5 powerful writing tips from Narnia

Here are some great writing tips from a great writer: C. S. Lewis. With my commentary on how the tips can apply in fundraising writing.

  1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else. Two ways to avoid this mistake: Read aloud and really hear yourself; have a non-expert read it and tell you what they think you mean.
  2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don’t implement promises, but keep them. You may need to evict your English teachers from your head.
  3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose.” Nonprofits are prone to this, using abstract words like hope, justice, and community. Imagine having to take a photo of the thing. If you can’t, you probably are using an abstractions.
  4. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. [Adjectives] are only like saying to your readers, “Please will you do my job for me.” Same with adverbs. (In fact, pretty much avoid adverbs.
  5. Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite. Also, many of those too-big words are abstractions you likely shouldn’t use at all.

Published in the book, C. S. Lewis’ Letters to Children.


Comments

2 responses to “5 powerful writing tips from Narnia”

  1. Ken Wilson Avatar
    Ken Wilson

    Love it, love it, love it!

  2. Ken Wilson Avatar
    Ken Wilson

    Love it, love it, love it!

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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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