Useful tips for those of you that write your own newsletters

Using your own newsletters to provide customers and employees with information has many advantages. E-mail newsletters take very little time to create and send, and they represent an easy way for the e-mail recipient to receive the information. The opportunities provided by the powerful search and archive functions that exist in most e-mail programs (e.g. Microsoft Outlook) are another significant advantage associated with newsletters, enabling users to quickly locate the right information from among thousands of newsletters. But there are also disadvantages associated with e-mail, and it is important to be aware of these and to take them into consideration in order to ensure that your e-mail recipients can more easily receive and assimilate the information in your newsletters.

Below we provide you with some helpful tips regarding things you should think about when writing your own newsletters. These tips are relevant regardless of whether you are creating traditional newsletters, sales letters, e-mail advertising or e-mails of a purely informative nature.

1. Why are you writing a newsletter, and to whom will it be sent?
First and foremost - what are you looking to achieve with your text? What does your e-mail recipient want to know? Why are you writing the text, and to whom are you writing? These are the most important questions to consider before you start writing your newsletter. There is a reason why your customer has shown an interest in your products and services. He/She wants to know something particular. What is it that you need to communicate in a satisfactory manner? Make sure that every e-mail recipient receives the right information. And categorise the e-mail recipients to ensure that the information you send to each recipient is relevant.

2. How do you want the reader of your newsletter to react?
Build your text toward the conclusion you are looking for. What are you trying to achieve with your newsletter? Do you want your e-mail recipient to visit your website or contact you for more information, or are you attempting to enable him/her to make an immediate decison with the help of the information in your newsletter? You must decide if the purpose of your newsletter is solely to provide information, or if it is to market or sell your products and services.

3. Choose the right format (HTML / text)
E-mail messages can be sent in HTML format or consist only of text. But which format is best for you? Both formats have their advantages and disadvantages, and it is not always easy to know which format is best, because there are many factors that must be taken into consideration.
HTML-based newsletters can be created with a very attractive design that incorporates elements such as images, colours, various fonts, company logos etc., although they sometimes have the disadvantage that certain recipients have e-mail programs (e-mail clients) that cannot display the newsletters in a correct manner. Many companies also have anti-spam filters and other filters on their servers which can react negatively to and block the newsletters, even though they are of a serious nature.
If you create newsletters in text format you do not have the same possibilities to achieve a striking design, but at least all recipients will always be able to read the newsletters, and there is less likelihood they will be blocked by anti-spam filters and other safeguards that may exist on companies' servers. However, you should bear in mind that HTML-based newsletters are normally read much more often than their text-based counterparts once they actually succeed in reaching the reader. This is due to the fact that they offer much greater possibilities with regard to capturing the reader's attention thanks to their extensive design options.
In the article HTML Newsletter vs Newsletter in Plain Text we provide a more thorough analysis of the pros and cons associated with each type of format. The article contains a list of many of the advantages and disadvantages associated with each format, along with a description of an alternative method for dealing with this issue if you are unsure about which option you should choose.

4. Select an appropriate font and font size
If you have chosen to create an HTML-based newsletter, it is important that you select the right font and font size in order to make your newsletter easy to read. Arial or Verdana are both fonts that are suitable for use in newsletters. Avoid Times New Roman and other similar fonts, because they are more difficult to read on a computer screen. An appropriate font size for the text in the body of a newsletter is the equivalent of 10 points (HTML size 2) in your computer's settings. If you use a broad font, such as Verdana, it is also possible to use 8 points (HTML size 1) in certain passages of text, although a font size equivalent to at least 10 points should be used for the majority of the text. For headings, you can use extra bold type and/or font size 12-14 (HTML size 3-4).

5. Black text against a white background is easiest to read
When you select the colour of your text (in HTML-based newsletters) you should always choose a dark text colour against a light background. The colour combination that is easiest of all to read is black text against a white background. You should try to use this combination of colours as much as possible, especially for the text in the body of your newsletter, as your newsletter will then be easier to read. Apart from black text you can also use dark blue text in the body of your newsletter, as long as it is sufficiently dark. However, it is possible to make your newsletter more colourful by using another colour for your headings. The contents of your newsletter will then be even easier to read, since your use of paragraphs will be more distinct, and people who quickly "scan" through the newsletter will be able to more quickly and easily spot the various headings.
Creating a newsletter in which the colours are inverted, in other words a newsletter in which you use a light text colour against a dark background, might seem aesthetically appealing at first glance, especially if you succeed in achieving an attractive combination of colours, but such texts are much more difficult to read and are also very tiring to the eye. This might work if you are only sending a few lines of text with a large font size, but you should always use dark text against a light background when sending longer newsletters.
It is also important to be consistent when choosing the colours for your newsletters. When you have finally settled on a particular style, you should use it consistently throughout the entire newsletter as well as in other newsletters you send in the future. People will then more easily recognise your style and will associate it with your company. And if your company uses a certain style in its other marketing materials, such as its website or brochures, it is beneficial if you reproduce that same style in your newsletters as well, at least to some extent, because the newsletters will then feel more familiar to your readers.

6. Use headings that entice people to read further
Headings are often the decisive factor in getting the recipient to read the remainder of the text. Aim to use effective headings in both the e-mail's subject line, which indicates what the recipient will find out if he/she reads the newsletter, and as subheadings that provide an indication as to what the reader will find out in the next paragraph. A subheading should entice people to read the next paragraph, and should therefore be designed to arouse the reader's curiosity and interest.

7. Create texts that are possible to "scan"
When people read a newsletter, they ”scan” it first to see if it contains anything of interest. If they spot something of interest they read on, or stop and read the passage of text that captured their attention in detail, otherwise they continue to scan through the rest of the newsletter. If readers don't find anything of interest when scanning a newsletter, they simply discard it. This is a perfectly normal form of behaviour. Very few people read all the text in a newsletter. Since you can reasonably expect your e-mail recipients to also be "scanners", you should use short paragraphs and short sentences, and it is a good idea to use extra bold text and Internet links for keywords that you believe your e-mail recipient will be interested in gaining more information about. Your objective is always to make it easier for your customers to find what they are looking for.

8. Go straight to the point
Write concisely and provide your information quickly. Dealing with newsletters is often a stressful situation, because people receive so much information via e-mail these days. Furthermore, most people read a computer screen 25 % slower than they do a normal printed text.

9. How should you use links?
Links leading to webpages that provide the reader with more information can be a vital component of a successful newsletter. But the question is: how should one use such links? There are a number of different techniques to choose from, and we provide a brief summary of them here.
One common method of linking is to create a hyperlink (a link to a webpage or document) around a relevant keyword. For example:
"Read more about our MultiMailer e-mail program."
However, the above example demands that the reader understands that words that are underlined in newsletters indicate a link to a webpage. Not all e-mail recipients will know that. If you are unsure as to how much your reader actually knows about web culture, you can encourage him/her to click on the link by writing like this:
"Click here for more information about our MultiMailer e-mail program."
In this example you can even underline the entire sentence i.e. make a link of the entire sentence, which would then appear as follows:
"Click here for more information about our MultiMailer e-mail program."

One can also place a link at the end of a paragraph, after the other text. The link doesn't necessarily have to be in the paragraph itself. For example:
"MultiMailer is a program that can be used to send personalised newsletters to contacts in your mailing lists. MultiMailer is suitable for large and small companies alike.
Read more about MultiMailer here"
In this example, a graphic symbol ( ) has also been included prior to the link. The symbol enhances the feeling that it is a clickable link, and that one should click there in order to receive more information.
The objective with using links is to steer the e-mail readers to the appropriate location if they want more information about a certain word or section of text. But the method of linking you choose should be adapted to suit the type of recipients to which you are sending your e-mail. If your e-mail recipients are experienced computer users you can frequently utilise words that are also underlined links, but if the recipients are relatively inexperienced computer users you might need to include some words of encouragement with each link to help them understand.

10. Statistics - which newsletters get read?
Compile statistics regarding the frequency with which your e-mailings get read. You will then soon notice which newsletters, and which types of link, are attracting the most visitors to your website. In this way you can determine which e-mailings work best. Feel free to use e-mail tools with statistics-related functions that can help you with this.

11. Adapt and check the text
Use a style of language that is adapted to suit the recipient. Make sure your spelling is correct, use a spell check program and let an independent person read your text before you send your e-mail. If you have worked on a text for a long time, you run the risk of becoming "blind" to careless mistakes and other errors in the text. However, an independent person will normally spot such mistakes very quickly. It is also important to remember that something that you think is obvious might not necessarily be so obvious to other people.
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Article written by: Anders Persson Spanish   Swedish