Editor’s Corner: Grammar Snob Alert! Who vs. Whom Demonstrates Usage in Transition

September 13, 2011

by Andrew Guinn, Graveyard Newsroom Supervisor, Business Wire Nashville

Andrew Guinn

by Andrew Guinn, Newsroom Supervisor, BW Nashville

Who vs. whom, which is it? 

 “Look it up.”

This was my fellow university newspaper staffers’ reply to a grammar question, accompanied by an AP Manual flying toward my head.  I’m far from an expert, so, when confronted with the question of who or whom, I looked it up… and found confusion.

Why?  Apparently we’ve changed how particular we are about the correct usage and now find whom awkward in some instances – mostly when our misuse is corrected.  

In a typical press release, the sentence structure is simple and doesn’t call for complication.  The characters you write about are usually getting hired or promoted, maybe sued, so the trick for determining which usage is correct revolves around this: Who is a subject and whom is an object.  Or, who does stuff while stuff happens to whom

 Who came up with this idea?  We, they, he or she came up with this idea.

 We can’t tell for whom the package is.  Awkward, isn’t it?  But correct useage tell us the package is for them, us, her or him.

If the people being replaced in your sentence are committing the action, they are replaced with who.  If they’re just there, near the action, replace them with whom.

 Give this to someone who knows how to use it.  Even if it’s not an actual action.

 Without an address, we didn’t know to whom the package belonged.  Guess it’s for us.

 Whoever and whomever work in the same manner.

 Whoever finds the keys gets a reward.  If he or she finds the keys.

 We will look for the keys in the pockets of whomever we meet.  We meet them.

Some of these feel strange to say.  If you saw a birthday cake in your break room, would you ask, “For whom is this cake?”  Or, would you ask, “Who’s the cake for?” 

Will there be a “grammar snob” around who is still willing to correct us?  I wouldn’t count on it.  But, why wait on someone else when you can do it yourself?

With 31 bureaus around the world and more newsrooms than all of our competitors combined, Business Wire is proud to provide local expertise and superior service, backed by the most accurate editors in the world. In Editor’s Corner, we ask some of our best to chime in on how to get the most out of your press release, based on their years of experience in the industry.


Editor’s Corner: Best Practices for Presenting Quotes in Press Releases

July 20, 2011

by Andrew Guinn, Graveyard Newsroom Supervisor, Business Wire Nashville

Andrew Guinn

by Andrew Guinn, Newsroom Supervisor, BW Nashville

Writing for an audience of business journalists can be tedious.  You want your story to catch their eye, but the language of business news ties your hands and holds you to a monotonous retelling of the latest bond offering or board meeting.  You want to make the release personal and add some zing, but your boss (or client) doesn’t want you to editorialize for them… so, why not let them do it for you?  By asking the right questions, you can build a palette of quotations to break up the rhythm of business speak and breathe a little life into your release.

As the narrator of business news, you convey the facts and answer the “5 W’s.”  Anything you say which attempts to judge these facts without attribution will lead to the dreaded question: “Says who?”  With quotations, not only can you tell the reader how your company feels about its news, you can relay how you think they should feel about it.  You also provide business journalists with the tools necessary to make their story about your news seem as though it resulted from an actual interview, not just a press release.

Once you have the quotes you need, you should present them in the proper manner.  To demonstrate, I’ll quote myself during the rest of this entry.  (I wouldn’t try this at home, unless you’re your own boss.)

“A standard, run-of-the-mill quote starts out like this,” said Andrew Guinn, Editor, Business Wire Nashville.  “Simply take the first full idea the speaker said and follow it with the attribution.  The first mention of the speaker should give their full name, title and company.”

For simple quotes like this, the punctuation should always be placed inside the quotation marks.  Since the attribution is complex, the verb should come first so it is not tacked on to the end like an afterthought.  (“This is an example of what not to do,” Andrew Guinn, Editor, Business Wire, said.)  On further references to a speaker who has already been mentioned, only their last name is necessary.

“In hard news, the preferred verb for an attribution is ‘said,’” Guinn said.  “Words like ‘commented,’ ‘stated’ and ‘says’ are fine for fluffy features, but, since most hard news is written in the past tense, quotes should be finite – the speaker said these words.

“Notice I left the quotation mark off the end of the last paragraph.  If the statement you’re quoting continues into a new paragraph spoken by the same person, you can use a continuing quote like this and not need to add another attribution.  You can carry on in this manner for as long as you need, but, if you change speakers, you’ll need to start a new paragraph and a new quote.”

If you need to introduce the quote, but don’t want to use an entire paragraph or sentence to do it, “you can use a partial quote,” Guinn said.  “This is especially helpful if the idea you’re trying to convey is based on this person’s opinion, if your speaker wasn’t concise or if you simply need to establish context not provided in the quote.”

These are the three most common types of quotations you’ll encounter writing a standard press release.  For further information, the Associated Press Stylebook is considered by many to be the “journalist’s bible.”  Of course, you can always feel free to contact your local Business Wire office and speak with an editor who will be more than happy to assist you.

With 31 bureaus around the world and more newsrooms than all of our competitors combined, Business Wire is proud to provide local expertise and superior service, backed by the most accurate editors in the world. In Editor’s Corner, we ask some of our best to chime in on how to get the most out of your press release, based on their years of experience in the industry.


Editor’s Corner: Avoid Press Release Buzzkill with George Orwell’s Writing Tips

May 24, 2011

By Rebecca Bennett, Editor, Business Wire Seattle

by Rebecca Bennett, Editor, BW Seattle

While there’s plenty a PR pro can do to draw attention to press releases – solid SEO terms, attractive multimedia, for example –  simple language should not be underestimated. 

Straightforward language in the body of a release can be a big asset in establishing credibility and gaining traction.  Those writing press releases should avoid buzzwords and industry jargon that work against clear messaging, opting for brevity and conciseness.

In 2010, PR strategist Adam Sherk compiled a list of the most common buzzwords in press releases to demonstrate how a company’s perceived innovation may serve as a buzzkiller when it provokes eyerolls from editors and journalists who read dozens of press releases daily. 

Writers of press releases are wise to consider George Orwell’s Five Rules of Good Writing (actually six rules) included in his famous 1946 essay, Politics and the English Language.

Here they are:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

Rules two and five are especially relevant to press release writers.  Keeping it brief can help your budget, since press release distribution costs are based on word count.  Avoiding jargon and obtuse language clearly communicates your message.

Business Wire’s website has plenty of press release pointersPRFilter.com is a great aggregator of press releases–useful for a PR professional to compare frequency of words across industries. 

Also, don’t hesitate to contact your local newsroom and/or account executive for feedback.

With 31 bureaus around the world and more newsrooms than all of our competitors combined, Business Wire is proud to provide local expertise and superior service, backed by the most accurate editors in the world. In Editor’s Corner, we ask some of our best to chime in on how to get the most out of your press release, based on their years of experience in the industry.

Editor’s Corner: How to Bring Social Media into Your Press Release

March 22, 2011

by John Benutty, Senior Editor, Business Wire San Francisco

by John Benutty, Sr Editor, Business Wire San Francisco

The secret is out – if you want to get noticed, your company must tap into the social media consciousness of our time.Consider the fact that we twenty- and early thirty-somethings – now an intricate part of the business and media fields – were in college when Facebook began, and we know the value of social media as if its playbook were written on our forearms. Young professionals tweet, post to walls, like, digg, bing, ping, blog, Google and forward more than anyone else, leaving the heartbeat of your news at the tips of our mouse-clicking fingers.

So how does your company tap into the ever-expanding atmosphere of social media? Is it possible to use it to your advantage within your Business Wire press release? Most certainly.

Step 1: Build your fan-base by adding social media links to your release

The easiest way to bridge the gap between social media and your news is to always include links to the places online where your company has a presence. In addition to including a link to your company’s home page, include the URLs to your Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages. Links provide easy access for those who receive your news to keep track of more than just your press releases – they’ll fan your Facebook page, follow your Twitter feed and subscribe to your YouTube channel to stay up on all your latest announcements.

Here are a few places where these social media links make the most sense:

  • as part of your boilerplate along with your company URL
  • in a bulleted list (i.e., “Find Us Online”) with a link to each site where your company has a media presence
  • alongside your media/investor relations phone numbers and email addresses

Step 2: Keep your fan-base informed by re-posting and re-tweeting your release from BusinessWire.com

One of the many great things about distributing your news through Business Wire is the “Sharing” toolbar on your press release page. To the immediate left of every press release on BusinessWire.com is a list of social media links encouraging viewers to share the press release with their own friends, fans and followers. Seize this opportunity and share your news directly with your newly acquired fan-base. It goes without saying that the people you care most about reaching are the friends of your friends, so re-post and re-tweet your release to your fans, and let them share their excitement about your news with the people they know – from there, the distance your news can travel is boundless, so give it that first little tweet and let the diggs, bings and pings fall where they may.

With 32 bureaus around the world and more newsrooms than all of our competitors combined, Business Wire is proud to provide local expertise and superior service, backed by the most accurate editors in the world. In Editor’s Corner, we ask some of our best to chime in on how to get the most out of your press release, based on their years of experience in the industry.


Editor’s Corner: Tips for Writing Great Photo Captions

February 28, 2011

With 31 bureaus around the world and more newsrooms than all of our competitors combined, Business Wire is proud to provide local expertise and superior service, backed by the most accurate editors in the world. In Editor’s Corner, we ask some of our best to chime in on how to get the most out of your press release, based on their years of experience in the industry.

Captions: Get Your Photo Ready For Its Close-Up

by Lori Brown, Business Wire Phoenix

Adding a photo to your press release is always a smart idea. Photos grab the attention of readers, making your news stand out from the crowd. When you send a Smart News Release through Business Wire, your photo not only reaches major web portal sites like Yahoo! and Google, but also hits the desks of photo editors who want eye-catching, interesting content for their publications. And the first thing those editors look for is a good caption.

Photo editors with the Associated Press or other agencies won’t look at a photo without a caption; they need to know context and details. Your caption should answer, in a couple of sentences, questions like:

  • Who or what is it? Identify everyone and everything of interest in the photo. If it’s a product shot, give the full name of the product. If it’s a group photo, list the names and titles of everyone in the shot.
  • Why is it important? What’s the occasion for the photo? Maybe your company rang the opening bell on the New York Stock Exchange or unveiled a new, faster, more powerful version of your product. Include a brief summary of the story behind the photo, so that readers understand the significance of what they’re seeing.

Your caption should also be able to stand on its own, without being accompanied by the press release. Photo editors are often looking for “standalones,” photos and captions that can tell a story by themselves. If you’ve got a compelling photo and an informative caption, it’s a great chance to get some extra visibility for your news.

Remember, having a good caption is just as important as having a good photo. Your picture may be worth a thousand words, but with another sentence or two, you can turn it into something that will really shine.

-Lori Brown, Senior Editor, Business Wire Phoenix


Editor’s Corner – January Edition

January 26, 2011

With 31 bureaus around the world and more newsrooms than all of our competitors combined, Business Wire is proud to provide local expertise and superior service, backed by the most accurate editors in the world. In Editor’s Corner, we ask some of our best to chime in on how to get the most out of your press release, based on their years of experience in the industry.

 

by Joe O'Brien, Business Wire Boston

How to Avoid Getting Lost in Translations

If your business is booming in Europe or your CEO is giving the keynote at a conference in Tokyo, you’re probably planning to issue your company’s news internationally. But efforts to identify a target market and choose an appropriate release time can be all for naught if you’re unprepared to communicate in the local language. That’s why it is vital to ensure that your translations are ready when you are. Follow these tips and you’ll never get lost:

Finalize Your Release First

While last-minute edits are sometimes unavoidable, always try to provide the final version of your press release. Implementing changes to in-progress translations can become complex and might potentially result in additional fees. In fact, as a safeguard the Boston newsroom’s standard practice is to begin the translation process only after the English release has been approved for distribution.

Your Translation Takes Time

When planning for translations, a good rule of thumb is to allow at least 24 to 48 hours for completion. Most translations can be returned within this time frame depending on:

  • The type of translation – More commonly requested languages, like French or German, can be processed more quickly than a less commonly requested language, like Russian or Thai.
  • The length of the release – This one is self-explanatory: the longer a release, the more time required to translate it. On a related note, consider the content of your release. A release with multiple instances of technical or product-specific terminology may require some research and more time to properly translate.
  • The timing of the request – Translation turnaround estimates are based on when the vendor receives the order, not when it is sent. Most of our vendors are located overseas and are only open during local business hours. Also, most are closed during the weekend. Keep this in mind for translation requests sent near the end of the business day or at the end of the week.

Take Advantage of Your Translation

If pressed for time, you may be tempted to forgo translations. Resist that temptation! Not only will your release reach fewer readers, but the translation service is included in the cost of many of Business Wire’s international circuits. Take advantage of it.

-Joe O’Brien, Senior Editor, Business Wire Boston

PS: For more tips for issuing releases internationally, don’t forget to check out our white paper on engaging global audiences.


Editor’s Corner – November Edition

November 16, 2010

With 31 bureaus around the world and more newsrooms than all of our competitors combined, Business Wire is proud to provide local expertise and superior service, backed by the most accurate editors in the world. In Editor’s Corner, we ask some of our best to chime in on how to get the most out of your press release, based on their years of experience in the industry.

A Tip from Business Wire: Own Your Headline!

by Christina Jahnke, Editor, Business Wire/Chicago

Think your release will stand out in a crowd? If you don’t own your headline, think again! Hundreds of headlines scroll across the Business Wire website (and the multitude of feeds we reach) on a daily basis. How is it possible to draw crowds to you, when the only tools you have are words? It’s simple, really: Choose words wisely.

Having run the Chicago Marathon over Columbus Day weekend, I was entertained and inspired by the many spectator signs on course. Unfortunately, there were so many signs and only a passing moment to read them. The slogans that took hold were clear, witty and, most importantly, could be read inside three seconds. Anything longer and I missed the punch line en route to the next aid station. This is a great analogy for those scrolling feeds. Eyes are moving fast over those headlines. If you don’t stand out, you may be passed over. Take a tip to own your headline!

Here are three to consider:

1.  Include your organization’s name.
Ownership implies a name, and that is perhaps the most important element. Don’t assume the public knows who you are, no matter how big you are. These press releases are the story of your organization on the Web. Give your company the recognition it deserves! Additionally, those who search by your company’s name will have a way to find your release on the Internet.

2.  Be concise.
The three-second rule fits perfectly. Be brief in summarizing the content of your press release. Longer headlines are less likely to be picked up by search engines. Be concise. Less is more.

3.  Stay on point.
You have something important to say. While it’s good to be concise, don’t let the effort to be succinct overshadow the message. Read and re-read your headline. Are you staying on point or trying to fit too much in too small a space?

The headline is the first appearance of your message to the world. Own it, and help your release go the distance!

-Christina Jahnke, Editor, Business Wire Chicago


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