Introducing The Wordifier!

WordifierLogo_noClaxonWe are overjoyed to announce the arrival of our newest (and dare we say spiffiest?) tool to the Claxon family–The Wordifier!!!

What the heck is The Wordifier?

The simple answer is that it’s an amplifier for your words.

The slightly more in-depth answer is that it’s a tool based on research we did to figure out what words nonprofits were using to talk about their work.

You see, the more a word is used, the less likely someone is to  notice that word. It’s just how our brains work. We crave new-ness. So we figure, give the people–and their brains–what they want. Use words that others aren’t using and you dramatically up the odds that someone will pay attention.

We decided nonprofits needed this information. Yet it was nowhere to be found. We felt that was unacceptable and decided to do something about it.

Research. What research?

Here’s what we did to rectify this problem of not knowing what words nonprofits were using.

We pulled a random, yet representative, sample of 2,503 nonprofit websites. Then we partnered with Community Attributes to create a tool that would tell us which words were used most often and who was using what words.

That makes it sound easy. It wasn’t, trust me. But it was worth it because now you have a tool that will tell you exactly which words you should stop using, use with caution, or use all you want. And it’s, like, statistically significant. #OMG

Go ahead. Give it a whirl.

#WordifierLove

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We’re just starting to sift through everything our research reveals about nonprofits and language. We will be sharing everything we learn with you!

BTW, if you play with The Wordifier and have a suggestion for how we can improve it, pretty please let us know. This tool is  meant to be useful, actionable, helpful, etc! So let us know your ideas in the comments, on Facebook, or Twitter using #Wordifier!

 

 

The verb is the word

grammar, verbs, nouns, language, words, messaging, nonprofitRecently, I’ve been on a verb bender. I mentioned it in this edition of the Claxonette and also in this post. I’ve been asked by some readers to explain what the heck I mean and cough up some gosh darn examples.

You see, English speakers tend to obsess about nouns—people, places and things. We worry over our nouns like mothers worry over their newborn babes. We spend so much time making sure that our subjects and objects are the “right ones” that by the time we get to thinking about verbs—you know, like, the thing we want to have happen—we’re exhausted. Our intellectual energy has been zapped.

This obsession with nouns has led to a woeful state of affairs. We are awash in wimpy verbs. To wit, the widespread use of the world ‘provide’.

We provide counseling to at-risk youth.

We provide reading assistance to elementary school students.

We provide legal services to families in transition.

That’s nice. But it’s boring. It doesn’t differentiate you from the gajillion other organizations doing similar work. And that’s no bueno.

Verbs are where it’s at. Their whole job in life is to make something happen. There are thousands of verbs out there just waiting to make stuff happen. They are action-oriented little buggers, skillful in the art of persuasion. Why settle for a boring, over-used verb that will do nothing to help you stand out from the crowd and stick in people’s minds and hearts when a fabulous verb is anxiously waiting its turn to help you out?

Pick your verbs and the nouns will follow.

And now some examples. Because a core message that works in writing and when speaking is the toughest messaging nut to crack, that’s always where I start. This is the answer to the question: “What does your organization do?” You want it to be concise, compelling and repeatable. You want it to spark a question, not answer all the questions someone might conceivably have. (Repeat after me: essence, not everything.)

Group Health Research Institute

Before: Group Health Research Institute is a non-proprietary, public-domain research institution within Group Health, a health care system based in Seattle, Washington.

After: Group Health Research Institute does practical research that helps people like you and your family stay healthy.

Art with Heart

Before: We heal children’s emotional wounds through expressive, therapeutic books and programs.

After: We create books that use art to help kids heal.

[Note: There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the verb ‘heal’. But this wonderful organization heals kids in such a unique way, they needed to bring that front and center so people would know how they heal. That’s their secret sauce.]

NW Biosolids Association

Before: We are a regional non-profit whose aim is to find safe and beneficial ways to utilize bio-solids in forestry, land restoration, reclamation, agriculture and landscaping.

After: We find the best ways to recycle what you put down your drain.

What verb best describes what your organization does?

Word nerdery will change the world

I’m a “word nerd”, a term coined by Lindsay Bealko (a fellow word nerd).

Being a word nerd means you value and practice word nerdery (a term I totally just made up).

It’s true that word nerdery is part art, part science. Some will say it’s a talent and, therefore, can’t be learned. This chaps my hide. So not true. I absolutely take umbrage with this. It’s a cop out.

I believe–and this is based on observing a whole bunch of rabble rousing, do gooder types over the years tap into their inner word nerds right before my very eyes–it’s a skill that can be learned. Like knitting or parkours, you have to want to learn it.

This is good news for those us on a mission to change the world. Words can have a HUGE impact on the extent to which you are able to attract, engage, and retain support for your cause. Important, right?

For those of you interested in the world of word nerdery, here’s a tidbit to chew on from our friends at Georgetown University’s Brain and Language Lab:

“Our research focuses on two basic language capacities: the “mental lexicon” (mental dictionary) of memorized words, and “mental grammar” , which underlies the rule-governed sequential and hierarchical combination of lexicon forms into complex words (e.g. walk + ed), phrases and sentences (e.g. Clemential excoriated the pachyderm).”

Whoa, whoa, whoa, what does that mean and what does it have to do with making the world a better place?

Translation: knowing a bunch of words (having a big mental dictionary) doesn’t a word nerd make. It’s our ability to take those words and package them up effectively (i.e. artfully apply mental grammar) that leads to world-changing word nerd awesomeness.

Don’t believe me? Watch this. Then try to tell me with a straight face (and not on April Fool’s Day ) that you don’t want to be able to have that effect with your words.