I received a press release this week with several grammar mistakes. Unfortunately, this is a quick way to reduce your public reputation. You don’t want to be known as the organization or company with poor professional and business communication skills. This is especially true if you’re in the business of gaining trust from the public.
In this blog post, we’re going to talk about five common grammar mistakes in professional documents. I just want to mention that I am not a grammar or English language expert. However, as a journalist I have to understand grammar and usage. That said, I’ve forced myself to learn about it. If you write anything for the public, I urge you to also learn about grammar and usage. The following examples will show mistakes, corrections, and examples. For added fun (as if grammar isn’t fun enough) you may notice a furry theme.
1. you're vs. your
You’re and your may sound the same, yet when written, they are very different.
You’re is a contraction for “you are”
Example: You’re a good dog.
Your is a possessive adjective describing, well… possession.
Example: That is your tennis ball.
2. their, they're, there
These three words often get confused because they sound the same.
Similar to you’re and your… once written, they have different meanings.
Their is a possessive pronoun, meaning… again… possession
Example: Rosie is their dog.
They’re is a contraction for “they are” or “they were”
Example: They’re thinking about adopting a dog.
There is a pronoun and adverb depending on the use.
The adverb describes a location and the pronoun introduces a sentence.
Adverb example: The dog is over there.
Pronoun example: There is a dog looking for its forever home.
3. its vs. it's
Did you happen to catch in my sentence above that the dog is looking for its forever home? Its vs. it's can be confusing too.
Its is a possessive determiner, meaning... yep, you guessed it… possession
Example: The dog is looking for its toy.
It’s is a contraction for “it is” or “it has”
Example: It’s a beautiful day to take the dog for a walk.
4. their vs. its
We already tackled it’s vs. its and their, they’re, there.
So, let’s explain the difference of usage between the two possessive pronouns.
Their is a plural pronoun. Use this when the possessive is plural.
Example: These puppies love their toys.
Its is a singular pronoun. Use this when the possessive is singular.
Example: This puppy loves its toys.
Easy enough, right? Okay, here’s where it gets a little tricky.
A company is considered a collective noun.
This means the company is singular, even though it represents a group.
Incorrect: The Humane Society is looking to increase their staff.
Correct:The Humane Society is looking to increase its staff.
5. who vs. that
While on the topic of pronoun references, let’s talk about who and that.
Who refers to people.
Example: Jane Smith is the organizer who started the animal rescue initiative.
That refers to groups, animals, and things.
Example: The dog that is wagging its tail is a sweetheart.
Again, I am not an expert.
If you have further grammar and usage questions, check out these sites:
What are some of your grammar pet peeves? Feel free to share in the comments!
Time is valuable.
Literally, don't waste my time.
Especially in the morning.
I'm a morning news anchor so every weekday before we go on-air I proofread, edit, and update scripts. My goal is to make sure we're not wasting our audience's time. I want the scripts I read during our broadcast to be incisive, straightforward, and unbiased.
That said, I'm a news and current events junkie. I love the news.
Since I'm kind of busy during the morning news hours, I can't watch any other outlets. I could scan websites, but that honestly takes soooo much time, and as mentioned... time is valuable. That's why I look forward to daily morning news e-newsletters. I've subscribed to many different ones over the years and narrowed it down to five favorites worth sharing. Each are emailed out early enough that you can read them while getting ready, chugging coffee, walking the dog, on the bus/subway, or even at the office.
This is my favorite daily newsletter. It’s clear, it’s witty, and it’s informative. The Daily Skimm is making the news industry cool again. I mean, I’ve always thought it was cool, but I know I’m in a minority there. The humor and sarcasm incorporated into summaries makes it relatable for readers. It’s reinventing the way young people get news by allowing them to get important headlines quickly in a concise and entertaining manner.
Along with the news, you’ll get some smiles. The Need2Know newsletterstarts off with the top headlines, and ends with feature and trending stories. It includes social media excerpts and GIFs. It’s easy to read and easy to understand. If you want to learn more, just click the links associated with each story. I’m kind of obsessed with organization, so I also appreciate that each of their topics are numbered. It’s easy to keep track of what you’re reading and what graphic, quote, comment, etc. goes with what story.
This is focused mainly on business, economics, and consumer news. Morning Brew is a great source for anyone with interests in markets, stocks, and earnings reports. The newsletter includes consumer products and how international trends can impact you as a customer. I’m not a numbers or statistics person… but I really enjoy this morning read. Honestly, I feel smarter after reading it. Along with the general Morning Brew, there are industry specific e-newsletters including Emerging Tech Brew and Retail Brew.
Who better to get the news from than Katie Couric, herself? She’s a journalist with four decades of experience in media and broadcasting. She also worked for major news networks including CBS, NBC, ABC, and CNN. Katie and her team know how to captivate a morning news audience through the Wake-Up Call newsletter. Along with daily need-to-know headlines, it includes special reports and daily segments. The newsletter features the authentic and familiar tone of her reporting and professionalism.
You can read CNN 5 Things, consisting of five top stories, in literally five minutes. The headlines include international and national topics. It ensures you have background knowledge on stories that will become talkers and continue developing throughout the day and/or week. In addition to the top five stories of the morning, it also includes quick facts and trending stories from entertainment, celebrities, technology, etc.
Can you tell that I love my morning e-newsletters?
I know they're not for everyone and that's totally okay! If you choose to subscribe to one, I'd love to know your thoughts and what you like/don't like about it!
PS. If you decide you don't like it, the unsubscribing process is super easy.
I’m a journalist with experience in print, television, and digital… and I have no shame in admitting my belief in press releases. I think a well-written release is the most effective way to communicate specific details of a topic, issue, event, etc. to the community, newsroom, or publication.
However, let’s be clear: A press release is different than well-written press release.
How your release is written can determine if it gets media attention.
I’m here to help.
1. Understand the basics of journalism.
This is the most important point of this post. I could go on and on about this topic, but I’ll keep it simple. The writer should explain the “who, what, where, when, why, and how” of the announcement/event/whatever in the press release. Too often, I’ll receive a release which is missing pertinent information. Cover your bases and answer the “who, what, where, when, why, and how.”
2. Keep it brief.
Your press release shouldn’t be any longer than a page. You can ensure this by following what I like to call the 3Cs of news writing. Keep your press release clear, concise, and crisp. A reporter can look at a release and know within the first sentence if it is worth their time.
3. Use proper grammar and proofread.
Nothing will annoy a media outlet more than receiving a press release with poor grammar, spelling, and sentence structure. If you want someone to take your release seriously, you need to take it seriously and present it professionally.
4. Include quotes.
Interview someone knowledgeable about the topic and include their quotes throughout the release. Using real quotes from real people will allow your release a feeling of authenticity. Adding this type of element will increase your chance of being published because it has more content aside from just paragraphs of text.
5. Add a call to action.
Decide what action you want followed by the receiver of the release. Do you want a journalist to interview someone from your organization/company about a new and exciting achievement? Do you want people to know about and attend your event? Do you want community members to donate money toward your cause? Tell them.
6. Offer interview opportunities.
Nothing is worse for a reporter than having someone pitch them a great story idea via press release, yet refuse to do an interview. In your press release, include the contact information of someone who is readily available and prepared to do an interview. Make sure this person is flexible and respectful of a reporter who is likely working on a deadline.
7. Send the release via email.
The best way (really, the only acceptable way) to deliver a press release is through email. Attach the release in PDF form and also put the text of the release in the body of the email. Locate the newsroom or publication’s preferred email and send it. If you happen to know individual reporters or anchors at a news station or newspaper, send it to them too.
8. Follow up.
If you don’t hear back from the news outlet about your release, you can follow up. Just make sure you do so professionally and respectfully. Call a newsroom (after 10am), request to speak with the assignment desk manager, and ask if they got the release. If they did, offer to answer any questions they have about the topic and if you can schedule an interview. If they didn’t, ask for their email again and resend it.
9. Be considerate.
Understand that your release may not get the attention that you believe it deserves. News outlets do not guarantee coverage. For various reasons, assignment desks are particular in what they choose to cover. If the topic of your release doesn’t fit their scope, that’s okay.
I can’t believe I have to even mention this, but please don’t use shaming tactics or get angry over their decision. Be respectful and try again in the future with another release and topic.
Feel free to leave a comment if you have a question!
I'm happy to answer to the best of my ability!
My entire career is based on writing about others. Honestly, I like it that way.
However, I guess if I’m going to start a journal, I should introduce you to the writer.
That’s me, Maria Satira.
I was born and raised in a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I’m the oldest of four children. I’m also the only girl. Our mom and dad’s parenting philosophy was centered on family values, work ethic, and a lot of love. I'm sure most other Italian-American families can relate. Honestly, I feel like I had the perfect childhood and I’m so fortunate to have grown up in a home with so much love, support, and really, really, really good food.
I was the first in my immediate family to graduate college when I received a Bachelor of Arts in Media Arts and Communication from Robert Morris University. Upon graduation, I immediately moved to a tiny town in Virginia to start my first job as a morning reporter.
Shortly after I was offered a promotion as the weekday morning anchor… my little television station shut down and we were all laid off. Plot twist, right? I found a new job within a couple weeks and moved to Greenville, North Carolina to start off 2014.
I worked as the weekend evening anchor and reported three days during the week. Later that year, I was offered the weekday morning anchor position. I really enjoyed my position and my station, but after a couple years I was ready to see what else was out there. So, I started job searching and scoping out my next television market.
Then, I fell in love.
Drew and I met in early 2016 and we started dating that fall. He's originally from Long Island and moved to North Carolina to attend East Carolina University in 2007. He ended up getting a job in Eastern North Carolina and started his own business. Once things got serious, I remember asking him if he would consider moving away from Greenville if I got a job elsewhere. Without hesitation, he said yes. That was enough assurance for me. Knowing he would move for me meant I would stay for him. I put off the job search and decided to continue my journalism career in Eastern North Carolina. Drew proposed last summer and without hesitation, it was my turn to say yes. We're so excited for this journey! We're planning our wedding for this October in Greenville.
When I’m not wedding planning, you might find me with a hammer and tape measure helping Drew with his property management and renovation business.
That said… I am passionate about community involvement. I’m a huge animal lover and serve as a board member for the Humane Society of Eastern Carolina. In 2017, staff members came to my television station for our weekly adoptable pet segment. They brought a malnourished and emaciated puppy named Badger. Despite his sickness, he was so sweet. It was love at first sight and I knew he found his forever home as soon as he walked into our studio and came straight to me. He is now a healthy, 93 pound lovebug who loves long walks, stuffed animals, and couch cuddles. Thanks to a doggie-DNA test, we learned that Badger is a Doberman, Pit Bull, Great Dane mix. He and Drew's 12 pound Yorkie mix, Yogi, are complete opposite but have surprisingly become best friends.
I’m starting this journal to share stories about topics that I feel need more attention, passion, and education. Where my journalistic words end, my personal words begin.
Maria Satira is a full-time communications director, small business owner, blogger, freelance writer, and content creator. She loves sarcasm, rescue dogs, and red wine. She despises bland food, poor grammar, and litterbugs.