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Many organizations are now using email to distribute their newsletters electronically. An email newsletter is a one-way email message full of useful information and articles sent on a regular basis to a specific mailing list. It is not the same thing as an interactive mail list or discussion group (often called a listserv), where email users exchange messages back and forth using a central mailing list program. EcoScribe Communications can assist you with the creation and production of your email newsletter.  For more information, send a message to


Comparing email and paper newsletters

The qualities of a good email newsletter

Key components of an email newsletter

Common mistakes and easy solutions

Mailing list management

Links to good email newsletters


1. Comparing email and paper newsletters

    Email newsletters provide many benefits over traditional paper newsletters, including lower labor and production costs, immediate distribution, and the ability to include links to web sites and email addresses. Email newsletters work especially well when you want to provide time-sensitive information (e.g. event announcements, calls for action), increase visits to your web site, conduct surveys, and provide services to a web-savvy clientele. But they are not always the best choice. Not everyone has an email address and some people simply prefer to read paper copies rather than email. If you want to include color or graphics, you'll need to send HTML email; however, some systems can only read plain-text email. Thus most organizations that send HTML email newsletters also distribute a plain-text version of some sort. This requires additional staff time and more sophisticated mailing list management.


Email Newsletters   Paper Newsletters
Pros Cons   Pros Cons
  • Cheap
  • Minimal labor
  • Saves paper
  • Easy list maintenance
  • Immediate distribution
  • Can include URLs, email links
  • Often text only
  • Hard to convey organizational image
  • Distribution limited to people with email
  • Read quickly
  • Systems vary, so links might not work and may produce garbled messages
  • Easy to include photos, graphics, etc.
  • Easy to convey image
  • Format everyone can access
  • Read more leisurely
  • More likely to be kept
  • Can be expensive
  • Labor-intensive
  • Slow distribution

2. The qualities of a good email newsletter top button.gif (868 bytes)


    Your email newsletter should be written with a specific target audience and purpose in mind.  Who are you writing this newsletter for?  Why should they read it?  Think about the types of services you can offer with your newsletter.  Are you providing information your readers can't find elsewhere? Are you giving them real-time information?  Are you helping them save money or time?  Your audience and your purpose must be clear to both you and your readers.

    Also try to avoid blatant self-promotion. Advertising your services, products, and accomplishments in an email newsletter is acceptable only if you are also providing a valuable service to your readers at the same time.


    Write your email newsletter in a conversational, energetic tone using plain English. Your readers will quickly delete any message full of stuffy, jargon-laden text.  Instead, write directly to your reader ("You'll love the new links on our web site.").   Keep your paragraphs short and the entire newsletter to no more than three printed pages in length.


    Make sure your readers know immediately who is sending the email newsletter and why.  Otherwise your message might be mistaken for spam and instantly deleted. In plain-text emails, use a line of special characters like dashes or asterisks to show breaks between articles.

3. Key components of an email newsletter top button.gif (868 bytes)

    In addition to the main articles of your newsletter, EcoScribe Communications highly recommends the following:

  • Title in the subject line
  • Brief introduction, including sender, purpose, and frequency of distribution
  • Table of contents
  • Article titles
  • How to subscribe/unsubscribe
  • Full contact info (your mailing address, phone, fax)

    You should also consider including:

  • Links to URLs and email addresses for more info
  • Sponsor recognition (but keep it short!)
  • Survey questions
  • How to get back issues
  • Copyright or redistribution information policies

4. Common mistakes and easy solutions top button.gif (868 bytes)

    You've seen those awful messages. The text is garbled, the line breaks are uneven, and all the names in the "To" field take forever to scroll through.  All of these mistakes, which can chip away at your credibility, are easily preventable. 


Mistake   Solution
Showing all of the subscriber names in the to: field
  Use mailing list management software or bcc’s
Producing text with long lines followed by short lines in plain-text emails   Collapse & restore window to make sure the returns realign themselves. Or place hard returns on short lines. Limit lines to 72 characters.
Producing garbled text with numbers or other strange characters   Save word-processor text as text only or ASCII text or type directly into your email program

5. Mailing list management  top button.gif (868 bytes)

Getting names

    Finding email addresses to send your newsletter to is easy. If you already have a "snail mail" list, ask those people for their email addresses. You can also set up a self-subscribing form on your web page where visitors can request to be added to the list.  Here are a few additional ideas:

  • Include subscription information in your printed materials
  • Register with search engines
  • Announce your newsletter in email discussion groups
  • Mention your newsletter in your email signature

Don’t be a spammer!

    Sending unsolicited bulk email (a.k.a. spam) is a very bad idea. Ideally, all of the recipients of your email newsletter will have asked to receive it.  One-time spamming where you offer a newsletter subscription is tolerable only if you have qualified the lead--in other words, you have a strong reason to believe a particular person would be interested in your newsletter.  If they don't respond, don't bother them again. And never poach email addresses off of another organization's email list without their permission.

Mailing list managers

    Lots of tools can help you manage your newsletter mailing list. The best place to start is with your current ISP or email provider.   They can show you which tools are available to you under your existing agreement with them.  You can also look into donated listserv/majordomo services from universities or corporations. Several free services are available on the web as well (e.g. yahoo groups) These free services will often tag an advertisement to the bottom of your newsletter or you can pay a small fee to have the ads removed.

    Remember, most of these mailing list tools are used for discussion groups, where you send a message to an entire list and you receive all the messages posted to it as well. For an email newsletter, you'll want to set up the list as "send-only" so only you can send mail to it and any responses come to you only instead of being broadcasted to the entire list.

6.  Links to Good Email Newsletters top button.gif (868 bytes)

    Here are links to some good email newsletters you might like to review as samples. Keep in mind that these newsletter follow much, but not all, of the advice suggested here. Also, the formatting you'll see on their web page archives is often quite different from the format used when it is sent over email.  You might want to subscribe to a newsletter to see how it is actually sent out.

Food for Thought from the San Francisco Support Center for Nonprofit Management

TipSheet from the National Safety Council and the Society for Environmental Journalism

GreenClips by Chris Hammer


If you would like assistance with creating and producing an email newsletter for your organization, government agency, or business, please contact EcoScribe Communications to begin discussing your project by sending a message to

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