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It was my job to write a piece to introduce a new school psychologist to the community and let people know what a great asset he would be. I interviewed him, wrote the article, and gave the psychologist a draft to review to make sure there were no mistakes.
When he was done “correcting” the draft, it was no longer warm and welcoming. In fact, it wasn’t even understandable. It was full of jargon and technical language. It was as clear as a glass of chocolate milk.
Why did he muck up the article?
“I don’t want my colleagues to think I don’t know what I’m talking about,” he explained. The intended audience was parents and community residents, but the psychologist was worried about other psychologists.
He was aiming for the wrong audience.
By choosing technical language, he was offering his fellow psychologists greater depth and meaning. Unfortunately, those technical words carry no meaning at all for the rest of us. Our intended audience would have been lost if we had used his draft.
Suppose you are hiking through a remote part of the world and encounter people who have never seen an airplane. They ask you to tell them what an airplane is, and you say simply that an airplane is a machine that can fly like a bird.
Another member of your group is an engineer who says you’ve got it all wrong. An airplane doesn’t fly like a bird. A bird propels itself by flapping its wings, but airplanes use engines to supply thrust. He launches into an explanation of Bernoulli’s Principle and the shape of airplane wings.
Who was the better communicator?
In this example, part of the problem was that the engineer misunderstood his audience and used jargon. But he made another mistake as well. He used unnecessary detail. What he saw as precision in communication ended up muddying the message. Remember that details that are important to the people inside your organization might not be important to your donors and supporters.
When you are writing an appeal letter or article for a fundraising newsletter, who are you writing for? Your boss? The CEO? The board president? Or your donors and supporters?
To make your communication crystal clear, always keep your audience in mind.
If you want to make sure you’re making your message crystal clear, enlist the help of a professional nonprofit writer. Contact us to find out how affordable it can be to get the expert writing and editing help you need.
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