Break up your paragraph blocks; go cinematic instead

This ED is going great guns. She’s a lawyer. Domestic violence is getting worse in the communities served; so the organization needs to grow. She’s rapidly changing how her domestic violence shelter talks to donors. They account for a full third of its annual support (and it could be much more). She asked for a critique of her new annual report….


It opens with this statement

Every day, a woman arrives at our safe house with her children. Often, it is an act of sheer will because that is the only resource she has left. She stands at the core of the decision making — stay or go, take my children from all they know or reach for something better. [We] meet her with the promise that we will do all we can to keep her and her children safe and help guide her to a new life free of fear and violence. Make no mistake, we also serve men who reach out desperate and with no resources. We do not turn away anyone escaping intimate partner and family violence.

My critique

You’re there. Now for the fine print….

NEVER start a reading experience (a.k.a., an article) with a 9-line paragraph.

We LOOK before we read … and a 9-line paragraph looks like work. People will skip it.

PLUS a 9-line paragraph murders your lead.

Try this instead:
Every day, a woman arrives at our safe house with her children.

[pause; let that seep in; let the picture linger]

Often, it is an act of sheer will because that is the only resource she has left.

[pause; let them start to like her, your protagonist; let them see her standing there through an act of sheer will]

She stands at the core of the decision making — stay or go, take my children from all they know or reach for something better.

[pause; let that decision sink in, so the reader thinks, “What would I do?”]

[We] meet her with the promise that we will do all we can to keep her and her children safe and help guide her to a new life free of fear and violence.

[missed opportunity for donor love: give the donor some or all the credit you reasonably can, for keeping your doors open]

In conclusion

Reading requires mental labor. We avoid labor.

Reading is also a visual experience.

We are visual creatures. We enjoy our visual experiences more directly, more emotionally, than our intellectual experiences (i.e., reading, with all the labor involved).

What you have above, with all the pauses, is the cinematic (i.e. visual) version of verbatim what you said (I didn’t change a word).

Yet a casual reader will see those two versions VERY differently.

I learned a lot from reading a good book on how to write comics: basically, in comics, every frame is a moment, a second in time.

An ED’s statement in a 9-line block looks like prose … but it isn’t, really.

It’s actually (by you) an attempt to communicate effectively with a specific target audience (donors).

“Communication” means “I got it.”

If they DON’T “get it,” then it’s NOT communication: it’s just a broadcast.

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