PR pros churn out text quickly to keep up with deadlines. Yet the emphasis on speed can result in copy rife with mistakes and shortcuts often seen in casual online writing.
Here are three common mistakes—along with tips for writing speedily without sacrificing quality:
1. Misusing Internet slang, emoticons and emojis. It’s easy to slip into casual writing when you’re in a rush. We all do it—whether writing an email or a quick text message.
Internet slang such as LOL, emoticons and emojis are examples of the “casual writing” that writing expert Ken O'Quinn sees migrating from online writing to other written communications.
“Keep these Web writing elements to social media posts and texts,” O’Quinn says. “Avoid them in all other business communications. That includes using smiley face emoticons in company emails, because you never know who the email will get forwarded to.”
He suggests using a parenthetical if you want to express a wry aside or an emotion. A parenthetical such as (just kidding) is more effective and less likely to be misinterpreted by your boss, client or target reporter than would be.
RELATED: Register for PR Daily’s Feb. 18 PR University webinar “ How to Write S-H-O-R-T in the Mobile Era” to grab more attention in today’s exploding universe of content.
2. Sloppy editing—even in post comments. O’Quinn laments how many communicators in the “writing business” post articles and comments that include glaring typos, missing words and incorrect punctuation.
He blames it on rushing. “Slow down. Don’t write something just to cross it off the list, and don’t write thinking you’ll nail it the first time. Instead, look at every word, sentence and post you write as a first draft. Accept that you’ll need to rewrite it.”
This is a big problem for blog posts. “Bloggers assume that because it’s their blog, they can say or do whatever they want, so they ramble and drift for five paragraphs before telling the reader what the blog entry is about. You can avoid this kind of unfocused writing by treating your first draft as just that—an iteration.”
3. Lack of concrete language. Taking the time to find the right word or phrase will give your writing a winning edge—whether online or otherwise.
Use concrete language that conveys an image and not a concept. For example, “Don’t refer to human and financial capital if what you mean are people and money,” O’Quinn says.
Similarly, use strong verbs. “Rather than writing, ‘Many writers don’t like criticism,’ write, ‘ Many writers bristle at criticism,’” O’Quinn says. “It’s more precise and more vivid. You can visualize the annoyed reaction.”
Brian Pittman is a Ragan Communications consultant and webinar manager for PR Daily’s PR University. Writing coach Ken O’Quinn will share more writing takeaways in the Feb. 18 PR University webinar, “ How to Write S-H-O-R-T in the Mobile Era: New Rules for Riveting Releases, Emails and Tweets .”