Breaking My Bad Habits: From College To Nonprofit Writer

Laurel Dykema

Laurel Dykema

Would your nonprofit communications make your English Lit professor cringe? Good! You’re probably on the right track. Today, Laurel Dykema shares some habits she had to change once she started writing for the real world. ~Kivi

Guest Post by Laurel Dykema of Mission India

Confession: I had a lot of bad habits when I started in nonprofit writing.

And most of them came from writing college papers! When I started as an intern at Mission India, I discovered that nonprofit writing is VERY different from college writing—and I had to break my “good” college writing habits because they were actually “bad” writing habits at my nonprofit!

Some of the differences I noticed?

PARAGRAPHS:

College: 3-5 sentences at minimum (many of mine were longer!).

Nonprofit: 1 sentence passes as a paragraph! Mix up the lengths.

WORDS:

College: Long and complex.

Nonprofit: Short and easy to read (somewhere around a 5th grade reading level). Discover the “reading level” of your writing.

PUNCTUATION:

College: Generally speaking, don’t use “…” or exclamation points.

Nonprofit: Use both of these … just don’t overdo it!

TONE:

College: Formal, academic.

Nonprofit: Personable, engaging. (Who knew nonprofit writing could be so informal?!)

LENGTH:

College: LONG! It’s not uncommon to write 12-15 page papers … and even much longer!

Nonprofit: If you write anything this long, don’t expect people to read all of it! (Most articles I write for Mission India are between 250 and 400 words!) Kivi gives great tips about length here.

Did you have to break any “bad” habits when you started writing for your nonprofit? Comment below…

Laurel Dykema joined Mission India in 2010 and currently serves as the staff writer and social media guru. She enjoys Boggle, a well-turned phrase, and a good cup of masala tea.

Author: Kristina Leroux, Community Engagement Manager

I am the Community Engagement Manager at Nonprofit Marketing Guide.com.

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