Centre for Communication + Information Literacy

Copywriting
e-newsletters

News in a flash: Copywriting e-newsletters is the next logical step to promote and market your products and services. The first steps are to identify the purpose of your e-newsletter, and apply proper formatting for that intent.

A letter has a formal layout and convention that has largely influenced email. At the very least, we have a recipient name, recipient address, subject line, the sender’s (you) message to the recipient, the sender’s details, and a sign off. Whether you choose email to send your message, or opt for the more traditional path of letter-writing, you’re still engaging in a writing activity that has rules and conventions. These rules are important but no one really notices until someone comes along and does it correctly. Might as well be you. Copywriting e-newsletters takes into full account the conventions that sets professional-looking and sounding writing apart.

The purpose of all email can be broadly grouped into 4 categories:
1. Self-fulfilling: these emails are for you to further your own cause and query
2. Conversing: these emails keep connections and new relationships going
3. Inquiring: these emails ask recipients for answers or clarification
4. Motivating: these emails encourage recipients to take action

Whatever purpose you would like your email to fulfil, it’s important to set a direction for it at the very beginning. Everything, from formatting and styling, to typefaces and font sizes will play a role to make your email that much more professional and acceptable to your target audience.

First the easy part: When typing your recipient’s details, use the top left corner of your canvas. We do it often enough in letters, but hardly ever when composing an email. Often we take the email address in the TO: field as the recipient’s entire block of contact details. That’s simply not true. An email address is just that – an email address. In the compose section of the e-newsletter, type out the recipient’s name, address, and contact numbers if necessary. Include the date below the address and contact numbers. Email composed in this fashion may well get you that extra bit of attention, especially in formal settings.

Next, the subject line: The subject line in a letter is easy enough to place. It comes below the date, usually in bold lettering or uppercase if hand-written, preceded by Ref, Reference or Re. When composing an email, we use the subject line as the reference line. There’s nothing wrong with this except that the subject line has a greater purpose than referencing what the message is about. When copywriting e-newsletters, the subject line is an opportunity to grab the attention of your recipient. Consider the approach to reading an email versus reading a letter.

Paper letters come in envelopes and require time to open it, unfold the document within, and commence reading. You may have twelve or twenty letters in your mailbox and most of them will go through the process above. The ones we usually don’t open are the ones that have THE OWNER written on the front, or envelopes that clearly fall into the junk mail category. The approach is quite different when it comes to e-newsletters. All your mail is presented in a neat stack, automatically arranged in chronological or alphabetical order as prescribed by your settings. Most of us have our email configured to show the name of the sender, the email address, and the subject line, together with the time and date it was sent. Then, depending on which subject lines catch our interest, we begin the opening or deleting process.

The subject line in email is critical when deciding whether that e-newsletter is a keeper or a junk folder resident. E-newsletters often have useful information that is marred by a poorly written subject line. Think of your subject line as the envelope in which the mail comes in. An attractive, professional-looking envelope with your name and address spelled correctly is going to make a difference. The same rule applies for subject lines. Your subject line is not a reference line; it’s a tagline or strap-line that pulls the reader in. Of course it must be relevant to the email’s content but it also has to pull the reader in. When creating a subject line, think of how you want your reader to react. Then formulate the subject line accordingly.

It’s also a good idea to place your name or company name at the beginning of the subject line if your recipient is expecting a message from you. Otherwise start your subject line with a call to action, then place your name or company name at the end. Whichever option you pick, remember your subject line is the envelope, the packaging of your message.

When copywriting e-newsletters, remember to use paragraphs. It can be quite annoying to read a large chunk of text at a go without placing breaks. So where do you put paragraphs? It’s your call. Paragraphs should follow the natural flow of the reading order. it’s also good practice to appoint one paragraph for one main idea. As long as the reading order flows with natural breaks, the paragraphs are doing their job.

Make your e-newsletters effective by to following these eight simple tips:
1. Keep it engaging: make an impression, rather than a reference
2. Keep it concise: mention points which are relevant first and fast
3. Keep it face-to-face: write as you speak in one-to-one meetings
4. Keep it simple: make it easy enough for young audiences to read
5. Keep it legible: font size, typeface, spacing, and contrast matter
6. Keep it organised: bullet points and paragraphs make reading easier
7. Keep it targeted: do not overwhelm recipients with questions
8. Keep it going: include necessary URLs and links back to your site

That brings us to the end: Concluding an e-newsletter has it’s conventions, and how you sign off makes a difference. If you know the recipient’s name then sign off with Sincerely yours, Yours Sincerely, or just Sincerely. If you do not know the name of the recipient (find out if you can, it always helps) then sign off with Faithfully yours, Yours Faithfully, or just Faithfully. Now do we use a comma after the Sincerely yours? Yes if you have a comma after the recipient’s name in Dear Recipient, at the beginning. No if you have not put a comma after the recipient’s name. Place your signature before typing your name at the end. E-newsletters are effective tools when used within the context and conventions of a business document.

Copywriting category(s) ‹ Business | Technical
See also: Information design workshop [+]

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