Copy That Communicates (Even If It Won't Get an 'A' From Your English Professor)
Bolding and underlining
The main purpose of bolding and underlining some of your copy is to guide the eye of the (human) scanner. You want him or her to get all the main points in the quick scan according to your copy. "Problem exists. You want to help solve it. Here's a solution. Here's what your gift will do." Don't overdo the underlining and bolding, but make it matter.
Commas and other punctuation
Serial commas or not? Who cares? And if you don't know what I'm talking about, don't worry — it's just something that divides the loyalists to the "Chicago Manual of Style" from those loyal to the "AP Stylebook." The same is true for two spaces vs. one between sentences. If whomever you are writing for doesn't have a preference, just be consistent.
But that doesn't mean you can abandon the comma altogether. No, that much-maligned little guy still matters. Someone gave me this example last week of how the lack of a comma can change totally the meaning (and make you a candidate for 25 years to life).
Let's eat, Grandma!
Let's eat Grandma!
I'm working on my doctorate, and we have to use the "APA Publication Manual" for all written work. I hate it. I totally disagree with it on some things. But as someone said to me a while ago, "What's the end game here? To try to prove a point with the American Psychological Association or to get your doctorate?"
Bottom line: It's not worth all the arguing that takes place over commas, spacing, underlining, bolding and which style guide trumps. It's all about communicating. When you write fundraising copy — online or offline — it's a conversation between two people. And the most important thing is that your written "conversation" is understood and leads the potential donor to take action.
Pamela consults with nonprofits, helping them develop their fundraising strategy and writing copy to achieve their goals. Additionally, she teaches fundraising at two universities, hoping to inspire the next generation of fundraisers to be passionate about the profession. Previously, Pamela led the fundraising programs for nonprofit organizations. Pamela is a member of the Advisory Panel for Rogare, the fundraising think tank at Plymouth University’s Hartsook Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy, a CFRE, a graduate of Wheaton College (IL) and Dominican University, and holds a Doctorate in Business Administration from California Southern University. Contact Pamela at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @pjbarden.