I don’t want to get snarky, but sometimes I wonder if anyone is bothering to teach grammar and punctuation in Australian schools. As I run a press release service, I often have to reject copy because of errors that could have been averted by spelling and grammar checking. If I published it, I would be risking my own business reputation and the reputation of the company or individual concerned. Yet I thought it was well known that when you publish content online, it could appear anywhere else on the web. If this content is related to your business, such as a press release, how does it reflect on your brand when it’s littered with grammatical and spelling errors? It’s really easy to solve this – just proofread, and if you don’t know the correct way to do it, ask someone who does.
Here are some common errors and the correct usage:
1. In quotation marks, a comma or fullstop should be inserted before the closing quotation mark: “I don’t know where to put the comma so I just leave it out,” she said. She said: “Put the fullstop inside the last quotation mark if it is at the end of the sentence.” A comma may be placed outside the closing quote marks if it’s a “partial quote”, such as this one.
2. A quotation should not contain several sentences before the reader know who’s speaking. Attribute quotations as soon as you can, typically after the first phrase or sentence. “Each press release should begin with a summary of the main newsworthy issue,” she said. “Usually it answers the questions ‘who, what, where, when and why’.”
3. Using single quotation marks instead of double is another common error; this will just annoy the journalist — as will capitalised headlines. Have you ever seen single quotation marks or capped headlines in a newspaper? Single quotation marks are used only where needed within double quotation marks. For an example see the last sentence of (2) above.
4. Spelling mistakes; there is a massive incidence of wrongly spelled words. Instead of showing you the misspelled words, here are some correct spellings –
- “confectionery”(there’s no ‘a’)
- “stationary” (still) but “stationery” (paper, envelopes, etc)
- its = the possessive (its claws were sharp); it’s = it is (it’s well known that….the apostrophe stands for the “i” in the contraction of it is)
- hassle not “hassell” (which I think is an architectural firm)
- minuscule (it comes from the Latin ‘minus’ and not mini)
Sorry for the rant but I have much more where that came from. By the way, I have highlighted the fact that this phenomenon is Australian. Press releases from American companies seem to be written with care – in the US it is just not acceptable to send out poorly constructed corporate documents. Editors are employed as a matter of course before distribution of releases and marketing collateral. Press releases written by people for whom English is not the first language may be excused to some degree.