You Work Hard:
If you really want people to read your stuff, make it easy for them to want to read it.
Managing the readability of your message is as important as the content. If, at first glance, it looks like too much work, very few will bother to read it.
- Don’t bury your best ideas in bricks of letters that that resemble a wall.
- Don’t use words that no one uses in real life and don’t let your colors and creativity get in the way of communication.
Your goal is to get your message across, don’t let design and language choices distract your readers.
Make some smart choices about how to set up your piece- whether online or on paper.
Think about how it will look when it is first opened up- does it look inviting or intriguing? Are there blocks of text, explaining and telling the story?
Are there separated sections, with subheadings telling you about the upcoming paragraph and bullet points listing important items?
Taking some thoughtful steps as you design your message can make the difference between connecting with a future donor or member and the delete button.
- Color choice: background and text
- Font: what kind of font and how big
- Text: how much text, how many sections or paragraphs
- Language: sophisticated, or simple, word choices
- Images: what kinds of images go best with your message
- Call to Action: what you want your readers to do
One of the most powerful and immediate impressions you will make is with color. The colors you choose will send a message long before any words or images do. There is tons of information about what impressions different colors convey. Blue says one thing, red another.
Choose colors that make contrast between background and letters easy to see and read, and for the love of God, NO white text on a black background.
Be creative but don’t go crazy, just because you love purple doesn’t mean it will be the best choice for the message you want to send.
Fonts: Style & Size
There are some really fun and creative fonts to choose among. The different styles also suggest a mood or tone that can range from serious to fun. Think about what kind of message you want to send- elegant and refined, energetic, dynamic and fun, or professionally clear and concise. Be sure you choose a font that reflects that mood and tone.
When choosing a font, consider where it will be read, on a screen or on paper. For online pieces, generally fonts that are ‘san serif’ (meaning without those little tags on the end of each letter) are best for online writing. For instance, this font is Arial. Many people find a serif type font is better for printed pieces; create a sample in each kind and see what looks best.
Arial (sans serif) (serif)
If you are sending out a printed piece, often fonts that have the serif can appear more professional. Print a sample and see how it looks- does your font choice enhance the words to be read?
Choose a font size that is easy to see for all your readers, choose not 9,10, 11 point. I am not sure how many people actually read the 2 point type of drug inserts, but I doubt it is many. No, it doesn’t have to look like a children’s’ book, but be sure there is enough room for the words to breathe.
Choose words that will make your point easy to understand- use language and words that a 6th grader will understand.
- No technical terms, no jargon or pop culture words, ever.
- Make your sentences direct and succinct. Resist the temptation to include every point you want to make- you take the chance that none of it will be read.
- Write as if you were talking to your reader- don’t be formal or stiff.
- Think about what you would want your reader to say they remembered from your information. Be clear on the 3 top points you want them to take away from you.
Think about this: How would you want your reader to tell someone else about what they read?
Text & Spacing:
This can be tough, there is always so much more that we want to say than others want to read.
How much information do you plan to include? How much space will those words need?
Be brutal in your editing, cut all unnecessary words and phrases, no matter how much you like them. Condense your thoughts into brief and direct messages. Big fat paragraphs, long sentences and way too many words will keep eyes off your message.
Be sure to have at least 25% of visible ‘white space’ on your page, 25% of the page that has nothing on it. Give your paragraphs and images space to breathe. Cramming too much in a small space will make reading your page look like way too much work. Sometimes that can mean extra spaces between paragraphs, bolded phrases or sentences that you wish to highlight.
No brick walls of text– keep your paragraphs short and use subheadings as breaks.
That means extra spaces between paragraphs, bolded phrases or sentences that highlight the point you want to make.
The human brain processes images about 66,000 times faster than it does for text. Smart choices of the pictures you choose to include can enhance your message immensely. This is easy to screw up- don’t get lazy and choose stock photos. If you do’t have photos of your own and the work you do, search the internet and find ones that reflect the message and tone you want to convey. Happy, sad, successful challenging, what do you want to show?
- Use faces, focus on the eyes and expressions.
- Be sure the shot is in focus
- Use full color whenever possible – unless the black and white is just too compelling an image.
After you have gone to all the hard to to be sure you language is appropriate, the images are strong and your text is accessible and readable, now what?
Again, make it easy for your reader: tell them what you want them to do. Donate, join, sign, volunteer, buy a ticket. adopt, whatever……Be direct and clear about what you need them to do and when.
Is there a deadline or Is this a limited time offer, is there a goal you need to reach by a certain time? Tell them WHEN you want them to perform it; is far too easy to put things off, do it later and it never happens. If you watch commercials, you will hear ‘ Do It Now, Call Today, Only 5 more days’, and you need to adopt a similar imperative.
What you have to say is important, and how you say it is just as important.
But if no one reads your message, if it is too text dense, if the contrast is poor, if the wording is just too tough to wade through, it will never see the light of day.
Once you have honed your text, wording and images, step back and see how the whole thing will look at first glance, the entire piece at one look.
Does it look inviting, interesting or engaging? Would you want to read it?
Be sure you finish the work with a clear eye on the visual presentation you make.
Make your message complete- readable, coherent, visual and end with a call for action.
That’s a good message, thats a readable message and that will be an effective message.
Want to bounce some ideas around? Call today! Its fundraising season, make it work for you.
310 828 6979
thanks for reading!