he stated, she stated?: how not to write a news release, vol. i.

Even with the advent of social media, the news release is not — and should not — disappear from the landscape any time soon. PR practitioners and students alike will still need to know how to craft one properly, hence the occasional blog feature of How Not to Write a News Release.

When quoting sources, some writers apparently become frustrated with the number of verbs available. So they try others and wander into the world of awkward writing. Three particularly egregious examples:

“We’re very excited for the start of the fall semester,” President Person stated.

“We’re very excited for the start of the fall semester,” President Person commented.

“We’re very excited for the start of the fall semester,” President Person exclaimed.

Sad but true, I’ve seen these verbs (mis)used in news releases more often than I care to think. News releases may not be as conversational as regular writing for the Web, but still think of them in a conversational context. If your president stated something, not only does that sound stilted, but something about a prepared statement almost dares cynical readers to disbelieve. Not only does commented seem more reactive than proactive, but we generally think of public figures as commenting on unfavorable news (or giving a no comment). And as for exclaimed … well, would you use that word in a regular sentence? Ever? Really?

So what to use? Here are a few:

* said. Yes, it seems vanilla, especially if used over and over. But it’s also the most widely accepted and generically accurate. Everything that comes out of our mouth we say in some way or another.

* added. I consider this fair use if you’re continuing the same thought in one paragraph or a succeeding graf. President Person said that applicants’ mean SAT scores and high school grade-point averages continue to rise. “We’re seeing an increasingly talented pool of students looking at Random University, which helps us select the best and brightest,” she added.

* explained. I use this one particularly when discussing something complex or that may not be commonly known. “While we are a public university, only 38 percent of our budget comes from the state,” President Person explained.

* noted. OK, maybe there isn’t universal agreement on this one, but I think it still works sometimes in a conversational context. “He’s one of our most honored and hard-working professors,” Person noted.

When writing anything, remember that you’re avoiding phrases that will make the reader stumble, unnecessarily pause or become confused. Using outmoded or unintentionally loaded verbs can create obstacles. Using verbs common in conversation keeps them reading on.

3 Comments

Filed under writing

3 responses to “he stated, she stated?: how not to write a news release, vol. i.

  1. Good advice. You can never go wrong by just using “said,” although the occasional “added” can add variety, I guess.

    Whenever I read stuff like this, my mind always goes to the great quote from Ring Lardner:

    “Shut up,” he explained.

    Where do you stand on using the present tense, as in, “Shut up,” President Person explains?

  2. insidetimshead

    It’s very rare that I’ll write a news story in present tense. Sometimes for a featury, slice-of-life story, I’ve employed it. But that also requires the tense remain consistent throughout the story.

  3. Pingback: higher ed marketing » Blog Archive » 3 simple questions for communicators

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