With all the examples of modern technology surrounding us today – e-mail, iPods, toaster waffles, etc. – I have to say that the one I find most amazing is the cell phone.
It’s incredible enough that you can make a call from any place at any time to anyone else in the world. But to me, what’s most remarkable is that someone can dial your number, and no matter where you are, the system instantly finds you and puts the call through. (Unless of course, you’re in the supermarket and your wife is calling, in which case it waits until just after you’ve gone through the checkout line.)
Cell phones have also given those of us who are so inclined, the ability to talk freely while driving alone in a car. No longer do passing motorists and their good for nothing children smirk as we carry on our solo, animated discussions; today, they simply assume we are on the phone.
I mention all this to you, because in my experience, rehearsing what you’re going to write and then reading what you’ve written out loud, is a surefire way to craft simple, understandable, authentic text (the holy grail of E-Newsletter copy).
I’m not talking about speaking your words into a tape recorder and transcribing them (although if that helps you get your thoughts down, that’s perfectly fine). What I’m suggesting is that you read what you’ve written out loud as you write it, and, most importantly, before you put the final text to bed.
Doing so will accomplish three things:
- It will annoy your spouse. I’m sorry. I mean it will help clarify your thoughts. For reasons that I don’t entirely understand, normally articulate people – people whose spoken words make perfect sense – often get so caught up in the punctuation and organization of words and sentences that the central idea gets lost along the way. Reading what you’ve written forces you to step back, and gives you a sense of how well everything hangs together.
- It will alert you to gibberish. While it may seem perfectly reasonable to expound on your bias towards “crustacean-enhanced supercalifragilized recruiting solutions,” reading this kind of stuff out loud will help trigger you to the fact that few other inhabitants of Planet Earth are likely to find this either interesting or clear.
- It will help you to proofread. When you proofread with just your eyes, you’re only employing one of your senses. Adding your ears to the equation will help pick up errors that your eyes alone may miss, particularly those wrong word substitutions that spellcheck insists on ignoring. (Granted, its knot foolproof.)
Bottom Line: In the world of communication, e-mail lives somewhere between the spoken and the (traditional) written word. To help your newsletter read as authentically as possible, make sure to speak it out loud along the way. I’ll be in the supermarket, picking up that one last item, if you need me.