Let's Raise Some Money
Insights from Karen Climer about fundraising and nonprofit organizations

Make Your Writing Easier To Read

January 27th, 2014 by Karen Climer

Last week, we talked about making your copy easy to read from a visual perspective (i.e. font size, font color, etc.).  Now that the donor can see it, how do we get him to read it?

I try to write everything at an 8th grade level or below.  I know, I know.  Your donors are smarter than that, and you don’t want to insult them.  I’m not suggesting you dumb down your writing.  I’m suggesting you make it easier to read.

If you are spending your time reading my blog, you must be intelligent person.  Heck, you’re probably a very intelligent person.  You are probably quite capable of reading at the 12th grade level or even much higher.  But, if this blog required intense concentration to understand, would you read it?  Probably not.  Most daily newspapers are written at an 8th or 9th grade level.  Yes, most readers of the Wall Street Journal have more than an 8th grade education, but they don’t have all day to read the paper.  It’s not about writing down to your readers.  It’s about making it fast and easy to understand.

The thing that makes the biggest difference in the readability is the sentence length.  Write shorter sentences.  Even fragments if you need to.  You are not getting graded on grammar.  You are getting graded on whether or not your donor sends money.  The donor gets your letter or brochure after a long day at work.  If it takes too much concentration, your letter (and the reply device) is going in the trash.

For direct mail, shoot for 4th  to 5th grade writing.  For grant proposals, newsletters, and similar copy, shoot for 8th grade.

There is a great tool in Microsoft Word that measures readability for you.  In Microsoft Word, you have to find the preferences.  I’m using Office 2010, so I go to File, then Options.  In Options, go to Proofing. There is a checkbox that says, “Show readability statistics.”  Be sure that is checked.  After you run spell-check, it will show the readability statistics.  The Flesch-Kincaid score should be 8 or lower. The Flesch-Kincaid Readability Ease Score is out of a possible 100.  The lower the number, the more difficult it is to read.  (If you can’t find this in your version, call me and I’ll walk you through it).

This blog posting is between the 5th and 6th grade level.  Does it feel dumbed-down?  Or does it just seem easy to read?  Please let me know in the comments section.

Posted in Communication, Direct Mail, Grant Writing

One Response

  1. Lynn

    Once again I have learned something! I never knew there was a readability check. I want to write something just to utilize this new tool. Thanks, Karen!

    To answer your question, no, your blogs do not feel dumbed-down at all.

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