If it isn’t written PRoperly…

Zachary Reed

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?

31 thoughts on “If it isn’t written PRoperly…

  1. Tai Davis

    This is something I feel I should really take heed of now. My writing has had its ups and downs and I know a key part to being a successful PR practitioner is having good writing skills. I will look into buying an AP Stylebook. I would not want something as simple as paying attention to the way I write becoming a hindrance for my success.

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  2. Marielle McCartin

    I learned how to write in AP style when I took my first PR class before I transferred here to Hofstra. I found it very difficult to learn at first because every time I was proofreading my work, I had to go into the book and look up how exactly AP writes the phrase. Once I got the hang of it, it wasn’t too bad though! It is very important to have this style and learn it very well before getting a PR job.

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  3. Marielle McCartin

    I learned how to write in AP style when I took my first PR class before I transferred here to Hofstra. I found it very difficult to learn at first because every time I was proofreading my work, I had to go into the book and look up how exactly AP writes the phrase. Once I got the hang of it, it wasn’t too bad though! It is very important to have this style and learn it very well before getting a PR job.

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  4. Michael James

    If we strive to speak with proper grammar then should we not write with it too? I believe this to be true for any profession. To be professional you must first be taken seriously by your peers, company, boss, someone has to take you seriously to give you a professional position. If you can not speak with proper grammar or verb tense the odds of you being taken seriously decline at lightning speed. Grammar, although neglected in early education, is imperative in the “being taken seriously ballpark.” Poor grammar stands out like a sore thumb and is a direct reflection of yourself, company, and boss.

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  5. Anwar Ahmad

    I absolutely agree with this article. Knowing how to write well and appropriately is essential to becoming a successful public relations practitioner. I am currently taking PR 103 with Professor Sargent and she consistently reminds us that the AP style guide is imperative when proofreading work. I was always told that my writing was exceptional – this was before I took PR 103. I learned that although my mistakes were common, they took away from the quality of my writing. The Public Relations field is extremely competitive and it only takes one grammatical error to have employers throw away your resume. I am currently renting the AP style guide, but I intend to purchase it after the semester is over because I know it will benefit me greatly.

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  6. Maria Zaldivar

    I agree, the AP Stylebook has been my smartest buy. As a journalism major it is imperative to follow the rules, and honestly some entries are fun to read. I find the entry about Arabic Names particularly interesting.

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  7. Nikita Hakels

    I completely agree that as PR students everyone of us should take under consideration AP style and make it a habit to use it as a practice of writing. I would have to say that this program has made my writing concepts better. Most importantly I would like to thank Prof Morosoff for pushing us to do better where or grammar is concerned.

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  8. Aisha B

    Yes I agree. AP style gives structure to the writing that is being presented. Knowing AP style can help save your time and someone else’s time.

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  9. Anonymous

    As a student in your classes I know exactly how big of a stickler you are about grammar and punctuation. When I first started taking classes with you I thought, “He is way too strict,” now I know why. Punctuation and grammar is very important and like you said not only can you change the meaning of a sentence, but you also you unprofessional. I own a copy of the AP handbook, it is online but I find it more comforting to have a hard copy at all times.

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  10. Justin McCue

    I agree with you and commend you for placing the importance of punctuation and gramm in the professional and academic world. Punctuation and grammar can be represented as how much effort went into someone’s work. Therefore, poor punctuation can be seen as sloppy or unprofessional. Taking and showing pride in your work is important in the professional world as well as in the academic world.

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  11. Jennifer OMalley

    I definitely agree. I am not certainly not perfect when it comes to grammar and punctuation, but I know it’s importance and always try to use the AP Style Book to look up anything that I am unsure of. Over time, I’ve become much more aware when I am writing. There are certain rules that are stuck in my mind and others that I always seem to forget about. But, referring back to the AP Style Book is the best advice I would give to anyone looking to improve their writing.

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  12. A. Murphy

    I completely agree that proper writing mechanics is essential in order to communicate effectively as a public relations professional. AP style is the style used by journalists and, if that is the target audience of most public relations practitioners, it is imperative for us to understand their writing style.

    With that being said, at the end of the day, if the content is a disaster and unfocused, then it doesn’t matter how well punctuated your piece is, it won’t work. As I have learned in class, make sure you have something to say and something worthy of an audience, then put it into writing.

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  13. Daniella Opabajo

    Writing in AP style was not something I was required to do at my previous school. Therefore, I did not know much about the AP rules when I started school here. I was aware of the basic rules but since the AP stile rules change often, I found myself not up to date with the correct rules. In one of my classes this semester we has to read a book entitled, “Eat Shoot, Leaves.” This book made me realize all the little mistakes I make in my own writing. When I started following the AP style book, I did not make most of those mistakes anymore. The AP style book is essential in PR but I also learned that it is essential in any career.

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  14. Stacyann Nathan

    Being a student in your class I know you care about grammar and punctuality. I agree, having good grammar it is vital, whether you are a journalist or PR professional. You will lose credibility and be seen as unprofessional.

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  15. Bernie Dennler

    During high school, I took a course which was called “Business Communications.” I expected the class would be about things like marketing, advertising, and public relations—the kinds of things I usually associated with business communication. Instead, the class was almost entirely focused on public speaking and grammar. It seemed like more of an English class than a business course, but our teacher told us that the most important thing in business is being able to communicate your message accurately. Teaching us about the intricacies of business communications would be meaningless if we did not understand the fundamentals of communication. She helped us hone our public speaking skills and required us to memorize every rule for how and when to use commas, semicolons, apostrophes, and other forms of punctuation. I am so grateful to have taken her class then, because it had helped me enormously in college; and I know it will continue to help me as I move into a career in journalism or public relations.

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  16. Adan Engel

    The more learn about PR at Hofstra, I have came to senses that AP style of writing is very important to know in the workplace. Having good grammar is very imperative because it shoes that who ever is writing about their client, cares about what he or she is doing.

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  17. Connor Giblin

    It is all about credibility when it comes to grammar. I believe writing in AP Style can be tough because it can often delineate from our speech patterns. What can often seem normal in everyday conversation is not the case when it comes to grammar. For example, “like I said” sounds correct, but my Professional-in-Residence at the radio station corrects everybody because the proper way to say the phrase is, “as I said.” It is important, though, to stress the repetition of good punctuation, grammar, and spelling. Not only is it a credibility issue, but it is also an issue when it comes to directions. If someone is telling you how to write a certain way, and you are unable to follow directions, what does it say about that person? Are they incapable of performing their duties? Good grammar is not hard to practice, which is why it’s such a vital cog in the professional world.

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  18. Michael Esposito

    I think proper grammar is so important. In the post it said that improper grammar can change the entire meaning of a sentence, as well of make you look unprofessional and that’s so true. I definitely want to learn more grammar skills to make sure my writing is the best it can be.

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  19. Justin Chupungco

    I highly agree with the points made above. Throughout my school career there has been a strong emphasis on grammar and punctuation. It is essential to have one stand out as a strong writer, and shows professionalism. Professor Morosoff’s story of losing a client for a spelling error is another example I have kept in my mind on why grammar is important. Though it can be difficult, I always try and maintain strong grammar. PR people also need to maintain credibility, and good grammar helps maintain it. Overall, AP style is a gateway to good writing and grammar, and leads to a PR individual who is credible, professional, and a strong writer.

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  20. Rian-Ashlei

    After reading Eats, Shoots and Leaves, my eyes have been opened to the overwhelming amount of bad punctuation and grammar circulating the web and even in my own writing. With that in mind, I have watched my frustrations often lead to me disregarding the message entirely. And sometimes, if it’s really bad, I’ll actually unfollow the person because for some reason it offends me. I have become much more intentional in my editing to make sure I don’t commit any of these bad grammar and punctuation offenses that bother me so much when it comes to writing. I also realize that I’m just a regular person and if it bothers me, imagine how it must bother professional writers and media gatekeepers.

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  21. Khaleik Akerson

    I definitely agree with the article above. If a piece of writing lacks punctuation and grammar, the writing can lose it’s credibility. Especially in PR, which a fast past industry. If there is a grammatical error in a pitch letter, the person reading the letter would most likely show no further attention to the letter. Having multiple errors in a writing piece shows that the PR rep is careless about their work. AP Style book is the gateway to proper writing.

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  22. Katie Spoleti

    No matter what your major is or what field you decide to pursue after college, proper grammar will always be a skill that everyone needs to obtain. In today’s society, it’s easy to let the knowledge of how to write things correctly slip by because of technology and social media. The auto correct feature on most every phone excuses spelling mistakes by fixing them automatically. With phrases like “LOL” and “IDK”, the need for spelling out words in there entirety is so disregarded that we even say them out loud in everyday conversations. Even though utilizing those phrases doesn’t make one unintelligent or inept of spelling, it does provide a distraction from the way we are supposed to use proper grammar. I purchased the AP Style book for one of my classes a couple years ago. I decided to buy it because I know it is a tool that I can always look at while writing. I know that mistakes are natural and they happen, but like Professor Morosoff said, they could provoke major message failures like inviting stranger to feast upon your grandma instead of relaying a simple message inviting her to eat with you. So, with that being said, even as technology continues to develop and advance, there’s one thing that will always remain the same in it’s worth and significant and that’s the ability to utilize proper grammar.

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  23. Stephanie Adomavicius

    Learning AP style is extremely important. The way attire, personality, and behavior shape your reputation, so does the quality of your work. If you submit a press release that is filled with spelling errors and isn’t grammatically correct, people will question the facts of your story/message. Similar to how people learn to look the part (dressing professionally, being on time, taking the initiative, etc.), to stay in PR and be successful, one might write the part, as well.

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  24. Anna Baxter

    Evidently, good writing is crucial to becoming successful. Since I was young, teachers always put specific emphasis on grammar and vocabulary. It is nice to know that all of my hard work will pay off in the future.

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  25. Emily DiLaura

    The AP Stylebook is pretty much the bible for writing in the PR world, and is actually a very interesting read. I have one of my own and I sometimes find myself looking through it just for fun to see what new rules I can discover. Writing is so important and if something is not written properly, it is very easy not to take the person seriously, or decide that if they cannot take the time to proofread, I cannot take the time to read it. Many of us think spell check is enough, but spell check cannot catch everything. Always reread your work and always remember your audience.

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  26. Anthony Pugliese

    “I’m a real stickler for good punctuation and grammar.” I can sincerely say I could not be more thankful for you being that way Professor Morosoff.

    Before I entered PR-100, I was always a student who cared dearly about grammar and punctuation. However, PR-100 brought my writing to a new level of professionalism that will change the way I write for the rest of my professional career. Proofreading and being able to accept that your writing may have flaws is key. Overall, I do know that I do not have the best grammar and punctuation, but I also know that I can get better everyday by reading and writing. Writing properly is essential, because no matter what field one enters writing is prominent.

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  27. Arianna du Manoir

    How one writes in the business world, whether it be through emails, presentations, or documents, determines how they are seen by others. You can work long hours, be in meetings, and do the best you can to help your fellow co-workers and boss, but if your grammar and spelling is off, it does in fact cause people to rethink about trusting you with work. The company always thinks about the brand they wish to portray to the public, and if the audience sees bad grammar, then it’s assumed that the company doesn’t care all that much.

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  28. ari okonofua

    AP Style in PR is an absolute must! When I first started in PR, I had a background/degree in Finance so I never really focused on writing. I had a culture shock when I realized how important grammar is in this industry and how punctuation can literally change the meaning of a sentence or statement. I suggest that anyone looking for a career in PR, invest in an AP Style book that they can keep on their desk for whatever job they may get because its an essential in this field.

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  29. Amina

    The more time I’ve spent in the PR program at Hofstra the more I have a realized how important AP style is for PR professionals. It is imperative to know and execute AP style in the workplace.

    Reply

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