Learn eight ways to improve your writing which you can apply today. Plus, get the inside scoop on common mistakes PRs often make when they write and how to avoid them
One of the first things you'll realise once you start doing PR internships is that you'll be writing. A lot. Whether it's emails, newsletters, media releases, social media pieces, opinion pieces, or bios, writing is a huge part of what you'll do every day. The better you are at writing, the more likely you'll achieve receive cut-through when you pitch to media and the more engaging your media releases or social media posts will be. So, how can you become a better writer? Allira Carroll from Tonic PR joins me to share some common mistakes PRs make when they write, and some insider tips to writing like a pro.
“Journalists can receive hundreds of email pitches a day and they quickly glance through each of them to deem if the contents of each email is relevant to their media outlet and content requirements. If your email is littered with grammar and spelling mistakes, it's the opportunity they need to delete or dismiss it and move onto the next pitch"
Listen to the full episode on The PR Pod podcast for more tips to improve your writing. You'll also find this episode on your fave podcast players, just search "The PR Pod".
8 EASY WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR WRITING
Practice. Identify what your weaknesses are as a writer and do some homework. Get your manager to give you a couple of pretend media releases to write and get practicing. Ask them to review and give you feedback. If you don't know what a great media release looks like, ask your manager to show you some examples of ones they think are fantastic.
Ask a friend for feedback. If you're not getting the feedback/support you need from your manager, ask a friend who you believe is a strong writer or even better, a journalist you know well. See if they have any recommendations on areas you can improve.
Writing courses. Depending on your workplace, your company may be happy to cover the cost of professional development courses. If that's the case, ask around your team or colleagues to see if they've got a great recommendation of one to do.
Read. Read. Read. If you digest news from one source such as social media or a particular news website, you will only ever be exposed to their style of writing. And, writing for social media and online can be very different to print. Read long-form feature print articles in newspapers and magazines and take note of how they shape the flow of information. Read fiction books and take note of syntax (sentence structure) and any words you don't know (and find out their meaning). Start to take note of how words and sentences are shaped and see how you can apply to your writing.
Word of the day. Increase your vocabulary by subscribing to an online dictionary that delivers you a new word each day into your email inbox. They usually provide the definition and context of how the word should be used so, it's a great way to broaden your vocab.
Keep your sentences concise. It is far easier to read short, punchy sentences than those that linger over a few lines. Get to your point as quickly as possible. Try work to 20 words per sentence.
Read aloud in your head. Read the sentence aloud, making sure you pause where you've placed punctuation marks. It's a great way of checking if the sentence flows smoothly and if you've used punctuation in the appropriate places.
COMMON MISTAKES MOST PEOPLE IN PR MAKE
Using hyperbole. That's when you get all fluffy and exaggerate. For example, '... the new mascara is THE BEST you'll ever try.' Says who???! You? The company that made it? Not good enough. It's up to the journalist to decide whether it's the best ever. It's your job to give them the information as to why it should be considered as one of the best.
Long sentences. I've referenced it above already but keep your sentences short. It makes them far more impactful.
Grammar. Get your basics right. Understand the difference between their and there. Its and it's. Loose and lose. Affected and effected. A quick google will give you a rundown of which ones to watch out for.
Don't include words you don't know the meaning for. Just because you heard someone else say it, it doesn't mean it's the appropriate fit for your sentence. Be 100% sure you know the meaning before you use a word.
Don't use too many big words. Think about whether your audience will understand the word and whether it's appropriate. You may think you're being clever by throwing in some big words but if it isn't appropriate for your brand, it can look and sound quite forced.
The word 'that' is often redundant. I use it ALL THE TIME in writing and I constantly have to remove it (you would have thought I'd learnt by now but hey ho). The next time you use 'that' in a sentence, check if the sentence actually flows just fine without it. You'll see it probably does....
Understand punctuation and how to use appropriately. Colons, semi-colons, commas, hyphens. Do some googling and understand which context they're appropriate for and when they're not.
If writing social media captions is your weak spot, take a look at this episode and you'll find some helpful hints.