Writers, like teeth, are divided into incisors and grinders

Walter Bagehot

Oct 8, 2014

Keep PR language simple

A plea for plain language in publicity material

Following my comments on the use of the word `comment’, I’m afraid I’ve got myself started and I’ve been brooding on other press release bugbears.

Problems arise when the public relations person forgets the principle of KISS – keep it simple stupid.

The fact is that using long words for the sake of it, it doesn’t come across as educated, it comes across as pompous and affected. So, don’t write `purchased’, write `bought’. What does `utilised’ have that `used’ doesn’t?

Don’t use words for the sake of it either. Don’t write `at the present moment’, or `at this present moment’, or – God help us - `at this present moment in time’. Just say `now’ or `currently’, or, if you’re using the present tense, that’s probably sufficient. Don’t write that a place `is located in Smith Street’, just write `is in Smith Street’.

I’ve already dealt with the `he/she commented’. Less frequent, but just as silly are: `stated’, `opined’ or `ejaculated’ or anything else that has been dug out of the Thesaurus. Stick to `he/she said’, or, if it’s their second quote, `he/she added’.

Avoid using the words `unique’ or `prestigious’. In the first case, whatever it is you are writing about, I’ll wager a small fortune it’s not really unique and if you write `nearly unique’ or `almost unique’, you should be taken out and shot. `Prestigious’ is a matter of opinion and if you’re referring to the annual Much Piddling in the Marsh Chamber of Trade Highly Commended Award for Best Business Hanging Baskets, its use will only serve to raise a laugh in the newsroom

And please, do try not to use exclamation marks. They are the press release equivalent of LOL. They don’t make an unfunny joke suddenly become amusing. Journalists refer to them as `shouts’, which gives an idea of when they can properly be used. Misuse marks you out as an amateur. If you absolutely must, use one, never – under pain of death - use more than one at once!!!!