Author Archives: Kate Galo

Capitol vs. Capital and Other Common Typos in Public Interest News

 

Capital or capitol? (And do you capitalize it?)

This is the latest in Beyond PR’s monthly series Catching up with Editorial, where a member of PR Newswire’s Editorial department shares tips and tools you can use to catch typos in your own content.

In last month’s post (Mind Your S and Ds), we highlighted a catch made by Senior Editor Diana Dravis in our Washington D.C. bureau.   Although that particular catch (Eastern Standard Time should be Eastern Daylight Time) is a mistake that can occur in a variety of news releases, Diana and our other editors in Washington, D.C. have to keep their eyes open for some unique client error catches that don’t typically occur in other copy.

Across the world, PR Newswire’s editors work on all sorts of news – financial, fun, international, lifestyle – even in different languages as our Latin America and International departments can attest!

However, our Editorial bureau in Washington, D.C. is where the majority of PR Newswire’s government and public interest press releases are processed.  Because of this, they have to watch for typos that are more common to these topics.

If you find that you write content about nonprofit, government, advocacy or other public interest issues, read on for a few tips from our D.C. Editors on what to look out for.

One of the most common misspellings in the English language is capitol vs. capital.  You may remember being warned against this misspelling in grade school, and for our public interest editors, they watch for it every day!

When referring to the building in Washington, D.C. used by the United States Congress, it should be spelled “Capitol” (with an “o” and a capitalized “C”).  When referring to a building occupied by a state legislature, lowercased “capitol” (still with an “o”) is by definition the correct use (though some style guidelines may make an exception to the lowercase rule).

On the other hand, “Capital” with an “a” has many different meanings. For public interest news, the most common usage is when referring to the city or town that is the official seat of government in a country or state.  For instance, Washington, D.C. is the nation’s capital.

Other mistakes commonly caught by our Washington, D.C. editors in public interest news:

  • insure versus ensure
  • incorrect names of legislation (e.g., American Disabilities Act should be Americans with Disabilities Act)
  • Wallstreet and Mainstreet should be Wall Street and Main Street
  • misspelled acronyms for major organization names, legislation, and policy initiatives
  • misspellings in names of high profile political figures
  • incorrect positions or titles (e.g., Secretary of Education should be Secretary of Health and Human Services)

Diana shared that editors spend a lot of time reading and discussing politically-oriented news and if necessary turn to news outlets to check on legislation and titles.  Another reason for their familiarity is that if they are seeing one release on a particular piece of legislation, they’re usually seeing four or five more.

An advantage of having public interest releases handled by editors who live and work in D.C. is that they are surrounded by the news and legislation that your release might address!

That is exactly what happened when senior editor Wendy Minter was reviewing a recent news release and noticed that “Constituents” had been incorrectly spelled.

Last month, our editors found a total of 10,681 errors; year-to-date (as of June 1st), they have found 55,407.  In our Washington, D.C. bureau alone, editors caught 2,296 errors and mistakes last month.  Our catch rate (an internal metric that tracks the ratio of mistakes caught in press releases) is 661 catches per 1,000 releases.

Image courtesy of Flickr user keithreifsnyder.

Reading for Detail: Proofing Tips from our Editors

PR Newswire senior editor Matt McCoy

The PR Newswire Editorial team frequently catches obvious mistakes in press releases submitted for distribution over the wire  – the missing quotation marks, the website that doesn’t end in .com (or .org, etc.).   But did you know we also read every release carefully, double checking minute details?    We find and correct a vast array of mistakes (more than 12,000 in March 2011 alone!).  Here are some examples of mistakes that can reflect poorly on an organization – and some tips for fixing them before you hit “send.”

Proper nouns:

A recent release highlighted a company’s efforts to begin a search for a new director.  One of the proposed directors?  Governor Charles “Christ.”  A fun spellcheck fact: if a word is incorrect but is also a commonly spelled word, spellcheck is not going to find it!  In this case, our editor Matt saw the incorrect word, confirmed that the governor’s name is Charles Crist and fixed it.

Addresses – email, and physical locations

Addresses are frequent pitfalls, virtual and otherwise. Matt noticed the media contact’s last name was spelled differently than his last name in his email address – an important detail, because if the email address is wrong, responses from media will be missed.  There were errors in the mailing address, too, with references to the written as “9 Floor,” as opposed to “9th Floor,” and “87 Avenue” instead of “87th Avenue.”

When Matt called the client to review these catches (our standard procedure), the client said, “That’s phenomenal – that’s why we use you guys.”

Tips to prevent proofreading lapses:

Matt is one of our senior editors, and has been with PR Newswire for seven years.  When I asked him for suggestions on how to find these kinds of mistakes, he told me:

  • Pay attention to proper nouns while using spell check. It’s easy to get lulled into mindlessly clicking “ignore all” while spell checking copy that contains multiple mentions of the names of people, companies, places or products. If you do this, you pass up a great opportunity to make catches in clients’ copy.  After clicking “ignore all” for a term, if something similar is flagged by spell check, you should investigate.
  • If the spelling of a person’s name looks “off” to you, Google it, but be sure to check it against a reliable information source such as a company website or a recognized news service. The names of celebrities, business leaders and political figures are often crucial to our clients’ press releases and we can save them undue embarrassment by catching these mistakes with a little extra effort.
  • Scan the news media regularly to stay current on the latest tricky words, terms and names related to current events. This way you can be sure to spot misspellings of “tsunami” or know most of the acceptable variants of “Moammar Gadhafi.”
  • Really read the release, don’t just scan for spelling and punctuation.  This can help the editor go beyond spotting simple typos and uncover grammatical and factual errors.

More than 12,000 mistakes caught in March

In March 2011, the Editorial teams in our Washington, DC, Cleveland and Albuquerque bureaus caught 12,215  errors; year-to-date, Editorial has 33,831 “catches.”  Our March “catch rate” (an internal metric we track which measures the ratio of mistakes caught in press releases) is 691 catches per 1000 releases.

Many thanks to the eagle-eyed grammar wizards that comprise our Editorial teams!  It goes to show that we are really reading your releases for everything.  Really, everything!

Author Kate Galo  is a senior member of PR Newswire’s editorial team.

Press Release Pitfalls: Prevent Math Mix-Ups

Last month, senior editor Amanda Hicken wrote “Avoid Common Press Release Pitfalls: Advice from our Eagle-Eyed Editors,” highlighting four of the most common types of mistakes PR Newswire editors have caught, and how to avoid them in your press release.

That blog post was the first in what is going to be a new series on Beyond PR, Catching Up with Editorial, where some of our editors will be highlighting a great catch that was made for a client during the course of that month, related mistakes or inconsistencies Editorial looks for in releases, and how you can make similar catches before the release is even submitted to PR Newswire’s Editorial department.

We will also be letting you know how many catches we make on your releases every month.  In January and February, the Editorial department made a total of 22,038 catches in approximately 25,108 releases.  This works out to be a catch on nearly every release!

This month we’re going to focus on the math that shows up in your release. You probably wouldn’t think that a group of editors would be the most math-savvy bunch since Editorial is mostly made up of journalism, public relations and English majors. However, there are many instances of math in a press release, and your editors are working hard to make sure we are adding, subtracting and multiplying for the right answers.

Below are some examples of possible math mix-ups that can occur in your release.

Inconsistencies in lists – exactly how many people won that award?

A lot of press releases talk about employees being honored, contracts being won, foundation efforts to local charities.  But you could trip up your best efforts by not listing the numbers you state.  If your headline states that the company has won four contracts for the coming year, you would be advised to make sure that you mention all four.  An easy way to check your own numbers is to use a bulleted list, and then all you would have to do is count your bullets!  Four contracts are claimed in the headline – four bullets, one describing each contract.

A recent release showcased this method, using the bulk of the release to talk about a recent event it had sponsored and mentioning that it had sponsored two more.  At the end of the release was a short bulleted list, describing the two other events.  Three events were named – three events were mentioned.

Those numbers don’t add up!

Another inconsistency that is a little easier for us to catch is when dollar amounts don’t match.  One of our editors, Heather Howard, made a great catch recently for a foundation when she noticed a difference in the amounts that were given.  The headline and first paragraph of the release gave the amount as “$88,700.”  Later in the release, the amount was broken into two separate amounts, one of $70,000 and one of $17,000.  That showed a $1,000 discrepancy in the total.  Heather reached out to the client, and they asked us to change the headline and first paragraph to reflect the correct amount, $87,700.

Not all of the numbers will be that easy for us to catch – in a lot of our clients’ earnings statements, Editorial may not know which column should add up exactly.  But, any time that an editor has a question or a situation arises that we don’t know which number amount is correct, we will always reach out to you for confirmation.

Finances, finances

With the first quarter earnings period just about over, Editorial is seeing fewer releases about the year’s progress and the long columns of numbers that go with them.  Every quarterly earnings period is a time of heightened concentration, with editors preparing themselves to look for some of the following mix-ups:

  • Day and date slips: Sometimes, templates are used in writing conference call or year end results releases.  Unfortunately, that also means that sometimes an outdated date is left in the release!  Our editors will try to check every date listed in a release – is the 6th really a Monday? – and many times will use the “Find” function in Microsoft Word to check if the year is listed correctly throughout the release.
  • Comparing text and tables: In the earlier example, when editor Heather Howard noticed a discrepancy between the amount in the headline and the amount later in the text, she did the math and called the client.  When our editors process financial tables, they will compare what is stated earlier in the release to what shows up in the financial tables.  When the release gives the amount of net income in the final quarter of 2010, the editor will compare it against the financial tables and check the heading of the table as well, to make sure that it is for the correct span of dates.
  • Footnotes: A lot of financial tables will need footnotes or references.  Editors will take a look at the release itself – taking into consideration how many there are and whether they’re listed as numbers or letters. Editorial will then compare this information with the end of the table and make sure that if the financial table lists four footnotes, that footnotes 1, 2, 3 and 4 appear.  And if the end of the financial table reference says “Please see Schedule X for the notes,” then Schedule X will get checked for the correct number of notes.

As Amanda wrote in the first Catching Up with Editorial post, every release really needs the second set of eyes that Editorial will give it, but we hope that these tips will help you catch these issues before the release leaves your desktop and comes to us.

Authored by PR Newswire Senior Editor Kate Galo.

Image courtesy of Flickr user re_birf