Get the Word Out, Part Three: Think Like a Newsperson

Welcome to the third and final installation of Get the Word Out. This week, we’re focusing on using your email’s own text to attract readers. It helps to put yourself into the mindset of a traditional newspaper writer.

ed-asner-as-lou-grant

Imagine Lou Grant as your grumpy fairy godeditor.

Traditional, printed newspapers have limited space, so articles often get cut short to fit into the layout. News writers put the main points (i.e. the 5 Ws) at the start of their article, then fill in additional details below. This way, the pertinent information will remain if the article is truncated.

Think of your readers’ attention span as an overworked news editor poised to chop off anything past the first paragraph. Here’s how to adapt:

Don’t bury the lede

Use a clear, specific subject line: let your readers know why this email is worth opening in the first place. A generic subject (“Weekly Newsletter”) is not likely to pique anyone’s interest, but something more specific (“News: Breakroom Foosball”) will work better. Read this post for more in-depth suggestions.

In the body of your email, get the salient points out in the first sentence or two—before your reader can get distracted. Also, remember that modern inboxes show a preview of the first 100 characters or so of an email, so use this to your advantage!

Seriously, take the preview text into account!

Seriously, take the preview text into account!

Keep it short

A wall of text is intimidating, and an overwhelmed user won’t even begin to read one in an email (even if they earmark it “for later”). Make your email feel like less of a chore to read:

  • Shave down unnecessary words (but not to the point of sounding robotic)
  • Combine ideas into one phrase (where reasonable)
  • Use short paragraphs and lists to break up the text into manageable chunks
Figure recoiling in fear at a long, dense string of text with no paragraph breaks.

This illustration from hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com demonstrates the “wall of text” effect.

This document is broken up into sections to keep from overwhelming the reader

This document has been broken up into sections and steps to make it easier to read

Now, Get the Word Out!

These last three posts have addressed ways mass emails can be made more accessible and appealing to your readers. It honestly boils down to making it as easy as possible for your audience!

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