Pursuit of perfect punctuation pleases PR professor

February 19, 2008

images1.jpgI hope the spirit of Charles Schultz allows me fair use of this little gem, as it’s a whole lot more entertaining than the slide show I’m offering with this post — or that perfectly putrid headline that sits atop it!

I’ve posted my share of rants about the writing quality in the blogosphere. But bloggers aren’t the only ones who wreak himages-1.jpgavoc with our language. Some of my students can butcher a sentence with the best of ’em. But they’re compelled to listen to me. You are not.

The careless writer is everywhere today, and the growth of social media, text messaging and micro-blogging only amplifies the problem. Our instant-message culture tends to ignore the important task of editing and proofreading. And sadly, most people never bother to learn the rules of grammar, usage and punctuation.

Careful writers respect the language and work at their craft. Careful writers believe that the quality of their writing says as much about them as the messages they try to impart.

Today I offer some help to the “punctuationly challenged” in a lesson I call “Perfecting Your Punctuation.”

Please don’t hide your excitement. Just imagine those commas dancing across the screen!

Here’s the show, now posted to SlideShare, revised following Dino’s comment that made me feel so Web 1.0.  If you’ve not toured SlideShare, do yourself a favor.  Lots of resources there.

Update: I was having so much fun with the slide show that I missed this piece on the much abused and under appreciated semicolon. It appeared in yesterday’s New York Times. Thanks to Judy Gombita for the link. I’m no fan of the semicolon. Two short sentences are almost always better than one.

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PRSA needs lessons in “News Release 101”

January 4, 2008

First, a confession. I paid my PRSA dues for 2008 after saying, and pretty vehemently, that I would not. I sent the check to New York yesterday for images.jpgthree reasons. First, I wanted to show support for a friend and colleague who is president of the local chapter this year. Second, I’m feeling guilty about abandoning my friends in both the Cleveland and Akron Area chapters, despite seeing little value in the national affiliation.

Finally, I was hoping this year’s PRSA leadership would bring new spark to a tired organization that’s been my professional home for 25 years. I ‘d be a great Cubs fan, wouldn’t I?

Does PRSA have a new vision? If so, you won’t find it in the society’s first news release of 2008, a release that announces Jeff Julin’s ascension to the chairmanship — but not much more.

Is there news here? Not really. Jeff’s selection as PRSA chair was rubber stamped by the Assembly back in November. But hey, it is his first day in office, and it’s Friday of a holiday week. Maybe we can steal a headline on a slow news day and make a little splash.

Nice try, but the news release typifies what Tom Foremski ranted about back in ’06 when he called on PR folks to stop using the tool altogether.

Some highlights from PRSA’s first release of 2008: Read the rest of this entry »


Writing still matters, and you can quote me on that!

December 20, 2007

Students in my Case Studies class spend a semester immersed in PR process, from research through evaluation and everything in between. They also learn that writing matters more than any other skill they develop at Kent State, with the possible exception of beer pong.

Yeah, yeah. I know that success in PR requires meticulous research and critical thinking. I know it requires knowledge of social science, history, philosophy, government and business. But the ONE skill that other business disciplines (marketing, HR, finance and management) seldom bring to the table is the ability to write well.

Writing is our unique selling point.

At Kent, we reinforce writing skills in every class. If students don’t write well by the time they complete Case Studies, we advise them to consider another major. It disappoints many, but we’re doing the students and the profession a favor.

Good writing involves far more than I can summarize in a blog post. Good writing is about content, context, tone, organization, flow and texture. It’s about choosing words precisely and punctuating sentences accurately. Good writing also means sweating the “little stuff” — the details of grammar, usage and punctuation. It means caring enough to use the language artfully but also correctly.

Sadly, most of our K-12 educators don’t teach the rules of language any longer. And lord knows students don’t practice them in their text messages, emails or Facebook postings.

Are you a careful writer? My students, and a good many PR bloggers, love to violate these five rules: Read the rest of this entry »


PR links to make you think — and cringe — and cackle!

October 24, 2007

I’m not known as a “linker,” and most readers will question my credentials as a “thinker” as well. But take a few minutes to check out the info here. One will have you rolling on the floor, the other two will get you thinking about what we do and how we do it.

New Media Douchebag. This hysterical 2-minute video pokes fun at the denizens of Web 2.0, of which I am one. Don’t click if you take yourself too seriously. You’ve been warned. Hat tip, Scott Monty, who offers useful commentary with the clip. (Update: I’ve added the video below for your convenience. And here is the link to the creators.)

Passive voice rules! Yep, this little morsel comes, via boingboing, from Web usability guru Jakob Nielsen (full article). Seems that active voice isn’t always the answer in the online world. You can bet that journalism professors across America are downright suicidal. Hat tip to Jim Horton, the brightest linker AND thinker in the PR blogosphere.

Are professional associations relevant? Catherine Arrow raises the question, then challenges associations with a prescription for success in a connected world. Let’s hope PRSA leadership checks out this post. While you’re there, cruise around PR Conversations, a blog with international focus that’s growing in both readership and importance.


Media Convergence, Facebook, Lousy Writing and the Summer of Love

July 9, 2007

Lots to talk about today, so I’ll try to keep it short.

I’ve had nearly two weeks to think about this return-to-blogging post. But I didn’t. Instead, I hung out on the beach with friends and family, paddled my canoe down the Clarion, and drank a shitload fair amount of beer. But during moments of sobriety, here are a few items that tripped my trigger.

pogue.jpgMedia convergence and the iPhone. While the world suffered iPhone envy these past two weeks, the folks in our School of Journalism were checking out David Pogue‘s video blogs about it. If you haven’t seen these clips (here and here), take the time.

To see a columnist for the MSM embrace a new medium this way, you have to wonder what’s next in media convergence. Of course, if you read Pogue’s bio, you won’t find his stage presence at all surprising.

This ain’t your father’s journalism, boys and girls. But that is your father’s newspaper, the venerable New York Times. Do you think maybe Pogue was celebrating the Summer of Love anniversary in a magic bus somewhere? Far out, Dave! Read the rest of this entry »


Is good writing doomed in the new-media age?

March 26, 2007

It’s hardly a new concern, but we aren’t talking about it enough.

ernie.jpgWill good writing become a casualty of the new-media revolution? It looks that way from where I sit.

In Kent State PR classes, writing is the core skill stressed every day on every project. We’re proud of our tradition that puts writing first. And I know Papa would approve.

But I’m worried that the casual nature of online media is destroying this core value. I see it in students’ classwork, and most certainly in their emails. I see it in professionals’ work, too. Careless writing is everywhere.

quill.gifThis past week I critiqued 12 blogs produced by the students in our Public Relations Online Tactics class. About half of these students are social-media naturals, and they’re all pretty smart kids. Read the rest of this entry »