How adjectives and adverbs suppress fundraising

Most good writers understand that adjectives and adverbs usually aren’t worth the space that take up. Now there’s a study, reported at the Neuromarketing blog — The Dark Side of Adjectives — that supports that belief.

Researcher looked at a variety of online content and compared what was spread around on social media sites:

… the least shared content had the highest use of adverbs and adjectives. This isn’t totally surprising. Experts have told us for decades that nouns and verbs move the reader forward, but modifiers slow the reader down.

(The research is published on the book Hierarchy of Contagiousness by Dan Zarrella, available at Amazon or at Powell’s.)

If you want your writing to be spread around the web, go easy on the modifiers. In fact, if you want people read, understand and be motivated by your writing — online or off — start trimming out adjectives and adverbs. It’s an easy way to improved response.


Comments

4 responses to “How adjectives and adverbs suppress fundraising”

  1. I absolutely understand the facts behind the study but can’t help think that as researchers, writers and communicators, we’re enabling the intellectual ‘race to the bottom’…
    I love language and despair at continually being told that as a society we need to effectively forget more than half the words we know becasue people can’t be bothered to stretch their brain muscle just a little.
    It is almost certainly true that purple prose is not the answer to compelling fundraising asks or powerful media campaigns but I for one don’t want to live in a world where children can’t string a sentence together because they’ve been brought up being told they don’t need to!
    Where will it end, I wonder?

  2. I absolutely understand the facts behind the study but can’t help think that as researchers, writers and communicators, we’re enabling the intellectual ‘race to the bottom’…
    I love language and despair at continually being told that as a society we need to effectively forget more than half the words we know becasue people can’t be bothered to stretch their brain muscle just a little.
    It is almost certainly true that purple prose is not the answer to compelling fundraising asks or powerful media campaigns but I for one don’t want to live in a world where children can’t string a sentence together because they’ve been brought up being told they don’t need to!
    Where will it end, I wonder?

  3. Kevin, that’s a spectacular leap you make from “cut back on modifiers” to children left to illiteracy. Clear, strong writing is not intellectually inferior. In fact, flowerly, modifier-packed prose is not only harder to understand, it’s usually the sign of mushy thinking, whether it’s marketing, academic, or high art.

  4. Kevin, that’s a spectacular leap you make from “cut back on modifiers” to children left to illiteracy. Clear, strong writing is not intellectually inferior. In fact, flowerly, modifier-packed prose is not only harder to understand, it’s usually the sign of mushy thinking, whether it’s marketing, academic, or high art.

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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