Category Archives: language

What Can Ernest Hemingway Teach You About Blogging?

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One of the keys to a blog post is getting to the point (and, even more important, having a point in the first place.) Sometimes I edit an article or blog post by removing words and sentences that are redundant, uninteresting, or unnecessary — and find that there’s not much left. In fact, one of the things that prepared me to create short posts for blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ was writing and editing letters for President Clinton in the White House. There’s not much room on one page (or in one tweet) to make your point, so you have to be efficient with that limited space.

Ragan.com recently republished a post I missed the first time called “Ernest Hemingway’s Five Secrets to Good Blogging,” written by Erik Dekers, the co-owner and vice president of creative services for Professional Blog Service. Dekers says that If you blog or do any writing for the web, you can learn a thing or two (or five) from Hemingway. “Blogging is the new newspaper,” Dekers writes. “Posts need to be short, punchy, and interesting right from the very beginning — all characteristics that marked a Hemingway story.” The lessons:

  1. Write and speak with authority.
  2. Avoid adverbs.
  3. Don’t write for “the reader.” “Don’t worry about what the critics and haters are going to say,” Deckers writes. “Don’t anticipate what comments you might get, and how you can head them off at the pass. Don’t avoid controversial topics just because you think someone might disagree with you. Write for you, and make it awesome.”
  4. Have a set writing schedule. “Hemingway’s schedule was to get up early, get to the typewriter by 7 a.m., and write until lunchtime. Even when he was starting out and had to work odd jobs, he would only do them after lunch. He didn’t drink until he was done writing, and he would even get up when he was hung over.”
  5. Leave stuff out. “He would omit everything he could, including background information that was not relevant to the story. Similarly, as bloggers, we need to leave things out. Don’t use descriptions of what you were thinking when you came up with a certain blog topic. Explain why something is important, and what it means to us.” Read the full post.

This One Word Could Help You Raise More Money

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As much as I enjoy reading blogs, journals, newspapers, and magazines about nonprofits and fundraising, I think some of the most interesting lessons come from other sources. For example, Psychology Today‘s blog recently published a post titled “The Power of the Word ‘Because’ To Get People to Do Stuff.” According to author Susan Weinschenk, PhD, “Because is a magic word when you want to get people to do something.” Could that include asking them to support your cause?

She cites a 1978 study in which people on a college campus tried to cut in line to use a copier. There was 60 percent compliance when someone asked, “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the xerox machine?” But that rose to 93 percent when the person asked, “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the xerox machine, because I have to make copies?” And it was 94 percent with “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?”

Next, they tried the experiment with a person with 20 pages. In that case, only the “…because I’m in a rush” increased compliance. Dr. Weinschenk concludes, “When the stakes are low, people will engage in automatic behavior. If your request is small, then follow the request with the word ‘because’ and give any reason. If the stakes are high, then there is a little more resistance, but still not too much. Use the word ‘because’ and try to come up with at least a slightly more compelling reason.”

How does this affect your requests to get support for your organization or your cause? Are you explaining WHY someone should support you? And do you think the word “because” makes a difference?