Over the course of the last five years we have jotted down many rules and given presentations internally at PEPY about our writing guidelines. I spent the better part of the day today locating them and compiling them, and they have a lot of the same themes. Here are a selection of the Do’s and Don’ts we have listed. I’d love other thoughts on what you have added in your own internal writing guidelines for your organizations – or other thoughts you have on the topic!
Here are some of the things we are focusing on:
We should avoid: “villagers”, “the locals”
Instead we might use: members of Chanleas Dai community, the people from xxxxx village, etc
Why? Most of us are from a “village” somewhere, but wouldn’t describe people from our own areas as “villagers”
We should avoid: “our schools”, PEPY Schools
Instead we might use: schools in Chanleas Dai, our partner schools, PEPY partners
Why? These are government schools (not “our” schools), and we should use vocabulary that recognizes our partnership
We should avoid: “poor people”
Instead we might use: people living in areas without XXXX, or other adjectives which might apply as a more fitting generalization for the specific place such as “rural communities” or “a community which is Xkm away from a high school” etc
Why? Not only is “poverty” subjective, it also doesn’t always apply to everyone in the areas we work in. Use more concrete descriptions relating to specific cases.
We should avoid: heartbreaking photos of “poor people”
Instead we might use: honest photos of our work which highlight our programs successes and failures
Why? We are not a magazine for 17 year olds showing “before and after” shots. No one would want to be the “before” shot – or the “poor person” photo. Avoid using any photos which you would not want to put up if it were YOU in the photo.
We should avoid: our egos, excessive praise, constant focus on successes
Instead we might use: honest appraisals of our successes as well as our failures
Why? We believe that NGOs need to admit mistakes and that donors should not be trained to expect constant success. By being open about our progress, we engage our donors in a learning process which will hopefully benefit the NGO community at large.
What would you add to this list?