So, you’ve decided to start a company newsletter, you’ve been assigned to work on your newsletter, or you want to update your organization’s newsletter a fresh new look. The reasons to publish a newsletter are many. A non-profit organization may use their newsletter to reach out to its constituents. Businesses might send a newsletter to their customers. Large corporations may have an internal newsletter for their employees.
While the design, images and message may differ greatly among institutions, the elements of a printed newsletter are pretty standard. Not all are necessary, and the vernacular varies, but here is a brief anatomy of a newsletter.
Nameplate or Banner
The banner on the front of a newsletter identifies the publication. It usually includes the name of the newsletter, possibly graphics or a logo, and perhaps a subtitle, motto, or mission. Here you’ll also find the publication information including Volume number and Issue or Date.
The body of the newsletter is the bulk of the text excluding the headlines and decorative text elements. It's the articles that make up the content of your newsletter.
Table of Contents
Usually appearing on the front page, the table of contents briefly lists article titles and special sections of the newsletter as well as the page numbers of those items. Sometimes you’ll find this on the mailing panel for those readers who may be keeping your newsletter as reference material.
Signature or Masthead
The signature, sometimes called the masthead, is typically found on the second page (but could be on any page) that lists the name of the publisher and other pertinent data. The signature may include staff names, contributors, subscription information and addresses. Many non-profits will list their board members here, too. It keeps the layout nice and tidy.
Keep the signature in the same place in your layout in each issue. This will be a quick reference for the readers.
Headlines and Titles
The headline identifying each article in a newsletter is the most prominent text element. Please make this short and snappy. Provocative and enticing. Juicy and brief.
The kicker is a short phrase set above the headline that serves as an introduction to an article. If you have a more descriptive sentence attached to the headline, a “sub-kicker” or secondary headline can help define the article.
The deck is one or more lines of text found between the headline and the body of the article. The deck elaborates on the headline and topic of the accompanying text. Make sure this is not too long, and keep it interesting to draw the reader into the article.
Subheads define sections of an article and appear within the body of to divide it into smaller sections. A good rule of thumb is to include a subhead about every 5 to 7 inches of copy. Subheads break up the gray and help the reader identify sections they may want to re-read.
Usually referred to as a page header, the running head is repeating text — often the title of the publication and page number — that appears at the top of each page or every other page in a newsletter design.
Note: You have the option of running the page header as a page footer, too. This is called a, you guessed it, running footer.
Page numbers can appear at the top, bottom, or sides of pages. Page one is not numbered in a newsletter. You can put the page number in as part of the “running head”
The byline is a short phrase or paragraph that indicates the name of the author of an article in a newsletter…you know, cuz it’s “by” someone.
If you prefer, put the author’s name in a Bio(graphy) at the end of the article. If the author is a celebrity or has a lot of letters after their name (like Ph.D., COP, CEO, ADD), it lends credibility to your article or newsletter to put the name up front! BRAG about it, will ya?
Continuation Lines (or Jumplines)
When articles span two or more pages, a newsletter editor uses jumplines to help readers find the rest of the article. These typically appear at the end of a column, as in “continued on page 5.” Jumplines at the top of a column indicate where the article is continued from, as in “Continued from page 2.”
Part of the Jumpline mashup: when articles jump from one page to another, continuation heads identify the continued portion of the articles. The continuation headlines, along with jumplines, provide continuity and cue the reader as to where to pick up reading.
Note: Refrain from doing more than a couple of articles this way. If you continue an article on a following page, that’s okay, but the reader will stop reading and move on if she has to dig around or page back too often. You might have some fascinating information that gets lost in the jump!
No, this is not like the Mayan calendar or the Y2K. An Endsign is an ornamental font used to mark the end of the article. Use and endsign with articles that have jumped, to help the reader stop reading.
A pull-quote is used to attract attention, especially in long articles. This is a small selection of text "pulled out and quoted" in a larger typeface. It’s a great way to stretch your article copy if it’s coming up short and you don’t have any more pictures or clever tactics to fill the page.
Photos and Illustrations
A newsletter design layout may contain photographs, drawings, charts, graphs, or clip art. Liven things up with a picture that pertains, please!
This is the most typical people picture used — a more or less straight into the camera head and shoulders picture. Yep, they sometimes can look like something from the Post Office wall, so encourage the “Mug-Shot-ee” to pony up the dough and have a good picture taken. Otherwise, consider adding numbers underneath to complete the effect.
The caption is a phrase, sentence, or paragraph that describes the contents of a photograph or illustration. The caption is usually placed directly above, below, or to the side of the picture it describes. If the caption identifies the people in a photo, their names should be in the order they appear in the photo from right to left. Captions are written in third person, not first
If your newsletter is designed as a self-mailer (not in an envelope) it will need a mailing panel. This is the portion of the newsletter design that contains the return address, mailing address of the recipient, and postage or bulk-mailing indicia. The mailing panel typically appears on one-half or one-third of the back page so that it faces out when folded. Check and double-check your layout with your printer or post office for viability. If the mailing panel is in the wrong position, you’ll pay big time. Fair warning!
Also, check with your printer about quantity—if you mail more than 200 pieces, you may be able to save mucho dinero by using a bulk-mailing indicia. This is a permit issued by the US Postal Service. Your printer might have one they use for their customers.
Your newsletter might not include all of these elements in the layout, but once the design is established, each issue will likely repeat the look. Create a newsletter template to recreate your layout from issue to issue. This will help maintain your corporate image and will save you loads of time.