NewslettersNewsletters are regular communications from an organization aimed at a specificaudience using a mailing list. You probably receive traditional print newslettersin the mail as well as through email. What determines that you always read thenewsletter from your local Humane Society when you don’t read the monthlynewsletter inserted in your water bill? The content must be timely, useful, and important to the specific users who subscribe to your newsletter. Some newsletters are unsolicited and offer little more than sales information. Unlike brochures, press releases,and other sales or marketing materials, newsletters for technical communication canoffer specific information to a well-defined group of product users, company employees, or organization members. Technical communicators may be responsible for researching and writing the product updates, user profiles, expert tips, and other usefulinformation that keeps readers interested and engaged. Along with good content, thelayout and medium of the newsletter will also affect how likely users are to read it.Newsletters are still mailed on paper, but increasingly they appear on web sites orblogs, in email messages, or attached to an email as a fully formatted PDF document.In this example of an electronic newsletter delivered by email, the softwarecompany TechSmith gives users updates about their main product, SnagIt (a popular screen capture program), as well as other software tools and helpful tips fromusers and experts.NEWSLETTERS125

123456 SnagIt user newsletter (electronic)Features of the Electronic Newsletter1 Banner across the topof the page (also called a flag)includes the title “News You CanUse” and the company logo andname.3 Contents of this issue arelisted as links to the current issuearticles.5 Photographs of the editor andof featured users add familiarityand personality to the document.4 Standard links lead to archivesand company information.6 Links provide more informationor user interaction—“watch thescreencast.”2 The date and issue numberappear at the far right of the flag.The next example illustrates a more traditional print-based newsletter aboutmedical research from the National Center for Contemporary and AlternativeMedicine (NAC), which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).Notice that this newsletter is available on the Internet in PDF format but couldalso be printed.126PART 2TECHNICAL DOCUMENT TYPES

12843576 NAC research newsletter (PDF and print)Features of the Print Newsletter1 Flag includes the newslettername “CAM at the NIH” and anexplanatory subtitle.2 The volume, date, and issuenumber appear on a separate linebelow the title in the style of aresearch-based publication.3 Feature articles about aninternational conference and newfindings about “friendly bacteria”generate interest for an audienceof researchers.4 Articles and photographsappear in boxed areas, but sidebarsand photos also extend outside thebox margins, adding interest to thedocument design.zations that sponsor the center allappear in the lower left corner.5 Contents of this issue and regular sections are listed in a box onthe left titled “Inside.”8 Photos that feature researchers at the conference andother distinguished scientists addpersonality and interest throughoutthe newsletter.6 The National Center for Contemporary and Alternative Medicinelogo and the governmental organi-7 High quality photographs ofresearch findings like the bacterialend credibility.NEWSLETTERS127

109 NAC research newsletter, page 2Features of the Print Newsletter (continued)9 Findings from the featuredconference are bulleted and speakers are highlighted in blue text.128PART 210 The masthead, which containspublishing and editorial information,is a standard element on the innerpage of magazines and mostnewsletters.TECHNICAL DOCUMENT TYPES

1211 NAC research newsletter, page 1211 The “News for Researchers”12 The top portion of the backregular section appears on the back panel can be used for mailing labelscover, along with funding opportuon the printed version.nities and upcoming exhibits in thesidebar.Using Newsletter TemplatesRather than begin a design from scratch, many people prefer to use a template thatcomes with their software program or from the Internet. Newsletter templates letNEWSLETTERS129

you quickly create newsletters for printing or saving as a PDF file. Basic documentlayout programs like Microsoft Word and word processing programs likeMicrosoft Word offer many templates for newsletters. The benefit of using a template is that colors, borders, and other page layout features are preset, and all basicinformation is included. You simply fill in the content and make minoradjustments to the page design when needed.This selection screen in Apple Pages lets you choose from a range of styles,formats, and color schemes, depending on the purpose of your newsletter. Microsoft Word newsletter templates130PART 2TECHNICAL DOCUMENT TYPES

Once you select an appropriate template, you can use a wizard that promptsyou to fill in the content. Here is a newsletter wizard in Microsoft Word:4132 Newsletter template in Microsoft WordFeatures of the Newsletter Template1 The wizard on the left promptsyou for information such as thenewsletter name and automaticallyinserts the content into a flagfor you.2 It also can create an automatictable of contents and mailing labelarea, when selected.3 The “theme” tab allows you toadjust the color scheme and graphical features of this page design.4 The resulting document (on theright) automatically displays thetitle; you then click on text boxes toenter your own newsletter storiesand pictures.Audience ConsiderationsNewsletters can be effective publications for almost any well-defined audience:product users, company employees, supporters of a non-profit, or members of aprofessional organization. Because newsletters are subscription based, you havesomewhat of a captive audience who already know the purpose of your newsletter.NEWSLETTERS131

But busy readers are less likely to read generic or broad information that reads likesales literature. Readers will most likely pay attention if you offer a calendar ofevents, usable tips, in-depth features, reader profiles, interviews, and other timelyand useful information for your target audience. You should aim for a personable,enthusiastic, yet concise writing style.Design ConsiderationsNewsletters follow the same principles of document design as other page-baseddocuments for print or screen, such as the use of headings, visuals, and page layout elements. Screen-based newsletters such as TechSmith’s, however, must alsofollow principles of good web page design. While software templates make it easyto produce a colorful and well-formatted newsletter, they also limit your choicesof the color combinations, clip art, and other design elements. Be careful that thetemplate you use does not look silly or unprofessional, but instead has featuresthat are appropriate for the audience and your information.GuidelinesBX1 boxF O R C R E AT I N G N E W S L E T T E R S Target a specific group of users or Include photographs of the editor andmembers for your newsletter and cre-the organization members or users toate a mailing list.generate interest. Decide whether your newsletter will Determine an effective documentbe delivered via email, on paper, ondesign and create your layout for thescreen, or a combination.printed page or screen, or use a software template. Determine the purpose of yourdocument and select information that Create or edit articles and other con-is useful, timely, and of interest totent using a personable and conciseyour selected audience.writing style. Consider featuring user tips, reader Test your newsletter on the targetprofiles, or interviews that add aaudience and gather feedback forhuman touch.improving the content and design Emphasize specifics that readers canuse, such as grant opportunities ortechnical tasks.132PART 2TECHNICAL DOCUMENT TYPESfeatures.

See alsoAudience (Part 1)Purpose (Part 1)Document Design (Part 3)Email (Part 3)Templates and Style Sheets (Part 1)Web Sites (Part 2)Web Page Design (Part 3)Online HelpWhen users are trying to perform a task and have an immediate question, thisquestion is best answered without making the person stray too far fromwhat he or she was trying to do. For example, you are trying to create a brochureusing Microsoft Word and you have a question about how to insert a photographinto one of the columns of text. If you had to get up, find the manual, and lookup the answer, you would waste time and lose your sense of place in terms of whatyou were doing. If you had to close out the document and open a new screen ofinstructions or help information, the same problems would occur.These situations are where online help can be effective: the information usersneed in order to answer a question or perform a task is actually part of the program and is available in the context of the task at hand. Most applications usecontext-sensitive help: users don’t have to go searching on the “help” menu forwhat they need. Instead, the software recognizes that the user is trying to figureout something and offers tips or ideas.ONLINE HELP133

NEWSLETTERS 131 Once you select an appropriate template, you can use a wizard that prompts you to fill in the content. Here is a newsletter wizard in Microsoft Word: Newsletter template in Microsoft Word Features of the Newsletter Template The wizard on the left prompts you for information such as the newsletter name and automaticallyFile Size: 303KBPage Count: 9