Journalists can often receive over 100 press releases or pitches from PRs every day, so how can you make sure yours doesn’t end up in the trash folder?
We need to make it easy for journalists by communicating our brand’s message quickly and simply. That’s why we use only plain English in our press outreach at Branded3.
What is plain English?
Plain English is a style of writing that gets the writer’s point across simply and quickly. It avoids using more words than necessary, and is easy to understand. This is what makes it perfect for use in brand communications as it speaks to everyone and can capture the reader’s attention in just a few seconds – which is particularly important when trying to catch a journalists’ attention.
It isn’t a new idea; the Plain English campaign has been around since 1979, but is as relevant today as when it first launched. The point of using plain English is to inform rather than to impress. Below are some examples of words and phrases you could change from complex to simple:
Just tell it like it is. Readers don’t like to feel patronised or spoken down to, but simple language can help to create an equal relationship between brands and their audiences.
Why use plain English?
Plain English has many benefits for communication, particularly when creating content for press. The aim of a press release is to deliver specific and brief information about an event or activity, so this style of writing fits perfectly.
Here are five key reasons why you should start writing your press releases using plain English:
- It’s brief
According to the 2015 Edelman media forecast,, brevity is one of the key elements journalists look for in their stories. Simple writing helps deliver the message concisely, giving journalists exactly what they want.
- It’s simple
This writing style makes things easy to understand. It avoids confusion about what you are trying to communicate and so delivers a stronger and more effective message.
- It’s relatable
By avoiding flamboyant language, it’s easier to create a relationship between the brand and the person you are communicating with. Rather than trying to impress, you can focus on reaching out and building a connection with your audience.
- It’s Google friendly
As an SEO company, we like to make Google happy, so using plain English makes sense. It makes things easy for users, which creates a good user experience, and so works well with Google’s algorithm.
- It works
In my experience, press releases using this writing style are more successful than those that are lengthier and more descriptive. Journalists tend to respond well to straight forward communication where they don’t have to search for the story you are pitching within a cloud of flowery copy.
Tools to help
In theory, writing in plain English should come naturally. However, so many of us are used to using more expressive language, which can make this task more difficult than you might first expect.
Thankfully, there are tools to help:
- The newest version of Microsoft Word has a readability tool which gives a score on how easy your writing is to digest. You can find more information on the Office support centre.
- If you don’t have the right version of office for this, there is an alternative checker called Readability Score. It highlights sentences that are too long, words and phrases which could be confusing, and gives an average reading level for your writing. Unlike the Office version, you can evaluate entire URL’s, not just documents or snippets of text.
Though these tools are a good starting point, the human eye is still the best way to check whether your writing makes sense, so set aside some time to read it yourself, and ask a colleague to check that your work is concise and easy to understand.