You create a newsletter because you have information to communicate to many people. Perhaps you’re sharing the news with customers, colleagues, or classmates. Regardless of the intended recipients, one thing is certain: you want your recipients to be engaged by the document you send—to read it, enjoy it, and hopefully act upon the information it contains. But if you’re not a professional designer or a Microsoft Word expert, is a great newsletter out of your reach?
Actually, creating an effective, visually inviting newsletter might be much easier than you think. In this article, we explore a few visual best practices and Word 2010 features that can help you get the job done brilliantly. If you’d like to get started right away, you can use the sample newsletter shown in this article or customize the related template.
To begin, compare two versions of the same Word 2010 content. This content is part of a college newsletter, and both versions shown here contain largely the same information. Which would you prefer to call your own?
Version 1: A page from a college newsletter.
Version 2: The same information as in the preceding version 1, but created using visual best practices to help convey information more effectively.
Both versions of this content use the same fonts (Trebuchet for headings and Corbel for body text) and a bit of color for heading text. They also use paragraph styles to save time applying formatting and keep that formatting consistent. And they display article text in multiple columns.
But version 2 is far more professional and engaging. It makes better use of space and utilizes page organization, images, and simple text formatting to call attention to key points. And it’s much easier to create than you might think.
Let’s start by taking a look at a few of the visual best practices that are in use in the second version of this page. Then, we’ll look at how to accomplish them in Word 2010.
Exploring visual best practices
Using visual best practices in your documents essentially means presenting your content in a way that helps convey the information to the reader; a structure that is intuitive for people to consume. As you’ll see in the discussion that follows, it doesn’t have to take much. For example, briefly highlighting key points outside of the main flow of text helps to pique the reader’s interest and draw them in to the content.
As you explore the following best practices, the most important thing to keep in mind is how they can translate to just about any type of document you need to create:
- Use contrast to draw attention and make information more memorable. Separate key data from the flow of text to add emphasis. For example, the color-contrast sidebar shown below-right grabs the reader’s attention and helps them more easily absorb the points you want to communicate than the simple bullets in the version shown at left.
The sidebar example uses a few visual devices to help even casual readers get more from the information. Notice that the enlarged text and color bar “thermometers” provide an immediate visual comparison of values that is intuitive to read and enhances understanding of the facts. Additionally, the “For More Information” table adds a call-to-action that quickly communicates the value of the data and how it might be relevant to the reader.
- Use positioning to increase readability and impact. Appeal to the reader’s natural tendency to scan a page before reading it by using simple page organization to engage the reader and guide them in to the article.
In the example that follows, the picture with a caption above the article title helps draw the eye directly to the title more effectively than the in-column image at the start of the article shown above. Notice also that the photo in the example below is formatted to add depth, and the image is rotated to break the color bar that spans the top of the page. These simple choices enhance the eye-catching effect of the image position to capture the reader’s focus.
- Use in-text elements to add appeal and emphasis. A well-chosen element dropped directly into text, such as the photo in the article column shown here, adds interest and helps shape the text flow. Adding such in-text visuals sparingly changes the pace of reading at the surrounding text and makes it a point to read to rather than simply to read around.
Use relevant visuals that enhance meaning—such as the image shown here or a pull-quote with contrasting text formatting—and balance the size of the visual with the text so that it breaks up the density of the page without disrupting text flow.
In this example, the image creates the visual impression that the text is about this specific person. Removing the background of the image enhances that impression by removing distractions so that the reader focuses only on the central figure.
- Use cropping to focus the reader’s attention. Cropping and scaling photos to focus on key details makes better use of space and enhances the dramatic effect of a strong image.
In the example that follows, cropping the image that appears at the top of the article not only helps to focus attention on the central figures but adds power and personality that increases the relevance of the photo in context .
Additionally, notice the sidebar images in this example. These are cropped as well to help focus on key details but they are also scaled for consistency. Because both photos perform the same function—to illustrate a point in the sidebar—they should be the same size. That consistency also adds to the organization of the page and the overall professionalism of the finished document.
Creating the document
Just because a document looks great doesn’t mean it has to be complicated to create. This section provides a summary of how version 2 of the newsletter page was created, along with tips to help get it done.
This newsletter uses pictures substantially to add interest and impact, along with a handful of core Word features that make it easy to manage the formatting, layout, and organization. Specifically, text columns and headers and footers help you easily lay out the page, styles simplify text formatting, and tables and text boxes are great tools to simplify positioning and enhance organization. Take a look at how each of these tools was used to create this sample document:
- The pictures in this sample document utilize a few of the new and improved Office 2010 picture editing tools to increase their effectiveness and to create a more professional, polished finished document.
- The picture at the top of the page is cropped to focus the reader’s attention. Using the improved cropping tool in Word 2010, you can see your entire image in shadow while you crop and drag to scale or pan your image within the crop area. To use this feature, select the image and then, on the Picture Tools Format tab, in the Size group, click Crop.
Learn more about using the improved cropping tool in Office 2010.
- This picture is also rotated and has a bevel, border, and perspective shadow applied. But if that sounds like a lot of work, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to know that this picture just uses the built-in picture style named Rotated, White, with a customized border width.
To apply a style to a selected picture, on the Picture Tools Format tab, in the Picture Styles group, point to styles in the gallery to preview them on your image and then click to apply the one you want. When you point to a style, you see a ScreenTip with the style name. In that same group, click Picture Border and then point to Weight for options to change the line width.
- To allow text to wrap directly around key elements in an image, as discussed with the in-column image of the young woman shown earlier, use the new Remove Background tool. When an image in the document is selected, on the Picture Tools Format tab, click Remove Background. When you do, the Background Removal tab becomes available with tools for easily customizing your image.
Learn about working with the new Remove Background tool.
- The page is setup in a three-column section, where the sidebar is the left column and the article uses the second and third columns.
A column break is placed at the end of the sidebar column to keep it separate from the article. But no column break is between the other columns, so that text can automatically reflow when edited. In fact, this article continues on the following page, automatically flowing from the bottom of the third column on this page to the top of the first column on the next.
To apply a multiple-column setting to the page, on the Page Layout tab, in the Page Setup group, click Columns, and then click the number of columns you need.
Notice that you can also click More Columns to open the Columns dialog box. In that dialog box, you can control the width for each column and the space between columns, and you can add a line between columns.
Note: Columns are section (document-level) formatting, which means that they apply to the entire document by default. To change the number of columns for just part of the document or to restart column flow in the middle of the page (such as to place one article below another on the same page), insert a section break. To do this, place your insertion point right before you want the new setting to begin and then, on the Page Layout tab, in the Page Setup group, click Break. If you want the new setting to begin on a new page, select Next Page as the section break type. If you want the new setting to begin in the next paragraph, without any extra space added, select Continuous.
Also note that the title and byline of the sample article are in a text box so that they can span multiple columns without the need for a section break. To insert a text box, on the Insert tab, in the Text group, click Text Box, and then click Draw Text Box.
You can examine the sample file for yourself to see how text flows from one page to the next in the article shown throughout this document (page 3 of that newsletter) as well as to see an example of a continuous section break at the end of that article (on page 4) to allow another article to begin a new three-column section directly below the previous one. To view section breaks (and other formatting marks), on the Home tab, in the Paragraph group, click the paragraph mark icon.
For more about setting up multipage articles, as well as wrapping text around images and inserting titles that span multiple columns, see pages 3 and 4 in the template version of this sample newsletter.
- The header of this document uses a two-cell table to align content on the left (title and issue number) and right (page number) sides of the header, along with a shape directly below the table that provides the color bar across the page.
- To learn about creating a table in the header for this type of use, see the article Creating everyday documents that stand out from the crowd: business reports and memos.
- To learn about formatting shapes so that they can be positioned as easily as text, such as the color bar in this header, see the article Adding impact to a basic document: agenda/event program.
- The sidebar column on this page is created using a few simple tables and paragraph styles to format and precisely align all of the content.
- The gray-shaded headings are in single-cell tables to allow for the space around the text and make it easy to align the left and right edges of the shading with the thermometer charts and ‘For More Information’ content that is created using tables.
To create a table, on the Insert tab, in the Tables group, click Table. Drag your insert point across and down the number of columns and rows (respectively) that you need, and then click to insert the table. Find formatting options, such as cell shading, on the Table Tools Design tab.
- Paragraph styles are used for all text in the sidebar, as well as throughout the newsletter. Using styles saves time and helps keep formatting consistent by enabling you to create the set of formatting you need once and then apply it with just a click wherever you need it in the document. If you need to change the formatting, just update the style and it will automatically update wherever you’ve applied that style throughout the document.
Note that even the pictures in the sidebar use paragraph styles. These pictures are formatted using the in line with text layout mentioned earlier so that they can be formatted as easily as text. That is, they reside right in a paragraph mark that has a style applied. In this case, the paragraph style provides indent settings and spacing before and after the paragraph that helps align them precisely and consistently with the other content in this sidebar.
Learn more about working with paragraph styles.
- The thermometer charts in the sidebar are actually created using simple two-cell Word tables. Because vertical space is so constrained in this sidebar, using a table was easier in this case than inserting a chart. To learn how to use a table to create a mathematically-correct thermometer chart in just a few quick steps, see page 3 of this template.
Explore the newsletter sample document or customize the template for yourself and consider how you might be able to employ some of the visual best practices and Word 2010 tips discussed in this article to create your own beautiful and engaging newsletters. When you use the best tools for the task and consider key concepts for conveying your information visually, you can more easily create clear, comprehensible, memorable documents. You don’t have to be a design professional to effectively communicate your important information.
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