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Writing tip: Two spaces or one?

 

Writing tip: Two spaces or one?

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Consultant
www.JerryBrownPR.com

KeyboardWhen I learned to type as a high school freshman, I learned to put two spaces after each period.

I stuck to this practice until this article changed my mind a couple years ago. Since then, I’ve been a one-space-after-periods guy.

When editing, I used to add a second space after each period if the writer didn’t. Now I delete the extra spaces of writers who use them.

Journalist Farhad Manjoo, author of the article that changed my mind about two spaces after periods, blames the practice on the manual typewriter.

“The problem with typewriters,” Manjoo says, “was that they used monospaced type — that is, every character occupied an equal amount of horizontal space. . . . on a typewriter, an extra space after a sentence makes text easier to read. . . . Because we’ve all switched to modern fonts, adding two spaces after a period no longer enhances readability, typographers say. It diminishes it.”

“Typing two spaces after a period is totally, completely, utterly, and inarguably wrong,” Manjoo asserts. Until a couple years ago, I argued exactly the opposite.

I’m not ready to call two spaces after a period wrong. But I’ve switched to one. And it’s better.

We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist who helps clients get their stories heard, understood and remembered. Need help telling your story? You can reach Jerry at 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Writing tip: Do you use Harvard or Oxford commas?

 

Writing tip: Do you use Harvard or Oxford commas?

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Consultant
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Do you use Harvard or Oxford commas?Commas don’t get always get a lot of respect. And I often urge clients to look for opportunities to turn them into periods.

But before you dismiss these misunderstood and abused little punctuation marks entirely, did you know there are Oxford and Harvard commas? And you almost certainly use one or the other of them when you write. So a little more respect, please.

You’re a Harvard-comma person if you write red, white and blue.

And you’re using Oxford commas if you write red, white, and blue.

The difference, if you didn’t pick up on it, is the choice of whether to skip the comma before the final item in the series (Harvard style) or put one in (Oxford style).

Oxford commas are also called serial commas. As far as I know that has nothing to do with any killer instincts. I hope not, anyway. Harvard commas are also called series commas.

In school, I learned to put that final comma in, Oxford-style — although we didn’t call it that. But in the world of journalism I became a Harvard man. The AP Stylebook says no comma before the final item in a series and most newspapers follow the AP Stylebook.

In fact, I’ve always thought of the difference as being a choice between AP Style and what everyone else does. That’s because most of the stylebooks I’m aware of favor the Oxford or serial comma.

Which one is correct? Which one should you use? It’s your choice. But be consistent. Use one or the other from beginning to end. Don’t switch back and forth.

We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist who helps clients get their stories heard, understood and remembered. Need help telling your story? You can reach Jerry at 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Storytelling Tip: Don’t give up. The beginning is always the hardest.

 

Storytelling Tip: Don’t give up. The beginning is always the hardest.

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Consultant
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Storytelling Tip: Don’t give up. The beginning is always the hardest.There’s nothing worse than coming in during the middle of a story. But sometimes that’s a good place to start when you’re putting your story together.

I’m not suggesting you start in the middle of your story when your audience is there to read or listen to it. That’s usually a bad idea.

But getting started is often the hardest part of putting your thoughts onto paper — or a computer screen.

Back in my days as a reporter, I often knew what the story was about. But it could take forever to come up with the right lead.

One way around that: Start by writing the middle of the story — the details of what you have to say. Then come back to the lead when the right one pops into your head. For me, that usually happens while the story is taking shape. But sometimes the lead is the last thing I write.

“Don’t give up. The beginning is always the hardest.” I don’t know who first came up with that quote. But it’s often true when it comes to telling your story. Getting started can be the hardest part.

So, start in the middle — if you need to — when crafting your story. But start at the beginning when the rest of us are there to hear it.

We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist who helps clients get their stories heard, understood and remembered. Need help telling your story? You can reach Jerry at 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Storytelling Tip: Write. Rewrite. Edit. Rinse and Repeat.

 

Storytelling Tip: Write. Rewrite. Edit. Rinse and Repeat.

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Consultant
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Storytelling Tip: Write. Rewrite. Edit. Rinse and Repeat.Do you rewrite what you’ve written? And then edit it? And then do some more editing. If not, you’re probably not telling your story as well as you could.

Here’s how Tom Coyne, who teaches creative writing at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, put it in an article sent to me by a friend:

“Revision is what separates the pros from the part-timers. Non-writers have some imagination of a writer who sits at a typewriter, crossing out or adding a word every few pages, and finally writing The End and firing up a cigar. That’s a fiction no one will buy. Writers slog through draft after draft after draft after draft . . . being a real writer is more about being a real re-rewriter than anything else.”

Is writing hard? Here’s what Coyne says about that: “Of course it’s hard. It’s pounding your head on a granite countertop hard. It’s a soul-crushing, salvation-stealing, staring-into-the-abyss endeavor rife with rejection, self-loathing and unshakable self-doubt.”

Or, as the late journalist and screenwriter Gene Fowler once put it: “Writing is easy. All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until beads of blood form on your forehead.”

Whether you’re writing your story yourself or have hired someone like me to write it for you, expect to go through some editing. Editing is a key part of writing.

And don’t be afraid to ask a professional writer you’ve hired to make changes. Sometimes people are reluctant to do that because they think they’ll hurt my feelings — or the feelings of whoever they’ve hired.

You’re not going to hurt my feelings. The goal is to get to the best version of your story. Editing and rewriting are part of that process. A good writer wants your feedback. If you’ve hired us, our job is to help you tell your story in a way that you’re happy with.

So, whether you do it yourself or hire someone else to write it for you, editing and rewriting are essential to getting to the best version of your story.

We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist who helps clients get their stories heard, understood and remembered. Need help telling your story? You can reach Jerry at 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Storytelling Tip: Use Short sentences

Storytelling Tip: Use Short sentences

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Consultant
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Storytelling Tip: Use Short sentencesI love short sentences. You should, too. Why? Because they make your story easier to understand. And easier to remember.

According to the American Press Institute, reader comprehension is 100 percent if your sentences average eight words or fewer.

Double that to 20 words per sentence and comprehension drops to 80 percent.

By the time you get to 30 words a sentence, your audience will miss half of what you say.

So, keep your sentences short. Use short, simple words for the same reason.

And breaking long paragraphs into short ones adds more white space. That, too, makes what you write more readable.

One way to make your sentences shorter: Look for ways to turn commas into periods.

We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist who helps clients get their stories heard, understood and remembered. Need help telling your story? You can reach Jerry at 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Storytelling Tip: More than one way to tell your story

Storytelling Tip: More than one way to tell your story

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Consultant
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Storytelling Tip: More than one way to tell your storyThere’s more than one way to tell your story. Which one’s the best? That depends. And it won’t always be the same.

I’ve watched three movies about Iwo Jima over the past couple weeks — two directed by Clint Eastwood and a 1949 movie starring John Wayne. I enjoyed all three. But they were all quite different.

Eastwood’s two movies tell the story of Iwo Jima from the opposing sides. Letters from Iwo Jima tells the story from the Japanese side. Flags of Our Fathers tells the story from the American side and focuses on the men brought back from Iwo Jima to the United States for a heroes’ tour to sell war bonds. The John Wayne movie, The Sands of Iwo Jima, is about a group of Marines sent to Iwo Jima. But the battle of Iwo Jima is almost incidental to that version.

If you’re like many of us, you have more than one audience for your story. And those audiences may have different reasons for being interested in what you do or sell.

That’s why it’s so important to understand your objective and your audience before telling your story. Because the way you tell it will be different depending on differences in who you’re trying to reach and what you want them to do.

We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist who helps clients get their stories heard, understood and remembered. Need help telling your story? You can reach Jerry at 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Storytelling Tip: The missing ingredient

 

Storytelling Tip: The missing ingredient

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Consultant
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Storytelling Tip: The missing ingredientA lot of people leave a key ingredient out when they’re telling their story: Preparation.

World-class athletes, actors, musicians and other performers all share one thing in common: They spend many, many hours studying, preparing and practicing before they step in front of the public to perform.

I’ve heard world-class musicians say they feel like they lose their edge if they miss even a day or two of practice. These are people who are among the best in the world at what they do. Are you better than that when it comes to telling your story? Me, neither.

Here are three questions you should always ask yourself as you prepare to tell your story:

  • What’s your objective? What do you want to happen as a result of telling your story? Do you want us to buy something, do something or believe something? What is it? Be specific.
  • Who’s your audience? Unless you corner the market on air so we all have to do business with you to breathe, the answer is not “everyone.” Be specific.
  • What’s your headline? What’s the one thing you want the rest of us to hear, understand and remember? Be able to say it in about 15 seconds or less.

If you’re putting your story into writing, your headline needs to be the focus of what you say. Your headline is what you want us to remember. Everything else is there to add texture and depth.

If you’re delivering your message in front of an audience, even if it’s an audience of one, you also need to practice, practice, practice. Practice until you can deliver your message so it doesn’t sound memorized or rehearsed.

And, of course, editing is also an important ingredient of any good story. What you leave out is as important as what you put in. Be ruthless when editing your material.

We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist who helps clients get their stories heard, understood and remembered. Need help telling your story? You can reach Jerry at 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Storytelling Tip: Leave them wanting more

 

Storytelling Tip: Leave them wanting more
Today’s tip from JerryBrownPR’s storytelling tips on the Experience Pros Radio Show

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Consultant
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Storytelling Tip: Leave them wanting moreThere’s an old show business adage that says you should leave them wanting more.

That’s good advice for telling your story, too.

Tell us what we need to know to understand what you’re talking about and grab our interest. But don’t try to answer every single question we may have.

If you try to answer every question every person will have, you’ll end up telling many of us more than we want to know, which means we’ll quit listening to your story before you’re done telling it. That’s usually means we’ve lost interest in what you have to say.

In show business, leaving your audience wanting more means they’ve had a good time. They’re more likely to come back. Or recommend your show to their friends.

It’s the same way when telling your story. If I’m interested enough to want to know more, I’m more likely to start a conversation with you. And then you can answer my questions without boring the people who don’t care about I want to know.

Telling your story shouldn’t be the end of our conversation. It should the catalyst that begins our conversation.

That’s my two cents’ worth. What’s yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist. He specializes in helping clients develop the content they need to tell their stories. He also helps them develop strategies for getting their stories heard, understood and remembered. And he provides media training and presentation coaching for clients who need to tell their stories to reporters or in front of an audience. 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Listen to Jerry’s Tips for Telling Your Story every Tuesday at 10:05 a.m., Mountain Time, on the Experience Pros Radio Show on KLZ 560AM in Denver or at www.560thesource.com on the Internet. Missed it on the air? Listen to the archived tips.

Storytelling Tip: Don’t assume your audience knows what you’re talking about

 

Storytelling Tip: Don’t assume your audience knows what you’re talking about
Today’s tip from JerryBrownPR’s storytelling tips on the Experience Pros Radio Show

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Consultant
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Storytelling Tip: Don't assume your audience knows what you're talking aboutHave you ever had this experience: You’re on Facebook and one of your friends has posted something like “That was a great experience,” a half dozen people have liked the post and a couple people have added congratulatory comments?

Did you feel like you came in at the middle of the story because you have no idea what your friend’s talking about — or whether all those likes and comments are just polite support or mean everyone but you knows what’s happening?

Or have you experienced this? You go to the local newspaper’s website to find out the score of yesterday’s game only to find a series of stories about the big plays or a controversial call but no score in sight. They assume you already know that.

People often assume everyone else knows something just because they know it.

Don’t leave your audience guessing when telling your story. Don’t assume they know something just because you do.

Jargon’s a common example. Terms widely used and understood within your company or industry may not mean anything to the rest of us. So, explain what you’re saying in terms the rest of us will understand.

Back in my days as a reporter, we always had to include at least a sentence or two designed to bring readers who missed yesterday’s paper up to speed when writing a second-day story. No matter how prominent the story, we were told to assume some readers wouldn’t know what had happened. So, each day’s update of a multi-day story had to be self-contained and explain anything a first-time reader would need to know to understand the story.

You don’t have to drown your audience in endless detail. But tell them what they need to know to understand what you’re saying — and why you’re saying it.

That’s my two cents’ worth. What’s yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist. He specializes in helping clients develop the content they need to tell their stories. He also helps them develop strategies for getting their stories heard, understood and remembered. And he provides media training and presentation coaching for clients who need to tell their stories to reporters or in front of an audience. 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Listen to Jerry’s Tips for Telling Your Story every Tuesday at 10:05 a.m., Mountain Time, on the Experience Pros Radio Show on KLZ 560AM in Denver or at www.560thesource.com on the Internet. Missed it on the air? Listen to the archived tips.

Storytelling Tip: Skip the grocery list

 

Storytelling Tip: Skip the grocery list
Today’s tip from JerryBrownPR’s storytelling tips on the Experience Pros Radio Show

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Consultant
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Storytelling Tip: Skip the grocery listWe’ve all experienced a version of this scenario: Your spouse or roommate asks you to pick up a couple things at the grocery store.

Then a couple more things get added. And another. And pretty soon you need to write them down to remember what you’re supposed to buy.

There’s a temptation to do the same thing when telling your story: One point becomes two or three. And then a few more get added on. Pretty soon, you’ve pushed so much information at your audience that there’s no way they can remember it all.

You’ve given your audience a grocery list. And they won’t remember it.

In his book Selling the Invisible, marketing expert Harry Beckwith offers this advice:

  • “Saying many things usually communicates nothing.”
  • “If you deliver two messages, most people will process just one of them — if that. Say one thing.”
  • “After you say one thing, repeat it again and again.”

That’s good advice. All I would add is this: Be able to say that one thing in 10 to 15 seconds. If it takes you longer than that, we won’t remember it.

That’s my two cents’ worth. What’s yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist. He specializes in helping clients develop the content they need to tell their stories. He also helps them develop strategies for getting their stories heard, understood and remembered. And he provides media training and presentation coaching for clients who need to tell their stories to reporters or in front of an audience. 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Listen to Jerry’s Tips for Telling Your Story every Tuesday at 10:05 a.m., Mountain Time, on the Experience Pros Radio Show on KLZ 560AM in Denver or at www.560thesource.com on the Internet. Missed it on the air? Listen to the archived tips.

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