TOW #5


Photo from the Citing Sources Portal Page on Wikipedia

Avoiding plagiarism.

We’ve all faced that ethical dilemma, you’re writing a piece but unfortunately you’re suffering from major writers block. As you struggle for the right words you mull over the idea of simply copying and pasting a few sentences to help you get back on track. However, this still counts as a form of plagiarism even if a few sentences seem insignificant. Plagiarism is defined as the uncredited use (both intentional and unintentional)  of somebody else’s words and ideas (from Purdue Online Writing Lab.)

While researching the best ways to avoid plagiarism, I stumbled upon the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) which had many good tips and tricks that you can use.

When reading and taking notes:

  1. In your notes, mark someone else’s words with a big Q to indicate that it is a quote that needs attribution.
  2. When information comes from sources, record relevant documentation such as URL or the article and/or book name.

When writing summaries or paraphrasing:

  1. Use a statement that credits the source somewhere in the paragraph.
  2. Check your paraphrase or summary against the original work, correct any errors in content accuracy.
  3. Put quotation marks around any unique words or phrases that you cannot or do not want to change.

When writing direct quotations:

  1. Keep the source authors name in the same sentence as the quote.
  2. Mark the quote with quotation marks.
  3. Quote no more material than is necessary.

Writing about another’s ideas:

  1. Use parenthetical citations, footnotes, or end notes to refer readers to additional sources about the idea.

Revising, proofreading, and finalizing your paper:

  1. Make sure anything from an outside source is properly attributed by using, bibliographies, reference pages, citing a source that cites another source, foot notes and end notes, and in text quotations.

The Purdue Writing Lab offers more tips other than the ones I mention, I’ll post the link so that you can visit the site yourself.  The site also includes a plagiarism activity where you can practice how to avoid unintentional plagiarism.

The Writing Place page on the Northwestern University website described that the two most common forms of accidental plagiarism, paraphrasing without citations and  misplaced citations. An appropriate paraphrase is defined as accurately stating all the relevant information from a passage in your own words and phrasing without any additional comments and it always restated all the main points of the passage in the same order and number of words. (from The St. Martin’s Handbook) Therefore an unattributed paraphrase is plagiarism because it contains the same information in the same amount of words. The second most common form of accidental plagiarism is misplace citations. If using a paraphrase or quotation, place the reference information at the end of all the material cited. Anything after the reference is considered plagiarism because it looks like you’re stating your own ideas.

As with anything, learning how to properly cite and attribute things take practice and if you’re unsure what is and isn’t considered plagiarism there are many sites online the offer guidance, these are a few that I like:


Reading Notes Ch. 4

Finding and Making News

A major objective of many PR programs is to generate publicity for the employer or client.

Challenges of Making News

*4 obstacles

1. Media gatekeepers

2. Shrinking news hole; the increasing migrating of advertising to the internet has caused most daily newspapers  and many magazines to reduce the number of pages in each issue, which has also affected the amount of space available for news and features.

3. Traditional mass media is now fragmented and it is no longer possible to reach the larger public through a single medium.

4.Information overload; with the availability of 24/7 news programs, your organization’s news may never get audiences’ attention.

What makes news

1. Timeliness

  • Most important characteristics of news.
  • News must be current.
  • Announce something when it happens.
  • A good approach would be to provide information or story ideas that relate to an event or situation that is already being extensively covered by the news media.
  • Another good approach is to offer information linked to events and holidays that are already on the public agenda.

2. Prominence

  • The presence of movie stars, singers, and professional athletes at special events invariably draws crowds and the media.
  • Prominence is not restricted to people; but also extends to organizations.
  • The use of influential people is also not restricted to having the person there in person, you can still gain from the use of officials and other well-known individuals in quotes and pictures.

3. Proximity

  • Stories with local angles are known as “hometowners,” and they are custom tailored for an individual’s local newspaper or broadcast station by emphasizing the local angle in the first paragraph of the news release.
  • Almost 70% of all news coverage in the business and financial sections of newspapers are devoted to local companies.
  • Whenever possible, it is important to “localize” information by including names of local retailers and dealers.

4. Significance

  • Any substantial or event that can affect a substantial number of people is significant.
  • When judging significance, you must not only know how many people will be affected but also who will be affected.
  • Convincing media gatekeepers that the issue, product, or service is significant is a major task.

5. Unusualness

  • Anything out of the ordinary attracts press interest and public attention

6. Human Interest

  • People like to read about other people, however it is not restricted only for celebrities.
  • “Humanizing ” allows a story to illustrate the problems of society while focusing on a single family.

7. Conflict

  • When two or more groups advocate different views on a topic of current interest this creates news.
  • Organizations can gain coverage a number of ways: by stating a position or viewpoint regarding a local or even international controversy, or by stating various opinions about such ongoing controversies like global warming, illegal immigration, or universal healthcare.
  • Be aware of ongoing public issues and conflicts to determine if their clients or employees should publicize a particular viewpoint or perspective on the issues but you must first assess whether the particular issue is relevant to the organization.

8. Newness

  • New uses for old products.
  • Any news release announcing a new product or service has a good chance of being published (only if you can convince a journalist that it is truly “new”) Example: the “new” Apple iPhone the first smart phone of its kind debuts in January of 2007.

How to Find News

1. Internal News Sources

The first step in finding  news is to become totally familiar with the organization you represent by using a variety of sources such as:

  • Important papers: policy statements, annual reports, organizational charts, position papers etc.
  • Periodicals: current and past issues of employee newsletters and magazines.
  • Clipping files: published articles and online postings about the organization and the industry.
  • Role of roving reporter: talk to a lot of people, ask a lot of questions, be on the lookout for something new or different.

2. External News Sources

You should always think about how you can use news to create publicity, in order to do this, you need to read, listen to, and watch the news for events  and situations that may affect your organization. Other external news sources you can utilize for ideas are:

  • Polls and surveys
  • Census reports
  • Trade media
  • Financial analyst reports
  • Findings of governmental commissions
  • Sales figures for entire industries
  • Updates on competitors

How to Create News

  • No solid definition of what news is
  • Most news is created by individuals and organizations that plan activities and events for the purpose of creating public awareness to inform, persuade, and motivate.
  • Pseudoevent: events and situations that are created primarily for the sake of generating press coverage. Examples include: The Miss American pageant, the Academy Awards, and the Super Bowl.
  • Brainstorming: the point of such sessions is to encourage everyone to express any idea that comes to mind.
  • Various tactics for making news:
  1. Special Events
  2. Contests
  3. Polls and Surveys
  4. Top 10 Lists
  5. Stunts
  6. Product Demonstrations
  7. Rallies and Protests
  8. Personal Appearances
  9. Awards

Reading Notes Ch. 3

Avoiding Legal Hassles

Libel and Defamation:

Libel is injury to reputation. Words, pictures, or cartoons that expose a person to public hatred, shame, disgrace, or ridicule, or induce an ill opinion is libelous.

Libel is a printed falsehood while slander involves oral communication such as a speech or a broadcast mention.

Defamation damages may be awarded to the extent that the following four points can be proved by the injured party:

  1. The statement was published to others by print or broadcast.
  2. The plaintiff was identified or is identifiable.
  3. There was actual injury in the form of monetary losses, impairment of reputation, humiliation, or mental anguish and suffering.
  4. The publisher of the statement was malicious or negligence.

-Fair Comment Defense: a common law defense against defamation that guarantees the freedom of the press to express statements on matters of public interest, as long as the statements are not made with ill will, spite, or with the intent to harm the plaintiff.

-Avoiding defamation suits:

  • Watch your language, pay special attention to word choice.
  • Avoid unflattering comments or accusations.
  • Statements should be truthful, with factual evidence and scientific demonstration available to substantiate them.

Invasion of Privacy:

-Public relations writers are vulnerable to litigation with regard to invasion of employees’ privacy in at least five areas

     1.Employee Newsletters: 

  • Editors should try to keep employee stories organization oriented
  • Avoid anything that might embarrass or subject an employee to ridicule by fellow employees
  • Don’t rely on second-hand information
  • Don’t include racial or ethnic designations of employees in any articles

     2.Photo Releases:

  • Ordinarily a signed release is not needed if implied consent was given for the photograph
  • File all photos
  • Date all photos
  • Give the context of the photograph

     3.Product Publicity and Advertising:

  • An organization must have a signed release on file if it wants to use the photograph or comments of employees and other individuals in product publicity, sales brochure, and advertising.

     4.Media Inquiries About Employees:

  • Do provide confirmation that a person is an employee
  • Do provide the person’s title and job description
  • Do provide the date of beginning employment, or, if applicable, date of termination
  • Do not provide employees salary
  • Do not provide their home address
  • Do not provide their marital status
  • Do not provide job performance 

      5.Employee Blogs and Virtual Online Communities:

  • Many organizations have policies that provide guidelines for what rank and file employees can and cannot say on their blogs.
  • On another level, companies are concerned about the distribution of confidential information.

Copyright Law:

-Copyright means protection of a creative work from unauthorized use.

-The word authorship is defined in seven categories:

  1. literary works
  2. musical works
  3. dramatic works
  4. pantomimes and choreographic works
  5. pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works
  6. motion pictures
  7. sound recordings

-A copyright does not protect ideas but only the specific ways in which those ideas are expressed.

-Under current law, a work is automatically copyrighted at the moment it is “fixed” in tangible form.

-A copyright protects original material for the life of the creator plus 70 years for individual works and 95 years from publication for copyrights held by corporations.

-Works are said to be in the public domain if they are not covered by copyright protection or if intellectual property rights have expired.

 -Fair Use versus Infringement

  • Fair us means that part of a copyrighted article can be quoted directly, but the qouted material must be in brief relation to the length of the original work. Complete attribution of the source must be given regardless of the length of the quotation.

Trademark Law:

-A trademark is a word, symbol, or slogan, used singly or in a combination that identifies a product’s origin.

-Three basic guidelines for using trademarks are as follows:

  1. Trademarks are proper adjectives and should be capitalized and followed by a generic noun or phrase. EXAMPLE: Kleenex tissues.
  2. Trademarks should not be pluralized or used in the possesive form. Saying “American Express’s credit card” is improper.
  3. Trademarks are never verbs.

-Misappropriation of Personality: another form of trademark infringement that can result fro mthe unauthorized use of well-known entertainers, professional athletes, and other public figures in an organization’s publicity and advertising materials. Deceased celebrities are also protected 

Regulatory Agencies

  • The Federal Trade Commission: they ensure that advertisments are not deceptive or misleadind and they also have jurisdiction over product news releases and other forms of product publicity .
  • The Securities and Exchange Commission: they closely monitor the financial affairs of publicly tradeed companies and protects the interst of stockholders. Three basic concepts that you should remember 1) Full information must be given on anything that might materially affect the company’s stock, 2) timely disclosure is essential, and 3) insider trading is illegal.

TOW #4

The NewsU Cleaning Your Copy course was exactly what I needed. Grammar and style have never been my strong points and I felt that the online course explained things very well. Even though it took me nearly two hours to complete the course it was the refresher I definitely needed to brush up on my proofreading skills. The first thing I learned were pretty much the basics. Like when to use That or Which, the difference between Anyway and Any way, and the always tricky; Who and Whom. Grammar wasn’t the only thing I learned, formatting addresses correctly and learning when its appropriate to use abbreviations in writing were also explained. From grammar and style, capitalization and punctuation was also re-taught. A huge portion of the course focused on spelling. The most common misspelled words were highlighted. Some examples of words to always doublecheck when writing:

  • Accommodate
  • Dietician
  • Ecstasy
  • Inoculate
  • Memorabilia
  • Nickel
  • Pavilion

Punctuation is my weakness. If I have to choose between a comma or semi-colon, 95% of the time I will be wrong. But like all the other topics discussed in the course, the punctuation section was taught in an easily understandable manner.

The thing that surprised me most was the fact that there is literally a rule for everything. For example, when writing an address you only abbreviate Avenue, Boulevard, or Street if it is accompanied by a number or if you’re talking about distances, you only use figures for the numbers 10 and above. I had no idea that there is a proper way to format all the little details. Like, I said before, proofreading and editing are not my strong point, but like with all things it just takes practice. I would highly suggest this course to anyone who wishes to brush up on their editing skills and also investing in a current Stylebook is always helpful.

Reading Notes Ch.2

Becoming a Persuasive Writer

ethos: source credibility

pathos: emotional appeal

logos: logical argument

The Basics of Communication:  

  1. Sender: the organization from which the message somes
  2. Message: the key messages you want your recievers to receive, your message must be applicable, believable, and convincing
  3. Channel: the medium or combination of media that will be most effective in reaching your selected public
  4. Receiver: the people you must reach, also known as “publics” or “stakeholders”

Theories of Communication:

1.  Media Uses and Gratification– the communication process is interactive, in the sense that the communicator wants to inform and motivate people to act on the information and the recipients want to be entertained, informed, or alerted.

2.  Cognitive Dissonance– people will not believe a message contrary to their predispositions unless the communicator can introduce information that causes them to question their beliefs. Dissonance can occur three different ways: 

 A. The writer needs to make the public aware that circumstances have changed.

B. The writer needs to provide information about new developments.

C. The writer should use a quote from a respected person the public trusts.

3.  Framing– the term was historically used to describe how journalists and editors select facts, themes, treatments, and even words to “frame” a story in order to generate maximum interest and understanding among readers and viewers.

4.  Diffusion and Adoption– the process of acquiring new ideas has five steps:

  • Awareness: The person discovers the idea or product
  • Interest: The person tries to get more information
  • Trial: The person tries the idea on others or samples the product
  • Evaluation: The person decides whether the idea works for his/her own self-interest
  • Adoption: The person incorporates the idea into his/her opinion or begins to use the product

A number of factors may affect the adoption process:

  • Relative advantage: is this idea better than the one it replaces?
  • Compatibility: is the idea consistent with the person’s existing values?
  • Complexity: is the innovation difficult to understand and use?
  • Trialability: can the innovation be used on a trial basis?
  • Observability: are the results of the innovation visible to others?

5. Hierarchy of Needs: lists the basic human needs on a scale from basic survival to more complex

 Persuasive Speaking Techniques:

  • Yes-Yes: start with points with wich the audience agrees to develop a pattern of “yes” answers.
  • Offer structured choice: give choices that force the audience to  choose between A and B.
  • Seek partial commitment: Get a commitment for some action on the part of the receiver. This leaves a door open for commitment to the other parts of the proposal at a later date.
  • Ask for more, settle for less: be prepared to compromise.

Persuasion and Propaganda:

“Propaganda is the deliberate and systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions, and direct behavior to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist.”

Most common propaganda techniques:

  1. Plain Folks: an approach used to show humble beginnings and gain empathy with the average citizen.
  2. Testimonial
  3. Bandwagon
  4. Cardstacking: the selection of facts and data to build an overwhelming case on one side of an issue while concealing the other side.
  5. Transfer: the technique of associating the person, product, or organization with something that has high status, visibility, or credibility.
  6. Glittering generalities: the techniques of associating a cause, product, or idea with favorable abstractions such as freedom, democracy, and the American way.

TOW #3

Many people believe that the most important part of a blog is the blog itself, but another key component would be blog comments. I found a blog ( about writing effective blog comments that I found both interesting and helpful. By commenting on blogs it shows that you’re passionate enough to participate in conversations related to your area of expertise and that you are also intelligent enough to add value to a conversation. Also by commenting on different posts, you gain new perspectives on different issues. Commenting allows you to converse with different people around the world that share the same interests that you do. There are many helpful tips you should follow when commenting on your favorite post. The first is the most obvious, ALWAYS check spelling and grammer. No one likes to read a sloppy post. Your comment should add insight or a new idea to an original blog post. You should also never  write a comment that puts anyone down. If you are arguing, provide counterpoints and don’t attack the individual. As with any skill, practice is key to writing effective comments. The more you do it, the easier it gets. One of the benefits of participating in blog commenting is the chance to network and to show your knowledge to potential employers. By leaving your name and/or link to your professional website you get the chance to advertise yourself to different people. It also shows employers that you have a grasp on social media and are knowlegable about new technology. One last thing about blog comments, once you post something its impossible to take it back so don’t post something you will regret later.

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Reading Notes Ch.1

Chapter 1: Getting Organized for Writing

*Public Relations is composed of four core components:

  • research
  • planning
  • communication
  • evaluation

*4 Concepts of Public Relations Roles                                  -as a-

  • Expert Prescriber: consultants to top management for strategic planning.
  • Communication Facilitator: primary liaison between the organization and the public.
  • Problem Solving Facilitator: works with management to solve current problems in a process oriented way.
  • Communication Technician: practitioners who provide technical services such as news release writing, event planning, and graphic design.

*Preparation for Writing:

  • Computer: either desktop or notebook, to use for writing, research, and dealing with the media.
  • Reference Library: can be in many formats like software programs or books
  1. Encyclopedias
  2. Dictionary
  3. Style book (most widely used is the Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law.)
  4. Media Directories
  5. Personal Publications
  6. Internet Groups and Blogs
  7. Current Events and Trends

*Writing Guidelines

  • Outlining the Purpose: before writing ask yourself some key questions:
  1. What is the desired communication outcome?
  2. Who is our target audience?
  3. What are our target audience’s needs, concerns, and interests?
  4. What is out message? Do you want to inform or persuade?
  5. What communication channel is most effective?
  6. Who is our most believable spokesperson?

*A few general guidelines for preparing to write public relations materials:

  • Sentences: should be clear and concise. Generally a sentence should average about 15-17 words. Shorten common wordy phrases to single words        ex: Instead of saying “a great number of”  use  “many
  • Paragraphs: As with sentences, short paragraphs are better than long ones. Long paragraphs not only tax a reader’s concentration but also encourages the reader to “tune out.”
  • Word Choice: A writer’s word choice is heavily dependent on the reading and literacy skills of their audience.
  • Active Verbs  and Present Tense: A sentence using active voice is more direct and usually shorter than a passive sentence. Verbs also boost clarity and add energy to your writing. Use of present tense improves writing as well.
  • Imagery: Strong visual descriptions are better than generalized statements.

*Remember: Sloppiness loses credibility*

*Errors to Avoid

  1. Spelling
  2. Gobbledygook and Jargon
  3. Poor Sentence Structure
  4. Wrong Words (affect/effect, there/their/they’re, its/it’s)
  5. “Sound-alike” Words (desert/dessert, who’s/whose, canvas/canvass)
  6. Redundancies
  7. Too Many Numbers
  8. Hype
  9. Bias and Stereotypes: avoid descriptive terms of beauty or physical attributes and mannerisms whenever possible.
  10. Politically Incorrect Language