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Don't Forget How to Write Well

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Grammar? NBD.
Spelling? FGDAI.
Style? GOI.

With the infiltration of social media into our culture, a new way of communicating with acronyms and slang has evolved, and it has little use for proper grammar, correct spelling, and writing style. This new style of communication may be eroding the skill most vital to the profession of public relations: writing.

Does it really matter if the rules of punctuation and capitalization are not followed when sending a text message? Probably not. But with instant messaging, text messaging, and email now parts of our daily routine, one has to wonder whether many of the technologically savvy even remember how to write grammatically correct prose. Do they know the difference between "that" and "which" or "who" and "whom"? Do they have any idea how a hyphen differs from a dash? Could they identify a subject-verb disagreement? Even if the social media gurus can spell relatively well and remember most of the basics of grammar, are they writing enough prose to make them decent writers?

Public relations (PR) professionals must be great writers. They must be able to write in a variety of styles for a variety of formats—from an email pitch to a project proposal to a CEO's speech to website copy. Writing well has to be second nature for PR pros. Oftentimes, PR people write to bring about change or prompt action. In order to successfully do that, the writing cannot stand in the way of the message. The reader should not be distracted by shoddy sentence construction and sloppy grammar and spelling.

Some people master the mechanics of grammar and the rules of spelling and still aren't considered great writers. That may be because they are not masters of composition structure. It's important to compose strong leads in any type of writing and then follow through with thoughts that are logical and pertinent. Mix up the length of sentences throughout a piece of writing and connect ideas between paragraphs. Be descriptive so that the reader visualizes the concepts and ideas. Draw conclusions or summarize thoughts at the end of the piece.

So how do you know if you write well, and how do you improve your writing skills? Here are a few suggestions:
  • Identify a colleague whose writing is well respected and ask him or her to critique your work.

  • Take a writing refresher course at a local college.

  • Enroll in writing seminars for public relations professionals.

  • Write something every day.

  • Dust off your copies of Strunk and White's Elements of Style and William Zinsser's On Writing Well and read them again. Keep those books nearby when you are writing and refer to them often.

  • Most importantly, read great writing. Read national newspapers, such as The New York Times. Read national magazines, such as TIME. Get off the computer from time to time and read a book.
While social media is playing a growing role in public relations, quality writing skills are still essential for the profession. It's a craft that hopefully won't go by the way of the acronym.

About the Author:

Patty Stinner is Director of Communications for Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network in Allentown, Pennsylvania. She has more than 25 years of experience in public relations and marketing and received a bachelor's degree from Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
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 spellings  professions  The New York Times  CEO  public relations  communication  prose

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