I failed to get into business school.
I hoped to be a business major at the University of Maryland in the 80’s. But my ability to read, comprehend and recapitulate the institution’s business lessons was not so good. I didn’t make the cut and failed to get even close to acceptance into the business school.
So, I decided to become a journalism major instead even though I wasn’t very good at writing.
My dream was to have my own ad agency some day. The School of Journalism was the only one that had any classes that related to advertising at all. So that was that and I majored in journalism instead of business.
Interestingly, hardly any of my friends who started their own businesses majored in business.
Anyway, in one of my first classes, the Professor told us to pick up The Elements of Style by Strunk and White— the timeless guide and companion for anyone who needs to write (that includes you).
Here are 9 gems from it that might help you write better communications to benefit your donors.
1. Avoid complex sentences and fancy words – Complex sentences and fancy words are elegant but difficult to digest. Your writing should not be designed to impress your donors. Rather, it should be designed to communicate with them and inspire them.
2. Make it sound natural – Your writing should sound like you when you speak. It should be conversational and, possibly, colloquial.
3. Don’t be lax – Excessive informality shows that you are either unprofessional, disrespectful or lazy.
4. Edit the crap out of your writing – Try to revise, edit, and re-write your communications as much as you can (as time permits).
5. Omit needless words – Good writing is concise. Keep it simple. Don’t over-write.
6. Be clear – Remember, people die when road signs are confusing. Clarity is essential.
7. Don’t overstate – Overstatements are easy for donors to identify. They diminish your credibility.
8. Try not to inject your opinion – Unless it is appropriate to do so, avoid the temptation to include your personal thoughts.
9. When in doubt, erase it and start again – If you are unsure about a word, phrase or sentence, just erase it and start over. Trust me, it’s easier to do that than to wrestle with a mess.
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