Writing for an e-Newsletter

Writing for an e-Newsletter is basically the same as writing for the web. The key thing to keep in mind is that the way people read on the screen is NOT the same as the way they read on paper. People reading on a screen scan the content rather than reading every word. 

Here are some tried and tested ways to make your e-Newsletter content more scannable and more appealing.

Keep it Short and Simple

  • People want to be able to read things quickly. A good rule of thumb is to write your article as short and simply as you can. Then cut it by half.
  • Use plain language. NGO-speak such as jargon, excessive acronyms or buzzwords (like empower, stakeholder, sustainable) should be avoided wherever possible. 

Use the Inverted Pyramid style of writing

  • Include the key information in the first paragraph (What, Who, When, Where, How) so that if someone only reads that paragraph they have the basic gist. If they want more detail or background information, they can read the full article. 
  • This is the style of writing generally used for newspaper articles or press releases.

Use headings, bold, bullets and white space

  • Scanning is easier if your text is broken up into bite size chunks. 
  • Make your paragraphs short putting separate ideas in their own paragraphs. The white space between paragraphs helps people to scan the page.
  • Also use headings, bold text and bullets to make the important points jump out at the reader.
  • Keep your heading styles consistent -- your headings should always be the same size and font. This not only helps the reader to scan, but also creates a professional look for your newsletter.

Diversify your Newsletter Content

  • Mix it up. When you put your newsletter together try and have a range of relevant content. Having five workshop reports back to back is not going to entice your reader.

Make your Headlines Meaningful

  • It is always tempting to use catchy, clever headlines. And although it is important to get your reader’s attention, you also need to be informative. If you can do both, great, but don’t sacrifice your meaning for a clever catchphrase.

Example

Example 1 is a very short newsletter article showing some of the mistakes people make. Example 2 shows the same article re-written using the techniques above to make it more suitable for an e-Newsletter.

Example 1:

Empowering Community Health Workers for Sustainable Collaboration

The Community Health Empowerment Programme aims to build the capacity of development workers in the health sector to communicate within public-private partnerships with a greater degree of clarity and to reduce the unnecessary deployment of financial resources to health care institutions by empowering disadvantaged community members to more effectively engage with institutional processes and realize their right to meaningful participation in decision making that affects their lives.

In order to achieve these aims, stakeholders from Gugulethu were invited to participate in a multi-day cross-discipline learning programme from 10 to 15 May 2014 which included expert sessions on CHWs, PMTCT and ARVs, as well as MDR-TB treatments and was conducted by the facilitation experts from Health Expert NGO.

Word count: 124 

Example 2:

Training Community Health Workers to be Better Health Partners

Health Expert NGO ran a five-day training with community members from 10 - 15 May 2014 in Gugulethu.

The workshop included sessions on:

  • community health workers,
  • HIV treatment (ARVs)
  • prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCTs), and
  • multi-drug resistant TB

The programme helps community health workers communicate their needs and experience to government and NGOs, and to participate in making decisions that affect them. This should reduce costs at the local clinic.

Word count: 81 words

Please note that this content is totally fictitious and doesn't make much sense!