The 'Obvious' Technique That Stops Readers From Clicking Away
One surefire way to keep people reading your fundraising copy, or anything else you write, is to put your thesis statement front and center. Let me show you what I mean.
Compare this opening paragraph, from an article about which airlines have the most flight delays:
Whether you're on your way to the in-laws with squirming toddlers or have 30 minutes to get from the airport to a client meeting, a late arrival can mean the difference between sanity and a meltdown.
United Airlines was the worst U.S. airline — and Virgin America was the best — among leading U.S. airlines last year, a report said Monday. Overall, carriers had their second-best score in the more than the two decades since researchers began measuring quality of service.
The first example is a textbook case of burying the lede, i.e., beginning the copy with secondary information that forces the reader to search for the actual point of the story.
The problem is, now more than ever, readers won't bother.
Writers bury their ledes for many reasons. For example, they think a few introductory remarks will help orient readers to the topic before getting to the main point.
Or they believe it builds suspense so readers will be on the edge of their seats and want to keep reading.
Or, as in the first example, they want to give some slice-of-life scenarios so readers will identify with the topic.
Or worst of all, they believe they are such clever wordsmiths that readers will be enchanted by their captivating prose.
Here's the truth: Readers don't want, or have time for, "interesting." For online readers this is true 10 times over.
What actually happens is that readers take quick glances at heads and subject lines on their various devices to see if they spot anything relevant to them.
Willis believes in expressive writing, exceptional fundraising, and exuberant living.
Willis Turner is the senior copywriter at Huntsinger & Jeffer. He was an experienced writer and creative director in the traditional advertising world for more than 20 years before making the switch to fundraising nearly 15 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, as well as collateral materials and communications, that get attention, tell emotional stories, and persuade people to take action or make a donation.