Sending an email newsletter? Here are a dozen ‘don’ts’

Ban these wordsIf you publish an e-newsletter, remember to keep in mind “what’s in it for my reader?” Doing so will help you avoid the mistakes that often cause readers to unsubscribe or ignore your messages.

Many of the items on the following list are the “don’ts” listed in the February issue of my newsletter, Wordnerdery, which also spells out some “dos.” The examples are gleaned from newsletters that landed in my own in-box, others found in a Twitter search for #newsletters, and advice from email marketers (for instance, MailChimp has a list of common rookie mistakes):

  1. DON’T  put “[Month, year] Newsletter” as your subject line, not even with an exclamation mark to add excitement, as in the “February Newsletter!” message I saw. Your reader generally needs a good reason to open the email.
  2. DON’T post on Twitter or Facebook “Our newsletter is out!” and expect people to share your excitement.
  3. DON’T assume people remember who you are.
  4. DON’T leave your personality out. You want to come across as you, not a used-car (sorry, “pre-owned” car) salesperson.
  5. DON’T make the newsletter all about you, you, you and your activities and thoughts. What’s in it for your reader?
  6. DON’T start off apparently quoting someone making a statement or expressing an opinion (“I” did this or think that) without first or immediately identifying who it is.
  7. DON’T have a mass of text with no images or subheads or other visual relief.
  8. DON’T apologize for your newsletter being late, if you missed a deadline. Chances are, nobody knows which day you aim to produce it, so there’s no need to draw attention to your lapse.
  9. DON’T send your newsletter without permission; that’s called spam. A business card you got from someone at a networking event is not permission.
  10. DON’T ever, ever buy a list of email addresses. See #9.
  11. DON’T make it difficult for subscribers to share your newsletter.
  12. DON’T make it difficult for subscribers to UNsubscribe, either.

What are some other e-newsletter don’ts? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Image by “pakorn” and

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  1. Posted March 12, 2014 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    I disagree with # 7, Don’t have a mass of text with no images or subheads or other visual relief. I tend to delete most newsletters without reading them, if they’re too well designed with photos & subheads & pull quotes & all sorts of distracting info. I don’t have time to read this stuff online. If it came to me in hard copy I would read & reread every word over lunch, in the bathroom, during TV commercials… But online I only want to hear from people who have something specifically to say to me & I want them to get right to the point. So I try to send the briefest “newsletters” possible, simple text, getting my points across at once. Maybe on second thought these aren’t e-newsletters at all, just messages.

  2. Posted March 12, 2014 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    Gloria, I see your point about images. But a block of straight text is just unappealing and unlikely to be read. Can you at least get behind breaking text up into shorter paragraphs, and perhaps subheads if needed to separate content?

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