Newsletter writers are cursed.
All writers are, really.
We face the daunting burden of knowing what we know.
Don’t get me wrong.
It’s a gift and a curse.
The gift is in the drive and ability to effectively communicate a thought your readers will value. We have the power to educate and empower—to change lives—with carefully crafted words and phrases.
The curse is our inability to experience our content the way our reader might, without knowing what we know.
Even the best writers are challenged when it comes to adopting the mindset of a reader: to imagine former, less informed versions of themselves encountering the words the present tense version has used to express an idea.
If you recall your grammar lessons, there was a word that meant “a thing or event that existed before or logically precedes another.” I associate it with figuring out who or what a pronoun is referring to in a complex sentence or paragraph. That word is “antecedent.”
Today, though, I urge you to think about it in terms of what you might be projecting unintentionally on your reader. What assumptions are you making that you really shouldn’t?
It’s fair to assume that if you serve a niche audience, they may have some basic understanding of a particular industry. And that you can safely use their vernacular or colloquialisms (aka “write in their language”).
But beyond writing for someone who is not you and therefore could get lost in your words because you’ve assumed too much of them, newsletter writers face an additional challenge: we have thoughtfully created and sent every issue of our newsletters to date and can too easily imagine our subscribers have read them all—and closely.
Reality check: 99% of your readers haven’t.
This could be their first issue.
Or they might have subscribed months ago, but they tend to skim.
Or they started to read one issue really closely, but then they got a text from their mom so they dropped off.
Your job is to write in a way that serves each of these people and their potentially limited attention spans.
Your job is also to not make them feel guilty that they have no clue what brilliant point you made in issue 5 that you’re now building on in issue 23.
Help them navigate back to that point if you want to reference it.
Give them the antecedents they need.
Read your copy and imagine this is the first issue of your newsletter you’ve ever seen.
Then ask someone else to give it fresh eyes.
Don’t trust that you can actually unknow what you know.
Revise until there is no unanswered question your words should have addressed to make the point as clear as possible.
And then, give yourself grace when someone responds and asks the question you thought you answered.
Now, onto this week’s issue. I’ve rounded up some content for both the advanced newsletter creators and those just starting the journey. My prologue was inspired by How and why writers should avoid ‘the curse of knowledge’ included in this week’s Writing section.
Adopting A Newsletter-first Approach, Building Paywalls, And Addressing Big Tech Woes
- How a Polish newsroom developed a loyal audience by going “newsletter first”
- Lawmakers want to empower publishers to collectively negotiate with Facebook
- What the pandemic means for paywalls
- Paying for news: Newspaper revenue really started to collapse well over a decade ago, and we've been discussing what to do about it for almost as long
- UK media 'in denial' about racism, say Black journalists
- Retailers drive revenue with email. So can publishers
Like this newsletter?
Let me know. Reply, email me at Ashley[at]optinweekly.com, or find me on LinkedIn to hit me with some feedback. I’d love to know what you think.
Also, I’d appreciate it if you shared it with fellow email newsletter creators. All archived issues will be available on OptInWeekly.com, so you can send them the link to check it out.
Have a great week sending, y’all.
Thanks for reading,