How to Make Your Nonprofit Writing More Conversational

Conversation BubblesAre you struggling to inspire your readers? It may be your style of writing.

Many of the words we use in our writing would never come out of our mouths in everyday conversation. You need to write like you’re in a conversation as opposed to a lecture. Who wants to be lectured to? Not your supporters, I bet.

Like it or not, the world just isn’t as formal as it used to be. Most jobs allow more casual dress. You can have an entire conversation using animated gifs. Leggings are pants. Texting has made acronyms like LOL and OMG commonplace.

If you’re still using stuffy language in your nonprofit communications, you are running the risk of seeming out of touch.

Let’s be clear – I am NOT suggesting using LOL or “gimmicks” in your writing. Being less formal doesn’t mean you have to sound like a pre-teen on WhatsApp (unless you’re trying to reach pre-teens, then by all means…).

I am sure some of you are thinking of your elderly supporters who hate the way the world is changing, but it still doesn’t matter! Even if your audience is on the older side whose idea of a viral video involves NCIS, writing less formally JUST MAKES IT EASIER TO READ.

And easy is always best when it comes to asking people to do things like give their money or volunteer their time.

So let’s take a look at the two biggest stumbling blocks to creating more conversational writing followed by five tips to help you do it better.

The Stumbling Blocks

  1. JARGON. This could be listed six times, and I am still not sure it would be enough. Stop with the wonky 501c3 language already, people! Jargon makes me cringe, can you tell?  It causes a huge disconnect between you and your reader and stops them from being engaged and inspired. How can they be engaged when they have no idea what you’re talking about?
  2. High School English. You need to let go of most of what you learned in school regarding how to write. End sentences with a preposition! Start them with conjunctions! There is no need for SAT words and compound-complex sentences. There is no need for long paragraphs. You aren’t writing a research paper for Mrs. Frucci anymore.

The Tips

  1. Read Your Writing Out Loud. Does it sound natural to you? If not, do some editing and try again.
  2. Talk to a Friend. Write your document as if you were writing a letter about the topic to someone you are comfortable with, like your best friend. How would you explain the topic to her?
  3. Use Contractions. When we speak, we usually use contractions, such as “won’t” for “will not” and “she’s” for “she is.” Some people object to using contractions in writing, but that’s a dated approach. Contractions are fine for all but the most formal pieces of writing.
  4. Address Your Reader Directly. What’s the number one rule of donor centric writing? Use “you” and “your” when referring to the reader. You should also refer to yourself by using “I” or “we” and “my” or “our” instead of “the organization” or other more institutional-sounding words.
  5. Start with Social. If writing less formally makes you nervous, start with the medium that changed it all – social. Twitter and Facebook are the perfect places to practice a more conversational writing style. After all, that’s what social networking is all about – conversations.

It’s time to lose the constraints of a more formal writing style! It’s not only easier for you to write this way, it’s also easier for your supporters to read. OMG, it’s perfect!



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Author: Kristina Leroux, Community Engagement Manager

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

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