Working, salaried journalists are at heart zealous wordsmiths. The marketplace may devalue writing, but the surviving written-language-based journalists are unlikely to loosen their standards much and accept jargon-filled, wordy, vague or sloppily written emailed PR pitches.
Media relations experts often tell PR pros to "think like a reporter" when pitching story ideas or news. Perhaps a more useful and specific recommendation would be to take great care with each word, sentence and paragraph. This checklist of questions to ask before sending email pitches from Ken O'Quinn, a professional writing coach and founder of Writing With Clarity, should help you do just that. Print it out, tape it on your wall, live by it.
- Is the subject line specific enough to give the reader a sense of what the email is about?
- Do the opening two or three sentences state the purpose of the email and capture the highlights of what is significant in the entire message?
- Does the reader know quickly what he or she is supposed to do and what the constraints are? (Not all emails tell the reader to do something, but it’s worth asking.)
- Does each paragraph stick to one topic?
- Do the paragraphs flow gracefully from one to the next?
- Do sentences contain surplus words? Can you recast the sentences and remove a few words without changing the meaning?
- Is the wording clear? Are there any concepts or language that need to be simplified?
- Who else is likely to read this? Will they understand what they need to know? Is there anything in the email you don’t want them to read?
- Are there any embarrassing usage or grammatical errors?
This content was adapted from PR News' Writer's Guidebook.
Follow Steve Goldstein: @SGoldsteinAI