Writing has always been the core of our work. As PR professionals, every day we write thousands of words in the form of press releases, pitch/concept notes, elevator pitches, draft key messages, emails, PR plans etc. We not only write, but also pitch what we write to journalists, who are possibly well-trained in the craft of writing. We try to impress them with what we write expecting they just copy and paste that we share with them. Clients expect us to write media responses, op-ed articles, speech etc., on their behalf.
With written words playing such an important role in our daily lives, not many of us practice or consciously work towards improving our writing skills. Once inducted, we get busier and busier hunting for clips.
You cannot blame the youngsters for lack of good writing skills given the way we communicate in the current times. Our language has gone for a toss, as we try to squeeze in everything within 140 words. Few of us are really gifted when it comes to writing and many like me really struggle to frame one sentence with zero grammatical errors.
I don’t have any qualms in accepting that my written English is nowhere close to what other columnists and authors might write and that’s precisely the reason why Indian PR Forum and my other blogs came into existence. These platforms by their very nature of not being formal, allows us to post information, articles and more that might not be so perfect, which gives us an opportunity and time to improve by continuous practice. Many of my peers wonder why I waste so much time in writing articles and share insights on what everyone might know already. So the answer to them is – ‘I write so that I can improve on my own language skills, writing articles pushes me to research on things I would have never known. At the same time there are many like me who also benefit from such articles posted across social networks, which we at Indian PR Forum curates and shares with the PR fraternity to benefit people who proactively want to seek knowledge.
Pondering on the above, I decided to research on some simple things that we can imbibe in our day-to-day writing that will help us improve, here are some basic tips that I found that are worth remembering while writing:
- Remember to read. When you read, you learn
- When writing, consider your audience and voice. Ask yourself, “Who will read/hear this?”
- Embrace the style guide (i.e. AP Stylebook)
- Don’t forget to bring the 5Ws & 1H in the first few paragraphs for every news release, always be aware about how the inverted pyramid would work on your releases. Not so important stuff can be put at the end
- Do not trust Microsoft Word’s spell check and grammar check… always proofread carefully! Often you will find simple obvious errors that could be avoided with basic self-editing. Take time to proof read and revise your own work
- Consider your quote structures and remember that the commas and periods are always within the quotes!
- Use subject + verb sentence construction and be aware of the pronouns
- Avoid passive voice for sharper clearer writing
- Avoid unnecessary capitalization: remember for the most part, only proper nouns, titles preceding a name and the formal names of organizations should be capitalized
- ALWAYS give time for your work to breathe. Step away and come back to your work to proofread it one last time!
Apart from the above self-learning, if anyone wants to seriously consider improving their writing skills then here is a small suggestion.
You can create a small group of 8-10 people, who can help each other in enhancing their writing skills. Here is how it can work – One of the group member shares an article with everyone in the group. The group members can go through the article; suggest changes in the track-change mode and resend it to the author. After collating all suggestions for editing, a final copy can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org to get it published on the blog http://www.Vikypedia.in. If required, we would further work on it and only then post it. The author will have something in his portfolio to showcase as his piece of work, apart from the immense learning he would gain from the feedback received from the group. If you guys are interested then we are happy to help. Form groups within your peers and start co-learning.
You don’t always need to come up with an op-ed type article; you can also:
- Create case-studies of PR campaigns of your own clients/from your organisations Conduct interviews of your agency head/corporate communications head or even senior journalists and write it in a Q&A or a feature format
- Write on the sector you are working for: for example, if you are covering technology then try writing on what kind of new trends are shaping the industry and stories can be worked around these trends.
- You can also analyse various industry report and offer suggestions on how PR practitioners can use that report for their benefit
- Read a good book, which you think will also benefit your peers, and then write a review on the same
- Cover news and happenings for your own agency and file the report
- Or forget everything else, just write on ‘The day in your life’
Opportunities to write can be many, but it should make a good read as well as teach all of us something new.