By Chris Yzerman
Last Friday was a big day around the newsroom.
Forget the opening ceremony of the London Olympics taking over the headlines, Friday was the day the office manager distributed new copies of The Canadian Press Stylebook and CP’s Caps and Spelling.
Hey, it’s a small victory. At a time when many are leaving the industry as newspapers restructure their business models and social media has opened the door to everyone with access to a keyboard or touchscreen to compete for media and PR space, it’s nice to know there’s still a place where order, accuracy and standards are upheld.
The printed newspaper may be dying a slow death, but, to borrow from the tag line of a company that’s had to adapt to changing times, quality never goes out of style.
And that’s the reason why CP’s guides remain relevant, and why they’re still an important tool for any journalist or PR practitioner.
If the power of the written word is now frequently boiled down to 140 characters or less, it’s pretty vital to ensure those 140 characters are accurate and informed. If you’re trying to spread or control the message, all it takes is one poorly-written press release, blog post or e-mail to turn success into an epic fail.
News releases and tweets come across the newsroom constantly and, often, credibility is judged within the first few words read by the receiver. CP’s books don’t make the subject any more or less newsworthy, but following the tips and styles within them are much more likely to get the message across with accuracy and precision — two things that were once hallmarks of the media but have suffered as a result of the digital age.
Granted, sitting down and thumbing through a copy of CP’s Stylebook may not seem like the most enjoyable reading. After all, copy editors at newspapers tend to be a different breed (and rapidly diminishing in job numbers, too) and they’re the types who are likely to gain some kind of satisfaction from pointing out a writer’s use of the word “practice” when the writer really meant to say “practise,” for example. But that doesn’t mean you’ve got to be a control freak to realize that a little self-editing can be the difference between professional and amateur when it comes to public perception. All it takes is a few minutes here and there spent familiarizing yourself with strong writing style and that’s a time investment that’s worth making.
Chris Yzerman is a desk editor at the Ottawa Citizen daily newspaper in Canada’s capital and got his start in journalism working for The Canadian Press. A graduate of Carleton University and Algonquin College, he’s worked as a reporter/writer and editor for various newspapers and magazines in addition to dabbling in broadcasting.