5 Tips for Concise PR Writing

May 19th, 2014
by
flickr user Nic McPhee under CC BY license

flickr user Nic McPhee under CC BY license

Perhaps the only thing nearly as frustrating as staring at a blank screen when a press release is due is staring at a press release that’s too long by half with nothing that can be cut. Well guess what: there’s always something that can be cut, and doing so will often improve the quality of your work. Brevity is the soul of wit, after all.

So break out your red pen; it’s time to get concise.

Cut the adverbs

Oh, those qualifiers that end in –ly, they add so much flavor to a dry press release, no?

No. Reduce unnecessary words by taking the strikethrough to adverbs in sentences like “Acme is extremely passionate about … ” or “Our incredibly talented team … ”  It’s enough to say you’re passionate or talented without embellishing.  You don’t have to slash and burn every –ly word in sight, but omitting the bulk of them strengthens the few that remain.

Bonus: Cut out more –ly filler like actually, basically, essentially, very and literally.

Avoid redundancies

Redundancies sneak in when we’re not paying attention: “It’s a unique product we’ve never seen before,” “We must ask ourselves the question … “ and “Our opinion still remains …”  If something is unique, it hasn’t been seen before; if it’s asked, it’s a question; something that remains is still there.

Instead, try: “It’s unique,” “We must ask ourselves,” and “Our opinion remains.” Avoiding redundancies requires some vigilance, so it’s worth consulting lists of common redundancies occasionally to remember what to look for.

Omit meaningless phrases

“Due to the fact that for the most part press releases are, for all intents and purposes, official statements for the purpose of providing information, they are still very much important.”

Let’s look at that sentence again with the meaningless phrases removed:

Due to the fact that for the most part press releases are, for all intents and purposes, official statements for the purpose of providing information, they are still very much important.” Easily rephrased into “Press releases are official statements that provide information, and are still important.”

Meaningless phrases seem to slip right in, sometimes because we think they beef things up or lend authority, but this isn’t the case. Watch your word count dwindle when you excise phrases like these.

Get rid of “there”

“There” is not a meaningful word unless you’re pointing to a specific place. Sentences like “There are thousands of satisfied Acme customers” should read “Acme has thousands of satisfied customers” or “Thousands of Acme customers are satisfied.” There are, there is, and there were are all easy fixes for more concise copy.

Fewer prepositions

Fewer prepositions= fewer phrases = more straightforward sentences. “The idea behind our product is engagement with the community across multiple platforms” has three conjunctions: behind, with, and across. You can easily revise to: “Our product’s purpose is multi-platform community engagement.”

Do you have any tips for staying concise, or pet peeves that get you every time?

2 Responses to “5 Tips for Concise PR Writing”

  1. Kumar says:

    “Our product’s purpose is multi-platform community engagement.”

    Sounds like PR gobbledygook. It tells me nothing.

  2. Ellis Friedman says:

    Hi Kumar,
    Thanks for the comment! The idea behind that sentence was more about showing how extra prepositional phrases get in the way, rather than providing a good description of a product. If you have some suggestions for other example sentences, please share!

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