Writing Letters, Press Releases, And Convincing Negotiations More Confidently than Ever Before.
Equip Your Writing Toolbox with Powerful Skills
Taking you through some of the writing elements I learned over the seasons while working with some of the best writers in the country! You’d be suprised what makes a great press release, or complete article. When you put a little focus on the bigger picture, your content will be blasted into that level of pure bliss and excitement (perfect for people with ADHD like me who need MOMO to GOGO! )
Here’s what we’ll be reviewing:
1: Experience the power of effective writing by learning from some of the best writers in the country
2: Improve your writing skills and gain confidence in your work by engaging in meaningful exercises and activities
3: Develop a unique style for expressing yourself through writing
4: Learn the fundamental elements of effective writing, such as grammar, structure, and tone
5: Unlock the creative potential within you to become a successful writer
And we’re Off:
>>> THINK ABOUT YOUR AUDIENCE
Our schedules are always full. We are dedicating less and less time to reading as a result of the increasing number of demands placed on our time and attention by a variety of competing demands and commitments. When a person reads what you’ve written, they are making a significant investment in their time.
>> Give them a reason to bother with it.
Even though the people who create policy may be the target audience for your opinion pieces, you should write them with the general public in mind. However, you need to get past the editor first in order to reach the actual readers. The deadline pressure that editors work under can be overwhelming at times. If you can make their jobs easier, they will be more receptive to publishing your letters and opinion pieces and listening to your story suggestions.
The editors of a publication are seeking for letters to the editor and opinion pieces that are on-topic, informative, and contentious without being over the top. When at all feasible, use events that are now happening as a jumping off point.
>>> THE CORE AND BASICS
Responses from Readers to the Editor
When it comes to letters to the editor, every daily has its own set of criteria. They are often published in the publication’s letters page or opinion section and posted on the organization’s website. Find out what the rules are, and make sure you adhere to them. Because physical copies and faxed letters need to be input into a computer by someone on staff, the majority of outlets accept and prefer that letters be emailed to them instead. In addition, the majority of websites include submission forms.
You should try to keep your letter to a maximum of 250 to 350 words.
Make an effort to connect it to a story or editorial that has been published in the paper over the past few days. The vast majority of publications give preference to letters that cite their coverage, and some publications exclusively run letters that make such references.
Check the spelling of all of the company names, etc., twice.
Do not make the assumption that the paper will fix your mistakes for you. Always remember to include your full name, job title, affiliation (if it applies), and a contact number or email address for verification purposes. (For an example, see the sentence, “Public Plan Must Be an Option”)
Op-eds should be no longer than 500 or 600 words at the very most, unless otherwise specified by the editor. (Opinion pieces that are sent to blogs can be far lengthier than those sent to print publications since a blog’s website does not have the same constraints on its physical space that a printed newspaper does. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t make it any longer than 750 words.) Read the op-ed section of the paper before you commit the time to penning your own opinion piece. This will let you know whether the newspaper publishes editorials or not (some don’t), as well as the style of editorials that they favour publishing. You are welcome to phone an editor to pitch an opinion piece or submit one cold; but, you are not permitted to send the same opinion piece to more than one source in the same distribution area at the same time. (For an example, see the article titled “Who Really Pays the Highest Taxes”)
>>> PRESS RELEASES + MEDIA FLIRTING
The term “new” is the focus of the phrase “news media.” Do not bother the media with a release if you are unable to provide them with any new information. Since newsrooms are inundated with them, you should try to limit yours to one page as much as you can. The editor or reporter receives a synopsis of the story in the form of a press release rather than the actual story itself. Through the use of a media advisory, you can provide the press with detailed information regarding a forthcoming event that you would like them to cover, such as a press conference, the cutting of a ribbon, a demonstration, etc. In either case, you need to address the cardinal questions that are asked by journalists, which are who, what, when, where, why, and how. Always provide your contact information or that of your organisation, and make it a point to offer to put reporters in touch with specialists or spokespeople who are accessible for interviews.
The vast majority of news organisations will take press releases submitted via email, however some would rather you use the submission forms located on their respective websites. When communicating via email, the difficult part is determining who the message should be addressed to. This query ought to have an answer, and all it takes is a speedy call to the newsroom.
>>> The Components: Editorials and Letters to the Editor
This is the headline.
The reader needs to be informed about the topic, and they also need to be convinced to read the rest of the article by the title you choose. The most effective remarks are brief and declarative. (It is extremely likely that the editor will alter your headline before it is published. Write one anyway because it provides the editor with an overview of the content.)
Take, for instance, the article titled “Overstuffed Backpacks: The Silent School Bully.”
At the very beginning of any opinion piece, you should put your name, along with any relevant titles and affiliations. If you do not include your byline, the editor (or another person) will have to type it in, which will not make their job any simpler. In addition to that, it leaves room for mistakes.
Take, for instance, the phrase “by Sharon Kayne, Communications Director, New Mexico Voices for Children.”
>>> The Front-Runner
The introduction, also known as the opening paragraph, is the single most vital component of what you write. The reader will decide whether or not to read the entire work based on the lead, which introduces the topic. The reader needs to know what the work is about (the subject) and what your stance is (the thesis) on the issue from reading this. It is also possible for it to incorporate the solution. Make it succinct, relevant, and engaging all at the same time.
Example (Subject): “One of the most devastating tragedies a community may endure is a young person taking their own life, and Native American villages in New Mexico face more of this tragedy than most other communities.”
We are aware of the following, despite the fact that this topic is challenging to comprehend in its entirety: (This is my thesis) If we screen for and treat our children’s mental health issues appropriately, they will have a greater chance of surviving. (Solution) A school-based health facility can be the difference between life and death for the thousands of adolescents who are struggling with problems that they are unable to manage on their own.
Writing the lead is also the most challenging aspect of the piece. If you’re feeling uninspired, you may always get right into the meat of your argument and write that down. After you have perfected your thesis, writing the introduction will be much simpler for you.
Never start off your sentence with a question. Never. Even a hypothetical question doesn’t count. The information that the reader needs can be found in you. You are abdicating your obligation when you ask people to consider a question, and readers won’t waste their time on a lazy writer who wastes their time. Every possible inquiry can be rephrased as a self-contained declarative statement.
Poor Illustration (question intended to provoke thought): “What could be more heartbreaking than a young person taking their own life?”
Example: “One of the most devastating tragedies that may befall a community is when a young person takes their own life.” This is a good example of a declarative statement.
p Don’t Be So Stupid to State the Obvious It is tempting to begin your writing with harmless compliments since it is simple to do so and because doing so wastes little of the reader’s time. Instead, you should begin by informing the readers of something that they are unfamiliar with, something that is uncommon, or something that runs counter to what they would expect, and they will be more likely to continue reading.
A poor example would be the following, which states that “once again autumn is nipping the air, and as the leaves begin their colourful transformation, children put on their bags and begin the walk back to school.” This is an example of something that is apparent.
Example: “As children begin the trek back to school, doctors start seeing more complaints about backaches and shoulder problems.” This is a good example that is not so evident. Backpacks are virtually often to blame for these kinds of incidents.
p Employ the Element of Humanity. People are naturally drawn to situations that involve drama and conflict, which are the two main sources of the emotional undercurrents in every major news story.
In addition to this, we have an obsession with the human experience.
Your argument can be brought to life by using a human aspect, such as the experience of another person, whether it was a positive or negative one. Every tale contains at least one such element. In many cases, illustrations provide for engaging leads; however, you should be sure to transition to your subject and thesis statement as fast as possible.
Example: “Ethan Cline couldn’t wait to start the fourth grade.” The moment he woke up, he would throw his rucksack over one shoulder and go out the door toward school. However, towards the middle of the second week, Ethan had difficulty focusing his attention. Ethan, like far too many other children his age attending elementary school, was forced to lug around an onerous load: his rucksack.
>>> The Body In this section,
you will elaborate on your thesis statement and provide examples that support your position. Be as descriptive as possible, and double check that your proof is correct! It is important to credit the sources from which you obtained the information; nevertheless, it is preferable to do so inside the body copy (or as links to websites, if this is going to be placed online) rather than within footnotes. Only when it is absolutely necessary should you use background information that is complicated. If you did not already mention the solution in the introduction, you should do so now and elaborate on it further.
Example (Evidence): “New Mexico’s suicide rate is almost double the national average, and only last year in the Gallup/McKinley school district alone, 13 of the 14 youngsters who terminated their own lives were Native American.” [Citation needed] ” (Attribution): According to the findings of the National Assembly on School-Based Health Care, suicide rates have decreased in communities that have health clinics located on school grounds. (Further Supporting Evidence & Developing the Hypothesis): The medical professionals who work in school-based health centres receive extensive training to recognise a range of red flags that indicate a student may be having suicidal thoughts and act accordingly. (Development of a Solution) Despite the fact that school-based health centres in New Mexico are improving outcomes for our adolescents, there are not nearly enough of them in the neighbourhoods that have the greatest suicide rates. Our legislative body needs to increase financing for school-based health clinics so that the most vulnerable of our children and adolescents can get the care that could save their lives.
>>> The Concluding Statements
Restate both your thesis and your proposed solution. You might even recommend a certain course of action for the reader to carry out.
For illustration purposes, consider the following: “Children can get significant injuries if they carry backpacks that are too heavy or if they carry them wrongly.” These health issues can, thankfully, be avoided by taking the appropriate precautions. Ethan has noticed a significant improvement in both his physical wellbeing and academic performance ever since he began carrying his backpack appropriately, i.e., over both shoulders rather than just one, and leaving any extraneous books at school. Show your child how to wear their backpack properly and have a conversation with them about the repercussions of wearing it incorrectly before sending them off to school.
>>> The Process of Editing Your Work
Please read over your editorial, and then read it one again. When you read your work aloud, any awkward language or sentences that are too long will become immediately apparent. If you wrote your essay on a computer, reading it as a physical copy will help you see errors that you may have overlooked when reading it on the screen. Request that another person read it and comment with any recommendations they have or questions they have. If you write your piece the day before you plan to submit it, you will have the opportunity to review it the following morning with clearer vision.
Check your spelling, but do not place all of your faith on a computer to find all of your errors. Be wary of homophones, which are words that have the same pronunciation but distinct spellings and meanings. Some examples of homophones include hoard and horde, compliment and complement, and course and coarse. Check the spelling of all of the company names, etc., twice. Do not make the assumption that an editor will check the facts or “tidy up” your work for you.
>>> General Advice on Writing
Use an active voice when you write. The use of passive voice not only casts doubt on the validity of your argument but also makes your writing wordier, less entertaining, and more complicated.
A Poor Example to Follow (in the Passive Voice): “School-based health clinics can be a crucial component in the education of our children because youngsters who are at home with an illness are not learning.”
Example: “School-based health centres are a crucial component in education, as students do not learn when they are at home sick.” This is an example of an active sentence. Good
Adopt a Tone That Is Conversational. Before you start writing, you should think about how you would present your case if you were just chatting with a friend over coffee. This will help you get into the right mindset. Apply that strategy to working on your computer.
If the reader has the impression that you are speaking directly to them, the impact of your argument will be significantly increased. If you feel like your writing is too casual at this point, you may always polish it up later.
Avoid giving things a human form. It is simple to engage in anthropomorphism when the topic of your opinion piece is something that is not a human being. On the other hand, the “actor,” or the thing that is carrying out the action, should consistently be a person or a group of people.
Example that should not be followed (in an anthropomorphized form): “School-based health centres take care of youngsters where they may be reached the easiest — at their schools.”
Example: “The nurses and doctors who work at school-based health centres take care of children where they can be accessed the most easily — in their classrooms.” This is a good example that has been humanised.
p Get rid of the jargon. If you use jargon in your argument, it comes seem as though you are trying to give validity to it by using large terms just for the purpose of using big words.
It gives the reader the impression that you are wasting their time by forcing them to wade through unnecessary complicated terminology, and it gives them the impression that they are an idiot at the very worst. You don’t need to talk down to others in order to communicate what you mean when you explain it in simple terms.
Use the word “plan” instead of the word “strategy,” and use the phrase “get the job done” instead of the word “execute.”
> Avoid Clichés.
The use of clichés, which are a sort of shorthand, is acceptable when one is conversing with one’s peers.
When writing editorials, making use of them is a sign of both laziness and a lack of unique thought. (Using them in letters is not as frowned upon, particularly because doing so can assist you in keeping it brief.) Remember that you shouldn’t be hesitant to speak what you mean in a straightforward manner.
The expressions “under the gun,” “hatchet job,” “surfing a wave,” “glimmer of hope,” “breaking the mould,” and “levelling the playing field,” among others, are examples of common and overused words.
p Put “In my opinion…” out of your mind. Opinion pieces include things like letters to the editor and editorials. There is no requirement for you to bring this to the attention of the reader, and doing so may cause you to come across as defensive.
p Put Your Thoughts Into Order. The majority of novice writers require more assistance with organising their thoughts than they do with actually articulating them clearly. Create subpoints for both your main argument and the evidence that supports it. If necessary, you should draught an outline. This assists you in staying on topic and prevents you from speaking in a repetitive manner. After your primary argument has been dissected into its component parts, you will most likely be able to identify a logical next step to take.
One illustration of this might be an opinion piece on the importance of school-based health centres that cites more than one argument in support of these centres. The following is a list of potential counterarguments, which is presented in no particular order: Children are the least likely of all age groups to have a primary care physician; children spend less time at home sick; costs can be billed to Medicaid; they are a tool for preventing teen drug and alcohol use and teen pregnancy; parents don’t have to take time off of work to get their child to a doctor. Telemedicine programmes have many benefits, including the following: they are convenient for students and parents; they lower the suicide rate; they raise test scores; children are the least likely of all age groups to have.
When reviewing this list, it is clear that some of these arguments are inextricably linked to one another – for example, the convenience factor and the fact that parents do not have to take time off work; the prevention of suicide and the prevention of drug use, alcohol use, and pregnancy; and the correlation between children not being sick at home and higher test scores.
Now, you can arrange your sub-arguments in any of these two ways: either according to the smoothness with which one flows into another, or from the more general to the more specific (or visa versa).
Regardless of the order in which you choose to present your sub-points, you should avoid the urge to repeat yourself or bring up prior arguments. Repetitive writers send two signals: either they are unable to organise their thoughts (which may indicate an underdeveloped thesis) or they do not trust that their readers can grasp their lofty ideas the first time around (which, in addition to insulting your readers, will quickly send them elsewhere). If they cannot organise their thoughts, this may indicate an underdeveloped thesis.