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Creating a Newsletter

1. Decide why you want a newsletter.

2. List and prioritize the departments and features.

3. List all the possible groupings and features you might want to include.

4. Decide which you will feature every time and which should be put on the front page, back page, inside, etc.

5. Determine how you will handle issues when there is an unusually large amount of news.

  • Add more pages?
  • Stick to the same number but only use most important news?
  • Save feature information for another issue?

6. Determine how you will gather information for each section and organize.

7. Select the paper, page size, and fold pattern.

8. Choose a name for your newsletter.

9. Create the nameplate.

  • It is the single most important piece of artwork in entire newsletter.
  • Contains name of newsletter, the subtitle, date and a logo (optional--volume and issue number).
  • Makes a strong and immediate statement of the newsletter's personality.
  • It is the focal point on the front page.
  • Readers should immediately recognize the newsletter as 4-H, family, agriculture or other types of extension news as soon as it arrives in the mail.
  • Think about recruiting an artist to design it.

10. Establish templates for your first, last, and inside pages. Your Word software supplies newsletter templates that you can use.

  • This is the pattern for your newsletter.
  • Define your columns, the space between them, your margins, and the location of standard items that appear in every issue. Idea: Establish separate templates for your first and last pages since those two often are laid out differently from inside pages.
  • Include the Iowa State Extension logo, the name of the county, the signature and title of the staff person issuing the newsletter, and the nondiscrimination clause.
  • Generally, keep inside pages the same format.
  • Templates give a general foundation to follow and maintain.
  • Save your template(s) in your software and you can use it over and over again.

11. Decide upon a calendar format for extension events.

12. Select typefaces. A general rule is to not use more than two typestyles or three sizes in a newsletter--especially not on one page.

  • Serif types (Times, Palatino. Bookman, Century Schoolbook) are the best choices for body copy. Generally they are easier to read.
  • Sans serif styles (Helvetica, Avant Garde) make good contrast to serif type. They provide eye relief in headlines.
  • Multiple typefaces give your newsletter a "ransom note" look.

13. Prepare a rough layout of your first issue.

14. Assemble your first issue. When the text of an article is too long for the allotted space:

  • "Park" the overflow on an extra page.
  • Print out all the pages.
  • Determine the amount that has to be edited out.
  • These are options for editing
    • Cut the last several lines (usually not an option).
    • Subtract words and phrases throughout entire article to retain essential information.
    • When an article is too short, fill the "hole" with an additional news story: a graphic, a pullout quote from the article or editorial filler (facts, trivia, did you know, inspirational quotes, etc.). Or put the white space at the bottom of the page for balance and other effects.

15. Proofread, proofread, proofread!



Newsletter Guidelines

Writing Style

  • Use short sentences.
  • Short words are best.
  • Short words, when familiar, are best of all.
  • Use action verbs and avoid cluttered writing.
  • Avoid passive verb tense and unnecessary prepositions. (See example next page.)

Layout and Design

  • Avoid label headlines.
  • White space increases readability.
  • Don't bury the important stuff.
  • Keep similar kinds of information together.
  • Get the attention you need.
    • Each page should contain at least one item that attracts attention and draws your readers into the page.
    • All techniques will work, but remember: Anything used regularly or in too much quantity quickly loses its attention-getting ability.
    • Use a wide range of techniques rather than the same one over and over.


Says "THIS IS IMPORTANT." Use sparingly so it is noticed.


Never use more than one box on a page and not on every page. In general, use simple lines. Consider decorative boxes when you want to convey a unique flavor or tone for the event/information in the box.


This is a simple and quick technique, but the least imaginative. TEXT IN ALL CAPS IS HARD TO READ, so use it only for short lines of text, if at all.


In a multipage publication, a border on a single page is effective for getting attention for what lies within its boundary.

Clip Art

Clip art should relate to an article. Clip art may be seasonal, but not religious. Clip art can be overused.


Use for emphasis. Avoid italicizing for a whole paragraph or article. It is the most difficult to read and tires eyes easily.


Don't underline text. It is too hard to read.


It is easier to read than all-caps and is the generally preferred form of text-emphasis. Its power is strongest when used sparingly.

White Space

This is the single most effective (and least practiced) means of getting attention. It is not a waste of space. An article that uses attractive white space can set something apart from the rest of the text.


When used in accent amounts, it attracts attention. Too much color is overwhelming.

Improve your newsletter by looking at newsletters you like. Decide what gives a newsletter its "personality." What adjectives describe a publication--outrageous, quiet, graphic, informative, fun, crisp? What features contribute to that personality? Crisp--balanced white space, headline type that contrasts sharply with body type? Fun--outlandish graphics, informal typefaces, colorful screen tints, decorative borders?

Overall Look

Ascertain the grid format, check article placement, and examine type treatments. What feel does the typeface communicate? Which type seems especially easy to read? Which one conveys the level of formality you prefer?

Look at the details. Often pages that would be otherwise flat-looking or boring are saved by small details. Does the publication have a graphic border? Does it use drop caps? Do tiny icons give the reader clues about the content of an article? Are icons or other small graphics used at the end of stories to inform the reader?

Additional Assistance

ISU Extension communication specialists are ready to consult and advise on any communication question. Give them a call. The general office number is (515) 294-9915.

You also can contact the external relations specialist who serves your area.


Before and After Writing Example


Producer Grants Are Coming

The local office has just received information about a new state-level project in which producers can apply for cost-share grants to demonstrate odor reduction technologies. We are awaiting some additional information anticipated to arrive in December. If you would like a packet, please call and leave your name at the office In December, once all information is received, we will mail it to all who have requested. You may also stop by for copies. Applications are due Feb. 1.


Check Out Odor Demo Grants

Smith County livestock producers may be eligible to apply for cost-share grants to demonstrate odor reduction technologies. The grants are part of a new state program administered by Iowa State University Extension.

For more information, contact the Smith County Extension office. Information packets, expected in December, will be mailed to interested producers. Grant applications are due Feb. 1.