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Healthy Kids now offers lessons in clear communication. (Award-Winning Newsletter).

Last issue we quoted Don Ranly of the University of Missouri School of Journalism on "how to write so your words will be read, valued, and acted upon."

He advised, "Don't write for readers; write for non-readers, scanners, suffers.

He said the four goals of what is called service journalism are:

* Attention

* Comprehension

* Retention

* Action

Ranly's advice--whether its editors know it or not--has taken firm hold at Healthy Kids Now, the 2002 Silver Award winner in the organization category of NL/NL's Newsletter Awards Competition.

Why? Editor Mike Austin, of Health Ink & Vitality Communications, says it's "a low-literacy publication."

Healthy Kids Now goes to parents of children enrolled in the health plan of The Independence Blue Cross & Pennsylvania Blue Shield Caring Foundation for Children, in Philadelphia.

"Low literacy" writing translates into eminently clear communications, including headlines, subheads, sidebars and, of course, the articles themselves--all written in a style of "do this, don't do that."

And that's Don Ranly's ultimate goal: If your readers act upon what you write, they will return to your newsletter-and presumably renew faithfully.

For example, the lead article in the award-winning issue of Healthy Kids Now carries the head "What's on the Menu?" under a colorful photo of smiling kids in the cafeteria.

That's followed by the deck, "Parents should know what is on the school menu. Is it good for your child?"

And here's the crisp body copy's lead paragraph:

Your children are going off to school. What are they eating for lunch? Are they eating breakfast there too? It's the job of the parent to know what's good to eat....

Parents can be sure that their kids are eating well by sending their child to school with a packed lunch. But parents need to keep in mind all five food groups when packing a lunch. The five food groups are: (1) meat, (2) dairy, (3) fruit, (4) vegetable and (5) grain.

Here are some tips to include all five food groups:....

Note the short, declarative sentences devoid of compound clauses and adverbs and other speed bumps on the road to reading.

The four-page newsletter also features no jumps--every article is in-your-face, in-and-out, and peppered with bullets and advice.

Business editors might balk at such a simplistic approach to newsletter writing, but don't knock it until you've tried it.

As Don Ranly says, "Write for non-readers [like the low-literacy recipients of Healthy Kids Now], scanners, suffers."

Health Ink & Vitality Communications, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. 267-685-2804, fax 267-685-1228,
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Publication:The Newsletter on Newsletters
Date:Jul 16, 2003
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