You can write, right? Five tips for future PR practitioners

There's a 'national day' for almost everything, and 10 April didn't disappoint, offering a celebration for siblings, cinnamon crescents and farmyard animals.

Mind your 'Ps and Qs', writes Edward Clark in his advice to young PR people
Mind your 'Ps and Qs', writes Edward Clark in his advice to young PR people

Far more pertinently, it was also ‘national encourage a young writer day’. This is a challenge.

You could find a child and shout "go on, keep writing", repeatedly; but giving useful advice for a successful writing career – that’s more difficult.

Prospective fiction writers need to practise crafting their plot, while future journalists must work on maintaining their objectivity.

And potential PRs? Here are five tips you might offer to them.

1. Use plain English

A quarter of all British workers think jargon is a ‘pointless irritation’, so win back their trust with understandable, concise prose. Whilst it might be tempting to pad your writing with meaningless phrases, it’s far better to be understood. There’s no need to ‘leverage solutions’ when you can use products, or ‘pluck the low-hanging fruit’ when you can easily get results. So don’t get your ducks in any sort of row, and please never use the word ‘synergy’.

2. Get to the point

The first line of an email, pitch or letter should tell the recipient everything they need to know. Now that goldfish (thanks to social media) have put our attention span to shame, people won’t read on to page three to discover your client’s story.

3. Ask for a second pair of eyes

However experienced you are, asking someone to cast an eye over your material will always cause you to re-consider what you’ve written, even if it’s good first time around. Re-writing should be a constructive process, where you trim needless words (like ‘however’, ‘moreover’, ‘usually’), introduce some colourful phrasing and sharpen the story.

4. Re-read (and use a dictionary, not a spell-checker)

A spelling error or grammatical slip is like a football ref’s mistake. No-one cares how well the rest of the game went; you might as well be an amateur who read the rule book that morning. Readers will spot misplaced letters and wonky formatting with unerring accuracy. A repeat offender – ‘it’s’ rather than ‘its’ – how many people get that wrong? Recently, a well-known high street retailer sent me an email to announce the summer catalogue was on it’s way. Oh dear.

5. Stay out of trouble

George Orwell had six famous rules for writing, but the last said he would break any of the first five to avoid writing ‘anything barbarous’. In today’s world of fake news, you can’t afford to write something blatantly false, needlessly controversial, or deliberately misleading. Not if you want to keep your job, that is.

So, put down your cinnamon crescent and offer some wisdom to young people hoping to develop their writing skills.

With skilful Millennials entering the workforce, it’s difficult not to be optimistic about the next generation of PRs.

The only thing we have to do is encourage our industry to maintain high writing standards, avoiding mislaid apostrophes, misspelt client names and ‘moving the needle’.

Edward Clark is an account executive at The CommsCo

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