The Invisible Part of This Email


As long-time readers know, on Fridays — like, you know, today — I do a week-in-review type of thing. Today, I wanted to show you the secret message I put in most Now I Knows. Well, it’s not really a secret. I just don’t really know how it gets there. 

If you go into your email inbox — not the individual email like this one, but the place where all of your emails are listed in reverse-chronological order — you’ll see something like this.

See where I say “DO NOT STOP FOR THE BEER” and that I know the difference been “figuratively” and “literally”? Those lines appear in your inbox — but they disappear once you click or tap through to read the email. 

(Today’s is “It’s right here? See it? Hi! I’m invisible! Okay, not now — now I’m visible. But you won’t see me once you start reading the email! Where’d I go?” And now I’ve created a paradox!)

I realized this week that I’ve never actually pointed out that I do this. Mailchimp, the service I use to send these emails, calls it Preview Text — you can read more about that here — and they make it really easy for me to add to the emails. And, relatively speaking, it’s new. In the first few years of Now I Know, Mailchimp didn’t have the Preview Text field in its software; instead, the text you’d get in that space was just the first few words of the email. And that was usually “View this email in your browser” or “Missed an issue? Click here!,” both of which kind of suck.

Now, I usually use it to make a pun or somewhat-less-funny joke, or perhaps an observation about what’s inside, or whatnot. You’re not missing much if you don’t see it but you’re definitely missing something. For example, if you missed Monday’s, you missed a stupidly embarrassing typo. Here’s the longer version, although it may be hard to see:

No, the comma-from-nowhere isn’t the embarrassing typo. (That’s just a regular typo; the word “Yes” should have been before it.) The embarrassing one is when I defiantly claimed to know the difference between “literally” and “figuratively” but somehow spelled the latter “figeratively,” whatever that means.

Anyway, it gave me a reason to talk about Preview Text today, so I guess it’s not all bad.

The Now I Know Week in Review

Monday: Literally Nuts for Candy: See above.

Tuesday: The Problem With Stealing High-End Electronics (and Beer). My favorite part of this story is that the beer has literally nothing to do with the outcome — it would have been a slam-dunk either way. And yet, it’s a great element of the story. It’s one of those things that makes non-fiction so wonderful; if this were fiction, an editor would have potentially removed the detail as superfluous to the arc.

Wednesday: The Honorable Ms. Rhino: She won, but she didn’t serve. 

Thursday: The Bugs That Make Danger Glow: Not technically “bugs” but close enough.

And some other things you should check out:

Some long reads for the weekend.

1) “Speaking in Hats” (Compass Cultura, 13 minutes, July 2015). The intro paragraph: “What North Americans refer to as the Panama Hat is actually a hat that is made in Ecuador. But the hats that are actually worn throughout the country of Panama, known as sombreros pintados, are quite different. On a recent journey to Panama to replace his worn-out Panamanian-made sombrero, travel writer Darrin DuFord met with one of the country’s most renowned hat makers to discover the origins of the infamous controversy and to find out that sombreros pintados are more than merely a simple fashion accessory for rural Panamanians — they are both a symbol of victory over foreign influence and a device for communicating one’s mood.”

2) “The lie of ‘expired’ food and the disastrous truth of America’s food waste problem” (Vox, 15 minutes, July 2021). I’m sharing this because I have no idea what most food label expiration dates (“best by” vs “sell by” vs “use by,” for examples) mean, and I’m guessing you don’t either.

3) “When athletes gotta go … where do they go?” (ESPN, 12 minutes, July 2017). With the Olympics starting, let’s go into a story you didn’t want to think about.

Have a great weekend!