Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Insights on PR: Write and Edit with Accuracy and Clarity (to Leave a Lasting Good Impression)

By Chuck Whiting
MCAU Editor

(Editor's Note: I will be co-leading the "Reaching Your Dream" artist career-building/publicity workshop and vision sharing with Amy Allen in Nashville on July 26. Please join us! Learn more at

            NASHVILLE - In this mad, rushed, fast-changing world, it's essential to make your point quickly and write in clear, easy-to-read fashion. Otherwise, the news media (or readers in general) will likely pass on your story. They don't have time for verbal mishmash (unless you happen to be a big star).
Chuck Whiting leads his PR workshop

            Here are a few writing and editing tips for those of you who understand the importance of "words" on the road to success.

            * Remember that the "words" you write are a reflection of who you are. A well-written press release or biography can open the door for publishing deals, song cuts and concert bookings. A poorly written item can leave a lasting poor impression.

            * "Accuracy" is the chief goal of any writer. Exaggeration (or hype) can hurt your reputation. Base your story on proven facts, and use words with exact meanings.

            * Your story needs to be "clear" from start to finish. Use simple words, write short sentences, and keep paragraphs to three sentences or less. Use strong transitions to weave related or unrelated thoughts into a well-organized story. Otherwise, the reader will lose interest and stop reading.

            * Write press releases and biographies in third person (using "he" or "she"). First person is sometimes used for blogs, editorials and letters. "Modesty" with confidence is important in this business.

            * Get to the point quickly by answering the questions "who", "what" (your hook), "when" and "where" in your first sentence (the "lead paragraph"). Use subsequent paragraphs to answer the questions "why" and "how".

            * Make sentences easier to read by starting with a noun, followed by a descriptive action verb. Starting with an "independent clause" (rather than a "dependent clause") will reduce the number of commas, making for a better flow.

            * Write to meet the needs of your audience. A Tweet cannot exceed 140 characters. A calendar item should range from 100 to 250 words. A press release or story of any length should follow the inverted-pyramid structure (presenting information from most important to least important). Think "brevity", but be sure to answer "all" of the essential questions a reporter might ask.

            * Follow the media writing rules in the Associated Press Stylebook (to meet the needs of print journalists).

            * Demonstrate perfect grammar, punctuation and spelling. Check and double-check everything in your dictionary. Don't depend on a software program like Microsoft Word to catch misspellings. Laziness can result in embarrassment.

            * Add life to your stories and biographies with "direct quotations". They give you the opportunity to express your thoughts creatively in your own words.

            * Use a font that is easy to read such as Times or Times Roman (12 point). Helvetica and Verdana are often used. (Avoid Comic Sans.)

            * Double-space "printed" materials (for easy editing). Double-space between paragraphs for "online" copy (for easy reading).

            * Indent all paragraphs in "printed" materials and "online" whenever possible.

            *  Include contact information such as name, e-mail address, company name and telephone number.

            Remember to write and edit your words wisely. If you follow these tips, you stand a better chance of landing a story (or a lasting good impression).

            Chuck Whiting founded Whiting Publicity and Promotions in 1993 to provide exposure for artists and the organizations that support them. He is a former newspaper reporter, the author/co-writer of the book/song “The Littlest Star”, editor of Music City Arts Update, and host of the songwriters show “Tunesmithing”. He teaches communication courses at Middle Tennessee State University and Motlow State Community College. Join Chuck at the "Reaching Your Dream" artist career-building/publicity seminar and artist vision sharing in Nashville on July 26. To learn more, visit


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