What the $@#&?
Editor’s Note: This article contains some words and passages that some readers might find offensive or unsettling. We chose to leave them in so that the author could make his point, as well as to illustrate the powerful effect they can have on a reader. We apologize in advance for any offense.
Think back to when you were a kid … how many times did you get your mouth washed out with soap because of something you said? I know it happened to me a couple of times.
As a fundraiser, how many times have you had to tell your executive director or board that one of your fundraising letters or e-mail campaigns bombed because of something you said? Again, I’ve been there.
Both experiences can leave a bad taste in your mouth and leave you asking yourself, “How can I keep this from ever happening again?”
Recently, our creative team was developing a fundraising package for a children’s home. The story line in the letter was about a young girl who made the choice not to follow in her mother’s footsteps and use drugs. One of the members of our team suggested the envelope teaser have wording along the lines of “Tiffany had a choice.” We were beginning to develop that thought when someone asked if our readers would relate the word “choice” to abortion. Would a large percentage of the donors and prospects never open the envelope because of the word “choice”? We decided not to use the word and tested a different phrase.
Was it the right decision? I don’t know for sure since we took a presumably safer route and never tested teaser copy with that word. Are there other words that you avoid because of a bad experience in the past or in anticipation of a problem?