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Inspiration for My Fellow Word Nerds

As crafters of content, most PR professionals are more grammatically sensitive than the general public. You’ll often find us – along with journalists, English majors and other fellow wordsmiths – cringing as we feel the visceral need to edit a grammatically incorrect restaurant menu, wedding invitation or even a spouse’s text (sorry, sweetie!).

Being a punctuation purist is essential for our line of work. Our content must professionally represent our clients’ messages, products and services; clearly relay all the essential information to journalists or consumers; and represent our team’s communication capabilities.

That’s why we developed NST’s Writing Workshop program, which takes each employee through about a dozen sessions focused on subjects such as Associated Press Style, punctuation, feature writing, editing techniques and the mastery of “The Model,” NST’s framework for organizing content to solicit a desired behavior. We also have a quality control process that requires at least three peer reviews before a document is provided to the client or media. As part of that process, we get to play the role of editor, and I have officially found my new role model – Mary Norris, the “Comma Queen.”

Norris is a copy editor at The New Yorker and she stars in a new series on NewYorker.com called “Comma Queen.” In two-minute episodes, Norris breaks down common language faux pas, including possessives, restrictive sentences, and the who/whom conundrum. She even takes her editing pencil to Bob Dylan’s song lyrics (lie lady lie just doesn’t have the same ring to it).

As an editor, I find her confidence and absolute proficiency of the English language awe-inspiring. And while I believe our team is well equipped to handle the rigors of public relations writing, it’s always nice to have someone to inspire you to aspire to greater things.

What are your biggest grammar challenges? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page and we’ll do our best to give you a Mary Norris-worthy answer.

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