By Claude M. Gruener, PR Albany
What’s the best way to get your news releases, speeches or your internet posts ignored, or worse yet, ridiculed?
Beyond being irrelevant, wrong or dated, it’s very simple. All you need do is to include a few punctuation, grammatical or spelling errors.
Our savvy PR professionals at PRCG know all this, of course, but it doesn’t hurt to remind ourselves about a few we need to watch for when writing or reviewing what our clients write that may be seen or heard by the public or media.
Probably the most common mistake I see is the use of it’s as the possessive form of it. Use its. With the exception of one’s, possessive pronouns (its, hers, his, theirs, yours, ours, whose) never have an apostrophe. They already show possession. (My city councilman sends out news releases and emails using it’s the wrong way. I just don’t have the heart to tell him.)
Punctuation with quotation marks can be confusing. There’s actually a Brit way and an American way in some instances. Generally in the States, a comma or a final period is placed inside the marks. Other punctuation marks are placed outside the quotation marks unless they are part of the material being quoted. He screamed, “Get away from here!” I can’t believe she had the nerve to answer “No”! Who asked “Why?”
Commas are normally used between the elements of a series of three or more words, phrases, or clauses. Sometimes, however, use is optional. It is always wise to use a comma if it clarifies a sentence. Thus you can avoid a sentence such as “Clean sheets, the smell of freshly baked rolls and my little brother all remind me of home.”
Nouns such as family, couple, group, people, majority, percent, or personnel take either singular or plural verbs. If the word refers to the group as a whole or the idea of oneness is meant, use a singular verb. The group is meeting tonight at seven. The elderly couple was the last to arrive. But if the word refers to individuals within a group, use the plural. A group of 19th century paintings and statues were donated to the museum.
Regarding indefinite pronouns, the following are always singular: another, each, every, either, neither, and one, as are the compound pronouns made with any, every, some, and no: anybody, anything, anyone, nobody, nothing, no one, etc. Neither of his tax returns was completed correctly.
Use simpler words if you can. Replace utilize with use, ameliorate with improve, modification with change, deficiency with lack and preventative with preventive.
Finally, here are a few words too often misused:
Affect/Effect – The most common use of affect is as a verb. Effect is most commonly a noun. But they can be just the opposite.
Alright — A common misspelling of the words all right.
Disinterested/Uninterested – The first conveys objectivity or neutrality, while the latter is simply lacking interest.
I/Me/Myself – I should be used when I is the subject of the sentence and is what the rest of the sentence is about. My sister and I went to the opera. Me should be used when it is the object of the action or thought conveyed by the verb, or is the object of a preposition. Martha invited Helen and me to play bridge.
Irregardless – redundant, use regardless. Spell check normally catches this one!
Who/Whom – Substitute a personal pronoun in place of the word. If he, she, or they would fit, use who; if him, her, or them would fit, use whom.