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Writing is hard for most people. Here are a few ideas to keep it simple and easy. Remember, good writing rules apply to all written communication within the union local.


  1. Write short. Short words. Short sentences. Short paragraphs. Short stories.

  2. Get to the point. Your readers will appreciate it.

  3. Adopt a conversational, informal tone.

  4. Get it right. Factual errors, spelling errors and half-truths work against you.

  5. Use lots of names in your stories. People love to see their names in print or names of people they recognize.

  6. Spell all names correctly.

  7. Action words, especially verbs, pack more power than longer ones.

  8. Show, dont tell. Use examples.

  9. Dont overuse adjectives and adverbs.

  10. Avoid union rhetoric and jargon of all kinds.

  11. Stress the positive. A negative tone can turn people off.

  12. Avoid racist, sexist and homophobic terms.


  1. Gather all your facts; organize them in priority by putting the most important one first.

  2. Decide what you want to stress. What is your lead or first paragraph?

  3. Make your lead an attention-grabber. Keep it topical.

  4. Include the five Ws (Who, What, When, Where, Why) and the How, and keep an eye on what it means to members.

  5. Add other details in descending order of importance.

  6. Double-check the story for accuracy.

  7. Edit yourself for grammar, spelling, punctuation or, even better, get someone else to edit.

  8. Rewrite, if necessary.

Fact gathering

  1. Do your homework before the interview.

  2. Make a list of questions. Use the five Ws to guide you.

  3. Get quotes to add human interest and let people speak for themselves.

  4. Find out what it means to members.

  5. Dont be afraid to ask dumb questions.

  6. Save touchy questions until last when the person is more at ease.

  7. Ask the person to slow down or repeat as necessary.

  8. Get more information than you need.

  9. Call the person back to ensure accuracy.

Story ideas and sources

  1. Profile members and leaders at work and at home.

  2. Promote the benefits of being in the union.

  3. Highlight important decisions at meetings.

  4. Announce special meetings, speakers.

  5. Contract negotiations.

  6. Grievance settlements and arbitrations.

  7. Nominations and elections.

  8. Announce union activities such as education classes, social events, summer schools, campaigns, picnics, sports, etc.

  9. Features on pensions, benefits, employment insurance, workers compensation, or anything else members are talking about.

  10. Reprint stories from CUPEs web site or publications.


Readers decide what to read based on headlines that catch their attention.

  1. Give real information; show why the story matters.

  2. Use specific words that hit home.

  3. Use action verbs in the present tense.

  4. Keep it short and simple (one to five words).

  5. Avoid weak and over-used words.

  6. Skip words with double meanings.

Copyright and libel

According to the federal Copyright Act, all original articles, cartoons and photographs are copyrighted. This means that the right to copy them is held by their creator, and you must get permission before doing so. You have permission to use anything from CUPEs web site or CUPE publications and from CALM, if youre a member.

Libel is the printed form of defamation. You defame someone when you publish or say things that hurt their reputation, or cause other people to ridicule or hate them. Calling someone a liar, a thief, or incompetent at their job is defamatory if it is untrue. If you have a bone to pick with someone, stick to the facts of the matter in dispute. Let your readers draw their own conclusions.

Handbooks produced by CALM are available on both topics.


Editing means to revise for the better. Everyone needs editing. Heres a brief guide:

  1. Ask yourself the following questions, then edit:

    • Did you understand the story?

    • Did you get the main point?

    • Did you have to read some sentences twice?

    • Are there words you dont understand?

    • Does the writing sound natural?

    • Does the article leave questions unanswered?

  2. Editing takes diplomacy. Be sensitive to the writer and her/his work but be tough for your readers sakes.

    • Dont edit by whim or to your personal taste.

    • Criticize in a constructive spirit.

    • Dont rewrite stories yourself; help the writer do it.

    • Dont change things without telling the writer.

    • Be nit-picky; better to get it right.

  3. Editors clarify, correct inaccuracies, proof-read.

    • Check for accuracy; make sure the story tells the truth, doesnt distort or mislead.

    • Eliminate libellous statements.

    • Review for fairness and good taste.

    • Correct grammar, spelling and punctuation. It adds to your newsletters credibility and wins membership respect.

    • Simplify. Cut the fat (e.g., in order to can often be cut to read to as in to do the job).

    • Avoid repetition; clarify confusing statements; define technical terms, spell out acronyms at least once in the story (e.g., P3s are public private partnerships).


  1. Good design makes an impression and engages readers.

  2. The flag is the publications name. It should be instantly readable and set the mood for the publication.

  3. The masthead identifies who writes, edits and puts together your newsletter.

  4. Include your address, phone or e-mail in the masthead so readers can reach you.

  5. Front pages usually carry two to four stories plus a visual.

  6. Colour, then shape catches the eye.

  7. Boxes break up text and draw attention.

  8. Put at least one picture or graphic on each page.

  9. Make body type and size easy to read.

  10. Leave white space, breathing room for easy reading.

  11. Use narrow columns for short stories, wider ones for longer features.

  12. Underlining makes text hard to read. Use bold or clear italics type instead.

  13. Keep it simple. Too many typefaces, shapes and decorative elements compete.


  1. Have an idea of what you want to convey before you point the camera and shoot.

  2. Think about how the photo will be used.

  3. Knowing what you want makes it easier to be confident when posing subjects.

  4. Get closer. A good photograph of a person makes eye contact with the reader.

  5. Show faces, smiling when appropriate. Line-ups of committees or groups dont work.

  6. Watch out for background objects, e.g., the pole or tree appearing to stick out from someones head.

  7. Be prepared to capture natural action, e.g., shaking hands, planting a tree, walking the picket line.

  8. Be inventive. Take control and ask people to pose so you can get the photo you want.

  9. Remember a good picture is worth a thousand words.

  10. Photos in your union newsletter should reflect the diversity of your locals membership.