Ten Keys to Unlock Your Writing Impact

key-holeYou’ve just poured your heart out sharing the woman’s story who visited your clinic, and how the appointment has changed her life, and now you wonder if your story will have the full force you intended.

Or you’re writing ministry partners to let them know the results of a recent fundraising event that fell short of your goals, and you’re asking how to put words together so that people see your vision and are moved to contribute.

Emails. Newsletters. Fundraising letters. Blog posts. Words. Words. Words. Each of them filling the inboxes of your PMC ministry partners, crying out, “READ ME!!”

How does your PMC compete with a steady stream of incoming words as you endeavor to reach out and touch your prospective and current ministry partners?

Picture it now: That potential ministry friend glances at your headline and it grabs his attention. He reads your first sentence. Then the first paragraph. Before he knows it, he’s totally hooked. And if you’ve achieved your goal, you held his attention to the end.

How did you do that? Though he may have felt captivated under your spell, good writing isn’t magic. It is a craft that can be developed.

ten-keysWhether it’s been years since English Composition, or you’ve never had formal training in writing, here are ten keys to open the door to connecting with your readers:

1. Hook readers at the opening. People typically decide whether or not to read an article or blog post based on the headline, and then the first sentence, and then the first paragraph. So, hook them and keep drawing them in.

Personal stories, questions, statistics, and quotes are great ways to grab people’s attention.

2. Call to action. What is your goal? Why are you writing this particular article or blog post or email? What’s the point? What are you trying to accomplish? What is your intended impact?

For a blog post or article, what do you want them to do as a result of reading it? Whatever your aim is, make it reader-friendly and provide links or contact information to make it easy. Give practical steps.

For an email or a fundraising letter, state the purpose of the letter in the first sentence or two. Get right to the point, follow-up with the basis and support, restating the goal or purpose at the end.

You can even state it a third time in the middle.

This simple step will help your writing be more effective. When you’ve finished you can ask yourself and others, “Did I achieve my goal?” Quiz your team before sending by saying, “Would you read what I just wrote and see what impact you think it will have on our ministry partners–how you think it might move them?”

3.  Consider your audience. To whom are you writing? Think about your recipients–their age groups, denominations, ethnicities, and political backgrounds.

Consider those who oppose you. Many of our close friends and family may be in our audience because of their relationships with members of our team, and may not necessarily be Christians or even completely pro-life.

What in the piece are they most likely to relate to? How can you build on that? How can you highlight standards of excellence in patient care to build credibility? What words or phrases might need deleting or sharpening in order to convey your PMC’s integrity?

Is there anything you’ve written that could put your clinic at risk? Is there any way you could say the same thing and appeal to a broader audience?

Pray for wisdom to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.

And consider Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 9:22 who said he became all things to all men so that by all possible means, he might save some.

4.  Show; don’t tell. In general, that means rather than using adjectives like, “She was upset,” show how she was upset. Help the reader picture her with something like, “She was sobbing so hard she could barely talk,” or “Tears were streaming down her face.”

5.  Eliminate repetition and unnecessary words. When proofreading, look for repeated words and use a thesaurus. This online one is my favorite: http://www.thesaurus.com

Pay attention to recurring sentence styles and change them up with phrases and connectors.

Respect your readers’ time. Know they are busy. Keep your writing succinct and strip it of unnecessary words. That doesn’t mean complete neglect of adjectives and adverbs, but using strong nouns and verbs is better. Be ruthless in your editing so you don’t bore your readers.

Remember, less is more.

6.  Avoid passive voice. Passive voice is the verb “to be”+ a past tense verb like “was noticed” or “was fired.”

Passive voice omits naming the subject. The word that appears before the verb phrase in passive voice is actually the direct object because it is receiving the action of the verb.

So, if the editor was noticed, or was fired, the editor isn’t doing the action; someone else is. The logical question is, “Who did it?”

To change to active voice, the writer has to drop the “to be” verb and name the subject. For example, “The publisher fired the editor.”

7.  Grammar, spelling, and punctuation. For grammar-Nazis, nothing will hurt your credibility like misspelled words and improper grammar. Some will cringe, wondering what those mistakes say about your professionalism in other areas.

Refresh your knowledge with an overview of the rules. But keep in mind, rules are made to be broken. And when writers do it intentionally, they do it for style. Or to make a point. But sometimes writers just know that breaking that particular rule will make for easier reading.

How can you tell the difference? Ask others on your team. Google it.

It’s better not to break a rule than to ignore it and have people thinking you’re ignorant.

When you’re not sure, check with the experts. Current or retired English teachers make great volunteers.

Here’s a quick online grammar resource for common questions:

Grammar Police: 25 of the Most Common Grammatical Errors We All Need to Stop Making

Quiz Yourself: 25 of the Most Commonly Misspelled Words

8. Punctuation. Because we know what we were thinking as we composed our thoughts, we can find it challenging to see our own mistakes, especially when the work is still fresh. If at all possible, get someone else to proof.

If you have to proof your own writing, try to let it sit a day or two, or at least a few hours.

Worst case scenario, copy and paste to a new format, so it looks different and read aloud to help you pick up on possible mistakes.

9. Links and white space. For online articles in particular, one of the most important things you can give your reader is white space. The space doesn’t actually have to be white, of course. But this space between paragraphs allows and encourages the readers’ eyes as well as their minds to rest a moment before continuing.

Think of it like feeding your reader bits of information; the white space allows him to swallow between each morsel.

Links make your e-newsletter or website blogs user-friendly. As you mention topics that strike your readers’ curiosity or call them to action, they will appreciate not having to go looking for more information, but being able to intuitively find what they are looking for right there in what they are reading.

10. Length — content rich. If you’re like I was when I first began writing for our PMC, you worry about your articles being too long.

Trouble yourself no more, as long as you’re writing great substance.

What about less is more?

Less is more when you’re rambling and repeating yourself and saying the same thing over and over like I’m doing in this sentence.

However, when you enchant your readers with spellbinding writing, you don’t have to worry as much about length.

In fact, research shows if you produce engaging material, your features can be longer. In fact, in 2014 research showed the most shared articles online were averaging 1700 words, and in 2016 they are averaging over 2500 words.

Reni Bumpas
Sparrow Solutions Consultant


Stay updated on information that could impact you in your local PMC

Subscribe to the PMC Advisor Newsletter