we see it done well.
The SPAC gets unpacked
This week’s piece of writing comes from Matt Levine’s January 6, 2022, Money Stuff newsletter for Bloomberg, an opinion column on financial news. Levine is known for his conversational tone and ability to take complex topics in the financial industry and break down why they matter in refreshingly straightforward and demystified English. His readers range from those with a general interest in business to those who work in financial services.
We liked this excerpt because it takes an increasingly common finance-industry term, SPAC, and describes it in such a way that even those who don’t follow the markets can understand.
Welcome to our Writing Appreciation series, where we highlight great pieces of technology writing around the web!
With these posts, we want to showcase "good" writing, explore what makes a piece of writing "good," and break down everyday "good" writing techniques for all of us.
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“SPAC SPAC SPAC: The way a special purpose acquisition company works is that a sponsor raises some money from public investors, puts it in a pot, and has two years to find a private company to merge with the pot and go public. If the sponsor finds a target private company and agrees on a merger, then the public shareholders of the SPAC get to decide to (1) get their money back or (2) get shares in the newly public target company. If they all decide to take their money back then usually the deal is off, the SPAC fails, and the sponsor is out of pocket for the startup costs and legal fees of the SPAC. If they mostly decide to take shares in the new company, then the merger closes and the SPAC’s sponsor gets a gigantic fee, in the form of (usually) shares of the company worth 25% of what the SPAC raised.”
What makes this writing "good"?
Translating between complexity and value is a fundamental part of how we think and work at Open Strategy Partners. Effective strategic and product communication, in our view, is specific, clear, and approachable. Using the OSP Editing Codes, here’s what we think makes this paragraph so sweet:
TONE: “Match the tone for the right use case (e.g., support versus marketing) …”
Levine has a relaxed and conversational tone that makes finance—an occasionally obscured topic—more approachable. He uses colloquial language like “puts it in a pot” and employs casual grammatical constructions, like “(1) get their money back or (2) get shares in the newly public target company.” The familiarity and simplicity of his language describe concepts without being off-putting to a general audience. Even though the sentences are long, the cognitive load is not too heavy.
TOOM: “Avoid over-explaining or providing too much detail. Only explain what is relevant in the context of the article.”
With complicated topics, it’s easy to provide too much detail while trying to explain the ins and outs of how everything works. Levine gets at the essentials of what a SPAC is without overburdening his definition with fee structures and regulations. In four sentences, he also clarifies why both investors and sponsors would choose to invest in SPACs over more traditional initial public offerings (IPOs).
RHYTH: “Be aware of the length of paragraphs; avoid overly long blocks of text. Stagger length. Create rhythm and visual variation for your reader.”
Within the space of a paragraph, this excerpt explains what happens when investors put their money in a SPAC. The second, third, and fourth sentences all begin with an “If,” which, in this case, is rhythmic and “meaningfully repetitive.” The if/then sentences cover all possible paths an investment in a SPAC might take. The construction closes loops and leaves nothing hanging.
More OSP Editing Code Resources
- OSP editorial code Quick Start Guide
- Base documentation and full list of codes on GitHub
- Writing and editing are a big part of our podcast, too!
What to appreciate next?
Do you have an example of good, clear writing about technology that you’d like to share? Get in touch! Look ahead to more posts and, in the meantime, listen to our Communicate, Connect, Grow podcast to learn more about OSP’s editing codes.
Want to learn tools and techniques to consistently create authentic, compelling content? Check out our Writer Enablement workshops.
Follow us on Twitter — @open_strategy — and here on our blog.
Subscribe to our podcast, “Communicate, Connect, Grow,” via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, RSS Feed, YouTube, or wherever your ears listen!
Image Credits: Coin photo by Pixabay, finger man levels up photo by Franco Antonio Giovanella.
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