John M. Cataldo, aka my father, used to hate the expression “Do you get it?” or “Do you understand?”
The question was, in his view,”Have I made myself clear?” The burden is on the speaker or writer to make sure that the audience understands his/her point. Donors, foundations, corporations shouldn’t have to work hard to understand what a nonprofit is trying to convey, especially if it involves a monetary ask!
Many large foundations rely on a few readers per proposal to score and report to a larger group. It is essential that they can do so with confidence, clear about what you propose and why it is important. So how can I ensure that you grasp what I want communicated?
1) Can I skim your text and understand the important points?
Good formatting and simple sentences enhance communication. Lots of dense text, with little white space around it, leads to a reader headache. I cannot find the important points if the page is packed with factoids. Don’t rely on bold or italics, either. First, italics are harder to read. See? Second, a lot of online applications don’t support bold font. You have to grab my attention without these devices.
2) Do I need a Ph.D. or degree in a specific field to understand you?
To read and comprehend text quickly, write for a Middle School grade level audience. I can read your text faster, and assimilate more of it, if the sentences are simple and jargon-free. Aim for eight grade reading levels or less, if you want everyone to grasp your content.
Microsoft Word has a handy tool to help you determine readability. After writing, check your document with the Flesch Reading Ease score. It is found under the Review Tab (Spelling & Grammar). Aim for 40% or higher, meaning more readable. The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level score is right underneath it, which tells you what grade level the reader needs to understand your text. This blog was rated 69.6 for Reading Ease, at the 6.7 grade level.
IF what you communicate is important, don’t you want everyone to understand it? Thanks, Dad.