Jargon — the enemy of an effective press release

Tips for a great press release from someone who’s gotten plenty.

“On May 23rd, 2013 at approximately 10:30pm, Portsmouth Police Emergency Dispatch Center received a call about suspicious activity occurring in the parking lot of the Beechstone Apartments off of Route 1. Portsmouth Police Officers arrived on scene and encountered 4 males hiding in between parked vehicles in the parking lot. 1 adult male attempted to flee on foot but was quickly apprehended. 2 other males (1 adult and 1 juvenile) were taken into custody and a 4th male (a juvenile) was able to get away but has subsequently been identified. The individuals arrested had multiple personal items in their possession that belonged in the vehicles that were parked in the parking lot.”

This is a sample press release from the Portsmouth Police Department. Something about police culture dictates that when talking to the public, they must use super-official sounding language. Sometimes reporters indulge them, but often they just rewrite the release using regular language. Here’s an example:

“When the police got to Beechstone Apartments, they found four men hiding between parked cars. One man tried to run away but was quickly caught. Two other men, one of whom was under 18, were arrested and the fourth man, also under 18, was able to get away. He has since been found.”

Police are by no means the only ones to cling to jargon. Teachers and government workers use a lot of acronyms. Doctors love their scientific terminology and lawyers even have their own term for their jargon: legalese. When writing a press release, remember that most people do not work at your company or even in your industry. Write using words that an 8th grader can understand. If you must use insider terms, make sure to explain what they mean somewhere in the release.

Here’s an example of why you don’t use jargon. Remember, your duty is to communicate. Making sure people understand what you’re writing is your first responsibility.

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