It can be hard to critique someone else's writing in a way that's helpful to them, because we tend to start with our gut feeling about it. Telling someone, Yuck! I don't think this is going to work! really isn't helpful. Nor is saying, This is awesome! I love it!
Worse yet, gut feelings are not accurate. How you feel about some writing isn't important, even though that feeling may be strong. But it tells you almost nothing about the likely effectiveness of the writing.
So when I need to critique a piece of fundraising writing, I start with statistics and facts about it:
- First I check the readability, using Hemingway. It gives the reading grade level (which shouldn't be above 6th grade). It also marks complex sentence (which are hard to read), and counts adverbs (there should be few or none).
- Then I run the copy through the Latinometer, which shows the percentage of words are of Latin origin. Fewer = better. (This step is optional. When the readability statistics are very good, I generally don't bother to check the Latin quotient. In those cases, I already know it's good.)
- Next, I highlight instances of "I" (in all its forms, singular and plural, including me, my, mine, we, us, our, etc.") I count the organization's name as a form of I. Then, in a different color, I highlight the word "you" in all its forms. You should outnumber I.
- Then I highlight jargon (words or phrases that are not meaningful to general audiences) and abstraction (terms that are vague and not concrete. There should be very little of either.
- Finally, I look for a solid, specific call to action. If it doesn't have one, it doesn't matter if everything else is done to perfection -- the letter won't work. I look for repeated expressions of the offer.
Once I've done all that, I draw my general conclusions. Armed with useful facts, I can keep my gut reaction at bay and say useful, specific things.
Try it. I think you'll like your outcomes!