The days of typewritten club newsletters reproduced either by photocopying or old-fashioned wax stencils may be long gone but in many ways, some of today’s counterparts look equally amateurish. It doesn’t have to be that way, though - if you have Microsoft Word you can produce something to be proud of. See also: Speedy shortcuts for Microsoft Word.

Perhaps you’ve just decided to launch a newsletter for your club, or maybe you’ve taken over a parish or community magazine and want to give it a facelift.

Either way it’s perfectly possible to give it that professional look and set it apart from so many amateur-produced publications. It’s not only about the appearance, though. Some people would suggest that the design is just the icing on the cake and it’s only the content that matters, but it’s surely true that people will be more likely to read something that looks attractive.

Word processors, graphics packages and high-quality printers certainly provide the potential for amateur publishers to compete with the professionals but the skills necessary to use the technology effectively are equally important. Our aim here is to give you those skills and, in so doing, set you on the road to professional-looking publishing.

What we won’t provide are instructions that are so detailed that your newsletter will look the same as everyone else’s. After all, variety is the spice of life. Instead we’ll show you the basic principles but leave you to exercise your creative talents to produce a design that is uniquely yours.

You might think you need to use dedicated DTP (desktop publishing) software to produce top-notch results, but we disagree. While a proper DTP package might improve your productivity, equally good results can be achieved using the word processor that you probably already have on your PC.

For this reason, our instructions will refer to Microsoft Word. Rarely will a newsletter be entirely textual, though, so the chances are that you’ll also need to manipulate images. Because of the huge variety of graphics packages out there, we won’t be providing guidance on using any particular one but our generic instructions can easily be achieved using your software of choice.

At the end of our walk-through you’ll have Word files of your newsletter and, if you choose to produce one, PDFs too. What you do next is down to you and your chosen method of reproduction.

Armed with the Word files you could print them out for subsequent photocopying or, alternatively, you could send a set of PDF to whoever will print the newsletter.

One final piece of advice: look at other publications that you think look good, and examine them to find out why. Don't be afraid to use layout techniques that you see. See also: How to make Microsoft Word's Ribbon toolbar visible

How to make a newsletter in Microsoft Word

1. Create a new document as usual. Select the page size (A4 or A5) using the Size button and define the margins with the Margins button on the Page Layout ribbon. Margins will be smaller than for letters but large enough for the printer you’ll be using.

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2. For now we’ll create just a single article. Start by typing in or importing the text which will start with the title, perhaps followed by a standfirst (a sub-title containing the author’s name), and then the body text. Don’t bother about any formatting yet.

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3. We’ll use multiple columns for most of the article but the title and standfirst need to full width so split the article into two sections. Put the cursor at the start of the body text, and select Continuous from the Breaks menu on the Page Layout ribbon.

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4. Without moving the cursor (which will be in the second section) click on the Columns button on the Page Layout ribbon and select your chosen number of columns. We suggest you use either two or three. You could use more if your paper size is large enough.

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5. Headers and footers contain information such as page numbers that appears on every page. From the Header menu on the Insert ribbon, choose a header style and, when the header appears, fill in the blanks. Do the same for the footer and then double click back into the document.

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6. Now it’s time to choose some fonts but don’t go overboard. Just two fonts (e.g. one for headings, another for everything else) can look classy, more can look tacky. Try out various fonts and sizes on the Home ribbon until you’re satisfied.

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7. You’ll also need to try out various paragraph formatting options (e.g. line spacing, indents, justification) until you achieve a good look. Experiment with the various options using the Paragraph icon on the Home ribbon until you like what you see.

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8. Rather than applying fonts and formatting manually, it’ll be easier to define styles for the title, standfirst, headings and body text. Right-click on a properly formatted paragraph, select Styles, then ‘Save Selection as a New Quick Style’ and enter a name for the style.

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