When we write like robots

I saw a trailer for a movie the other day, and it had one line that whacked me in the head:

One character says to another: “We thank you for your support.”

The line is delivered for laughs, with a syrupy delivery that no normal person would ever use with another normal person — the stilted wording making it clearly a rather savage form of sarcasm.

It whacked me because I see those exact words and similar ones all the time. Said in all sincerity by nonprofits I respect.

I’ve written phrases like that myself: That clueless, awkward, not-quite-human language that just pours so easily from our mouths because we’ve heard it before and it’s what you do.

You wouldn’t say something so stilted to a person you know. You’d say something friendly, natural, colloquial.

That movie scene is really bothering me.

So I’m making a vow, and you can join me if you’d like:

I will always do my best not to put in writing something that would make me sound like a robot if I said it in person.

I’ll check for that kind of garbage writing by reading my stuff aloud and keeping a human listener in my mind.

Because being human is part of the job. Sounding like a robot is a lazy lapse that shouldn’t go beyond our first drafts.


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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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About the blogger

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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