Beware the 3-Verb Fumble in your writing

Committee writing is a terrible thing: Lifeless, drab, confusing, unmotivating.

One place most often afflicted by committee writing: Taglines. They’re small and short — and a lot of people in the organization care about them. Every cook crowds into the kitchen, and the result is predictable: Stew. And not the good kind.

And committee-style stew-writing is so common, some writers write that way even when they’re working on their own.

Here’s one way to tell if you’re venturing into committee writing on a tagline: The Three-Verb Fumble.

This is using three nearly synonymous verbs when one would do. Committees do this so more people get their fingerprint on the tagline. Rather than figure out the right verb, they go with three. (Almost always three. Even committees seem to recognize that four or more verbs piled up like a stack of pancakes would just be silly.)

Here are some real-life examples of taglines with the Three-Verb Fumble:

  • Ducks Unlimited conserves, restores, and manages wetlands and associated habitats for North America’s waterfowl. These habitats also benefit other wildlife and people.
  • Creative Commons develops, supports, and stewards legal and technical infrastructure that maximizes digital creativity, sharing, and innovation.
  • DC Central Kitchen: To use food as a tool to strengthen bodies, empower minds, and build communities.” D.C. Central Kitchen

Three verbs isn’t automatically bad: check out the Public Broadcasting System: “To create content that educates, informs and inspires.” Those are three distinct verbs that describe different activities. But that’s a rarity

But in general, if your tagline (or any other piece of writing) exhibits stacks of three verbs — you are probably guilty of committee writing. (Even if there’s no committee involved.)


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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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