Sunday, July 8, 2012

How to Write Communiqués That Get Read

Like many of you, I get lots of mail and email from nonprofit organizations - and it is extraordinary how much of it is poorly written and constructed. Here are some important tips for making your written materials more compelling and readable:

  • Create a catchy subject: Use no more than ten words. Pose a question to get people thinking. Use numbers, especially odd ones - odd numbers seem more definitive, and numbers draw your reader's eye. Use colons or hyphens.
  • Focus on your first and last paragraphs: These are things people are most likely to read, so make your case here powerful and understandable (in case your reader fails to read anything else). In a letter, be sure to use a P.S. to stress your most important point.
  • Make it brief: Minimize text. Use short sentences, short paragraphs, short letters. Short makes it easy for people to scan, which is what most folks do in these very busy times.
  • Use visual images: A great photo or video can often convey your message better than words. People especially like photos of themselves, people and places that they know, cute children, and puppies (kittens work well too).
  • Use bullets: People won't read a long paragraph of information but they will look at bullets or numbered lists. This is a great way to highlight recent program achievements.
  • Format your text well: Use bold, italics, and color for emphasis, and choose an easily readable font. If you're sending something out via email or posting on your website, be sure to choose a common font that translates well into different browsers (i.e. Arial or Helvetica).
  • Tell a story: Highlight your important work with a short story about a client who has benefitted or a program and the impact it has had.
  • Hone your talking points: Take the time with your staff and board to brainstorm the best way to communicate what you do. Find words and phrases that are powerful and meaningful.
  • Punctuation and grammar count: I don't think I'm alone in feeling that bad punctuation and grammar are an indication of a poorly run organization.
  • Always proofread: Don't depend solely on spell-check; there are so many ways it can go wrong. And be sure to have another person review what you've written. It's amazing how often a glaring error gets missed, particularly in a document you've been working on for a long time.

P.S. Save time by always saving what you write so you can cut-and-paste liberally for use in future letters and newsletters.

1 comment:

  1. EXCELLENT Carol - yes and yes for all your reality points - it's still a
    sound bite (word bite) world - I find myself reading the first paragraph,
    the bullets and the last paragraph ONLY....there's my secret out in the open!

    Thanks for the support! xoxoxd