This week I received a crowdfunding request. A friend’s daughter wants friends and family to help fund a 20 day immersive program in New York and Washington DC. It’s a great opportunity and a cool program and I was about to donate.
And then I read her personal appeal.
It was littered with misspellings and grammatical errors – far too many to be from a college sophomore requesting funds to support her for an advanced immersion program. It was as if her readers, nay, her donors, were not worth the effort it would take to have someone proofread her writing. And that turned me off.
I acknowledge that I spend a great deal of time reading and writing each day and am picky about the writing I willingly consume. But I think that taking five minutes to proofread your writing shows consideration and respect for your reader. And will pay off in the long run.
Here are three ways a writer can be more considerate of her readers:
1. Don’t ignore those squiggly lines.
I used to work with a communications professional who would say “If Bill Gates says something is wrong, you might give him the benefit of the doubt.” Now, obviously, Bill Gates was not proofreading my work. However, the spell check and grammar check functions built into programs like Microsoft Word are pretty invaluable. Take a minute and consider that what you wrote might not look like the English language to your computer and ask yourself why that is.
2. Test your readability.
Did you know that the average American reads at a 9th grade reading level? It’s true. And most journalists and other writers who write “for the people” will actually test their readability to make sure they are writing at the appropriate level. There are several readability tools available online. Here’s my favorite. Go ahead. Test this post. Test the New York Times. Test the last email you sent. You can write all day. But if your writing isn’t readable, then what’s the point?
3. Fall in love with your red pen.
I’ll admit that I am a bit perverse when it comes to having someone edit my writing. I genuinely love seeing red pen marks all over my paper. The more red ink on the page, the more I know they care. I once had a professor assign a 100 page reading assignment. She then asked us to summarize that reading assignment into 1,000 words. When we turned in our assignments, she handed them back and told us to edit them to 500 words. She kept doing this until we had reduced our summaries to 100 words; 100 words to summarize 100 pages. The point of this exercise?
Every. Word. Counts.
I know that we don’t all have the luxury of employing professional writers to help craft fundraising appeals. However, being considerate of your donors by crafting strong, readable appeals will help you in the long run. I plomise.