Writing a Support Letter: Think of Your Readers While You Write
Your readers are real people. You need to remember that when you’re writing.
- They’re busy.
- They won’t read something that bores them.
- They read things that interest them. It may be because of art, information, relationship, or just curiosity.
- You need to work to capture their attention.
Writing to your audience is a key skill for all writers. Magazine writers, for instance, need to know if they’re writing to women, ages 45-65, upper-middle class, living in the Midwest.
The good thing is you know the specifics of your readership better than anyone. You need to write to that readership. Not everyone will love everything you write about, so mix it up. Keep them coming back, even if they don’t read this letter all the way through.
You can mix it up by providing some variety in topics and content:
- Write stories.
- Provide data and research.
- Display it with charts and graphs.
- Include photos.
Avoid overly controversial topics
(This advice is strictly for support letters, not necessarily all writing!) Because you know your audience, you probably know some topics to avoid. It’s not that you have to hide anything. Just focus more on what you all have in common than on differences.
If you do broach a controversial topic, always handle it delicately and with respect. While newspapers and magazines thrive by publishing opinion pieces that rile up readership, support letters really aren’t the place for that.
The truth is, it doesn’t really matter if your supporters all agree. You don’t want a cookie-cutter supporter. You have a unique relationship with each supporter, because each supporter is unique. A diverse mailing list is an asset. What does matter are the core values that bring you all together. Just keep that in mind.
Don’t use jargon
One other thing to avoid: jargon. In our organizations, we develop our own languages that can be confusing and even off-putting to readers. So remember to simplify.
It’s also helpful to remember those supporters who may not share the same belief system as you. The language you use might be jargon to them.
You can always define terms that have many different meanings to different people. “I’m using ‘community’ in this context to mean … ” “What I mean by ‘inclusive’ is … ”
“‘Debriefing’ is common language for us—intentional time to process through what you’re going through with people who want to know.”
Just remind yourself to keep your readers in mind while you’re writing. Do you have any methods or filters that you use to help you write to your audience?