There are thousands of email newsletters or “ezines” produced every week, and most of them have great material and are written by passionate people who want to share valuable information. Unfortunately, very few of them have many subscribers.
Perhaps the biggest problem they face is that many of them are too hard to read! They are (let’s be honest), ugly! As my newsletter has grown, I’ve learned some things about formatting and presentation. Here are my Top 10 tips:
1. Use lots of white space. Surround your best ideas with blank space, to draw the eye to them.
2. Use shorter sentences than you would on paper. Keep ideas simple, and clear.
3. Use much shorter paragraphs. Most of my paragraphs are less than 6 lines, and I very rarely have a paragraph longer than 8 lines. On paper, a longer paragraph is fine, but not on a computer screen. Keep it short!
4. Use lists! Use numbers or bullet points to keep things clear. As people scroll up and down their screen, give them reference points. Make it easy to navigate your material.
5. Use a standard “masthead” for your letter. The first screen (first impression) of your letter must be consistent from one issue to the next. Make it pleasant, give the essential info (title, your name, perhaps the date or issue number), and keep it simple.
6. Use a table of contents. Again, think in terms of easy navigation. Use clever titles to catch the reader’s interest, and give them a map to help them find the material that interests them most!
7. Use simple words and clear language. Particularly in email, most of your writing should be at about the 6th grade level.
8. Use a clean lay-out, with distinctive marks to separate each section. I generally use a single row of either “====” or “++++” marks between each section of the newsletter. Some people use more artistic separators, and that’s a matter of personal preference, but each section must be clearly delineated.
9. Take a moment before you send your email to insert line returns manually. You can’t count on your reader’s email program to calculate and place line returns where you want them. You decide, based on your sense of proportion and what you want to emphasize, where to put each line return.
10. Keep your lines very short. I manually insert line breaks in all newsletter articles. I recommend breaking your lines at about 60 characters, and I often break them as short as 50 characters. Again, think about white space, and look for ways to make your letter easier to read.
Denis Waitley used to tell this story about the importance of presentation.
Suppose I invited you to my home for an elegant dinner. When you arrive, I invite you in, and make you comfortable as a guest in my home. I tell you I am fixing your favorite dinner, with all the trimmings. You can smell it cooking! But, when the dinner is ready, I slop it onto your plate right out of the pan, splashing some in your lap in my hurry!
You’d be disappointed (at the very least!) and probably never come back.
In your newsletter, it’s vital to have great cooking, but in many ways it’s even more important to present it elegantly. Take the time to present your great ideas as attractively as possible.
Source: Dr. Philip E. Humbert, writer, speaker and success coach