Writing is an essential part of a career in PR. Whether writing press materials or pitches, PR professionals must be sure everything is well written, accurate and free of errors.
Earlier this week, PR Daily posted “A writer’s cheat sheet: 10 useful reminders,” a helpful list of simple tips to keep in mind as we write everyday. However, several of our most frequently used tips were missing from the list. Here are some of Profiles’ additions with some help from our go-to websites: Grammar Girl, AP Stylebook, and the AP Stylebook blog.
Affect vs. Effect
Below is a great tip from Grammar Girl on how to determine when to use “affect” or “effect.”
The majority of the time you use “affect” as a verb and “effect” as a noun.
Affect with an “a” means “to influence,” as in, “The arrows affected the aardvark,” or “The rain affected Amy’s hairdo.” Affect can also mean, roughly, “to act in a way that you don’t feel,” as in, “She affected an air of superiority.”
Effect with an “e” has a lot of subtle meanings as a noun, but to me the meaning “a result” seems to be at the core of all the definitions. For example, you can say, “The effect was eye-popping,” or “The sound effects were amazing,” or “The rain had no effect on Amy’s hairdo.”
According to the AP Stylebook blog here is how to correctly identify academic degrees in PR writing:
If mention of degrees is necessary to establish someone’s credentials, the preferred form is to avoid an abbreviation and use instead a phrase such as: “John Jones, who has a doctorate in psychology.”
Use an apostrophe in bachelor’s degree, a master’s, etc.
Use such abbreviations as B.A., M.A., LL.D. and Ph.D. only when the need to identify many individuals by degree on first reference would make the preferred form cumbersome. Use these abbreviations only after a full name and never after just a last name.
When used after a name, an academic abbreviation is set off by commas: “Daniel Moynihan, Ph.D., spoke.”
Do not precede a name with a courtesy title for an academic degree and follow it with the abbreviation for the degree in the same reference:
- Wrong: Dr. Pam Jones, Ph.D.
- Right: Dr. Pam Jones, a chemist.
When in doubt about the proper abbreviation for a degree, follow the first listing in Webster’s New World Dictionary.
When to Capitalize Directional Words or Words on a Compass
According to the Tennessee Journalist and Grammar Girl, use lowercase letters when talking about compass directions, and capital letters when talking about a well-known region. Some examples: “I live north of here,” “Southern California,” “western Canada,” and “an east wind, Midwest.”
Among vs. Between
Grammar Girl says that while there are some exceptions, the easiest way to remember which word to use is to follow this simple rule:
Use “between” when describing the choice involving two items (i.e. “I was deciding between Ocean City and the Outer Banks for my beach vacation”). Use “among” (or “amongst”) when talking about the choice involving three or more items (I.e. “The Hunger Games is among my favorite books”).
Over vs. More Than
According to the AP Stylebook, “more than” is preferred with numbers and “over” refers to spatial elements. Examples:
- “I work with more than 100 people in the art department.”
- “The bird flew over the house.”
Again, some websites we like to reference for grammar and AP style tips are:
- Grammar Girl: http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/
- AP Stylebook: http://www.apstylebook.com/
- AP Stylebook Blog: http://apstylebook.blogspot.com/
If you have any tips that you want to share, please leave them in our comments section!