EDITORS GUIDE TO A MORE READABLE NEWSLETTER
This handbook is intended to provide editors with the information needed to plan and prepare an award-winning newsletter. Any newsletter must follow certain standards to be and enjoyable and easy to read. This Committee has several written articles to assist you in publishing an award winning newsletter.
Every editor should be proud as well as confident that each issue will be read from cover to cover.To accomplish this, your newsletter must be attractive as well as informative.What to include in your newsletter is covered in “HelpfulHints To theEditor” which is also available on the Communication Committee web site at(national/commcom/hintsedtr.pdf).
You have been selected as your squadron or district newsletter editor because of your experience and willingness to keep your people informed and up to date with current events as well as upcoming events. Your job is to present these happenings in an attractive and interesting format.
Why publish a newsletter
Squadron newsletters are the primary source of information for and about members of the squadron. It is in these pages that squadron activities are brought to the attention of ALL the members. Newsletters provide an effective method of binding the organization and stimulating interest in various levels. Squadron and district newsletters provide information on all aspects of squadron life - on educational programs, boating activities, boating safety, social events, etc. In addition, they recognize those members who provide leadership and those who contribute to its welfare by leading or participating in the many activities. These publications, and the websites that go along with them, are the glue that binds the membership. Much is being said about “member benefits” within USPS from software discounts to long term life insurance. But what does the AVERAGE member receive for his/her squadron dues besides the squadron newsletter?
A good squadron newsletter should follow USPS guidelines for content, have a pleasing format, be published regularly, and be received and read by the membership. It should reflect positive attitudes and promote activities in a way that attracts participation.
Help is available
Every editor will naturally have pride in their work. We all need help once in a while and the USPS organization provides help to assist editors produce the best possible publication.
Assistance and advice is readily available from the Communications Committee. An advisor is assigned to each district to assist the editors in that district. Our advisors monitor newsletters of their assigned districts, offer suggestions for improvement, answer questions, and offer general support to the editors. Advisor assignments are published on the Communications Committee (CommCom) page of the USPS web site (national/commcom/) and are posted at national meetings.
At the national meetings, the Communications Committee prepares the Parade of Publications, where squadrons and districts that were awarded the Distinctive Communicator Award (DCA) can share newsletters so that samples can be taken back to squadron and district editors. To recognize outstanding publications and to motivate all editors to produce the most effective publications for their squadrons, CommCom presents the DCA to both complying newsletters and websites at the end of each year.
Advice and assistance may also be close at hand from your district secretary or Publications Chairmen.They may conduct seminars and workshops at district conferences and may be available for consultation. The district publications chair is often the link between the squadrons and the national Communications Committee.
If you find a unique or better way to accomplish a task, share it with all USPS editors by submitting your idea to the Communications Committee. We also maintain a Sail Angle group that you can check into.
How do we start?
Gone are the days of cut and paste with the typewriter and the limited number and size of fonts. Today you will need a publishing program that you are comfortable using. First, is your format PC or Mac? One of the more versatile programs for your PC is Microsoft Publisher. Using Publisher you can set up pages ahead of time and fill in the pages month after month. Quark XPress is a top of the line Mac program (read expensive, but professional). Many programs for both the PC and the Mac are available as free downloads or priced under 100.00 dollars. The choice is yours. A simple word processing program can also be used. The largest decision is, ‟How fancy do I want to be?” The Communications Committee is about dissemination of information not showpiece publications. Although an elaborate, colorful newsletter does not count against you, in fact it does make your newsletter more interesting and more readable.
Whatever program you use, convert it to a PDF file before publishing. Just about everyone can read PDF files (including your print shop, if you decide to send your creation out for print and mail).
We all have to start someplace. You have the software, where do you go from here? How about sitting down, reading the manual and manipulating the varied features of your program if it is new to you, or even if you have used it before. Once you are familiar with your program you can begin to set up.
How many pages are you ready to publish? What is going in those pages? Newsletters can vary in size from 2 to 32 or more pages and may be published as color or simple black and white to save on the costs of a mailed edition. Of all parameters, content is the most important. An elaborate, color production that says nothing is a waste of your time and your audience’s.
Will your newsletter be an interesting read, or a boring “let me finish reading it later” edition. The most interesting articles will never be read if they are not visually attractive. To that end there are several conventions, not absolute rules that should be followed.
Line spacing – Look ahead to the next few paragraphs, I have varied the line spacing in each of the paragraphs from 1.0 to 1.15 to 1.5. I think the 1.5 spacing is easiest to read, don’t you agree?
Fonts – chose carefully as some fonts are great for a printed edition, and others do well online. Always remember, for an online edition not everyone has the exotic font you would like to use and the substitute font may be totally unacceptable to you. Limit the number of fonts used on any page. Of course this is up to the editor, but a multiple of fonts can be very distracting.
What do you want to convey? Lines that are fully justified will appear to be very formal. For a less formal appearance try using left aligned, with right ragged for a friendlier approach.
A centered text is great for headlines. A bold faced slightly altered font works well in this instance. Another place for centered text is for a formal invitation.
For print editions use multiple columns as shorter lines are easier to read, while longer single columns saves the constant up and down scrolling of a page in an online edition.
Be very careful using capitalization, ie caps. USPS in caps along with other abbreviations is proper, but running lines of text in caps is shouting and nobody likes to be shouted at. It is proper to change fonts when using caps, but you are the judge. Does it look right?
You should strive to work each page to a balanced look. It should look neither too cramped with text, nor too sparse with open space. The term “White Space”, applies here. The proper application of white should achieve your balanced look.
The proper heading for a USPS Newsletter contains the name of the publication, the name of the squadron followed in slightly smaller type “a unit of United States Power Squadrons” and in even smaller type “sail and power boating”. If the squadron name has been changed to “XYZ Sail and Power Squadron” then the sail and power phrase can be omitted. The District Number should also be included to further identify your squadron location. Also as part of the heading the volume number, issue number,and date should be included. If the ensign, squadron burgee or both are used follow the instructions above. And don’t forget the ® after United States Power Squadrons and near the lower right corner of the USPS ensign.
A new concept known as ‟Branding” will put the emphasis on United States Power Squadrons logos in the masthead with your squadron as a unit of USPS. Look for this in the near future on the Marketing website, or at www.pbps.us/NatBranding.ppt
Text can be printed in normal, bold, italic, underline, shadow and/or strikeover. Obviously, many combinations are possible and, like type styles and graphic elements, should be used judiciously. Bold and/or italic type is most often used to draw attention to words or phrases within text. It can be used in captions and headlines to draw attention and provide visual variety. Don’t overlook the value of open SPACE on the printed page. You should view space as an important visual element in your set of design tools. Paragraphs can be set apart either by extra line spacing or indentation.
The addition of space between text blocks and paragraphs is an essential design element.
The amount of space added is at the designer’s discretion. For example, you can add additional space, perhaps 0.2 inch, between the headline and the remainder of the text block. Space between paragraphs, preferably less than a line space, adds variety to columns of text and sets paragraphs apart. When we speak of spacing in relation to fonts we are referring to type SIZE, the actual amount of space on the page used for each letter.
Another effect on readability is leading. LEADING, originally the space between lines of type is now more commonly used to describe the space between lines of type plus the type size. Leading is also called line spacing.
Most programs will have the leading set automatically, but leading can be manually adjusted to achieve the readability you want. Leading is a basic element of spacing.
Trademarks And Logos
When you use our federally registered logos you must insert the ‟®”. See Ops manual 14.36 -14.42 for examples of our copyrights and trademarks. This also applies to the copyright mark ‟©”, and the trademark “™”. Remember to use the three signs to protect our properties. The registered trademark symbol is used only at the first occurrence of the word or graphic in a document. If a publication were to include several trademarked terms a text registration notice would probably be more suitable. An example would read “Registered in U.S.Patent and Trademark Office” or “Reg. U.S. Pat. & Tm. Off.” Another example might read, “USPS, Boat Smart, Chart Smart and the USPS ensign and USPS ship’s wheel are registered trademarks of the United States Power Squadrons, Raleigh, NC.”
Or, “USPS® and United States Power Squadrons® are registered trademarks of the United States Power Squadrons, Inc. Content and graphics are the property of the United States Power Squadrons and should not be reproduced without permission by groups other than squadrons and districts of the United States Power Squadrons.”
Squadron names and squadron burgees should not be labeled with the trademark symbol unless they have been legally registered. A fuller explanation of copyright issues can be found on the Law Committee website at: national/lawcom/copyright.html.
Your friendly guide to correct style is the Operations Manual Chapter 14. This chapter explains the proper protocol and procedures adopted by USPS and used throughout the organization. The operations Manual has often been referred to as the “Little Read Book” and rightly so. I often read squadron newsletters and look at their websites and note the many protocol and procedural errors. My advice, sit down and read the manual. Pay special attention to the last pages of chap 14. It lists all the common abbreviations in use in USPS.
USPS Styles and standards
Style is protocol in printed matter dictated by individual organizations. Style may define how to express commonly used terms, advocate the use of particular forms, graphical representations, et al. Style incorporates, among other protocol, titles and personal status within the organization. We adapt styles for written material to establish identity and a sense of unity with the organization. Some organizations have a style book, giving a rule for every imaginable writing situation. The USPS® publishes the Operations Manual in which Chapter 14 is devoted to protocol in printed matter. Employing USPS protocol in our newsletters is important as our publications represent USPS.
USPS style for printed matter includes how to express dates, time, abbreviations, capitalization, and how to display the USPS ensign with or without the squadron burgee. USPS protocol designates when and how to use the registered mark to protect our trademarks. The editor is responsible for editing expressions of date and time abbreviations, trademarks, etc. to conform to USPS style.
Acronyms are used copiously today. If you are not certain your readers will understand what an acronym designates, it is better to spell it out the first time it is used in a document. USPS, CPS, USCG, NOS, SEO, PRO, etc. should be written without periods. Squadron name abbreviations do not contain periods, i.e., SBPS for Sand Bar Power Squadron
Photographs and digital art
It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but to a publication editor a good quality, appropriate photograph can be worth even more. A photograph will attract the reader’s attention and add interest to a publication. It can tell a story on its own, be used to break up the gray of a page or fill in that blank space. To be effective, the photographs you use should be appropriate, clear, captioned and reproduced to retain a high quality.
Ask your photographers to follow the requirements as outlined in The Ensign® (http://www.theensign.org/writers.htm). This will avoid the fuzzy, out of focus poor quality photos we often see.
How photographs are prepared for a printed newsletter will depend on the way the publication is reproduced. If the newsletter is photocopied, high quality photocopying machines will reproduce pictures well. These machines are available in many copy centers and small print shops. Copies made on these machines are more expensive than the common copy machine but for photographs the results are so much better. If cost is a factor, you might concentrate photos on one or two pages and use these services for photo pages only. Digital images reproduce well in any method of reproduction (even photo copying) which results in clearer images in inexpensively produced publications.
To get the best digital pictures you will need a good photo-editing program. After editing, you can save or export the picture in a different format. Editing programs are available at all price ranges with varying degrees of sophistication. With the more sophisticated programs you can do more, but the learning curve is high if you want to take advantage of all the bells and whistles. The only way to learn to use a photo-editing program is to do it. Read the software manual, then sit down at your computer and try it. It will take several tries to learn to use the various tools successfully.
Don’t forget the thousands of pictures we get from friends via e-mail or on the internet. Just be sure any photos you wish to use are not copyrighted. Regardless of the reproduction method you choose, it is important to start with a good clear photo. Select pictures that are clear and bright. Crop out or Photoshop any extraneous background and size the picture appropriately. The scene or action should be clearly understood. People’s faces should be clearly seen and express the emotion of the event. Avoid publishing shots that show people in embarrassing situations or unflattering poses. Ask yourself - Would I like to see this picture of me in circulation?
Don’t forget to add a caption. While you might know everyone in the picture the new member will appreciate being able to identify other squadron members. Out-of-towners and members who haven’t been around lately want to know the new faces and see how the old faces may or may not have changed.
A printed newsletter rather than an online newsletter will likely depend on advertisements for revenue to produce each issue. This committee does not set limits of the type of advertising that can appear in a newsletter. However, the United States Postal Service does set limits on the amount of advertising appearing in non-profit bulk mail. (See US Publication 417 at http://pe.usps.com/text/pub417/welcome.htm)
Ads if used should be in good taste and not in conflict with USPS policies or benefit programs. Ads should not overpower the content. They should be prepared so they are clear and legible. Some other means of generating revenue for publications might include soliciting sponsors or patrons, or having a benefactor of the month who buys the stamps and mails the newsletter. Another popular fundraiser is selling “boat” or “transom” ads..
Who should receive the newsletter?
Members (including associate and honorary members)
Your assigned Communications Committee Advisor
Your District Publications chair
Friends and advertisers.
You might also want to include:your district bridge, community leaders (as a PR effort), other squadron bridge officers. Keep in mind the purpose of a squadron or district publication is communication. You want your members to get, read, share, and keep their newsletters as reference. Are the members of your squadron or district “paper people” or“ computer people” or a mixture? To appeal to all, most squadrons that transmit their publications electronically also have available printed editions for those who prefer receiving their newsletters by mail. To lower the cost, printed newsletters may be produced in black and white only. If you have tried electronic transmission have you evaluated the effectiveness of the electronic publication? An active member is an interested member and will take the time to seek out the information he needs or wants. But, do your dues paying casual members bother to turn on their computers to read about the squadron’s events and accomplishments?
A few simple cautions to take into consideration when preparing a publication to be transmitted electronically are:
Download time should be quick (1 to 3 minutes at DSL speed is enough time for most)
File size should be reasonable
Format should be generic, eg. PDF, and compatible to most members’ software packages.
An email to all recipients should announce each issue if it is just added to your website.