Colorado State University

Journalism & Technical Communication

September 2002


Writing About Public Relations and Media

A Review Compiled from the AP Stylebook and Other Sources


Public Relations

Term should be lower case in all uses: public relations. Not: Public Relations agencies are . Capitalize the "P" only when the term begins a sentence.

Spell out public relations in first references. The abbreviation PR is acceptable as a second reference. PR might be used as a first reference in some situations if the meaning is clear. Use capitals, without periods or a hyphen. Not: p.r., p-r, pr, P-R.

Public relations is always singular, despite computer spell-checkers that attempt to make it plural. Be careful when you spell-check.

PR is never a verb. Richard Nixon misspoke when he said, "We have to PR it."

Public relations workers are practitioners. Spell it correctly (note the middle ti). Alternatively, say PR professionals, workers, etc. Never use perjoratives, except if in direct quotes. He called PR practitioners "flacks." (Note: flack, not flak.)

Media References

The media are plural. A newspaper is a medium. Newspapers and magazines are media (not medias). But: new media is a singular noun that refers to a collection of new technologies and takes a singular verb: New media is emerging as a field of study.

Avoid references to "the media" as institutions that operate in concert. Generalizations rarely apply to all forms of communication media (print, broadcast, the Internet). In most cases, it's better to be specific. Refer to newspapers, radio, television, etc. when referring to particular categories of media.

Spell out television in first references. TV is acceptable as a shortened second reference in most uses. Cable refers to a category of TV networks. Broadband is now the preferred term for coaxial cables that bring telecommunications into homes and offices.

Write: Channel 7, KUSA-TV Channel 9, KCSU-FM 90.5, NBC Television Network (official name), ESPN, Fox News Channel, radio station KLOX. In second references, say the station, the channel, the network, etc.

Creative Works

Use italics to indicate the title of books and reference works: Gone With The Wind. Use underlining if italics are not available. AP style calls for the titles of newspapers and magazines to be left alone--without italics or underlining.

Use quotation marks around the titles of TV or radio shows, episodes of shows, articles, movies, plays, poems, songs, commercials, public service announcements, or other creative works: "The Sopranos." Don't use quotes (or italics) to refer to sacred works, such as the Bible or the Torah, or parts thereof.

Capitalize and punctuate the titles of media works according to the work's official title. Generally, short articles, conjunctions and pronoun should be lower case. "Short" means words with four letters or less, except if the first or last word in the title).

Web and Internet Terms

Capitalize and punctuate frequently used words as follows: Web, World Wide Web, Internet, URL (universal record locator), HTML, HTTP, PowerPoint (one word). But: the net, e-mail (note hyphen), browser, online, telnet, Web site, home page (two words).

Put quotes around computer games: "Myst." But not software programs: Microsoft Word.

Web addresses (URLs) should be italicized and not be preceded by the http:// browser command: Capitalize URLs and e-mail addresses according to the way they are provided by the source. Usually all lower-case is preferred. Do not insert a hyphen to break up URLs or e-mail addresses between lines of text. Omit hot links (underscoring), except for e-mail and documents designed for the web.

Avoid pointed brackets (<>) in the text of documents that might be posted on the Internet. These marks are reserved for HTML browser commands only.

Other Media Terms

Spell correctly: advertising, advertisement, copyright, editor-in-chief (note: editors-in-chief) usability (usable),

Spell as one word or two, as indicated: audio conference, audio tape, copywriter, copy writing, news conference (preferred for press conference), news release, press kit, satellite news conference, videotape, videoconferencing, video news release.

Avoid gender-specific references to people. Wrong: ad man, PR woman (especially PR girl), newsman, etc. Use generic terms: camera operator, editor, executive, news anchor, newscaster, reporter, radio announcer, practitioner, advertising representative, etc.

Abbreviations: Follow the AP guidelines. Avoid using acronyms for organizations unless universally known, or for clarity. Spell out the full name of organizations or regulatory agencies in the first reference. Use a descriptive term in subsequent references. Example: Public Relations Society of America, then the society. But: An acronym, such as PRSA, might be used occasionally for variety. Also use acronyms if several organizations are mentioned,or as an adjective if required. Examples: IABC and PRSA joined forces . PRSA members voted .

Past tense of broadcast is broadcast, not broadcast: The show was broadcast across the world.

People use media every day -- two words. Everyday is an adjective that means routine or ordinary.

When referring to clients or media organizations, avoid using the personal pronoun "their" in subsequent references:

Wrong: The client is trying to improve their image.

Right (the organization): The client is trying to improve its image.

Better: Executives are trying to improve the organization's image.

But: If "client" refers to a person, use the appropriate personal noun: her image.