It has long been understood that writing for the web is
different than writing for a print publisher. There have
been volumes written on this subject.
I am here to share with you some important lessons that I have
discovered about Writing for Email.
THERE ARE TWO TYPES OF EMAIL READERS
Now the techies in the audience are scratching their heads and
mumbling under their breath that I am a fool... No biggie... I
have been called that before.
From the technical side of the equation this statement is
wrong. I will fess up on that.
But, for the purposes of this article, it is the absolute
truth. Let me explain.
There are type types of email readers:
* AOL Email Reader
* All Other Email Readers
This is an important distinction, because all email readers
will automatically hyperlink an Internet URL, except for the
AOL Email Reader. In order for the AOL Reader to hyperlink
the URL, it must have the HREF tag from HTML in proper format.
For example, all other readers will provide a hyperlink for
the following bit of text:
On the other hand, email destined for an AOL member must be
formatted like this:
When you are writing an article or an ordinary piece of email,
white space is very important to help aid your reader in getting
every word read.
In an ordinary letter on a written piece of paper, it is fine
to place your text with no blank lines between paragraphs and
with only a indention at the beginning of the paragraph. If you
were to do this in an email message, all of the text would tend
to run together making your message monotonous to read.
Blank space enables you to get your message read more thoroughly
and completely. This is why within this article you will see a
blank line between every paragraph and two blank lines between
every sub-section of the article.
The typical ezine is deliberately formatted to 65 characters
width. This is done to enable easy reading for all people
viewing the ezine.
On the web, it is important to serve the lowest common
denominator. While you and I may use higher resolution on our
computers, most Internet users do not. Many are still utilizing
the 640 x 480 video resolution. And many more are still using
outdated email software.
The 65 character width enables everyone to be able to read
the ezine on their screen without requiring them to scroll
right to left to take in all of the text in the ezine.
When listing a URL for a website, it is thus important to make
sure that the URL does not exceed 65 characters in length.
There are fr`ee services available to help you to do this. One
such program can be found at: http://www.shorturl.com/
ABOVE THE FOLD
'Above the Fold' is a term that comes from newspaper publishing.
As you might be able to imagine, they are talking about what
appears above the fold on the newspaper and in the display
area of the paper in the newspaper machine.
'Above the Fold' is the element that most affects the impulse
purchases of the newspaper.
In an email message, 'Above the Fold' is the amount of text
seen before one has to scroll down. As with a newspaper, the
'Above the Fold' text in an email will determine how many
people may or may not read all of your message based on their
impulse decision to do so.
Similar to what I was talking about in the previous section
about the email readers, it is important to always use the
full http:// address in your printed URL's.
If you were to list your URL without the http:// , then your
URL will not hyperlink. If you are reading this message in a
standard email reader in text format, you will see what I mean
Then again, if you do use the http:// , the URL will
automatically be hyperlinked in the email:
The reason why this is actually important to you is that the
non-techie reader might find it difficult to know how to copy
the URL to their Internet browser. I know for most of us, this
is hard to believe, but I have seen it first hand when people
were asking me how they could copy the URL to their browser
If you include an email address in your email text, and you
want people to be able to click that link to send you an email,
you must list your email address with the mailto: prefix.
Otherwise, your email address will not hyperlink.
Here is the proper method to hyperlink an email address:
Here is another factor that might seem odd on first look.
When you list an email address or URL in your email copy, and
you have followed the steps to hyperlink the email address or
URL, you must make a point to break proper sentence formatting
if a punctuation mark should follow your hyperlink.
Most people who end a sentence with a URL want to put that
period at the end of the sentence. Don't! If you must, put a
blank space between the actual URL and the period. The same
concept must be applied to commas and semicolons.
When you are working with a straight domain name, it is not
really an issue. But when you are using a page on your domain,
the improperly placed punctuation could break the URL.
For example, the other night, I clicked a link to a website
that was formatted like this:
The email reader sees that final period in the URL as part of
the URL. When this happens, it is like putting a period at the
end of any URL. Test it on your own to see what happens. Ah
yes, the dreaded "404 Error - Page Not Found."
This is why we want to put the extra space between the end of
our URL's and our punctation marks, just like this:
These tips are offered to help you get your email messages
read more often. They are also offered to help ezine publishers
provide their readers a better and more valuable ezine, and
to help writers to offer publishers a better formatted article
for simple copy-and-paste reprint.
For those of us who use the web in a commercial manner, all of
these tips will help us to sell more of our wares and widgets.
After all, that is why we got into business in the first place,