The role of sub-editor is a difficult one. Someone in your team will have the responsibility for that function, if not the title. In essence, a sub-editor will check all copy, that includes the email marketing campaign as well as the website, for spelling, making sure everything fits, and giving feedback to the writers in as a supportive way as they can manage when they discover an error. Here’s no queue for the role.
Two additional tasks are the writing of headlines, such as the one for this article, shamelessly stolen from my local paper, and writing sub-headings, or brief introductions, which sum up the subject. This last is fun, too much so given the abandon with which some newspaper subbies indulge their wit.
Sub-editors need a dual personality. Proof reading requires a pedantic view of what is and is not allowed in the English language. Most will have a house style that they follow, to extremes in most cases. On the other hand they espouse rules when it comes to headline creation.
The point of copy is to convey an idea, and instruction or explanation remotely to another person. The sender has no other means of communication other than the words, so tone of voice, gesticulations and visual reinforcement, such as a shake of the head, cannot be used. That is why subbies will demand the complete absence of ambiguity. Here grammar is an essential aid.
Headlines, on the other hand, have different functions, some of which are contradictory. This goes for email marketing, but even more so. Let’s look at the headline to this article. It is a court proceedings report. It neatly defines what a reader wants to know.
The heading is as near perfect as one could be. There are few who would not read it twice, the second time with a smile on their face.
It explains what the report is about. A burglar, obviously this Watson person, has broken into houses with the intent to steal from them. So it is accurate and precise.
It is brief. The attention span of someone reading a Subject Line or a newspaper headline is all too short so the message has to be got across quickly, here with just three words.
It encourages further reading as burglaries affect everyone. In the area of London this local paper serviced, they were an everyday occurrence and of concern. It is good news as an offender has been caught, and by naming the person and the offence, a reader will know the’ve been found guilty.
The joke, albeit a little one, which most readers will understand and be pleased with, shows that this is good news so will make positive reading. However, if someone misses the cultural reference, there is no contradiction. They will read on as normal.
The same requirements are there for every Subject Line to a marketing email.
The headline was precisely aimed at the readers, setting a positive mood all with a little humour. Can you think of another as apt and workmanlike? That’s why I shamelessly copied it for this article. You should do the same for your next email marketing campaign.