Are you familiar with the term "word salad"? I recently heard this phrase used to describe writing that is full of vague and buzz-y language and that doesn't actually mean much. You know, the "marketing speak" style that uses a lot of words to say almost nothing.
I had an exchange with someone on LinkedIn recently that was a prime example:
"Learning where opportunities exist to help maximize their fundraising ecosystem to thrive, not just survive." Say what?
Word. Salad. [See also: "mumbo-jumbo" and "hooey".]
But I really wanted to give this person a chance to tell me what they do so that I could, maybe, refer nonprofits who need their services. So I asked politely:
"...we touch/support on pretty [much] anything that could help nonprofits..."
At that point I gave up. I still don't know what they do or who would use them and why. That's a missed opportunity and it happens all the time.
If you look around, , word salad is everywhere. Like in this tagline:
"Non-profit organization creating premium artwork to benefit charitable causes making a difference in our world."
"Thank you for contributing to community connections through empowering history education."
And this excerpt from a mission statement:
"...to strive to enliven and unite the community around the arts through programming that makes arts education, appreciation, practice, and presentation accessible and available to our greater region."
So many words. So little information.
We know how this happens, though, don't we? We try to capture all of the services and programs and benefits and virtues of our organizations, boil them down to a summary, throw in a few buzz words, jargon, and acronyms, and - voila! - we've made it clear as mud.
If we want readers to understand - and maybe even remember - what we do and why it matters, clarity and simplicity are key. If we want to convey the impact that a donor's gift has made, put it in plain, believable terms.
You may know perfectly well what you mean by "we strive to enliven our community." But for outsiders - and people who may consider supporting you - that phrase could mean anything or nothing at all.
In the tagline example "Non-profit organization creating premium artwork to benefit charitable causes making a difference in our world." Why not try: We sell premium, original artwork and give the proceeds to vital health and human service organizations.
It doesn't answer every question about what the organization does but it gets the main points across in a simple and direct way.
If your organization is serving up word salad - or if you suspect that it is - I'd love to help you clean it up. Whether on your website, mission statement, brochures, or other publications, I can provide you with edits that will make your messages clear and easy to understand. Just drop me a line or text me at 914-474-6002.
In the meantime, here's a little diddy from Armin Van Buren c. 2018 that was playing at my BodyPump class last Tuesday and became the inspiration for this week's email:
(Important Note: word salad is actually "an unintelligible mixture of random words" associated with advanced schizophrenia. I'm using it here to illustrate a point and mean no disrespect.)