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14.1 Writing Newsletters

Learning Objectives

  1. Understand purposes and expectations for newsletters.
  2. Identify typical formats for newsletters.
  3. Recognize typical components of newsletters.

Newsletters are used by companies, schools, families, and other groups. It may well be that we are witnessing the tail end or the last gasp of the traditional newsletter now that they are increasingly being produced with word processing templates and distributed electronically via e-mail and websites. But even if that’s true, the processes of designing and distributing electronic newsletters are much the same as those used by website designers using more sophisticated templates and technology. And even if they are someday completely replaced by other means of getting out information about an organization, whatever replaces newsletters will borrow many of the same rhetorical techniques.

When you are designing a newsletter, give serious thought to the amount of content and amount of researched articles you want to include. Keep in mind that unless you can sustain the level of the first few issues of your newsletter, subsequent issues will appear to have declined in quality. You need to be able to maintain your initial newsletter plan in order to protect your organization’s image. On the other hand, you should always be open to feedback from your audience to help keep your newsletter on track and evolving with your audience’s needs. Announcing that you are making changes and improvements based on audience feedback is an excellent way to build trust and rapport with your readership.

Each newsletter is unique based on its purpose and the needs of its intended audience, but regardless of whether they appear in hard-copy or electronic form, they have some general features in common (shown in the following lists).

Typical Purposes for Newsletters

  • to develop and maintain a network
  • to inform
  • to promote a group

Typical Formats for Newsletters

  • text in columns
  • large blocks of text broken up by graphics
  • inviting visual layout
  • integrated color
  • digital or paper media
  • ample margins of varying widths
  • active voice

Typical Audience Expectations for Newsletters

  • current information
  • publication on an ongoing, timely basis
  • information relevant to core topic
  • short articles
  • contributions by members
  • ads for topic-related products
  • consistent look across pages and issues
  • most important information on front page
  • easily readable and error-free text

Typical Components of Newsletters

  • title on front page, possibly in a banner
  • group identification
  • date
  • volume and issue
  • headings and subheadings
  • news about members
  • schedule of relevant events
  • photos
  • developer contact information (phone number, web address, e-mail address)
  • repeated features from issue to issue

Key Takeaways

  • Newsletters are often used to maintain a network among a group and to keep the group informed. Sometimes newsletters also help promote a group.
  • Newsletters typically present active-voice text in columns with integrated graphics, color, and margin choices helping develop an inviting visual layout. Newsletters are published either on paper or electronically.
  • Typical newsletter audiences expect newsletters to contain current information in short articles that are relevant to the group purpose. Audiences also expect newsletters to present the most important information on the front page, include contributions by members, feature relevant ads, display a consistent look using easily readable and error-free text, and be published in a timely manner.
  • Newsletters tend to include a title, group identification, date, volume and issue, headings and subheadings, news about members, event schedules, photos, and developer contact information.

Exercises

  1. Create the front page of a newsletter that would be of interest to some of your college classmates. Employ at least 90 percent of the typical newsletter features discussed in this section.
  2. Find an existing newsletter and evaluate it based on the features discussed in this section.
  3. Using your favorite word processing program’s newsletter template, determine which would be best for the following audiences, purposes, and contexts:

    1. an elementary school’s parent-teacher association (PTA)
    2. a fantasy football league
    3. a nonprofit, charitable relief organization
    4. a small company with twenty employees
    5. an alumni group at a large state university