Signal Your Intentions

I didn’t grow up in Massachusetts. I have however, been living here for nearly 25 years, and at this point, I think you’d be hard pressed to tell me apart from a native New Englander: I keep jumper cables and a snow shovel in the trunk of my car; I consume twice my weight in ice cream each year; I have an uncontrollable urge to vote for public officials who either resemble cartoon characters or have the last name “Kennedy” (or both).

There is one characteristically New England habit however, which even after all this time, I refuse to adopt: Not using turn signals while driving.

In most parts of the civilized world, turn signals are considered a benefit: You use them to let pedestrians and other drivers know where you intend to go, so that they don’t get confused and accidentally bump into you. Simple enough.

Here in New England on the other hand, using turn signals is considered a sign of weakness. I remember my friend Julie trying to explain this to me many years ago, as I sat white-knuckled in the passenger seat of her car, watching her weave in and out of traffic: “If I signal, and the other guy knows where I want to go, he won’t let me in.”

When it comes to your E-Newsletter however — born and bred New Englander or not — turn signals are a must. Specifically, I’m talking about including a short synopsis of your newsletter at the very beginning of each issue (something I do in the introductory note of my e-mailed newsletter — if you’re reading this on my web site right now, you won’t see the note).

Nothing complicated, just a clear, straightforward sentence or two: “Today we discuss blah, blah, blah…”

The idea behind “signaling” to your readers is that by doing so you help them triage their e-mail. They’ve got lots to do and lots to read, and not every subscriber will want to read every issue you send out (I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you this). It doesn’t mean they don’t want to continue receiving your E-Newsletter, it just means that for whatever reason, this topic on this day is not important enough for them to take the time.

Bottom Line: Your readers are busy people, and as much as they may love your style and content, not every topic will be of interest. Particularly if, like me, you take a while sometimes to get to the point, your readers will appreciate the respect for their time and energy that your newsletter signaling provides.

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