It is something that every PR company must bear in mind when writing press releases: while the article must suit the client’s objectives, it must also suit the targeted press in order to increase its chances of being published.
With this in mind, we’ve outlined three of the most common grammatical errors that should be avoided in press releases to ensure a minimal need for editing on the part of the journalists, and therefore increased chances of coverage.
1. Let’s start with the most common grammatical error: A company is singular – not plural
It’s an all-too common mistake to refer to a company as “they” in a press release or any other editorial. A sentence which begins, for instance: “The Company have been shortlisted for a major industry accolade which recognises their achievements in …” is incorrect, because “The Company” is a singular noun, not plural.
This sentence should therefore read: “The Company has been shortlisted for a major industry accolade which recognises its achievements in …” instead.
While it is extremely common to refer to a company as “they” in common speech, when writing press releases or any other editorial for publication, it’s important to remember that a company is singular – an “it” – and must therefore be referred to in this way.
2. Quotes and quotation marks
So, you’ve received the perfect quote to use in a press release, and you want to spread it out over a couple of paragraphs. Now, how to arrange the quotation marks correctly?
Keep this simple rule in mind and hopefully it will help: Open quotation marks must be used at the very beginning of the quote and at the beginning of each new paragraph over which the quote continues. Closed quotation marks should only ever be used at the very end of the entire quote, so that readers can clearly see where the quote begins, continues and ends.
And what about the full-stop?
The full-stop at the very end of a person’s quote should never be placed outside of the closed quotation marks, like this: “We’re confident that our new team members will play a vital role in driving the Company forward over the coming months”.
This is because, as we said earlier, closed quotation marks highlight the end of the entire quote, including the full-stop at the end of the final sentence.
This full-stop should therefore always be placed within the closed quotation marks, as follows: “We’re confident that our new team members will play a vital role in driving the Company forward over the coming months.”
3. The capitalisation of job titles
While you may be tempted to capitalise job titles in press releases – for instance, Managing Director, Head Chef, Chief Executive, etc. – this style of writing doesn’t reflect the style of the press.
Except for the odd occasion, capitals should only be used within sentences when naming a person, place or business, and also when referring to your client as “the Company”– whichever client you are writing about at the time.
So, in a press release, when introducing a member of staff from a particular company, you should never write: “Joe Bloggs, Chief Executive of the Company …” Instead, you should write: “Joe Bloggs, chief executive of the Company …”
Capitalising job titles is not a practice that is adopted by journalists and you don’t want to create more work for them by adopting it yourself. They probably won’t appreciate the extra time they’ll have to spend on editing your release, and at the end of the day, it’s up to them whether they choose to do so and publish your story – or not.
So remember …
When it comes to writing press releases, always keep this in mind: Once you submit a press release to your targeted publications, its coverage is in the hands of the journalists – and they are not often going to spend their time making lots of tweaks to a story. This is why it’s always worth checking that your grammar and style of writing matches that of their publications, so that you can achieve as much coverage for your client as possible.