Producing a newsletter is easy, the trouble is most word processing and desktop publishing (DTP) programs have far too many options and inevitably some first efforts end up looking like a dog’s dinner. So, the first thing to do is open a new page on your word processor, select a big bold typeface and write ‘KEEP IT SIMPLE!’, print it out and stick it somewhere you can see it.

Word processing programs like Microsoft Word have everything you need to create a really professional looking newsletter. However, if you’re going to be doing a lot of them or want to prepare a succession of longer multi-page documents it is worth investing in some inexpensive DTP software, like Adobe Pagemaker, MS Publisher or Serif Page Plus.    

However, we’ll begin with the simplest method, which is to use your word processor to transform ready prepared text, a club or society report for example, into an illustrated newsletter. For this example we’ll be using MS Word, though the basic principles can be applied to most recent WP programs. Start by opening the text file and select the Page Layout option from the View menu; a 75% zoom setting should allow you to see between half and two thirds of the page on a 14 or 15-inch monitor. You will probably find that 9 or 10 point justified text produces the best-looking results. Next, highlight all the text by putting the mouse pointer into the space to the left of the copy and click the left mouse button three times. Go to the Column icon on the toolbar (or Columns on the Format menu, for a wider choice of styles) and choose a two or three column layout from the options presented. Three column designs look cleaner and allow more flexibility with pictures and illustrations. You will see that the copy flows from one column to the next. If you make changes to column 1, say, then any over or underflow words will be pushed into or drawn back from the next columns, and onto any subsequent pages.

Now create a banner or title by going to the Insert menu and clicking on Text Box. The mouse pointer will change to a pair of crosshairs; position it on the first letter in column one, click and hold the left mouse button and create an rectangular box by dragging the crosshair across the top of the page. The body text will move down the page to make way for the box and a flashing cursor will appear inside the box when you release the mouse button. Type in your banner or title, press return and key in any other information you want to appear at the head of the page, such as a sub-title, the date, volume and issue numbers. Highlight each item and select the appropriate typeface and font size. You will probably have to experiment with the typeface setting and the size of the box, to get everything in. 

If you haven’t already done so, insert some headlines into the copy, to separate the various items. You can do this by highlighting and enlarging body text, or inserting text boxes. Do not be tempted to use a different typeface for headlines – remember KEEP IT SIMPLE – otherwise it can look messy. To make headlines stand out use bold characters and/or capital letters.

Adding pictures to your page is very straightforward. From the Insert menu click on Picture and select From File or Clipart; the From File option will take you to the directory tree, so you can retrieve an image from another application, such as an art program, scanner or digital camera picture library. When you have located the image file click on it, and it will be placed on the page and displace the text. Use the mouse to move it to the correct position, and the sizing boxes around the image, to fit it into the space. You can use the Crop facility on the Picture sub-menu to trim the image. If you want to caption the picture insert a Text Box beneath it; it’s usually a good idea to use a slightly smaller typeface (a point or two less than the body text, and make it bold, so that it stands out). You needn’t worry too much about alignment. Text boxes, pictures and any other objects you place on the page will automatically ‘snap’ to line up with an invisible grid. 

Sod’s law says that there’s always too much, or not enough text to neatly fill a page. The former can be solved with some judicious editing, or if you can’t bear to cut your masterwork, try reducing the font size by a point, though don’t go below 9 points for body copy if you can help it. Filling an empty space is just as easy. Either write some more copy, increase the point size, or better still, create a ‘Callout’, by inserting a quote or sentence from the text across one or two columns. That’s also a good way of draw the reader’s attention to a particular point.

Time to add a few finishing touches. Inserting lines between the columns helps break up the page and make it look more interesting. This facility is on the Drawing menu. Position the mouse pointer where you want the line to begin, click and hold the left mouse button and drag the line to where you want it to end. Check the line is straight and release the button. Don’t worry if it’s too long or short, you can change it by clicking on the sizing box at the end of the line. Create a small text box at the foot of the page and type in a page number, you may want to add the month and year or any other information you feel is relevant. This is a good time to run off a page proof on the printer, read it through, get someone else to double check it for you, correct any mistakes and roll the presses.




Trimming the edge of an image, so that it fits the space allocated


Desktop publishing programs are designed with page layout in mind, the emphasis is on moving and manipulating text, graphics and photographs, though pretty well all of them have word processing facilities as well


Changing the physical size of an image or object on the page, usually by dragging a sizing square, so that it fits into a space



I you are using MS Word you’ve probably discovered Word Count in the Tools menu; it may be more versatile than you think. As it stands it will count all of the words in an open document, but if you want to know how many words there are in a paragraph, or block of copy, just use the highlight function, then click on word count. You can create a simple keyboard shortcut to Word Count by going to the Tools menu and click on Customise. Select the Command tab, highlight Tools in the list of Categories and scroll down the list of Commands until you come to Word Count. Highlight it, then click on the Keyboard button, put the pointer into the Press New Shortcut field and press the mouse button. Decide which keys you are going to use (Ctrl and backslash ‘\’ are usually free), finish off by clicking Assign and Close.

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