Creating Effective Newsletters

by Dorreen Dembski, Director of Public Information, West Bend School District

Headlines Should Grab You!

I once heard a headline writer describe her writing process this way. First, I write the most outlandish headline that will never be printed. Then, I scale it back to what is printable!” Great adviceType face and fonts: Use two and stick to them for every newsletter.

Type Face and Fonts: Use Two and Stick to Them for Every Newsletter.

I have always used Times New Roman for copy, and Arial for headlines. I was told that these are the two type styles most easily read by the majority of people, including the sight impaired. I use font size 10 or larger whenever possible, but it isn’t always possible. Whatever the choice, limit your fonts to two and then stick to it. Captions can be a different version of the headline or the copy font, preferably headline.

30-second, 3-minute, 30-minute Readers.

When developing a newsletter, consider all three types of readers. A 30-second reader reads the headlines. A 3-minute reader reads the headlines, captions, and introductory paragraphs or highlighted text, and graphics. The 30-minute reader reads the newsletter front to back, top to bottom


When writing a newsletter, we often have more to say than we have room to say it. Write whatever you want, then cut it in half, and then cut it in half again. Don’t just reduce the font size to squeeze more in, instead-cut, cut, cut! Get to your key message and move on. Don’t know your key message? That could be the cause of your lengthy articles.

Key Messages

What is the most important reason your audience should read your newsletter? It doesn’t matter what you have to say?if it isn’t important to the audience, they won’t read it. Decide on your important messages, then decide why it is important to your audience, and then say it in a way that they will read it.

Use Inverted Pyramid Style of Writing

Write your key message in the first paragraph. Then, prioritize the most important details and write them in order of importance. Consider this: In the old days, (when I was in school)before computer layouts, newspapers were laid out by hand. To make copy fit, production editors cut stories from the bottom up to fit it in a newspaper column. Literally-they cut the paper that the text was printed on with a razor knife after the last word of the paragraph, at the point that fit into specified space. Editing becomes much easier if you use this style of writing. Just cut from the bottom up.

Graphics and White Space

People won’t read something if it looks overwhelming. Graphics help tell a story, but they shouldn’t just fill in space. White space without a graphic is ok, too.

Capture Them in Captions

Captions, too, should tell a story. No more, no less.  To write a caption, look at the graphic or picture: answer the questions, who, what, where, why, when and how. A good graphic answers those questions on their own, or causes curiosity in the reader to look at the caption and learn more.

Watch Out for Jargon

“Educationese” is not a language easily understood. Remove acronyms and abbreviations. Explain acronyms that you frequently use on reports, etc. Create mutual understanding with easy to understand language.Ultimately, understanding is the purpose of communication!

Make it Two-way

While a newsletter is a one-way form of communication, always include information on who to contact for more information. Newsletters may open the lines of communication. You keep them open.

About the author

The Wisconsin School Public Relations Association (WSPRA) is a professional association representing schools, school districts, educational associations, consulting agencies and organizations. WSPRA is a state affiliate of the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA). 4797 HAYES ROAD | SUITE 103 | MADISON, WI 53704 | PHONE: 608-241-0300 | WSPRA@AWSA.ORG