Press releases have been very much on lead trainer Guy‘s mind as he is about to help a communications company with writing them. There will be elements in the course on targeting of course, and making sure you know who you’re talking to. There will also be a little bit on language and some of the rules.

Many of these are utter baloney. Let’s have a look at a few.

I before E except after C

Press releases need accurate spelling but is this one really a rule? We’ll be asking the younger delegates whether they still have to learn this nonsense. It was drummed into previous generations as a rule of spelling. Guy’s own teacher in the 1970s tried adding “I before E except after C and when the sound is ‘ee'” because some bright spark aged eight had pointed to the word “weird”.

Nobody should blame the teacher for trying to rearrange reality so that the rule still worked. There are indeed examples in which an “ei” construction is there and sounds like “ee”. The difficulty is that there are also words like “neighbour” and “feint”, and we are now (in the UK) living during Charless III’s “reign”.

There are too many exceptions to this rule for it to make sense. It’s suitable for the bin only.

-ize is an Americanism

A lot of press releases come from America and it’s reasonable that they have American spellings. The popular conception is that if a word finishes “ize” when it could finish “ise” then it’s an Americanism and should be changed.

Now check the Oxford English Dictionary. Both are acceptable. The trick is to be consistent. Also if your client has a particular take on this (and they should) then make it consistent. It’s technically wrong to suggest “-ize” is American only but it’s so ingrained by now it doesn’t matter, we just do what the client says.

You should never use a preposition to start or finish a sentence

Press releases need clarity. And that means listening rather than picking at every archaism. OK, you knew we were going to start a sentence with an “and” or “but” immediately you saw the sub-heading. But it works and makes sense. You knew we were going to start a sentence with “but”, too, didn’t you.

Companies are always referred to in the singular

In most cases this is true, although at the time Guy became a journalist the Wall Street journal would refer to IBM and others as “they”. That’s stopped now but it really doesn’t matter whether you refer to companies as singular or plural as long as you stick to a house style; the fact that we haven’t been able to find a major source that uses plural suggests you’re safer with singular.

EXCEPT when you’re referring to a sports team. Football commentators and journalists will always, at least in the UK, refer to “they” when talking about a team.

Never split an infinitive

That’s the “to do” bit of a verb. Of course you can, as Star Trek proved all those years ago – “To boldly go…” might have sounded neater as “To go boldly” but the writers wanted “boldly” closer to the beginning and it made the right impact. The trick is to ensure you don’t put too many words between the “to” and the “go” bit. “To boldly go” is fine; “To boldly, but not so urgently that you haven’t got time for a cheese sandwich to take the edge off, go” is deliberately terrible but you get the idea. The reader will have forgotten the “to” bit by the time they get to the main point of the sentence.

There are other examples of course. But those are a few Guy will be pointing to this afternoon.

Does your team need help with press release writing? We are available – drop Lindsay a note by clicking here and she’ll set up a time for an initial no-obligation conversation.