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Losing Credibility Because of Poor Writing?

I know, I know. The “experts” say we should write as though the reader of our solicitation letters is in 5th or 6th grade. I know, but I don’t necessarily agree. Can one write at a level that is easy to understand, yet not so “dumbed down” that it bores the reader to inaction?

It’s my experience that great content

  • builds authority,

  • reinforces trust and

  • wins credibility.

And it seems to me that one of the primary ways you can achieve these is through great writing.

If you write for your nonprofit, I’m offering these 4 Transgressions to Effective Nonprofit Writing (heck, every once in a while I’m guilty of committing some of these myself):

Transgression #1 – Believing that the longer your first sentence is the better because you feared if you don’t get all your main points in right then and there the reader will lose interest. Remember, the first sentence in an appeal letter should make the reader curious enough to want to read on.

Transgression #2 - Allowing clichés or jargon to dominate your letter. Words or phrases like unprecedented crisis, in the final analysis, new normal, all hands on deck, a perfect storm —make the reader feel like there is no hope, so why waste a donation on whatever the issue is.

Transgression #3 – Relying on yourself and not having anyone else proofread what you write. (I taught high school English for 14 years and have been helping clients write/polish/refine their messages for another 24, yet I still can commit errors.) I am grateful for the help I get proofreading my writing. Don’t be so proud that you don’t ask for help.

Transgression #4 – Capitalizing any word or words that might offend someone if not “capped.” For example, “We welcome the Governor, the Mayor, the City Councilor, the President of the Board, the Incoming and Outgoing Chairman of the Board, the President of the Local Chamber of Commerce, the Friendly Neighborhood Policeman, the Well-respected Family Doctor, all of our Dear Friends, and each of our Loyal Supporters to Our Annual Fundraising Event.”

Did I miss any Transgressions in Writing that you can add to this list to help other writers? I’m sure there are more and would love your input. Please list them here.

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