Ever want to look deep into the eyes of a nonprofit client and ask “did you read what I sent?”
What’s the reply? “Are you kidding? Who has time?”
It wasn’t meant to be hurtful, but as you reflect on the time you put into that website, or brochure, or whatever it was you wrote, it kind of stings.
Maybe you didn’t write for the new way your client reads.
From the invention of movable print type in the 1500s, to just a few years ago, reading on paper was the standard. It was portable, cheap and given the right ink and size of print, it was easy for our eyes to see the words.
But among all the changes spurred by the rise of computer technology, big and small, maybe one of the most fundamental also the most subtle: how we read. We read differently on screen than we do on paper.
It makes sense when you think of it. Have you noticed your energy level drop when you read on a screen? It’s tiring. The imperceptible flicker, screen glare, lighting, distance from your eyes, size and type of the font, and the quality of the computer screen quietly sap your mental strength.
There’s so much of a difference that inventors of “e-reader” devices created “electronic ink” to emulate the paper experience – at least as close as they can.
Perversely, what’s more, is that electronic information unwittingly opened a floodgate of information at the click of a mouse. Now you have more to read, that’s harder to read!
What does all of this mean to you, the nonprofit consultant?
To get clients to read about you, you need to change how you write. Here’s 5 hints:
1) Long paragraphs? Out. Bullets? In.
2) Complex sentences? Out. Simple sentences? In.
3) Formal sounding? Out. Informal sounding? In.
4) Serif fonts? Out. San-serif Fonts? In.
5) Plain text? Out. Bold and highlights? In.
The idea is that your reader needs to feel that the content is accessible. Part of your making your writing accessible is planning for your client to read your message twice.
“But won’t that take more time?” you astutely ask.
Well, yes, but…
- The first pass is skimming to see if what you’re writing is important.
- The second pass is a deeper read for the content.
By using the Bullets, Simple, Informal, San-Serif, Bold and Highlight techniques, you make the first pass much easier to read, helping your reader decide that your message is important. Anld what hasn’t changed in the paper to computer transition is that people want to read what’s important. They just have a hard time filtering out what’s not. That’s why you make your full piece worthwhile to read.
So, time to write for your readers in their new reading mode – and of course, read their great replies in however they send them to you!
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