Keep It Simple. Really
But then, just as I was starting to get sleepy, things got interesting. In the fourth experiment, Oppenheimer wanted to show that "any manipulation that substantially reduces fluency" would lower the reader's view of the writer's intelligence.
Participants were given an excerpt from a different personal essay. Everyone read the same excerpt, except this time half the essays were printed in standard Times Roman font and half were printed in italicized Juice ITC. Both fonts were 12 point.
The result? When the same text was written in a different font, one that was more difficult to read, the same thing happened — readers rated the author as less intelligent than the simple font.
That's not all. In post-experiment interviews, participants readily attributed the font selection to the experimenter, not the author. Yet they still judged the author whose essay was printed in Juice ITC as less intelligent.
As secure fundraisers, we may not be worried about how smart the reader thinks we are. But whether she thinks the letter signer is intelligent matters a lot.
Second, and just as important, the study is a clear indicator that anything that makes the reader's job harder, no matter how insignificant it might seem, is a turn-off.
The study's subjects read all the essays in their entirety because they had to. Your readers and mine have no obligation to read any of our package. If their job becomes even a little bit difficult, the package is toast.
Willis Turner believes great writing has the power to change minds, save lives, and make people want to dance and sing. Willis is the creative director at Huntsinger & Jeffer. He worked as a lead writer and creative director in the traditional advertising world for more than 15 years before making the switch to fundraising 20 years ago. In his work with nonprofit organizations and associations, he has written thousands of appeals, renewals and acquisition communications for every medium. He creates direct-response campaigns, and collateral communications materials that get attention, tell powerful stories and persuade people to take action or make a donation.