By Alan Sharpe, CFRE
Do you consider yourself a comic? Your donors might. If you are at all typical, you have let these two silly words steal their way into your copy, rendering it ridiculous. But take out your scissors, remove these offending articles, and your writing will become clear, concise and compelling.
This word is useful when used properly. But it makes you look harebrained when you use it to modify a noun that is, by definition, different from others in its class.
For example, when you tell your donors that your charity “operates in 11 different countries,” you are stating the obvious and being redundant. Of course 11 countries are different. They are countries. All countries are different. That’s why they all have different names, different flags, different constitutions, different borders. They are different.
You make the same mistake when you say, “we painted our boardroom three different colours.” Of course they were different colours. All colours are different.
Remove the word “different’ from every phrase in your writing where it modifies a noun that is already different from others in its class and your donors will notice the, well, difference.
When you write that “cancer is very painful” or that the elderly in your community are “very lonely,” you add one adjective but zero meaning. The word “very” adds nothing measurable to the meaning of the word it modifies.
What, for example, is the difference between a building that is “tall” and another that is “very tall?” Nothing measurable. In what way is a “very sick” person more sick than a “sick person?” None that anyone can describe merely from the word “very.”
So stop writing “very.” Instead, use a noun that makes your point. If the building is very tall, call it a skyscraper. If the medical condition is very painful, say it is excruciating.