Three simple rules on using adjectives (and colloquial language)

When communicating with journalists in writing (for instance, in news releases) it’s usually counterproductive to give the text a self-laudatory flavour. It will create a type of language that – if deemed newsworthy – will require a lot of editing by the media, something which is not appreciated as it claims a very precious commodity: time.

That is not to say that the news release should be clinically neutral. Here are three simple guidelines on how and when to use adjectives:

1 – Avoid adjectives in the news release text unless you’re writing a quote. In other words, stay away from saying that the new project you’re announcing is “revolutionary” in the text (let others decide that for themselves), but go ahead and use that word somewhere between quotation marks.

2 – Adjectives should bring in new information to the text. I have bumped into the occasional product launch news release draft with the classic “We’re pleased that…”. Given that the organisation is issuing a news release informing about a new product, one could assume that the company is so pleased with it that it is doing external communications about it – no new information here. It’s usually more interesting to explain why we’re pleased, i.e. discussing the significance or impact of the new product.

3 – Unless in many cases of listed companies or in crisis situations, quotes should be personal and colourful and the citation should resemble colloquial language. A statement that sounds as if it was uttered by a robot is more likely to be overlooked whereas one that actually reads like it could have been said, rather than written, will be likely to be perceived as more authentic and credible.

Sergio Guimaraes, Speaking of PR