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Six Suggestions for Improving the Readability of TheHomeSchoolMom.Com Newsletter

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TheHomeSchoolMom.Com meets the first test of an ezine with flying colors: it provides plenty of useful content for Moms who are homeschooling their children, and updates and expands the Web site. The newsletter has a personal voice and an enthusiastic “can do” tone. The newsletter would be welcomed by any homeschooling Mom.

The newsletter has a nice, uncluttered design that contributes to readability. The newsletter’s tag line: “Bringing you the best free homeschool resources” clearly identifies the purpose and scope of the newsletter. The newsletter does a good job of separating content from advertising, and of letting the reader know what is advertising.

Click here to view the issue we reviewed.

Six Suggestions To Improve Readability
We have a few suggestions for fine-tuning the newsletter to make the content more readable. Online readers skim-rather than read word-for-word. Readers want to be able to “grab” useful information quickly. While TheHomeSchoolMom subscribers may print out and keep copies of the newsletter, their first pass through the newsletter will most likely be on screen. Here are some ways the newsletter can improve its online readability.

1. Give Readers Reference Information
As a new reader, we needed some logistical information-a newsletter date. Under subscription information, we’d welcome information about newsletter frequency (weekly, monthly). How long has the newsletter been published? The newsletter has a very personal tone. The first page of the newsletter gives us an update on the editor’s home and family. But the editor’s name was difficult to find (on the last page with subscription information). Let us know who is editing this very personal newsletter.

2. Move Table Of Contents To The Beginning Of The Newsletter (first screen)
The first thing a newsletter reader wants to know is “What’s in the newsletter that’s of interest to me?” To answer that question, the reader looks to the Table of Contents. TheHomeSchoolMom has a helpful Table of Contents. But the reader has to scroll down several screens to find it. Move the Table of Contents to the first screen so the reader can’t miss it. Link the Table of Contents to the appropriate section so the reader can quickly go to the information that interests her.

3. Flag Useful Contents With A Message Heading
The HomeSchoolMom newsletter begins with an introduction updating us on happenings at the editor’s “homestead,” but then veers off to tell readers about homeschooling resources the editor’s recently discovered. A reader, who skims the opening, may miss the resources since they are not clearly labeled. This valuable information needs a flag-a “New Resources” heading- to allow the reader to quickly home in on this important content. Even better, would be a heading that previews the resources: “New Resources: Family Friendly Versions of Films, and Physical Education Activities for Homeschoolers.”

4. Delineate HomeSchoolMom Resources from “Outside” Resources
Be careful to let subscribers know what material belongs to TheHomeSchoolMom, and what is available from outside vendors. I was confused about who owned the resources mentioned in “Want an inexpensive way to help your children learn?” I thought that the materials described were TheHomeSchoolMom resources, since the material was referred to as “our special educational software.” But when I clicked on the link, I was taken to a Web page of a commercial software company.

5. Don’t Assume Subscribers Are Familiar with the Newsletter or Web Site
As a new reader, I was confused by the “Updates on TheHomeSchoolMom.com” section of the newsletter. I anticipated that the newsletter section would contain text that would update previous newsletter content. When I clicked on the links, I realized that section linked to new Web site content. The section needs a better head: “What’s New on TheHomeSchoolMom.Com Web site.” Long time readers may know what the Updates section means, but new subscribers need a clearer label or explanation.

6. Don’t Mix Apples and Oranges
The section “Details and subscription information” mixed “business” with “content.” It contains information about subscribing, advertising and how to share resources (business) with Freebies and Bargains, Fast and Easy Recipes (content). Group content with content and business with business. Perhaps this should be two sections: “Advertising and Subscriptions” and “At TheHomeSchoolMom.com Web site.”

The bottom line: TheHomeSchoolMom.Com is a great resource. Our suggestions will fine-tune the newsletter making it easy for readers to find useful information quickly.

Do you have an online writing question for Marilynne and Leslie? Visit their “Ask the Expert” page for more information.

Marilynne Rudick and Leslie O’Flahavan are partners in E-WRITE — http://www.ewriteonline.com, a training and consulting company in the Washington, D.C. area that specializes in online writing. Rudick and O’Flahavan are authors of the book Clear, Correct, Concise E-Mail: A Writing Workbook for Customer Service Agents.

Marilynne Rudick and Leslie O’Flahavan Answer Online Writing Questions: Click Here For Free Answers

Six Suggestions for Improving the Readability of TheHomeSchoolMom.Com Newsletter
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