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8 tips for clear & concise writing & why plain English matters


‘We need a more contemporary reimagining of our knowledge-based administrative flexibility.’

‘This is no time to bite the bullet with our global third-generation innovation.’

Do you understand the above? No, me neither. The texts were generated by the wonderful Plain English Campaign’s ‘gobbley gook machine’.

One of my favourite resources as a public relations professional is the Plain English Campaign website.  An ex-employee recommended the website to me over 15 years ago – most likely because I was a perpetrator of gobbley gookness. And, I have never looked back.

The Plain English Campaigners are big fans of clear and concise communications that have just the right tone and the all important reader in mind. They champion for straightforward language and have many supporters, one of which states that plain English “is much more effective than complicated jargon, pompous words, long sentences and endless paragraphs.”

You will find a wealth of fantastic resources on their website about the benefits of writing in plain English. They claim that the main advantages of writing in plain English are: a) it is faster to write; b) it is faster to read; and c) you get your message across more often, more easily and in a friendlier way.

You can find tips like the following on their website:

  1. Stop and think before you start writing. Make a note of the points you want to make in a logical order.
  2. Prefer short words. Long words will not impress your customers or help your writing style.
  3. Use everyday English whenever possible. Avoid jargon and legalistic words, and always explain any technical terms you have to use.  
  4. Keep your sentence length down to an average of 15 to 20 words. Try to stick to one main idea in a sentence.
  5. Use active verbs as much as possible. Say ‘we will do it’ rather than ‘it will be done by us’.
  6. Be concise.
  7. Imagine you are talking to your reader. Write sincerely, personally, in a style that is suitable and with the right tone of voice.
  8. And always check that your writing is clear, helpful, human and polite

You will find also find a wealth of fantastic resources including the following free guides:

Remember nobody, especially these days, has time to wade through copy that could be explained in just a few simple sentences.

If you are in the field of public relations, what are your thoughts on writing in plain English? Do you know of an equivalent guide in other languages such as Cantonese?

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Thanks for reading. We have many other articles about public relations for you to read. Have you read our blog post on ’99+ reasons to do Public Relations’ yet?

9 FUNDAMENTALS OF A GREAT PRESS RELEASE THAT WILL GET RESULTS


Press releases still matter. They remain the main way to supply journalists with easy to digest information in a recognisable format. They are how we achieve the majority of great coverage for our clients.

We previously mentioned the importance of writing a great press release in our blog article 6 Actions to Take Before Engaging the Media. In this post we are going to explore 9 Vital Components of a Great Press Release.

  1. First things first, you need a great heading including a news angle to draw people in (same heading can be used in your email to the media). Journalists receive 100s of emails per day. Your release needs to stand out.
  2. Traditionally every release should include who, what, where, when and why in the first paragraph so that journalists can quickly identify whether this is a story that they want to write about or not.
  3. Keep it short!  Journalists have very little time. It needs to be short, to the point and in plain English (try not to waffle or use language only an expert from your sector would understand). Trust me, no one wants to read pages and pages of how great you are with multiple product photos embedded into the copy.
  4. Include links to photos that can be downloaded and also a link to your website and social media channels. Journalists will check these out. If you are lucky, organisations will create a link back to your website but this is not guaranteed as remember this is earned media and not paid media.
  5. The release should be written in third person and not as a piece of sales material that talks directly to the audience. Let the journalist draft the article for his or her readers.
  6. Ensure that it is relevant and newsworthy to the market you are pitching. Is it new, relevant, good or bad news, related to an existing story, the biggest, the smallest, timely?  
  7. Include a quote from a spokesperson, someone senior and available to be interviewed at a moment’s notice.
  8. Add your contact details,email and mobile no, to the press release so that media can follow up with you instantly.
  9. Include a boiler plate at the end of the release – this is a short bio of your brand or organisation so that the journalist clearly understands when you were established, who you are, what you do and why you do it.

Remember, don’t pitch to a journalist unless they write about your sector and it is relevant to them, otherwise it is spam and they may never open another email from you again or worse shame you on social media for not doing your research properly.

Do you take a look at our post 99 Reasons to do PR.

99+ important reasons why you should do Public Relations


Public Relations can be hugely beneficial to organisations in so many different ways. With this in mind we have pulled together 100 reasons why organisations should consider having an inhouse PR department or use an agency.

Let us know if you can think of any more benefits in the comments section below!

Public Relations….

1increases awareness of your brand
2can change behaviours
3increases sales
4drives website visitors
5can attract investors
6helps you to tell your story simply
7attracts talent
8builds communities
9highlights your corporate social responsibility activities
10engages the community
11makes you successful
12discovers brand sentiment
13engages customers
14enables you to charge more for your services
15is much much more than media relations
16can increase queries about your business
17can visually tell your story
18profiles your executive team
19obtains global reach
20builds trust
21provides effective mediation
22increases SEO
23announces new employees
24establishes you as a thought leader
25creates memorable speeches
26cultivates the perfect soundbite
27refines your key messages
28drives enquiries
29creates interest
30increases profits
31evokes emotions
32changes perceptions
33encourages brand recall
34shares knowledge
35generates excitement
36will react quickly to any issues
37creates loyalty
38focuses on human interest
39creates empathy
40generates media interest months later
41creates an online presence far longer than advertising
42establishes thought leadership
43dissolves disputes
44improves employee relationships
45reaches large audiences
46helps you to get your story in front of the right person
47transforms your business
48converts sales leads
49delights customers
50helps you to be found online
51generates fresh new ideas
52has a proven return on investment
53attracts the media
54starts conversations
55generates great social media content
56is shareable
57generates word of mouth
58helps to raise money
59steers the conversation
60helps you to get close to your customers
61can be monetised
62provides an ongoing newsroom
63leads the news agenda
64helps to set key messages
65is cost-effective
66provides continious new content
67is measurable
68identifies potential risks
69reduces reputational risks
70improves quality of conversations with employees
71grabs attention
72provides an ethical contribution
73modifies behaviours
74announces growth
75spotlights success
76boosts staff morale
77helps you to launch something new
78covers government relations & public affairs
79is creative
80starts a new trend
81maintains goodwill
82enhances online presence
83analyses share of voice
84hijacks the news agenda or newsjacking
85makes digital work harder and further
86provides corporate governance
87will deliver organisational objectives
88drive audiences to your social channels
89can create memorable campaigns
90boosts demand
91obtains public support
92optimises social media channels
93tells customer stories
94keeps employees informed
95encourages social conversations
96breaks stigmas
97educates the public
98ensures consistent messaging
99is research-based
100builds CREDibility