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The Good Words Project


How do you measure how good a word is?

There are ways to try to evaluate a word. You can count characters. You can go by feel, judging how it looks on the page or sounds when spoken. You can even measure the emotion language elicits, as our firm often does through research.

An important dimension to consider is the goal a word is being used toward. What cause does it support? What result does it aim to achieve?

In seven years at maslansky + partners, I’ve collaborated with communicators at Fortune 100 companies, in sectors from pharma to farming to financial services. This work has let me meet magnificent people and travel the globe.

Some of the most satisfying language work I’ve done, however, has been pro-bono on behalf of small, local nonprofits working to support worthy causes. In my time here, our team’s Good Words initiative has embarked on projects that include.…

• mentoring students through Pencil here in New York City on how to use language to advance their careers by preparing for interviews and writing college essays

• crafting mission statements for environmental and conservation nonprofits, such as the Commons and the Downstream Project in the Chesapeake Bay watershed

• leading research on reaching out to effectively persuade climate skeptics with empathetic arguments rather than relying on shame and scare tactics

• partnering with the World Monuments Fund to find the right words to convey the value of our planet’s cultural and historical sites

We focus on nonprofits working in two fields: the environment and education. Within that umbrella, our partners represent a range of scopes and scales. The one commonality we’ve seen in each organization, however, is a shared passion. Passion is the engine that drives a nonprofit and the glue that holds it together.

This same shared passion, however, is often the source of an organization’s greatest messaging challenge. A shared mission comes with a shared set of values and beliefs, a shared culture, even a shared language. As a result, it can be hard to effectively communicate with an outside audience who doesn’t always share the vision, values, or vernacular your organization does. Basically: it’s hard to empathize with an audience who doesn’t care the way you do.

That’s where we come in. Our team loves this kind of work because it’s one of the purest forms of persuasion that exists. We help nonprofits distill the excitement they share internally into effective external messages. We craft mission statements, values, visions, and messaging of all kinds to resonate with a target audience, whether that’s voters, donors, legislators, businesses, or the public.

As a writer, researcher, and communicator, there’s nothing more satisfying than finding strong messages to advance a worthy cause. If you or anyone you know is connected to a nonprofit that’s struggling to find the right words, we’d love to see if there’s a way we can help.