Press Release Writing Expert Dan Janal

Have you ever written a press release and nothing happened?

One reason might be that you didn’t follow the special rules for writing and formatting a press release. Reporters can be picky and they will quickly hit the delete key on any press release that violates the basic rules.

Here are 10 common formatting mistakes that will kill your press release. Avoid these mistakes at all costs and you’ll find press releases can be a very effective free publicity tactic.

1.     Headlines should not be written in ALL UPPER CASE. Headlines should be written in Title Case in which the first letter of each word is capitalized. Exceptions are for prepositions (e.g. on, off, about, of) and articles (e.g. a, the) except if they are the first word in the headline or the first word of the second line of the headline.

2.     No dateline. A dateline tells readers where and when the news took place. Start with the City and State (but leave off the state if it is a well-known city, e.g. CLEVELAND, but not Canton, OH.) Write the city in CAPITALS. Follow with a comma, then space, then the date, in month, day and year format (January 2, 2012) followed by a space and a dash and then the first word of the story. For example:
CLEVELAND, January 2, 2012 – The City Council today…

3.     Misplacing the comma in a quotation. The comma goes before the closing quotation mark,
Correct: “The day is long,” she said.
Incorrect: “The day is long”, she said.

4.     Not listing a contact person. You must include the actual name of a person with a phone number and email address.

5.     Not proof reading the press release. It’s impossible to proof read your own work, and a computer spell checker will not find all the mistakes. Have another person read it before you send it.

6.     Not checking basic facts. If your introduction says “five ways to” do something, then make sure your list have five ways, not four or six.

7.     Using bad links. Test each link to make sure it works and that there are no typos.

8.     Writing too much. People have short attention spans. Write only what is essential and refer people to your website for more information. Shoot for 300-500 words. 800 words is the maximum unless you have a very good reason for writing longer.

9.     Not including keywords. Keywords are essential for press releases today as search engines and reporters rely on keywords to find relevant press releases.

10.  Not using -30- or # # # to signify the end of the press release. It’s a standard convention that lets everyone know the press release is at the end. It’s a holdover from the days when press releases were transmitted by telegraph.

If you avoid these common mistakes, you’ll find reporters will be much more receptive to your press release and you’ll be able to take advantage of a free publicity tactic.

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