Write it proper: spaghetti, the judge, the prisoner and the press release

When we see blog posts or tweets from journalists and magazine editors complaining about the quality of press releases, those responsible should hang their heads in shame.

It’s not just that press release composition is so very basic to the skills needed in PR – yes, even in the digital age. It’s the casual disregard for accuracy, correct punctuation and spelling that gives PR a poor reputation.

Some fairly substantial organisations have been named and shamed recently, the very ones who spend a fortune maintaining their reputations in all other respects. And yet those very first impressions can make or break “reputation”. As editors confirm regularly, how can you know that the rest of the message is accurate if the name of the product – or the MD – is spelled wrongly?

When I was teaching PR, Lynne Truss and her guide to the use of the apostrophe, The Girl’s Like Spaghetti, was top of the students’ reading list. (Though I did resort to shock tactics occasionally, warning that “every time an apostrophe is misused, a kitten dies”. Not pedagogically sound, but it seemed to work.)

And who’s to blame for the misuse of the comma? Schools? Years ago, looking through my son’s homework, I commented on the casual approach to grammar and punctuation. “It doesn’t matter,” he said. “It’s only geography. We only have to bother about that in English.”

It matters. Commas matter. There’s a big difference between: The judge said the prisoner was a fool and  The judge, said the prisoner, was a fool. When in doubt have a look at Let’s eat Grandma.

The failsafe reference work for journalists and PRs is the BBC style guide

If you run a PR department, or an agency, and have any doubts about your own grammatical reputation, give Cumbria PR a call. We can edit, correct, revise or rewrite your news releases, website content, marketing or advertising copy, and you can be confident that your messages don’t become spike fodder.




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