Worth Considering: Write it right: When typos count

Worth Considering from Matt HuggDid you knwo that the hunam brain can olok at a sentnece adn desipte the typos, read the txet?

English is a tough language to spell. With its roots in German and French, in addition to words that sound the same but are spelled differently (to, too and two – to name a few), it’s no wonder that one of Teddy Roosevelt’s pet projects was the adoption of a universal simple spelling system for the language. Besides, standardized spelling wasn’t a reality until the last 150 years, and even then, it varies between dialects (consider American’s “behavior” vs. the British “behaviour”).

So if it’s so easy to read with typos, and it’s difficult to spell anyway (so much so that influential people saw the need to simplify the standards which at that time were only a few decades old) then why is there such an obsession with typos?

For many people, writing correctly is a sign of education. For others it means that you cared enough to review your work. Some people are simply offended – almost like the typo was an attack on their senses. Any way you look at it, typos count against you.

What does a typo – or heaven forbid two or three – mean to your direct mail campaign, a case statement or web site or brochure? Deadly. For example, my wife gets a perverse joy out of finding typos in web sites. She says “hey, I can do better than that,” and probably won’t respond to the appeal. Typo free copy is a baseline standard. But if you read your work several times, your mind plays another trick on you: it fills in words that aren’t there and “corrects” letters so that you don’t see the typos.

How can you not fall into the “typo trap?”

1) Read aloud. I find that reading aloud is a great way to “purge” my work of typos and other demons – like awkward word usage.

2) Let it sit. I found that if I walk away from a project, I come back to it with “fresh eyes.” This was confirmed to me a while ago when I read about an author who said he did the same. When he wrote longhand on a tablet, he could come back to his work in a few hours. When he typed on a word processor, he needed to let his writing rest at least a day.

3) Electronic spell check. This is a good baseline, but depending on the sentence, a computer program won’t flag the difference between “to,” “too,” and “two.” Turning on a grammar check can help with this, but not completely solve the problem. Always use the spell checker, but don’t depend on it.

4) Get someone else to read it. This is a great way to get rid of your typos. Another set of eyes won’t fall into the traps that you will.

Of course, I’m biased. Whether you use me to create your work, or do it in-house, remember that typos are just part of the game. Probably the best piece of advice I can give is do your best and don’t lose sleep over them – that’s my job!

Worth Considering: 12141

Worth Considering from Matt HuggThat’s an effective appeal.

Maybe like you, I feel like I’m programmed to pick out things in odd places that relate to fundraising. So when I was reading a book called Traffic (Tom Vanderbilt) not long ago, something grabbed me. Vanderbilt touched on a point that I discuss in my fundraising classes: appeals that focus on the needs of one person – one student, one starving child, one cancer patient – are almost always the most effective. He went on to cite studies that tell us that the effectiveness of a solicitation letter goes down when even two people are discussed instead of one. He made clear what we know in direct mail fundraising: talking about groups of people or things simply dilutes the letter’s effectiveness.

Some of you have heard me talk and write about what I call the “Ed McMahon Factor.” (see http://www.pgtomorrow.com/archive/summer2009.pdf) In short, it says that forming a direct relationship between ONE signatory of a letter – not two or three, but one – consistently and over time, builds confidence in the organization. The letter writer – whether it’s the president of the organization or the board chair or a client that was served – is writing directly to the donor. It’s a personal correspondence, not from “us” but from “me.” But it needs to be the same person for a while. That builds a brand and loyalty – and response.

Rounding out this picture is the most important element – the person to whom you’re writing. You typically don’t write to a group, but to a person. So when you write to a person, you address that person by name, not “Dear Friend” or “Dear Hugg Family,” but “Dear Matt.” People pay much more attention to something written to them, even though they know that it’s not likely to be a personal letter.

So, what’s the formula? 12141. The best fundraising letter is from one person (1) to (2) one person (1)for (4) addressing the problems of one person (1)!

Of course, I’m biased. I can write 12141 appeals for you at any time. But whether you have me help you, or do it in-house, I hope this little memory trick reminds you of what’s important to say in every appeal out the door.



Hugg’s Monthly Tip: We need left and right.

Hugg's Monthly TipLeft leg, right leg. Right hand, left hand. Left eye, right eye. Right ear, left ear.

To function correctly, we need everything on the left and everything on the right. Without that symmetry, we compensate, and when we compensate we use a lot more energy to coordinate our efforts.

It’s the same with your messaging. Does your right letter know what your left email is doing?

Are your emails and postal mail coordinated? Yes, they’re different, but like our two hands, when working together they’re much more powerful than working alone. They need to look and sound like they’re coming from the same organization that has the same mission and concerns.

Yet like your hands, your emails and postal mail shouldn’t be clones of each other. One might be stronger than the other, and one could be favored. But as much as they differ, they can’t look like they come from different people.

Yet a lot of messaging does. Maybe different people were responsible for each? Did your boss want your “new media” to have a “new look,” while your paper is “traditional?”

The solution may be as simple as having the same design standards. It could be a meeting between “hands.” Regardless, now is the time to clap them together and to fix the problem. Paper and e-mail don’t do as well alone as they do as a team. The hands need to shake, and agree.

Worth Considering: Email’s older cousin comes to the rescue.

Worth Considering from Matt HuggHow old is an “old” e-mail in your in-box? Three hours? Eight? How about 24? How many e-mails are over two days old? In e-mail terms, these are the Methuselahs.

E-mail and its cousins like text messages and internal social network messages are great ways to communicate quickly and efficiently. But there’s a major point to consider before you hit the “send” button for your next solicitation: what’s this message’s “hang time.” How long will your carefully crafted e-mail stay in the prospect’s mail box, and if it’s there, will it get a positive response?

But even if it’s not immediately deleted, the clock is still not your e-mail’s friend. The life-cycle of an e-mail is counted in minutes. If you get a response, you get a response now, not days from now. So if you’re not getting responses, what’s the solution? Send more e-mail?

Ironically enough, no. You know the answer. Despite the fact that e-mail is a much shorter lived medium, social constrictions stop us from sending more of them. In early 21st century America, being an accused “spammer” is up there with “breaking and entering” if you were to believe the popular press – especially if the e-mail recipient didn’t ask for the mail.

So what comes to the e-mail’s rescue? Its low tech, older cousin, postal mail. Why? Because postal mail stays on your prospect’s desk longer than an e-mail stays in an “In Box.” How much longer? Take your own survey based on your own mail and e-mail, but I’d say hundreds to thousands of times longer.

So is e-mail worthless? Not at all. The more gifts you can get by e-mail the more money you save, not just in mailing, but in gifts processing costs. After all, your donor is doing much of the data input by entering the gift information themselves.

What you need to do is back up your e-mail with paper mail. Use the same themes and maybe the same images. Coordinate each with the other so when someone gets your paper mail they remember the e-mail, and when they get the e-mail they can act on the paper. It can be a powerful combination.

Of course, I’m biased. I can write both your e-mail and paper mail solicitation. But whether you use me or do the work in-house, remember that e-mail works best with its older cousin paper mail, than it does alone.