Campaigning – How to produce a newsletter

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You can produce simple but effective newsletters using a computer, printer and word processor like Microsoft Word or a simple desktop publishing package like Publisher. If you have access to more sophisticated software like QuarkXpress, so much the better. But keep your design simple and direct. You want to communicate a message, not dazzle with brilliance. Here are some guidelines for producing a newsletter.

Newsletters follow modern newspaper design – a modular design that is clean, unfussy, and easy to work with, and to follow. Good newsletter design rests on a grid – a network of lines which provide a skeleton for your layout. The lines are called guides because although you can see and use them, they are invisible and will not print out. The guides make it much easier for you to structure your page and help you produce a clear layout. For an A4 page use three or four columns.

The most important story
The design should be functional. It is used to guide the reader through the page, to tell them what to read first, second, third. How do you do this? You create a hierarchy of stories. Signal the most important story (lead story) by putting the headline in large type. For example, put it in bold, possibly in capitals (caps), over 2 decks (lines), with a sans serif typeface (see below). The most important story will probably be the longest. Give this story room on the page to show that there’s no question that this is the lead story.

The next most important story (or second lead) will have a slightly lighter and smaller typeface headline. Usually the second lead story won’t be as long as the lead, so cut it if it’s too long. The third or least important story could be just a paragraph or two. To draw attention you could put the whole story in a box, or rule it off. But don’t do all these things at the same time, it will look fussy.

If you have an opportunity to get pictures of an event, use it. Always use pictures BIG. Even if the picture stands alone without a related news story, be generous with space on the page. Allow for up to two thirds of the page. Sometimes a powerful picture can convey far more than the words so you may want to give it the whole page. Even if the picture isn’t very good, don’t be mean with space. It will look even worse if you try to hide it by using it small. If it is that bad, don’t use it at all. The reverse rule applies to cartoons. Keep them small.

Every picture must have a caption that says what or who it is. But don’t simply describe what everyone can see in the picture. It’s a chance to add colour (interest) to a story and possibly new information. If there’s a picture with a story, place the story with the picture – directly under or above the headline or put the text next to the picture with a headline covering both.

When writing a headline, read the first paragraph in the news story and draw out a headline from that first paragraph. If in two lines, always fill out the top line. Avoid punctuation in headlines— it always looks ugly. If using a standfirst — a few lines which provide a teaser, pose a question that the story will answer or summarise the story — write the headline first.

Rule for rules
Never more than 1pt wide rules (vertical or horizontal lines) on A4. Used fine (0.5pt or hairline rules) they are a good way of separating stories on a page.


sans serif—for heads, gives impact: bold, brash, shouts at you. Arial is a common sans serif font.

serif—for bodytext, easier to read for smaller text in print.

The most common serif font is called Times New Roman. Most printed media including newspapers, magazines and books use a serif font because it makes reading large amounts of small text much easier on the page. You will notice that we use a sans serif font for body text on this site. That is because web pages are displayed on screens, and sans serif fonts are more legible in this medium. In print, keep to serif fonts like this for your main blocks of body text.

These rules can be broken, but it is rarely more effective to do so.

If using colour – photocopy the newsletter to see how it will work in black and white. Use bold and plain text for different stories sitting next to one another but avoid the use of too much italic or bold in body text. If in doubt, keep text plain. Limit the number of typefaces you use to no more than three.

Page updated: 2 March 2015