Ezine Formatting

Ezine Formatting

You should be at the point where you’ve decided the type of list server that you are going to use. Now it is time to decide your newsletter format.

TWM Release’s format has changed over the period of time that we’ve put out our ezine. We try to keep it basically the same from month to month. We highly believe inconsistency in the format – consistency can apply to many marketing strategies on the web. (From consistent colors on your website to consistent categories in your newsletter, consistency helps your visitors or your subscribers understand what is coming next – it keeps them looking forward to it.)

However, there is a difference between consistency and trying new things. I highly recommend that you continually test new strategies with your newsletter – but you also need to keep certain things similar so that you do not confuse your subscribers. Confused subscribers will unsubscribe.

Things to consider in formatting:

  1. Length – The length of your ezine will depend on how much content you can put together and how frequently your newsletter comes out. For instance, a newsletter that comes out only once a month may contain 2-5 articles, a newsletter that comes out once a day will do better to contain only one short article – or maybe just a tip.You will need to find a good length for your own newsletter, one that you can handle, and one that won’t drive your subscribers away. Too much content will drive them away just as quickly as too little content.
  2. Subject Line – the subject line of your ezine should always have some consistency to let people know they are receiving your ezine. We suggest:
    1. Name of Ezine
    2. Issue # and Vol. # (Vol refers to the year.)
    3. Catchy title.
    Here’s what we do: “TWM Release #11 – Catchy Title” So the beginning is always the same – but the title will always be different to catch attention.
  3. Table of Contents – you should have a “Table of Contents” appear at the beginning of the email to let people know what is in this issue. I receive several ezines each week. I need that table of contents to scan the issue to see if there is an article that I am interested in. I no longer subscribe to ezines that don’t clearly state what the issue deals with from the first line.
  4. Categories – I highly recommend that you choose “categories” in your table of contents that remain the same from issue to issue. For example – we have chosen the following categories:
    1. Editor’s Remarks
    2. Two or Three Articles
    3. What’s New At the Write Market
    4. Advertising
    5. Administrative Information
    Now these categories have changed over the life of our ezine, however, we have slowly changed them trying to maintain as much consistency as possible, but still providing what we felt was necessary.Also, if you save your ezine from issue to issue, you can use the last issue as a template for the present issue and you can choose one thing to change to make the present issue better than the last. This way, the ezine is always improving – but in a slow and consistent manner.
  5. Every issue needs “General Information” or “Administrative Info” – a section that tells people how they can put ads in your newsletter, how they subscribed, what the copyrights are, ESPECIALLY how they can unsubscribe. Other things that may go here:
    1. contact info
    2. If they can refer people to the newsletter
    3. article contributions
    4. privacy statement
    5. advertising info
    6. subscribe and unsubscribe info
  6. Format – You may choose from 3 different formats for your ezine. However, the only one that is successful – in my meager estimation is – regular, old ASCII text format. This is readable by everyone.
    1. HTML email – while this type is becoming more and more popular and they may be neat to look at they are generally slower to download – especially if you aren’t expecting it.
    2. ASCII text – regular email format
    3. Web based – putting your ezine on the web.
  7. Font – use a generic font like Times, Courier, Arial, or Helvetica – something cross platform if possible (Times is probably your best option.)
  8. Special Considerations –
    1. Do not do anything special like bold, underline, italics. (We’ve even had problems using single and double quotes – but we’ll continue to use them even if some people’s email programs can’t handle them.)
    2. If you need to indent, use your space bar, not your tab key.
    3. Don’t center anything – use all left justify.
    4. You will need to manual return after around 65 character spaces per line. Some email programs will mess up your formatting if you go beyond 65 character spaces. I’ve heard experts recommend formatting a newsletter in a text editor. Personally, I don’t do this, because I’ve had bad experiences transferring text from the editor to the email program. However, you will find a way that is right for you. Experiment with different text editors. If you are doing this alone, continually ask your subscribers for feedback – they will tell you if they are not seeing the newsletter correctly.

—Things to remember —

  1. Consistency – follow a template – if you must change things – do it slowly.
  2. Spell Check
  3. Proofread – have someone else proofread. (Unlike a web page that you can go back and edit – you can’t go back and edit your ezine once you hit that send button.) Trust me, it gets more and more unnerving to hit that send button as you get more and more subscribers. It’s downright scary. I read our newsletter about 3 times through – that’s after Terry has edited it a couple times.

And you know what?

We still make tons of mistakes. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you make mistakes – there is nothing you can do – except make the correction in the next issue.