Create a Newsletter in Microsoft Word Without Text Boxes

At some point, Microsoft decided that Microsoft Word needed to be all things to all people. They added in a lot of half-baked features that many people don’t use because they are afraid to. And rightly so.

I contend that text boxes are one of the features Word users should fear. They are hard to work with, buggy, and sometimes cause program crashes. Having Word eat your carefully crafted newsletter is no fun.

So this article describes how to create a nicely formatted newsletter without resorting to text boxes. Because you aren’t using text boxes for this type of newsletter, you often can’t easily continue an article on a non-contiguous page. If you want to create text jumps, add elaborate formatting, or send your newsletter to a printer, I suggest you avoid Word completely. Move to a layout application such as Adobe InDesign or Quark XPress. But for simple newsletters, if Word is all you have, this article explains how you can create a simple newsletter without losing your mind.

Start with a Masthead

To provide continuity in your newsletter, you want to create some type of graphic theme. The example newsletter in this article is for a gardening group, so I found some flower-related graphics. Well-designed newsletters use graphics that complement the typestyles. In other words, don’t chuck the first graphic you find into the newsletter. Think about what kind of “look” you are trying to present. In this example newsletter, the graphics are somewhat delicate, so the masthead graphic uses a somewhat light, feminine font as well.

Set Up Graphics

Since the sample is a black and white newsletter, next I decided I wanted graphics on every page to make it a little more interesting. I used Word’s “watermark” feature to include them. With a watermark, your text floats on top of the background graphic. More recent versions of Word have a special watermark command, but in Word 2000 you basically go into the header and insert the graphic. To use the Word XP or 2003 watermark command choose Format|Background and click Printed Watermark. Click the Picture watermark radio button, and then click the Select Picture button. Find your graphic on your hard disk and click Insert.

In Word 2000 and earlier versions, adding a watermark is not quite as intuitive as it is in later versions. You need to put your clip art border into the header to make it sit “behind” your text on the page. So choose View|Header and Footer. Now choose Insert picture|From file. Find your top border on your hard disk and add it in.

Use Styles for Text Formatting

Another way to make your newsletter look professional is to use styles. Using styles forces your formatting to remain consistent throughout the document. We’ve all seen amateurish “ransom note” design that uses 29 different fonts in a document. To avoid that problem, stick to just one or two fonts and use them consistently. For example, in this newsletter, I created styles called ArticleTitle, BodyText, Bullet, and MastheadText. The body text styles are all based on a font called Century Schoolbook and the headings are a san-serif font called Univers.

Add Columns

In newsletters, you often may want a heading to span columns. Many people know how to create columns, but it’s a little trickier to have columns mixed in with text that spans them. However, it’s easy once you know the trick. First, create your columns for the whole newsletter by choosing Format|Columns. Make sure that the Apply to drop-down says Whole Document. (Don’t worry that the heading will end up in a column.)

Now select just the heading paragraph that you want to span columns, and choose Format|Columns again. Click the columns button, and select 1 column. Note that the Apply to drop-down says “Selected Text.” That means your column setting will only apply to the heading.

To change columns in the middle of a document, Word needs to put in Continuous Section Breaks. This process is sort of a pain to do manually using the Insert|Break command, but by highlighting the heading and changing the columns, Word adds the necessary Section Breaks for you. If you decide to delete the breaks later, the easiest way to see them is to switch to Normal view by choosing View|Normal. Section breaks appear as double lines with the words Section Break (Continuous) in the middle. If you delete the Section Breaks, the column formatting stored in them goes away.

Add Pull Quotes

Many times in a newsletter, you’ll find enlarged text formatted differently within lines or a box that has been used for graphic effect. This feature is called a “pull quote,” and speaking from experience, it’s often used when the designer doesn’t have enough text or graphics to fill out the pages, so they’re looking for something to make the document more visually interesting.

The way to create a pull quote is by combining Word’s Paragraph formatting commands with the border commands. Generally, pull quotes are indented on both sides of the paragraph. To indent the paragraph, highlight it and choose Format|Paragraph. In the Indentation section, type in left and right margins. For example, you might put in .5 to indent the text half an inch from each side. To enclose the text in lines or a box, with the paragraph highlighted, choose Format|Borders and Shading. Choose a Line style and then click in the Preview area to add the lines to the sides of the paragraph you want (above, below, or all the way around).

Save As Template

If you plan to use the layout again, you should save it as a template. You can delete out all the article text, but be careful not to delete the section breaks for your columns. You may need to leave in enough text to retain that formatting for each page. (Plus it helps remember what you did!) When you’re done, save the document as a template by choosing File|Save As. Change the Save As type drop down to Document Template (.dot).

On the next issue, you’ll be ready to go!

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If you’ve spent any time trying to create a newsletter the way Microsoft thinks you should, you’ve probably got quite a few gray hairs now. Text boxes are a buggy “feature” that can turn the most trivial newsletter task into an exercise in frustration. So just say no to text boxes. This attractive layout works with no text boxes. Add a few graphics, and you’re good to go. Your template comes with complete instructions and a printer-friendly version of this article too! Click here to read more…

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About Susan Daffron

Susan Daffron is the author the Alpine Grove Romantic Comedies and multiple award-winning nonfiction books, including several about pets and animal rescue. Check out all her books on her Amazon Author page.