March 01, 2019
Buffett At His Best: The Berkshire Hathaway Shareholder Letters
“Vigorous writing is concise,” E.B. White famously wrote in The Elements of Style. There’s no better example of White’s principles in action than CEO Warren Buffett’s annual letter to the shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
As my friend Jonathan Rick, a digital-marketing consultant who doubles as a business writing professor at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, recently pointed out, reading Buffett’s letters is a “delight.” Buffett uses his letters to conduct a “master class in how to make complex financial matters clear and interesting,” Jonathan observes.
It’s not just concise writing, it’s compelling writing that engages the reader and makes them want to savor every word. Buffett doesn’t just describe how and why Berkshire invested its (read “their”) money, he employs avuncular wisdom and gentle humor, draws historic and business analogies, refers to visual aids, uses succinct paragraphs, anticipates criticism and counterarguments, and above all, frames everything in what Jonathan correctly calls an “easy-to-follow” logic.
No wonder a share of Berkshire Hathaway is currently trading over $200! He’s not called the Oracle of Omaha for nothing.