• The Pepper Shaker

  • August 2010
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What’s in a Word?

If you like to write, chances are you have had some fun with your words. If you’re like me or like thousands of desperate college students in English classes, you’ve looked up in a thesaurus for more intriguing words or phrases for your article or paper.

While using all those tricky words might make you proud, it’s easy to go over the edge, especially for public relations professionals. I’ve helped my wife various times with some of her writing assignments back in college. After reading back to her what I came up with, it would often be followed with, “what?” or, “you sound like you know what you’re saying…but I know you don’t!”

As public relations professionals, we can’t afford to be caught! We must truthfully communicate- always. Too many journalists, editors and readers will go through what you have created, so keep in mind that clear and precise wording is always key.

You will also notice that all language used in social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) is used is kept casual, straightforward, and fun. Never articulate, nor laced with elaborate wordsmithery. (That sentence is a negative reinforcement.  🙂  )

The following conversation actually took place between journalist Gene Weingarten and one of a few PR professionals. He sarcastically attempts to test their jargon-filled writing with an actual follow-up phone call:

“I started with Angelia Jackson, the PR person for Clarkston.

Me: Vis-a-vis the implementation of SAP technology, what is the source-related derivation of the acronymically based identifier of the service entity, and how does it operate so as to enhance production and profitability or, alternatively, improve the business model of the shelf-stable protein supplier of which Clarkston is now a client?

Angelia: So you’re asking me what SAP is an acronym for and how it helps Bumble Bee?


Angelia: Hello?

Me: You understood me?

Angelia: Sure, it was very clear.

I didn’t know what to say. I had no backup plan! So I thanked her for her time and next tried Meir Kahtan, representing MasterCard.”

Go to his article, “Read It and Lacrimate” to read his conversations with a couple other PR practitioners, and see how well they use their words. Remember, though, simplicity is best!


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