A newsletter is an information link between you and your readers. A good newsletter will:
- Convey useful information quickly to its readers.
- Create good will for your Purdue Extension office or program.
- Show readers a common purpose.
This page covers the following topics: Evaluating Your Newsletter, Laying Out Your Newsletter, and Checking Your Newsletter: The Seven C's.
Evaluating Your Newsletter
It's important to produce newsletters that are effective. Even if you've been producing your newsletter for years, you may want to think about your purposes and objectives - whenever possible, allow your readers or other people into the evaluation process. In the process, you may find that your newsletter can be improved or even that it's not the best way to deliver your message.
Every so often it is a good idea to set aside some time and evaluate your newsletter with a critical eye. As you do so, ask yourself (and your readers) these questions:
What is the Purpose of Your Newsletter?
If your newsletter has no formally stated goals, try to think of at least three. You should have a clear idea of what you want your newsletter to accomplish.
Of course, you want to do more than just state your goals. Use those statements to help generate article ideas and make editorial choices. In addition, setting goals will help you have a positive effect on your readers. Your readers will have a sense that the newsletter staff knows what they are doing and why.
Who Is Your Newsletter For?
You must know your readers in order to communicate with them effectively. Consider who they are and what they awnt. Include stories that appeal to their interests, and write using language that they understand. Usually, this means avoiding jargon and technical terms (see the Writing page for details).
What Do Your Readers Want?
Just as you have reasons for producing your newsletter, your readers have reasons for reading it. Your reasons should not contradict the readers' goals.
Laying Out Your Newsletter
The old cliché goes, "The clothes make the person." For example, a job applicant may be talented and hardworking, but if she or he arrives at an interview in a pair of pants that look like they haven't been washed since they were bought and a shirt that looks like it was purchased at a thrift store in 1971, that applicant may not get the job.
Page design and layout are similar.
Your stories and graphics may be informative and valuable, but if readers have a difficult time finding the next leg of type, if a photo is too small to make out the subject's face, or the chunky fonts and graphics make the pages look like they've been produced on a dot matrix printer and photocopied at the library, readers will dismiss your newsletter. Just as professional attire can make a job applicant, a professional-looking, reader-friendly design will help your newsletter.
There are hundreds of principles of good publication design. However, here are a few tips to get you started on creating easy to-read, professional-looking newsletters:
- Make Text Legible
Set the size of your body copy to at least 11 or 12 points. This is standard, and studies show that these sizes are the most readable given a variety of typefaces and audiences.
- Minimize Italicized, Underlined, and Bold Type
Italicized, underlined, and bold type are hard to read. Avoid setting more than a word or a sentence in special characters whenever possible. If you do use special characters, make sure there is a very good reason for doing so.
- Avoid Using All Capital Letters
Even in headlines, it's hard to read text set in all capital letters. There are many other options for emphasizing type now that we've moved beyond the typewriter.
- Minimize Font Styles
Stick with one or two type families to avoid clutter and confusion. You may be tempted to use a new font for each story, but this looks very unprofessional and will confuse readers who are accustomed to associating different fonts with different kinds of information. A good rule of thumb is to use no more than one font for most of your stories, another for your headings, and a third for special stories.
- Place Type Consistently
Set standard amounts of space between lines of type, headlines and bylines, subheads and body copy, etc.
- Avoid Tombstone Headlines
Tombstone headlines appear when two article titles appear side-by-side in different columns, so the two separate headlines look like they merge into a single larger one. To get around tombstoned headlines, try adding subheads to your or clip art to your articles, or switching using fewer or additional columns.
- Make Sure Headlines Touch the Story
If you have a headline, it should always "touch" the story. In short, don't put a photo between your headline and the story. If you have a big image, place it above the headline.
- Avoid Large, Gray Blocks of Text
These are desserts to readers. Add some interest with subheadings, pull quotes, art work, etc.
- Keep Text Blocks Large Enough to Read
Avoid breaking text into tiny snippets to run it around an image. This hurts readability and makes the page look messy. Try making the art larger or smaller, or running it across two or more columns. A good rule of thumb: if you can't fit more than four lines of text under a photo, then you shouldn't do it.
- Make Photos Easy to Read
Yes, photos can be hard to read, too. A common mistake is to run photos where the people are too small. A good rule of thumb: if a person's face is less than the size of a nickel, it's too small to use.
Checking Your Newsletter: The Seven C's
When evaluating your newsletter, the Seven C's provide a benchmark for checking its effectiveness. The Seven C's of Writing appear on the Writing page.
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