Desktop Publishing: Getting The Word Out With Word

By Greg Raven

Desktop publishing is wonderful. WYSIWYG is wonderful. The Mac is wonderful. Unfortunately, not everyone is lucky enough to be able to own a copy of XPress, Ready, Set, Go!, or PageMaker -- programs that make the best use of this wonderfulness.

On the other hand, Microsoft’s Word, version 3.0, has found its way into many users’ software collections. And although it may not be perfect it does have sufficient power to produce a fairly sophisticated publication. Of course, if you need fancy text run-arounds and fine control over every last detail of your finished work you will still need a DTP program. For speedy creation of a clean-looking newsletter, however, Word is very difficult to beat.

Getting started: Let’s take an example of a newsletter four pages long or longer, comprised of a long lead article and several smaller articles. First, type in the text with headings, bylines, etc., just as you would normally. I find it easiest to do the proofreading and spell checking at this stage, but it can be done anytime. Remember to save your document.

Next, select the typefaces and sizes you want for the body copy and the headlines. As a rule of thumb, you don’t want more than two or three typefaces on a page, so the more conservative you are, the better. If you want to experiment with type design, try using a san serif face (such as Geneva or Helvetica) for the headlines and serif face (such as New York or Times) for the body copy. The headlines will also be a little larger than the body copy, and making them bold will really help them stand out.

Making columns: It’s now time to make an executive level decision — how many columns across the pages of your newsletter? According to Adobe, for maximum legibility using nine point type you should strive for ten to eighteen words per line. With ten point type the count would fall between thirteen and twenty, and with twelve point type it would be between fourteen and twenty-four words per line. If you look around at newspapers and magazines you will see that most do not follow these guidelines, but at least now you know.

The point size(s) you settle on will also depend on whether you are using a laser printer or an ImageWriter as your output device, and upon what you need to do with your headlines. Fortunately, you can play around with various values, checking them using Page Preview under the File menu. To set the number of columns in your newsletter, choose Section from the Format menu. In the lower right hand corner enter the number of columns and the space you want between columns (start with 0.25 inches).

Another consideration when making columns is what, if any, graphics and/or pull quotes you are going to include. Because of Word’s limited ability to handle material that cuts across columns, this is a decision you will have to face early on in the design process.

Dressing up the body: So far you have the text all formatted and in neat little columns, but it’s not much of a newsletter. Use the scroll bar to move to the top of the document. From the Format menu select Section and click on First Page Special. Now pull down the document menu and you will notice that Open Header and Open Footer have been joined by Open First Header and Open First Footer. Select Open First Header and type in the name of your newsletter. If you are using a laser printer you can use any of the laser fonts and simply scale them to the size you want. If you are using an ImageWriter you will get better results using a big font such as Beverly Hills Big, which comes in 36 and 72 points. Of course, you can center or space the header any way you wish. Word even will let you do some rudimentary kerning in the Format menu under the Character selection by condensing the space between letters by up to 1.75 points.

Below the header you may wish to have, in smaller letters, the date or volume number of the newsletter, or your motto, such as “All The News That Fits.” If you want to get fancy you can place a box around the newsletter title, the date line, or both, using the tools found in the Paragraph selection under the Format menu.

You are not done with the first header yet, however. Because your body copy is going to be printed in either two or three columns, any headline you have in the body copy will also be wrapped to fit your smaller columns. If you want your first headline to span the top of the page (just under the header), put it in the header too, just below the date line (if any). For appearance sake you will want to insert a blank line between your date line and your headline, and one after the headline as well. The space after the headline will move all columns of your body copy down an even amount, leaving a nice area of white space around your first headline.

Now put away the first header and select Open Header from the Document menu. Type in the header as you want it to appear on pages two through four. I usually Copy the date line from the first header and Paste it as the header for the remaining pages.

We are almost done with headers, but there is one more trick you can do to add a professional look to your newsletter. Select Page Setup from the File menu and click on the Facing Pages option. Now look at the Document menu again, and you will see that the normal header entries have been replaced by the selections Even Header, Odd Header, Even Footer, and Odd Footer. This allows you to, for example, put the page number to the outside of the page where it is more easily seen. Go through each of the three header and three footer options and format them the way you want them.

Horizontal rules: Because of the way Word handles vertical rules it is virtually impossible to use them. You can, however, make good use of horizontal rules. For example, at the top and bottom of a pull quote or at the end of a story a horizontal rule can visually break up the page so your readers don’t have to guess where stories begin and end.

You could set up tabs in the Format menu under Paragraph, but I find it easier to specify borders (either above or below) in the Paragraph box. For example, at the end of a story I append five carriage returns. I then select carriage returns number three and four and select Paragraph from the Format menu, clicking on Border Below. Leaving the two lines selected, I then select Character from the Format menu and change the line spacing to 2 points. This results in two thin rules with a small space between them — just what I need. Typing the fifth carriage return not only leaves a space between the horizontal lines and the next headline, it also makes it unnecessary to reformat subsequent paragraphs so they don’t all have horizontal lines below them.

Graphics: The easiest way to handle graphics with Word is to make sure that each graphic fits within one column. The way Word prints graphics last (on top of text) makes it possible to cross columns with a graphic if you are willing to spend a minute or two fooling around to get it right.

Let’s say you have a three column format and you want to insert a two column wide graphic into the page. Insert the graphic where you want it and check out the results using Page Preview in the File menu. You will notice that as Word displays the preview pages it first shows the text and then overwrites it with the graphic. Use the magnifying glass tool to see the last line of text in the second column before the graphic overwrites it, and count the number of lines of text the graphic overwrites. Go back to your document and insert enough carriage returns in the text to accommodate the graphic. In other words, shove all the text down so the graphic is only overwriting blank lines.

Pull quotes: I prefer using pull quotes only on three column pages, however it can be done with any number of columns. Again, Word’s handling of paragraphs makes it easier to insert a pull quote between paragraphs than to try to wrestle one into the middle of a paragraph. I leave a space above and below the pull quote (which I set in italic), and set the quote off with two thin horizontal rules as described above.

Mixing column formats: You can mix the number of columns throughout your newsletter by creating different sections for each of the different formats. The easier way of doing this is to change column formats only at the top of the page. First, demark the new section by placing the insertion point at the end of the previous section and pressing Command-Enter. This puts a double line on the screen to show where the sections change. Put the insertion point in the new section, select Section from the Format menu, enter the number of columns, and click on New Page. First Page Special should be off for all but the very first section (where the masthead is).

This method may, of course, leave some blank areas at the bottom of the previous section. If you need to change column formats in the middle of the page, proceed as described above, only press Command-Enter twice instead of once. Format the first new section to one column, and format the second new section to your desired format. Place the insertion point in the first new section and press Return once or twice to provide some space between the section above and the section below. For some visual relief, you can also select one of the carriage returns and, using Paragraph in the Format menu, click to put a border above or below it. This line will then separate the sections on either side of it.

Finishing up: By now you should have a pretty sharp looking newsletter, and although you have given up some of the versatility of a page layout program you have also accomplished your task in a far shorter time than if you had had to import all the text, align columns and headings, etc.

Before you print out the final version of your newsletter, take another look at it in Page Preview in the File menu. I usually find that there are at least a few blank lines at the end of the newsletter. Also keep an eye out for headlines that are so close to the bottom of the page that there is either no text or only a couple lines of text beneath them. I usually spend a couple minutes tweeking the copy to make it fit better, using both the intercolumn spacing parameter in Section under the File menu, and the leading (called line spacing) in Paragraph under the File menu. Word’s “auto” setting allows 120 percent of the point size for leading, and on a long article it doesn’t take too much additional leading to fill those last few blank lines.

While you are in the Page Preview mode, check the bottoms of the columns. Usually the columns will all end at the same place, making a nice even bottom margin. Sometimes, however, Word will stop a column one line short, and there doesn’t seem to be any way of telling it to do things otherwise.

In spite of all its warts, Microsoft Word does offer a lot of flexibility in creating a near-desktop publishing quality newsletter. For simple tasks it can be much faster, and for beginners it may even be better than a DTP program because it won’t allow you to do some of the really awful layouts that are possible when every aspect can be pondered and fiddled with. And if you are holding off buying a dedicated DTP program until Scoop ships, Word might be the only DTP program you will ever use.