Q. Trick question: which is most important when writing for
nonprofits – content or form?
A. Write cleaner … and your content will have better results.
In order to hook your reader and keep him, you’ve got to grab his attention with enticing content – facts, anecdotes, statistics, angles, ideas. But it’s clean writing that will make or break you. Because your reader will only stick with a piece if it’s easy to read.
“Clean” text flows. It holds your interest. You’re not writing to impress your 10th grade English teacher … you’re writing to engage your reader.
According to Unleashing Connection, the average American reads 3,000 notices or forms in one year – and 100 newspapers, 36 magazines and 3 books. That’s a lot of words competing with yours to be noticed, whether it’s on the web, in social media, promotional materials or articles.
Here are five simple, proven ways to write cleaner to stand out and give you better results.
Consumers are bombarded with distractions. But clear, concise communication gets attention. The best way to focus your message is to identify the purpose of your writing project. Are you announcing an update of your organization’s activities? Sharing information in an article or essay? Thanking a client for a sale? Soliciting a donation?
Concentrate on communicating one main point to your target audience.
Trick: Summarize the message of your piece in one sentence. Make sure every bit of writing supports or advances your summary sentence.
People read for information. They don’t want to work hard to understand what you’re saying. If you can use a 10-cent word instead of a 10-dollar word, do so. Think, “total” rather than “aggregate,” “cut” rather than “eliminate,” “use” rather than “utilize.”
Trick: Read your piece aloud. Does it read the way you talk? If not, replace words you never use in everyday conversation.
Repetitive writing obscures your point. Worse, it wastes your reader’s time.
Look for repeated ideas. Do you try to beef up your writing by saying the same thing several different ways? That technique will bore your reader. He’ll click off your site, turn the page to a different article or toss your letter into the trash can.
Trick: Check for one idea per sentence, one main point per paragraph. Make sure none of these duplicate another. To write cleaner, combine thoughts where there is overlap.
People are busy. That explains why the USA Today® format is so popular -- readers like information quick and tight. Write crisp lists of ideas and bullet points. Use short sentences, paragraphs and sections. Make sure there’s plenty of white space on your document. Keep paragraph length to five lines or less.
Trick: Use the breath test. Can you read a sentence or a paragraph in one breath? If the answer is no, then break it into sections.
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