Wordsmith has had an interesting task recently, working on a volunteer basis for a very worthwhile local charity. It was a fairly simple need to proofread its website, where the charity uploads evidence of all the good work that it is doing; in order to inspire further donations.
However, as is true with many charitable and volunteer organisations; there is little time available to do this in any other way than publishing content written by others.
And it is this that provided the biggest challenge. The reason that the copy needed editing was because what had been written had been written with passion. For example, the Patron of the charity had submitted a wonderful, heartfelt testimonial, which perfectly expressed the impact of the work. From a grammatical; or language perspective; it had been written as if it were spoken, which as we know does not make for easy reading. As a piece of website copy it needed clarifying; but to do so risked removing the passion, the very genuine emotion that came across.
I recently wrote about how legal websites (about as far away from a local charity website that you can get!); which have the opposite problem. The copy can be dry and formal and a dose of empathy with a potential client would work wonders for this sector’s communication with the wider world. Faced with a piece that is passionate; but unstructured in its approach, the opposite is true. You need that passion there, but you need it communicated more effectively for those who are reading.
So it is a difficult line to tread, and I hope that I have succeeded in creating the balance; without affecting the all-important tone of voice; the personality that comes across. So much good work is done by local charities; and patrons are important in raising awareness – a website, and good use of social media is a cost-effective way to spread the word, showcase work and request donations. It is simply a matter of ensuring that the language is not a barrier to the passion, but communicates it to inspire others.