I am often guilty of speeding through a news release, without paying attention to the nitty gritty details. Bad. Yesterday, however, I came across a great checklist to use post-release writing. Check it out:

  1. Is my headline specific? Be sure that your headline matches your content. While this may seem obvious, your release will bode better if you pull specific words and terms from your release to use in your headline. Not only will this give you a more specific headline, but it will also be more  effective, thanks to search engine optimization (SEO).
  2. Did I use active voice? I am especially guilty of this. Tone down the extra words and phrases in favor of more direct statements. Instead of “Jane Doe has been awarded Grammy Award for excellence in songwriting,” try “Grammy Awards select Jane Doe for Best Songwriter.” This serves as a more impactful statement.
  3. Can I chop three words from my headline? Remember: short, sweet, and to the point. Eliminate useless fillers that garble up your headline, instead chop off 3 words from your first headline. Of course, be mindful that your headline is still coherent. The point is to be brief yet effective.
  4. Does my release answer the five Ws? I always advise other students to answer the 5 Ws in the lead paragraph of a release. Who? What? Where? When? Why? The rest of the release should focus on details, relevant quotes and resources.
  5. Did I do a five-step proofread?
    1. Read out loud: I swear by this. Just reading things in your head will not help you very much. Reading out loud will give you a sense of how you actually sound, and help you with grammar, tone and syntax.
    2. Get a second pair of eyes: No matter what you are writing, this is strongly recommended. A second opinion never hurts, and a fresh set of eyes will do wonders for your release because your release may make sense to you, since it is your expertise, but it may not be in layman’s terms.
    3. Read your story backward: If you want to be extra vigilant, try reading your release backwards. Because you are not accustomed to reading this way, it will be that much more obvious for you to catch a mistake.
    4. Focus on the numbers: Triple-check your dates, times, data, etc. It is a HASSLE and honestly a crack in your credibility if you are publishing incorrect information.
    5. Print it out: We receive so much information via the computer screen that we are used to just scanning a page. Try the old fashioned way and just print your piece out and take a red pen to it. Guaranteed you will find something that your eyes glazed by.
Do you use any of these methods when proofreading your release? Have any additional suggestions? Let us know!

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