Emailing is a convenient, inexpensive way to disseminate information to employees, clients, organization members, and other groups. But no matter who your readers are, remember that "e-newsletters" should follow the rules of good "e-writing."
Start with a clear, concise subject line. This is no place for cute (that is, ambiguous) headings. For example, "HR Benefits Update" reveals at a glance who the email is from and what it's about.
Table of Contents
If the email contains more than one news item, include a table of contents. With a TOC, readers will be less likely to miss something. As with the subject line, make it obvious what each item refers to. Starting with a TOC also makes it easier for readers to find what they're looking for whenever they return to the note.
Reading a computer screen is harder on the eyes than reading printed text. That, coupled with the fact that folks are just plain busy, means people rarely read emails word for word. So e-newsletters should be easy to scan.
- Match headings to the TOC.
- Lead with the most important information.
- Keep sentences, paragraphs, and articles short.
- Use subheadings to break up articles into chunks.
- Sum up main points in lists.
Newer email programs allow you to set text fonts, styles, colors, and sizes. But unlike a printed page, this formatting might not appear the same to everyone. For instance, someone's personal settings may override your design. And some people may use programs that don't recognize your formatting at all. In other words (and I know the designers out there hate this), you cannot completely control the look of an e-newsletter. There are, however, a few text-based tricks that can improve the email's appearance as well as its scanability.
- Add white space between articles by inserting extra line returns.
- Emphasize headings by surrounding them with special characters.
- Create indented "blocks" by starting each short line with a few spaces and ending with a hard return.
Opinions vary about linking to Web pages from an e-newsletter. If you decide to include URLs, use the full address (including the "http://" part) so it's clickable. Briefly describe what the page contains so people can decide whether it's worth their time to follow the link.
Opt In/Out Info
Every e-newsletter should include how to subscribe to or unsubscribe from the emailing list (well, except for required company ones!). Do this through a valid email address, which will differentiate you from spammers, who use "remove me" Web links merely to verify that your email address is OK to pass on to others.