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The News Release in a Nutshell

Parts of the news release

 

1. The dateline (such as “AUSTIN, Texas — “) leads the body of the news release. In Associated Press Style, the name of the city is written in ALL CAPS, and the State is abbreviated, except for Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas, Utah and District of Columbia that are always written out in full. Do not use AZ instead of Ariz. AZ is a postal code, but Ariz. is an English language abbreviation. Remember that your news release is a bit of English prose, not a bunch of codes. (In Texas, DALLAS, HOUSTON and SAN ANTONIO don’t take the state.)

2. The date (such as Oct. 1, 2011) is composed of the abbreviated month (except for March, April, May, June and July that are spelled out in full), the day (with no st, nd, rd, or th suffix), a comma, and the year.

3. The body of the news release, written in inverted-pyramid style, with the most important part up front. Make sure the news release answers the five Ws (Who, What, When, Where and Why) and the honorary W (How) if you know it and it matters.

4. Byline. If you are Cadet Capt. Jane Doe, your byline should read “Cadet Capt. Jane Doe, CAP.” For AP Style grade abbreviations, click here.

5. Photo credit. Always give the name of the photographer, as in 4. above.

6. The “tag line.” At the end of every article submitted to the media, add the tag line containing essential CAP background information. The latest will always be found at this link.* Do not save this text. Instead, always go to this link for the most recent version.

Writing style

 

1. Person. Use the third person singular. (A first-person piece is an editorial or essay.)

2. Do not express opinion. If you want to make a point, and you are not writing an editorial, get someone else to say it so you can quote it (with attribution).

3. Avoid the passive voice. Rather than, “the water was boiled by me” write, “I boiled the water.”

4. Avoid repetition. If you repeat a word, make sure you have a compelling reason for doing so. For best results, find a synonym.

5. Verbs. Keep your verbs in synch. For instance, if you’re writing in the past tense, any mention of something that happened before the time of your narrative must be in the past perfect. (This one can get complicated in a hurry.)

6. The subjunctive. The preposition “if” requires the subjunctive to denote something that has not yet happened or that might become reality. For instance, writing in the present tense, “if I were a rich man” means that you are not rich, but you theorize you might be at some future time. Saying, “if I was a rich man” is telling your reader that, at some moment in the past, you had been a rich man, not specifying whether you are still rich, and since it starts with “if” there is more to this sentence to come… that will need to be in the subjunctive.

7. Length of sentence. The longer your sentence, the harder it will be to read. Keep sentences simple and short.

8. Beware of clauses. Natural English language makes a qualifier (adjective, adverb, or subordinate clause) latch on to the nearest preceding element. The trouble starts when you have a main clause followed by one or more clauses. Make sure that the last clause, which you might have meant to apply to the main clause, doesn’t latch on to its nearest preceding clause instead. For best results, avoid complicated sentences.

9. A singular subject takes a singular pronoun. It is fashionable to say, “The cadet liked their studies” in an effort to avoid using “his or her” — but “their” must apply to a plural and it simply doesn’t work here. The traditional solution is to use the male singular for a gender-indeterminate noun.

10. He before she. By convention, it is “his or her” and not “her or his.” If you consult any verb conjugation table, you will see the third person singular spelled out as “he, she, it” and not “she, he, it” or any other combination.

11. Be clear. Over-ornamented text makes for an unclear statement. Actually, any ornamentation can easily translate as opinion (see 2. above).

12. Beware of adjectives and adverbs. Let your writing cool off, then go back over it. Target the adjectives and adverbs you used. If they don’t add anything that matters (or they add the wrong thing), throw them out.

13. Spelling, spelling, and spelling. Hangar is not hanger. It’s is not its. Weather is not whether. There is not their. If you rely on your word processor’s built-in faulty spell-checker that does not consider syntax, you’re probably doomed. If you are not a good speller, find someone who is. If the good speller agrees to read your prose and point out the correct spellings to you (in the time allowed), go for it.

14. Words. Choose your words with care. Short words work best. Given the choice between a German-origin word and a Latin-origin word, pick the German. If the word has two versions, one long and the other short, pick the shorter one (it is better to “use” than to “utilize”).

15. Avoid wordiness. There is no room for waxing poetic on a news release. Just state the facts, be clear, and above all be right.

Submitting the news release

 

1. Do not format your text. Just write it out, single-spaced, with double line breaks between paragraphs (press the Enter key twice).

2. Do not tab. Do not indent your paragraphs. Let the editor do that.

3. Standard font. Use Times New Roman or Arial type. These are universal fonts that will read well on any computer.

4. Paste the article into your message. For best results, just cut-and-paste your article below your email to the editor. Some over-zealous anti-malware mail server filters will strip Word .doc or .docx files because they might contain malicious code. Avoid that chance by sending the article as part of your message itself.

5. Send as RTF. If the editor asked for the article to be attached as a separate file, do not send it in the new .docx Word format. Instead, no matter what word processor you use, save the file as “rich text format” (RTF). This format will open under any word processor, in a PC, Mac, or Linux computer.

Images

 

1. High resolution. The images you see on your computer screen have a resolution of 72 dots per inch (dpi). Most newspapers require a resolution of at least 200 dpi. For glossy printing, 400 dpi and higher is the norm. If your camera has a maximum resolution of 8 megapixels (today’s minimum standard), take photos at full resolution and submit them without reducing or cropping them. As a rule, your image should be at least 500 kilobytes in file size.

2. Cell phone photos. Usually, the photos you take with your cell phone will be unusable. Get a camera with at least 8 megapixel resolution (today, they cost under $100).

3. Attaching photos. Never embed a photo in a Word document or any other document. Always attach it to your message as its own JPG file.

4. Photo captions. These are called “cutlines” in the trade. Do not attempt to lay out the photos inside your article. The editor will do that (and most likely will dislike your layout efforts). At the bottom of the article, under a Cutlines heading, list the photos by file name and, next to each, the photo description (for example, “Pic0098 – Squadron members spread across the field as they conduct a search for a lost child.”) Remember that a photo is actually a frozen moment in time. Use the present indicative for the photo caption. (“Cadet Smith takes a reading with the ELPER” and not “Cadet Smith taking a reading with the ELPER”)

5. Identify participants. Always include the name, grade, and unit of assignment of any CAP member depicted on the photo.

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Last updated: 09/14/15

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