Using Bylines in Newsletter Design

A great byline promotes contributors to your newsletter

byline in newspaper

Ninian Reid / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Common in newspapers and magazines, a byline credits the author or authors of the text of a story. They're a great way to highlight contributors to an important news article or opinion piece.

The credit for a photographer or illustrator is called a cutline and it associates with the specific visual asset, not with an article overall.

When to Use a Byline

The use or non-use of a byline depends on the publisher's editorial policy manual. In general, republished content for which the author owns the copyright — stuff in literary journals, for example, or guest op-ed pieces — generally always obtains a byline. Content that's considered work-for-hire may or may not obtain a byline; usually, if it's written by a staff member (as with a newspaper) it gets a byline, otherwise, it's up to the editor's discretion.

Usually, staff editorials — because they represent the entire publication — do not obtain a byline, even if a single person wrote it.

Newsletters from non-profit groups, schools and other community organizations usually always offer bylines. This practice not only promotes the writer but it reflects the community-oriented nature of the publication.

In terms of what qualifies: Generally, anything more substantive than a paragraph or two.

Different Byline Styles

Bylines generally appear in one of three ways:

  • At the top of the story: Before the content begins, the cutline appears, usually separated by one or two blank lines before the story starts. Top-of-the-story cutlines generally only share data elements (name, title) without additional text or context.
  • At the bottom of the story: At the conclusion of the story, a blank line or two separates the byline. In this format, bylines tend to be more comprehensive, potentially including contact information. Bottom-of-the-story bylines sometimes even render in complete sentences.
  • As a cutout: Common for opinion columns, a cutout — often with a photo — serves as a visual insert into or beside the text of the content.

Bylines render the name or names of the contributors, at a minimum. Depending on the house style manual, they may also include a title (like "news writer") or organizational affiliation ("president, chamber of commerce"). They may or may not include a tag like "by" or "written by" or something similar.

Photos are more common with columnists and reviewers than with news writers, but individual editorial policy governs.

Best Practices for Developing Bylines

To make bylines stand out:

  1. Use consistent formatting: Place them in the same place relative to a story, every time, so readers understand at-a-glance where to discover the author's identity. Creating byline templates for your graphic-design program is a great way to do the same thing, every time.
  2. Use subtle but distinct typography: Using bold or italics judiciously, or using a sans-serif typeface, helps to distinguish the byline from the content.
  3. Align styles to cutlines: When the styles for bylines and cutlines are in sync, the overall visual appeal of the publication improves.