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Copy Editor’s Corner | Dare to compare, correctly

What’s the difference between “compare with” and “compare to,” anyway? Let’s compare the two phrases. According to The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White, “To compare to is to point out or imply resemblances between objects regarded as essentially of a different order; to compare with is mainly to point out differences between objects regarded as essentially of the same order.” And The Associated Press Stylebook offers this example: “She compared her work for women’s rights to Susan B. Anthony’s campaign for women’s suffrage.” To simplify both entries from these style gods, use “compared with” to point out a difference and “compared to” to point out a similarity. It’s much likelier that you’ll use “compared with” in a piece than “compared to.”

PR Tips | Orwell’s Rules for Writing

George Orwell is best known for 1984, his fictionalized account of an authoritarian dystopia in which all human activity is tightly controlled by a central authority. That work has endured because, in addition to being marvelously well written, it’s proven prescient about the inner-workings of modern totalitarian states. But Orwell was also a prolific and powerful essayist. “Politics and the English Language” is one of his most influential entries. And it includes a short set of writing rules that are highly applicable to crafting op-eds. This list is already famous. You might already know about it. But it’s worth revisiting regularly:
  • Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  • Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  • If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  • Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  • Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  • Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

PR Tips | The nuts and bolts of basic op-eds

  Op-ed writing is a mix of art and science. As with any form of writing, the art comes with practice -- and lots of it. The science, on the other hand, can be learned. Here are a few of the basics. First, virtually all op-eds are 800 words or less. Seven hundred words is even better. You can't solve all the world's problems in 700-800 words -- but that's all most newspapers have space for. Further, many readers may not make it through many more words than 800. Second, every op-ed should start off with an interesting lede. Newspapers are in the business of, well, news, so a timely opener to your piece -- one that positions it within the context of what's going on in the news world -- is usually best.

PR Tips | Writing better pitches

Last week, I was in Napa Valley at the Wine Writers Symposium, an annual gathering of some of the nation’s top wine writers. While there, I spoke to attendees about how to write better pitches and get their stories placed. I was paired with Alison Clare Steingold, a senior editor at C Magazine. Drawing on my experience at Keybridge Communications and as a wine writer, I also coached attendees on query writing in a series of one-on-one sessions. The pitching process changes depending on your goals, of course. Op-Eds, for example, are almost always written before they’re pitched. With magazine articles, writers should pitch editors before they put pen to paper. These lessons also work for conventional PR – there’s no better way to get a reporter interested in your story than teeing it up for her.

PR Tips | Should you use a JPG, GIF or PNG?

Everyone uses JPG, GIF and PNG files for photos and graphics. But if you're anything like me, you probably treat them indiscriminately. Well, apparently, there's a real difference. Having been recently enlightened by our web folks, I've decided to pass my newfound knowledge along. Here's a quick primer on the difference between these common file types. JPGs are best for complex graphics and photographs. JPGs use a lossy compression technique. I.e., as the file is compressed, the image loses some of its data. Exactly how much data is lost depends on the amount of compression. The JPG format isn't ideal for text-heavy pictures or simple drawings that don't have the depth to survive the lossy compression. Such images tend to lose their sharpness and clarity when converted to JPG.

Copy Editor’s Corner | Grammar vs. Style

What’s the difference between grammar and style? It’s similar to the difference between a dictate and a suggestion -- when a copy editor marks a change because it’s grammatically incorrect, you really should make the change. Style is more subjective, but for the best copy possible, adhering to consistent style is important. People often treat copy editors as human dictionaries or style books and approach them with questions like “Which is right, e-mail or email?” The answer is that neither is wrong because this is a matter of style, not grammar. However, most publications follow one style guide (and magazines and newspapers usually follow the Associated Press Stylebook, or AP style), and that resource likely has a preference.

PR Tips | The Super Bowl of Advertising

This February, two larger-than-life sports events will engage fans around the world. Both the Super Bowl and the Winter Olympics will showcase incredible athletics, but for many the appeal isn't the competition itself. Indeed, a full 78 percent of Americans look forward to the commercials played during the Super Bowl more than the game itself, according to a new study by ad agency Venables Bell & Partners. That's up from 59 percent in 2011. "This is the strongest Super Bowl market that we have ever seen," says Toby Byrne, president of advertising sales at Fox. This year, 30-seconds of space on the broadcast cost $4 million and slots sold out over a month ago. And with the Winter Olympics opening just four days later, NBC is also jostling for sponsors. So far, the proximity hasn't deterred Olympic advertising in the least -- ad sales for the 18-day event have already exceeded $800 million.

PR Tips | Beyonce’s PR Surprise

When was the last time you heard about a musician whose album released without a peep? No album promotion in interviews, singles, concerts, music videos, or Saturday Night Live hosting gigs. Well, artist Beyonce did just that when she defied all conventional wisdom by not doing a shred of publicity prior to her self-titled album launch last month. There was no crescendo, no drumming up of anticipation and excitement -- a total sneak attack. Beyonce worked on the album secretly for about a year before releasing it exclusively to iTunes. She made countless appearances during that time but never led on to the fact that she was recording a new album that fans would kill to know about. She had the confidence that it would be clamored over, whether people knew about it 6 months in advance or not. So how'd the PR plan pan out? Apple says it sold 828,773 copies of the album in three days. And it's No.1 on Billboard charts for the third week in a row, which is the longest run for any album since April.

Advice from the Media | Kathy Lu

Name: Kathy Lu Title: Assistant Managing Editor/Features Media Outlet: Kansas City Star Twitter Handle: @kathyluwho 1) Describe your typical workday in 140 characters or less. Emails. Meetings. Editing. Story discussions. Putting out fires. Responding to readers. Not necessarily in that order. 2) What's the best pitch you've ever received? It's hard to think of the best one, but we pay more attention when it has anything to do with Kansas City. Just recently, we've done stories based on pitches about Kansas City ranking high in certain studies and about people living and working in Kansas City doing cool things. 3) The greatest words of wisdom an editor ever gave you? There are several, and they always run through my head: "Read your stories aloud" (you can catch things better that way); "End sentences on a word that leaves a strong feeling"; "Read everything" (to get story ideas); "Kill your babies" (sometimes, the piece is better off without that turn of phrase or section you really love). 4) If there was one thing you could tell every PR practitioner, what would it be? Know your audience. Blanket, generic pitches are often trashed. But if it has something specific to do with the place or person you're sending it to, you have a better shot at it being noticed.