A terrific article written by Zachary Reed appeared this week in PR Daily. “Why Learning AP Style is a Must for PR Pros” reinforces what I’ve been saying to students ad nauseam: “It doesn’t matter how well you get your message out there if that message isn’t written properly.”
I’m a real stickler for good punctuation and grammar. To that end, I’m also quite fixated on AP style, simply because without knowing and using it, a public relations professional can’t produce quality content. If you don’t use or put commas and quotes in the right place, you not only look unprofessional but you can change the entire meaning of a sentence. One well-known, simple example reads, “Let’s eat Grandma!” versus “Let’s eat, Grandma!”
I often see mistakes that don’t look like mistakes unless you know AP style. AP says that in American English, punctuation including periods, commas and question marks go inside quotation marks. Example: “You need to punctuate properly!” Numbers less than 10 are written as words and greater than 10 as numerals, as in, “You have just 21 days to read all three books.” A job title is only capitalized when immediately preceding a person’s name; you’d write either President Barack Obama or Barack Obama, president of the United States. And so on.
Reed, manager of marketing and communication at Triumph Bancorp, Inc., said, “I spent the first four years of my career without knowledge of AP style. I would write press releases, yet I had no idea why journalists would either correct, reject or ignore them altogether.” He noted, “Although I have improved my writing over the years, I have also seen cleaner writing help my PR career. More of my press releases are answered, and more op-eds are published.”
Reed concluded by suggesting, “It’s an exciting world with ever-changing technology—but please…buy an AP Stylebook.” I require the publication for some of my courses but quite frankly, all PR practitioners and journalists should have a print or online version handy at all times. Writing properly is beyond important in the PR profession; it’s essential. Your thoughts?