Design your newsletter to deliver information to your troop or group. Create a newsletter to help with fundraising or to find a sponsor. Perhaps you might even want to make a newsletter you can sell. Explore various designs depending on your reason for creating your newsletter.
1. Review other newsletters.
Note which design features you like as you review them. This will give you a starting place as you work through the rest of the steps.
Do you feel comfortable doing your own newsletter? If not, you may want to look into training for writing, design, specific software or even distribution. This is especially true if you do not have the money to pay someone to do tasks for you. As you read down the rest of the steps, note any that you feel you would like to learn more about before doing it yourself.
3. Review programs.
Depending on how you decide to distribute your newsletter, your choice of programs is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make.
Which of these do you need?
- Word processor
- Internet browser
- Email server
- Publishing program
- Graphics program
- PDF creator (or similar)
Of course, you may decide to let someone else do the actual work for you. If this is the step you take, find out about the files that are created. Will you be able to access them if you need to at a later date? Will they be archived? Do you need to request the files come back to you?
4. Graphical formats.
Graphics come in two types — bitmapped and vector.
Bitmapped graphics are the continuous-tone images made up of dots or pixels. Look at a photo you have taken. Zoom into the image until you can see the pixels. The final size of these types of graphics are dependent on how many pixels you have per inch. As you increase the size of an image, the number of pixels doesn’t change – the quality of your image does. This is why images that don’t have enough look “jagged”.
Vector graphics are created in a drawing program. They are created by mathematically plotting dots, or intersection points, and curves. Vector graphics can be made as small or large as you want with no loss of quality.
Your graphic decisions will often be dictated by how you plan to distribute your newsletter. Bitmapped graphics don’t photocopy well. Vector graphics need to be exported into a format that is usable by other programs. Find out the pros and cons of each graphic type and determine how you plan to incorporate graphics.
5. Your written word.
Some newsletters are just to inform others of upcoming activities and notices. These are completely dependent on what is happening with your troop / group. Some newsletters feature articles, stories, letters to the editor and more. Create a list of elements you plan to incorporate into your newsletter.
Determine your voice. Use your list of elements and your intended audience. Should your tone be formal or informal? Fictional or factual? Playful or serious? Keep this in mind as you write, review and proofread your elements.
6. Copyright and Creative Commons.
Do not assume because something is on the Web and you can download it that you should. Every item, upon creation, belongs to the person who created it. Always ask if you would like to use anything you find and make sure you keep that documentation.
Creative Commons allows you to use some items without specifically asking. The licensing information is usually provided with the item. For example, all Enrichment Project badge programs require that you keep the copyright owner’s name on them and that they cannot be sold.
You can put links into an electronic newsletter to serve as references in lieu of the actual copywritten material.
7. Newsletter elements.
Newsletters contain many of the same elements. Find out about the following and decide which you will incorporate into your newsletter.
- Nameplate: Identifies the publication with name, graphics and publication information. Found on the first page of your newsletter.
- Masthead: List of publisher, contact information and other pertinent data. Usually found on the second or last page of your newsletter.
- Table of contents: Only need these if it is a large newsletter.
- Body: Main text of the newsletter. Heads, subheads and titles: These are the bold titles before your body copy or bold items within your body to help break it up into sections.
- Byline: Who wrote the article. It can be after the title or at the end of the body.
- End sign: Mark placed after an article to indicate the end.
- Pull-quotes: Small section of body pulled out and made decorative to break up body copy and pull your reader’s interest to an article.
- Photos, illustrations and clip art: graphics you can use to enhance and break up the body.
- Page numbers: use if your newsletter is longer than two pages.
You want your newsletters to look similar when you put them side by side. This consistency allows your audience to quickly identify your newsletter. In addition, you want to makes sure your design is easy to read. This cannot be stressed enough. If it is difficult to read, it is more likely to end up in the trash than read.
- Templates: A template is a set of page sizes, columns, heads and everything else you need to create a newsletter already laid out for you. Instead of designing your own, you just put your text and images into a template. Some items will be editable (such as body copy) and some may not. This will give you the same look each time because someone else already set this up for you. Many programs today ship with templates included. You can also find them on the Web for download.
- Styles: A style is a set of fonts, sizes and spacing you have preset to keep your look consistent. Items to check include head and body copy is the same size and font; margins are consistent; tabs and indents in the body.
- Grids, margins and columns: The easiest way to see columns is to look at a newspaper. The columns are not too wide. Your eye moves quickly down the column. Now, print out your e-mail to the full width of your sheet of paper. Read it. Can you feel the strain in your eyes? That’s because your eyes are moving across the entire page and they have to shift because of the width. The narrower columns of the newspaper make it easier to read.
Next, look at the space between the columns. It is the same. Even if copy runs across two columns, the space on either side remains the same. By conforming to this grid, the pages still have a consistency while adding interest because of the different widths.
One other item to think about, if you think you’ll be placing it into a binder, leave .75” space on the inside margin to allow for three-hole punching.
- Boxitis: If you’ve seen a newsletter where everything is in a box, you’ve seen boxitis. It’s difficult to read because your eyes keep jumping to boxes. You need to avoid this.
- Images: Whether we’re talking photos, illustrations or clip art, try to put no more than one or two on a page. A good rule is to put a dollar bill on your printed page. If you can’t get it to fit without touching more than one graphic you have too many. While an image or two can enhance a page, many will be distracting. If you are highlighting an event and are not interested in copy, a photo montage is a way to break this rule. Fill the page, or a portion of it, with photos and no copy.
- White space: White space is the areas left empty in your layout. White space gives the reader the feeling that the copy is light and easy to read.
Here are a few things to remember when working with fonts on a publication.
- Three or fewer type faces: Fonts come in a variety of faces and styles. Sans serif have no feet and are more easily read on-screen. This includes fonts like Arial, Helvetica and Verdana. Serif fonts have small feet (Times, Bookman and Century). The feet on the serif fonts make it easier to read with printed text.
- Type variations: Use non-regular faces for emphasis. Italic replaces underlined items. Bold immediately draws a reader’s attention and helps them find a location in your body quickly. Use these sparingly and for a reason to keep from making your newsletter difficult to read.
- Readability: The rule of fonts is to make everything readable. Ever wonder why invitations are the main place to see script fonts? They are not very readable. So, making body copy all italic or bold affects readability. Heads are a good place to use bold text. Subheads and pull-quotes do well in bold and italic. Do not stretch, distort or try to fit type into shapes. This makes it hard to read your type. Flush left type (type that lines up on the left edge with an uneven edge on the right) keeps the spacing between words. Type lined up on both edges (justified) can create odd holes in copy. Also, do not “center” type so that both edges are uneven. It is difficult to read.
- Smallest size: Another rule is to keep your body copy at 9 point or larger. Studies have shown that older people have problems reading type that’s smaller than 9 point.
10. Graphics and other fun elements.
Graphics, charts, quotes and other elements add interest to your newsletter. Don’t put in something because it’s pretty, put it in because it fits with your story or the theme of your newsletter.
You’ll be placing these elements after you’ve dropped in your copy. This allows you to know how much room you have remaining. Remember to leave white space around elements to draw the reader’s eye to them.
This cannot be mentioned enough. If you write the copy or do the layout, ask someone else to do the proofreading for you. Studies have shown that people working on copy often do not see mistakes. Their eyes see what their brains think they *should* see. During proofreading, check the following:
- Consistent fonts and styles
- No widows or orphans
- Use inch marks and quotes correctly
- Use foot marks and apostrophes correctly
- Spell check is good, but read it also
- Grammar usage
- Dates and times
- If using page numbers, make sure they’re in the same location
- No strange color changes
- No strange images added just to fill space
- Check all URLs by placing them into a browser to verify no errors
It is easier to proofread on a hard copy, so always print out your newsletter. You’ll be more likely to notice layout errors.
Are you printing it or copying it? Handing it out or mailing it? Ask yourself questions about your physical distribution. For example, if your newsletter will be mailed, take a sample to the Post Office to review what you need to do to make it mailable.
Are you doing electronic distribution? Via e-mail? Web page? Blog? Have you been given permission to distribute this to your audience? You don’t want to upset others because you’re bombarding them with unwanted material.
Perhaps you’re doing a combination of these. Check to make sure everyone on your list has agreed to receive your newsletter and gets a copy.
Some day, you may find you want to review information in your newsletters. For example, if you are planning a court of awards, you may use the meeting schedule in the newsletter to help you review what you did. Perhaps you want to mentor someone and showing them your newsletters gives them an idea of how you put together meetings, field trips and more.
An archive is always handy to have when you’re feeling low and unproductive. Reviewing what you’ve done will often give you inspiration to continue on.
14. So much more.
If your newsletter is for distribution to a troop or family, you have time to experiment and improve your skills. For a professional newsletter, explore online classes or those available to you locally to improve your skills before releasing any issues.
Sites to Explore