7 Writing Mistakes That Make PR Look Bad

We’ve all experienced that sinking feeling: you’ve just hit send on an important PR or program document, only to realize it had a glaring — and completely avoidable — error in it. Honest mistakes are bound to happen, but some writing slipups are too common, and they simply create bad PR for PR people! We’ve flagged a few here.

1. Misused apostrophes

Using “it’s” (contraction for “it is”) instead of  “its” (the possessive) is basic, yet it happens all the time. Keep an eye on apostrophes of all kinds to avoid an inexcusable grammar mistake, as in: “they’re” and “their,” “who’s and whose,” “you’re” and “your.”

2. To Comprise

Since “comprise” means “to consist of,” it’s never OK to say “comprised of.” Yet the word is so commonly misused — and by prominent people in communications who should know better — that I fear the incorrect usage will slowly make its way into the permanent English lexicon.

3. Overused keywords

One for the digital age, keyword stuffing can be a fatal flaw for PR writing that lives on the web. And since most original content — i.e. blog posts, product descriptions and narratives, tweets, and captions — is published online, this is a mistake to be avoided, lest the search engines ignore your content completely.

4. Empty, complicated-sounding words

In grade school one could be pardoned for using big words in an effort to sound smart, but not so in the grown-up world of communications. Words like “utilize,” “subsequently,” and “implement” (instead of “use,” “later,” or “put in place,” respectively) border on jargon and can cloud the conversation. Choosing words that are more clear and concise will make you sound smarter every time, because people will actually understand what you’re saying.

5. The run-on sentence

Ever start writing a sentence so full of parenthetical phrases it’s hard to tell which verb relates to which noun? That’s a good sign the sentence is too long. Again, resist the urge to try sounding smart with complicated sentence structures and opt for conveying your message clearly.

6. Over punctuating

We are not referring to the serial comma here (for the grammar nerds out there), but rather simply dropping commas and other punctuation into language when it’s not necessary. Here the old grammar school rule does usually apply: when it doubt, leave it out.

7. Finally, overhyping anything

PR people are notorious for excessive use of exclamation points, screaming headlines, and words like “fastest-growing,” industry-leading,” “dynamic,” and “cutting-edge.” Sometimes it helps to take a page from the fiction writing mantra, “show, don’t tell.” Let’s resolve to reduce the hype in the New Year.

Avoiding Typos And Getting Grammar Right!

Typos happen. Everyone makes them, but if you’re not careful, you can end up on blogs, as the topic of office chitchat, or even in the news. (See here for how Adweek spelled “Zynga” as “Zenga” on the front page of its re-launch issue, causing a small backlash.) It’s human to overlook something that you’ve been staring at for hours, but with a preponderance of pundits out to scrutinize, you must do your due diligence.

Sound it out – After working on a draft for awhile, it all meshes together and you aren’t really seeing it anymore. Reading out loud allows you to catch anything that sounds amiss and make corrections.

Four eyes are better than two – Regardless of how many times you’ve checked your work, there’s no substitute for a fresh pair of eyes. Typos and grammatical errors will pop out, and a fresh read can also help you curb verbosity and improve the flow of your document. If there’s time and the resources, have two other people look it over.

Be careful about the basics – It may be elementary, but review the common mistake-makers –infamous words such as “their,” “they’re,” “there” and “its” versus “it’s.” Spell-check will not catch these, so double-check and give yourself some memory clues to help banish problem words

Not sure of the “rule”? – Look it up! There are online sources that teach various accepted writing styles such as AP or MLA.  How good is your current knowledge? Is it ok to start a sentence with “so”? (Answer below.)

Sloppy word usage and punctuation give the impression that you’re either uneducated or that you don’t care. Though some would say any publicity is good publicity, you don’t want to end up here!  The Best Spelling Mistakes on Education Related Signs.

So, (perfectly acceptable) help rid the world of lousy writing by improving yours a little every day.