There’s no one way to write a newsletter.
But there are best practices you can use to write a newsletter people will want to open, read, subscribe to, and share with others.
The following newsletter tips are based on what’s helped me grow my For The Interested newsletter to 18,000+ subscribers and made it the engine for my business.
How To Pick A Newsletter Topic
Success always starts with a goal and that’s especially true when it comes to newsletters.
Before choosing your newsletter topic, first consider your overall goal – why write a newsletter in the first place?
To grow your audience? Serve your customers? Generate leads? Drive sales?
Choose a newsletter topic that will attract the audience you need to reach to accomplish that goal.
Then, decide what specific value you can provide to them through your newsletter and make that your newsletter topic.
Your newsletter’s success depends on your ability to provide value to an audience, not your ability to extract it from them.
How do you know what they’ll value?
In most cases, value is rooted in transformation.
If your newsletter topic helps your audience get from Point A to Point B, it will transform them and that’s valuable.
Try to fill in the blanks on this sentence:
My newsletter will help [Target Audience] solve [Problem/Challenge] by sharing [Content/Solution].
How To Write A Newsletter Subject Line
If people don’t open your newsletter, it doesn’t matter how well written it is.
It’s crucial to write a great subject line.
What makes a good newsletter subject line varies depending on your newsletter topic, audience, and goals, but here are a few suggestions to increase your open rate.
Write a subject line that’s specific to the content included in that issue of your newsletter. Don’t just title it “Issue #11,” or “This Month’s Newsletter,” or use your newsletter name as the subject line for every issue.
Craft a subject line that gives enough detail to make a subscriber curious, but doesn’t give away so much they have no reason to open the email.
Make your subject line informal, friendly, and feel like something you’d send to an individual instead of a large group of readers.
Simple and curiosity-provoking works well.
For example, the subject line of the most-opened newsletter the Barack Obama campaign ever sent was just, “Hey.”
To give you some subject line ideas, here are a few I’ve used in the past which had good open rates:
- “Not sure if this is for you, but…”
- “Pass it on.”
- “I have a confession to make.”
- “How I got 1,000 new subscribers in a day.”
How To Write A Newsletter Introduction
Most newsletter introductions are overwritten.
Don’t open with a bunch of rambling explanations of what you’re about to tell people in the newsletter – just get to the good stuff.
Keep your newsletter introduction short (no more than a paragraph or so) and write something that provides value to readers.
Don’t think of it as a preview of what comes next, think of it as a place to provide quick value that may not have fit elsewhere in your newsletter.
Your introduction is your first opportunity to grab your reader’s attention (after they saw your subject line), so don’t waste it by hitting them with a sales message, self-promotion, or something that may scare readers off before they get to the good stuff.
My advice on how to write a powerful first sentence can help you kick off your newsletter with a bang.
How Long A Newsletter Should Be
No one complains a newsletter is too short, but lots of people unsubscribe when a newsletter is too long.
There’s no “right” newsletter length, but aim to make your newsletter as short as it can be and still deliver value.
The shorter your newsletter’s length, the more likely people are to read it and open the next issue.
If you regularly write long newsletters, readers may hesitate to open them because they know reading it requires a time commitment they may not have in the moment…even if they love your newsletter.
The more concise and value-packed your newsletter, the more likely it will succeed.
I’ve even found success with a daily newsletter as short as a single sentence and a link – people love its brevity.
Write Your Newsletter To One Person
Even if your newsletter goes to a million people, it will only be read by one at a time.
Keep this in mind and write as if you’re speaking to a single person, not a massive audience.
This strengthens a reader’s connection to you and makes them feel like they have a relationship with you – they’re not just one of a million people.
Here are a few examples of how you can make people feel like you’re only writing to them:
- Instead of writing “I’d like to thank you all for supporting…,” you could write “I’d like to thank you for supporting…”
- Instead of writing “Sales people may struggle with…,” you could write “You may struggle with…”
- Instead of referencing your readers as a group and writing “Welcome to the 23 new people who subscribed this week…,” you could write “I’m so honored you checked out my newsletter this week…”
How To Write Newsletter Headlines
You need to write great headlines.
Many readers will skim your newsletter and headlines are the key to grabbing their attention to get them to read more.
The best headlines will often be ones which promise value to your audience and suggest what you’re sharing is actionable and useful.
“How To” headlines are effective because they imply the reader will learn how to do something valuable.
Don’t ever write misleading headlines.
They may get you a few extra clicks in the short term, but when people are inevitably feel tricked they’ll be less likely to click future headlines.
Even if an article your write or share isn’t exactly a how to article, you can still use an actionable headline to draw attention to it.
Simply focus on the benefits of reading the article and why it matters.
For example, “Five Garden Tools That Will Save Your Garden” is a more compelling headline than “Five Great Garden Tools.”
How To Write A Newsletter Summary
If you share multiple pieces of content in your newsletter, you’ll want to choose a consistent format for your summaries.
Here’s a simple template you can use.
For each article you summarize, start with the headline and then use some version of the following structure:
Sentence 1 explains why you’re sharing the link and what makes it relevant to your audience. Make it an attention grabber.
Sentence 2 mentions the source of the content (where you found it or if you created it) and a description of it that mirrors or expands on the headline.
It usually looks something like this: [Publication/Author] [explains/shares/breaks down/reveals] [headline].
Sentence 3 wraps up the summary with references to a couple specific things readers will learn if they click the link.
Here’s an example of what it looks like when you use this format to write your newsletter summary:
Four No-BS Steps To Launch A Successful Newsletter [Headline]
This might be the most valuable podcast interview I’ve ever done. [SENTENCE 1]
I recently was interviewed by Louis Grenier on the Everyone Hates Marketers podcast and shared with him four no-BS steps to launch a successful newsletter. [SENTENCE 2]
In the episode I touch on everything from the difference between a newsletter and email marketing, to how to set a goal for your newsletter, to how to position your newsletter’s value to potential subscribers. [SENTENCE 3]
How To Write Link Text In Your Newsletter
While the headlines you write may be the most important element of your newsletter, the clickable link text (also known as anchor text) is a close second.
Just like with your headlines, your link text will catch the attention of people who skim your newsletter so you want to make it compelling.
Treat it almost like a secondary headline.
Never use link text that simply says “Click here” or “read more” – that won’t capture the attention of skimmers.
Instead, write link text that makes readers want to click even if they don’t read the rest of the summary.
For an example, notice the link text I used in the summary example I shared above.
How To Format Your Newsletter Writing
The way you present your writing in your newsletter is almost as important as what you write.
Reading an email newsletter is a completely different experience from reading a printed book or magazine and you need to adjust accordingly.
Write short sentences and short paragraphs – most shouldn’t be more than a couple sentences.
Include lots of white space to make for an easier read.
Use a large font that’s easy to read (I recommend 16 point).
Use bold, italics, colors, and other font treatments sparingly and strategically.
Images are great, but don’t overdo it.
Less is more. Simple is better.
Newsletter Writing Examples
There’s no shortage of great examples of newsletter writing out there to inspire you, but here are a few newsletter writers with unique styles you may want to check out:
Total Annarchy by Ann Handley
Sticky Notes by Cole Schafer
The Lefsetz Letter by Bob Lefsetz
For The Interested by Josh Spector (I might be biased)
More Newsletter Writing Resources
There are several more ways I can help you write and grow your newsletter including:
39 helpful creativity newsletters
The Newsletter Creators Facebook group