The Elements of Press Release Style
A guide to concise obfuscation for public relations professionals
Image by Flickr user: Nic's events / Creative Commons
1. Omit needless words.Vigorous writing is precise. A press release should contain no unnecessary words, for the same reason a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.
“The company regrets its role in this major environmental catastrophe, and we are fully committed to making the community whole.”
“This environmental catastrophe is regrettable.”
2. Avoid the use of qualifiers.
“Rather,” “very,” “little,” “pretty”— these are the leeches that infest the pond of prose, sucking the blood of press releases.
“The chief executive officer’s quite reasonable salary and benefits package reflects the rather challenging economic climate, and the highly competitive market for top-flight management talent, under which the compensation committee was forced to operate.”
“The chief executive officer is undercompensated for the market.”
3. Place yourself in the background.
Write in a way that draws the reader’s attention to the substance of the press release, rather than to the mood and temper of management.
“This wrongful death lawsuit is nothing more than a publicity stunt by bloodsucking extortionist trial attorneys for the benefit of their shiftless enablers in the news media.”
“While our thoughts and prayers are with Timmy’s family at this difficult time, their claim is baseless and without merit.”
4. Place the emphatic words of a sentence at the end.
“Aggressive outsourcing resulted in a 90 percent reduction in operating expenses, but after-tax profits still fell 37 percent year-over-year.”
“While profit fell short of expectations, our proactive restructuring initiative nearly doubled productivity.”
5. Do not overwrite. Rich, ornate prose is hard to digest, generally unwholesome, and sometimes nauseating. It is always a good idea to reread your writing later and ruthlessly delete the excess.
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