The U.S. Navy is credited with creating the "KISS Principle." The acronym stands for "Keep It Simple, Stupid," and the premise is that most things work better when they're kept simple instead of being made complicated.

You should apply the KISS Principle to your nonprofit's writing. Whether you're writing a grant proposal, a direct appeal or website content, you want to write so your audience will understand...and be inspired to take action.

"The finest language is mostly made up of simple unimposing words." -George Eliot

There's a reason that Latin is a dead language. Yet many people still write using words with Latin roots (originate, communicate, recognize) instead of their simpler Anglo-Saxon counterparts (begin, talk, know).

How do you know? Words with Latin origins are usually multisyllabic. Not only do they have more sounds, they also have more letters than their simple Anglo-Saxon counterparts. (Tip: those extra letters can be important when writing an online grant proposal with character limits.)

Words from Latin roots may sound impressive (like utilize, which is usually the wrong word, by the way). Latinate words might also sound pretentious. These words tend not to be conversational, which can make it harder for your audience to process what you're saying.

Need an example? Click here to read the same passage, written using Latinate and Anglo-Saxon words. (Example courtesy of Stephen Pidgeon.)

"One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple." -Jack Kerouac

Did you know that when you lower the grade level of your writing, your reader's comprehension goes up? That seems simple enough.

Nonprofit communications and fundraising experts, like Tom Ahern, Jeff Brooks and Kivi Leroux Miller, recommend writing between a 6th and 8th grade level. This does not mean you're "dumbing down" your material. Instead, you're speeding up your reader's ability to process your message.

So, how do you do this? Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs. The ratio of short-to-long determines how easy it is to read your text.

"Easy reading is damn hard writing." -Nathanial Hawthorne

This newsletter is written at a 7th grade level. What grade level is your writing?

It's surprisingly easy to check your actual "readability" score. You'll find a built-in scoring tool, right there in Microsoft Word's spell check/grammar check. All you have to do is turn it on. The Nonprofit Marketing Guide recently published a great post on how to use Microsoft Word to check the grade level of your writing.

And it doesn't get any easier than this. You can cut and paste text directly into the Hemingway App.

Just for fun, find the last piece you wrote for your nonprofit. Maybe it's a grant proposal. Maybe it's your year-end appeal. Or maybe it's a simple thank you to a donor.

Whatever it is, run it through a readability tool, then send me a message. Tell me your score and if it surprised you. I love hearing from you.


Remember, there's more to grant writing than just "writing." Also remember, there's more to fundraising than just grants.

Here are three articles that will help you write better...and more simply.

8 Grant Proposal Writing Tips

8 Steps For Writing Successful Fundraising Appeals

7 Rules For Writing An Effective Press Release For Your Nonprofit

BONUS: 6 Types of Modern Jargon to Avoid

Third Sector Consulting helps nonprofits find more funders and win more grants.

Send a message to start the conversation and learn how Laura can help you and your organization.