Agricultural Communications, Purdue University
An electronic newsletter with communication tips and information

December 1998 / January 1999

Better Late Than Never?

As you may have noticed (at least we hope some of you have), "On Target" is late this month.
We shoot for sending it out the 15th of every month, but, because of the pressures of work and weather,
we missed our target by at least a week! Our apologies.

Since we've got your attention, though, we'd like to direct it to the story in this month's (belated) issue
about one-sentence paragraphs. It started as an e-mail question from a reader.

We LOVE questions and requests from "On Target" readers. First, they let us know someone's reading our stuff.
Second, they're often the source of story ideas. So please keep 'em coming, folks.

The Ag Comm "On Target" Team

Super Newsletters: Types of Newsletter Articles

This article is adapted from "Creating Super Newsletters: A Training Curriculum for Cooperative Extension Staff,"
Module 2, University of Maine Cooperative Extension Service, June 1997.

How many types of article formats do you use in your newsletter?
What could you add to the next issue for variety and interest?

Standard: You know this one. It is all prose, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Usually, this is written in the third person.
It can be somewhat impersonal.

Interview: Someone is the focus here; he or she conveys the important information.

Q&A: Similar to the interview, it has a dialog format: a question is posed, then answered.
This type of article can help break down copy into smaller chunks so that it isn't overwhelming or boring to the reader.

First Person: Usually more informal than the standard article, the first-person article clearly identifies the writer.
First-person articles often include editorial comment.

Departments: These are regular sections in the newsletter; they're usually short in length and have a specific focus.

Sidebars: These are short articles that accompany and complement a longer article, "asides."
Sidebars usually focus on a specific aspect of the main topic in more detail, or they develop an idea that is related to the main article.
Sidebars support key themes but may present information in a variety of ways: informal text, charts, graphs, anecdotes, or human interest examples.

Columns: These are similar to departments, but they generally feature the same author or subject matter every time.

Day in the Life: A chronological account of someone's activities.

Checklists: List of items for readers to review.

Quizzes: Short "tests" that help readers remember and apply concepts.

Fillers: Short, usually somewhat anecdotal items related to the subject at hand.
Fillers usually help fill in odd spots in the layout, hence the name.

Reader Participation: Clip-out forms, surveys, or comment sheets that solicit reader input.

I'll continue this topic next month.

If you have questions, please e-mail me, or call me at 765-494-6946.

One-Sentence Paragraphs?!?!?

In December, Jeff Hash, Martin County, sent an e-mail question to Ag Comm's Steve Cain that raised a question many people wonder about--whether or not it's correct to use one-sentence paragraphs.

Jeff's question was a good one, and we thought we'd share the answers he got with you. Following is the exchange, pretty much as it occurred. (Okay, so we proofed it, first.)


Steve: I'm not sure who to direct this to, but I'll ask you for starters. A long time ago, my English teacher taught me not to write one-sentence paragraphs. Now, as I use the "Ag Answers" newsletter, I notice many one-sentence paragraphs in each article. What's the deal? Are they acceptable now?

Thanks, Jeff



There would be some people up here in Ag Comm. who would chuckle (or cringe) if I answered a grammar question. But I am going to attempt to do it anyway.

In short, yes, you can use a one-sentence paragraph. You can even use a one-word paragraph for more effect.


I like to use one-sentence paragraphs at the beginning of news releases, when I can, because it draws in more readers. A magazine that I used to work for conducted readership studies and found that readers felt less imposed upon when the first paragraph was one sentence. If they read it and it sparked their interest, then they were more likely to read the rest of the article.

In my opinion, this is even more important for younger audiences. Another important factor is that the single sentence should be very good. (That doesn't mean very long.)

I am CC'ing Laura Hoelscher in case she wants to add anything.




Steve and I don't ALWAYS agree, which makes this a red-letter day.

He's right. One-sentence paragraphs are not necessarily a no-no. In fact, sometimes they are definitely the way to go.

Steve cites a good example. Another good one is when you're writing for the screen, whether e-mail or the Web.

In my opinion you can go too far with them, though. Too many one-sentence paragraphs could end up giving your prose a choppy, machine-gun feel.

So don't go overboard off either side of the ship, and you'll do fine.



Audience Analysis: You Talkin' to Me?

Way back in October (that's right folks, last year already), a few of us in Ag Communication surveyed CEDs throughout the state in an effort to find out a thing or two about our audience.

First, we wanted to find out just who these people are. As you'll see in a moment, just about everyone and her brother qualifies. Second, we wanted to know which technologies are being used to reach our audience and which are most effective and useful.

CEDs in 32 counties (35 percent--a good rate) responded to the following questions posed via e-mail and phone:

  1. Who is the primary audience for Extension services and material in your county?
  2. What technology/media do you value most and find most useful for reaching your audience?

The results shook out as follows. (#% means the percentage of CEDs that cited the audience or technology/medium.)

Most Valuable and Useful Technologies/Media

Internet: 60% E-mail: 30%

Publications: 40%

CD-ROM: 20%

Video: 40%

Many voiced the belief that the Internet would be even more useful if the information were more timely. However, there was also considerable concern expressed that providing all available material over the Internet would make the local offices obsolete.

There was an overwhelming consensus among the CEDs that, while the Internet is seen as extremely valuable, it isn't as effective as it could be due to limited access.

Another point worth noting is that 40 percent of the CEDs mentioned publications as remaining very valuable and useful. This makes sense, given the lack of access to certain types of emerging electronic technologies. It also appears to suggest that paper publications are here to stay, at least for awhile, despite what some technology-bent doomsayers predict.

As expected, farmers and homeowners were mentioned most frequently as the primary "client," or audience. State and local governments were mentioned only 20 percent of the time, perhaps uncovering an area we in Extension could do a better job identifying and targeting.

Grammar Trap: Economical vs. Economic

"Economical" and "economic" have similar meanings--similar but NOT identical. The problem is that the difference is subtle. Maybe that's why a brochure I saw recently (not, I'm happy to say, published at Purdue) used "economical" when "economic" would've been more appropriate.

"Economical" usually means thrifty or operating with little waste.

Example: For my purposes, bus tokens are more economical than a monthly pass.

"Economic," on the other hand, refers to the field of economics.

Example: We are concerned about the economic implications of the gypsy moth. If there's a grammar (or usage) trap you'd like me to discuss, or if you have a tip that will help the rest of us avoid one, please let me know.

We want to hear from you.
Do you have a communication question? Do you have a comment on this issue of "On Target"?
If so, please e-mail any of our writers or On Target's managing editor, Kevin Smith.

It is the policy of the Department of Agricultural Communication Service of Purdue University
that all persons shall have equal opportunity and access to its programs and facilities
without regard to race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age or disability.
Purdue University is an Affirmative Action employer. These materials may be available in alternative formats.

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