The Back Cover Newsletter
Elon University English Department
At the start of my junior year, I was invited to serve with two other PWR students as a Center for Undergraduate Publishing and Information Design (CUPID) Associate, which meant supervising the CUPID lab space and completing special projects. The Associates are in charge of producing the English Department newsletter, The Back Cover, which was born in 2008 when several English majors volunteered to redesign the existing department newsletter. In the fall semester, we put out an issue with articles featuring students’ internship and research experiences and a new professor profile. While the other two Associates were responsible for collecting interview information and creating initial drafts of the articles, I was in charge of editing the content and making revisions before final publication.
The Back Cover goes out to both faculty and students in the English Department, so when I looked over the initial draft of the newsletter, I paid close attention to how information was presented. In some instances, informal language style appealed well to the student audience but seemed inappropriate for faculty readers; in other instances, paragraphs of heavy technical and process information worked the opposite way. I made changes in word choice and cut text in an effort to balance out the voice in the articles, keeping in mind how such changes might affect the way the dual audience would perceive the information.
I also reordered the information in places to increase the readability of the stories. Journalism experience, academic writing, and PWR project work have taught me that it’s best to let the audience know quickly what kind of information they’ll be reading – and why it’s relevant to them. For example, in the third article of the fall 2010 issue, “Beating the Internship Blues,” I cut extraneous information from the first paragraph and combined the paragraph with the second one to more directly introduce the article’s subject and its relevance to English majors. The cuts were also beneficial in keeping the article concise. Additionally, I added or reworded topic sentences so the points of the article would be easier to identify.
To further appeal to the intended audience, I created a new headline and sub-headline for “A SURE Step to Success.” The original headline ("SURE Fun") included by my fellow Associates did not fully indicate the article’s relevance to English majors or effectively summarize its content, and I felt it was particularly important that the headline of the leading article be able to draw its English-major readers. I revised the lines for clarity and also incorporated wordplay and alliteration to make a linguistically interesting headline (SURE is the acronym for an undergraduate research program at Elon University, and it’s the subject of the article).
I was eager to look over the content of the newsletter and help it be as perfect as possible, but I had to be careful not to change things unnecessarily. I was used to editing in other contexts (journalistic and academic) and had never tackled a newsletter before. Throughout the process, I reminded myself that in the case of The Back Cover, a fully journalistic approach would not have been appropriate for the audience and that some informality was suitable to connect with student readers. It was an exercise in being constantly aware of the audiences' needs, and I think ultimately the Associates collectively put out a well-conceived and well-received publication as a result of that consideration.