Aside of writing news releases, every PR practitioner has to get his hands on external or internal publishing. Writing magazines, bulletins, newsletters or flyers is not as intuitive as it may seem. For that reason, I have prepared a set of best practices that have been working for me ever since I started writing.
Avoid passive voice as much as you can
There are only a few things in the world of writing that irritate me as much as using passive voice. Compare these two sentences to each other.
NO: The mat was sat on by the cat.
YES: The cat sat on the mat.
It is clear that the first one is easier to digest. Human brain likes simple and easily understandable messages and texts. That applies doubly so when reading – the readers have a limited attention span and what is not instantly recognizable, goes to the mind’s trash can. If you want the readers spend enough time on your text, make it comprehensible.
Write like a journalist
Using the inverted pyramid is a must. Put the most important information up front and dress it up in a sexy outfit so the reader gets hooked on the text and continues reading.
Study the work of journalists who are writing about your topic. Look at how they structure their stories, what information precedes what. Know the narrative theory and utilize it in your works often. Practice. Fail. Repeat until you succeed.
Coming back to usability of the article, we know that human brain gets scared by information overload. That’s why it’s better to divide the text into chunks. Consider the difference between a text without clearly defined sub-headlines and one that utilizes them properly.
Don’t just divide the text into chunks randomly. Each section of the article divided by the sub-headline must have an enticing beginning, a meaty middle and a logical ending. Make the chunks thematic and definite.
Don’t “et cetera” the reader
The readers like definite reality in a text. Clearly defined sets of examples or finite lists help to make their comprehension easier. When enumerating, make sure you do not leave loose ends in the copy.
NO: This wheel loader can be used in a variety of applications like stone quarries, construction sites, mines, etc.
YES: The operators can use this wheel loader in stone quarries, construction sites and mines. This versatile machine will also find its place in a variety of different applications.
Use full names
Describing a person just by a surname is rather limited and it strikes me as rude. The AP Stylebook condones using just a surname in a story, and some journalists obey it. Perhaps it is a cultural phenomenon of the Eastern Europe to use full names, but it makes the text more polite.
NO: “First names suck,” said Smith.
YES: “I like the idea of using full names,” said John Smith.
Make titles optional
This applies less to American organizations than to British or from continental Europe. Some people want to have academic degrees or academic ranks added to their names like PhD., M.A., Ing., Mgr. or MSc.
While it is principally not wrong, you do not want the audience to respect the person in question not because of his or her title, but because of the weight of the message he or she is transmitting to the audience. Therefore, use the academic titles sparingly.
Use common sense
When you finish the interview, don’t thank the interviewee in print for his time. This practice came out of fashion 15 years ago.
I am sure the list will grow and become more exhaustive. In the meanwhile, feel free to contribute some of your writing advice regarding internal and external publications.