Differences between American and British English That PR Pros Should Know

By: Joseph Priest, Corporate Writer, Syniverse

If you were working for a British-English-speaking company or customer, would it be correct to write “She expects to send it towards the end of April” or “She expects to send it toward the end of April”? Or “He traveled there last year” or “He travelled there last year”? How about “That team is able to do anything” or “That team are able to do anything”?

English has become the lingua franca of the global economy. However, this language has two major forms: British English, used in the U.K. and many former British colonies, and American English, spoken mainly in the U.S. In fact, according to the CIA World Factbook, English is now the official language of at least 50 of the 240 countries and territories listed in that resource. Yet many if not most of these countries and territories, including such economic leaders as Canada, Australia, India, Singapore, and South Africa, use British English.

Although American English and British English are generally interchangeable, there are enough differences to occasionally cause awkward errors in communications created by or targeted to speakers of both language forms. And in an increasingly globally integrated business world where British-English-speaking countries are forming a greater part of the mix, it’s important for PR pros to be as adept as possible with both forms of English. (By the way, the correct answers to the questions in the first paragraph include the sentences with the words “towards,” “travelled” and “are.”)

To help PR pros navigate these differences, below is a rundown of differences between common American English and British English words and usages that can cause confusion, along with a few resources that can provide further guidance. Having an awareness of these will help your work be that much more accurate and effective in a world where British English represents a significant part of business communication.

Different Words with the Same Meaning

American English

British English 

calendar (appointment book or day planner)




anchor (for a news media outlet)


check mark


cool (in the sense of “excellent”)








period (punctuation mark)

full stop



program (plan)



CV (curriculum vitae)





zee (pronunciation of the letter “z”)


Note: The words on the right above represent words commonly used in place of the words on the left, but they are not necessarily the only words used in place of the words on the left.

Words with Different Spellings

American English

British English









check (bank payment)













per cent











What Day?

In American English, the month-day-year format is used to write dates. In British English, it’s the day-month-year format.

  • American: Jennifer is coming on May 13, 2015.
  • British: Jennifer is coming on 13 May 2015.


No Periods, Period
In American English, abbreviations such as "Mr.," "St." and "Dr." are properly written with a period. In British English, these are typically written without a period. This latter usage follows the rule that a period is used only when the last letter of the abbreviation is not the last letter of the complete word.

  • American: Mr. Carlin and Dr. Fox arrived late.
  • British: Mr Carlin and Dr Fox arrived late.

You Can Quote Me on This
In American English, periods and commas are always enclosed in closing quotation marks. Colons and semicolons always follow closing quotation marks, and question marks and exclamation points follow unless they are part of the quoted matter. In British English, however, only those punctuation marks that appear in the original material should be enclosed in quotation marks.

Additionally, in American English, single quotation marks are only used to enclose quoted content within a larger piece of quoted content, or in certain typographical styles, such as for headlines. In British English, though, the practice is generally the reverse: single quotation marks, also referred to as inverted commas in British English, are used as double quotation marks would be in American English, and double quotation marks are used to enclose quoted content within a larger piece of quoted content.

  • American: “I won’t go,” Marissa said.
  • British: ‘I won’t go’, Marissa said.


  • American: What time does this “Twitterthon” start?
  • British: What time does this ‘Twitterthon’ start?

One or Many?
In British usage, collective nouns that represent groups of people often take a plural verb.

  • American English: I think the government is on the right course.
  • British English: I think the government are on the right course.

Where to Turn for Help
Here are some handy resources to help distinguish differences between American English and British English words:

Have a question about a difference between American and British English? Please send it to me at



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Award Season Is Here! 2015 Silver Anvil Awards

By Melissa ReelMarketing Coordinator at Design Styles Architecture

Award season is here! Nationwide industries are recognizing their best and brightest stars. From the Golden Globes Awards® to the Tony Awards®, and the Academy Awards®. PRSA is getting in on the glitz and glamour too! We are recognizing public relations industry with 2015 Silver Anvil Awards, soon to follow is our “Best of the Best” 2015 Bronze Anvil Awards. Across the country public relations professionals are recognized for their high achievements in public relations. The 13 over all categories are drilled down to subcategories to ensure all areas are recognized, they include:

  • Public Service
  • Marketing
  • Integrated Communications
  • Events and Observances
  • Reputation/Brand Management
  • Community Relations
  • Internal Communications
  • Multicultural Public Relations
  • Crisis Communications
  • Public Affairs
  • Issues Management
  • Global Communications
  • Investor Relations

Last Friday judging for the Silver Anvil Awards wrapped up on location in New York City. I recently spoke to Silver Anvil 2014 and 2015 judge and PRSA Tampa Bay Chapter member Bobby Eagle. I asked Bobby what preparation goes into the Silver Anvil judging process. He credited PRSA with having an excellent preparation package. The comprehensive packet contains procedures, examples, judging criteria and scoring aggregates to assist during the process. Then, the judges are divided up into individual teams and given a category. Of course, Bobby’s industry experience is a great asset. You can follow Bobby Eagle @robertceagle  and other Silver Anvil Award judges and engage in the latest 2015 Silver Anvil Awards conversation and tweets at #prsanvil .

Bobby provided some best practice suggestions for PRSA candidates/nominees .

  • Pay close attention and follow the guidelines
  • Stick to the 2 -page summary, don’t go over
  • Be concise, but make a strong case in your summary
  • Show specific and measureable objectives tied to your results

He also explained the best practices are not limited to these points alone. He emphasized that strategy is “key”, as well as being able to explain what information your research provided. Whether the campaign is about awareness, or branding. What did the actual measureable results provide? Bobby’s 10+ years’ experience in the public relations industry is certainly helpful. Although his judging experience has provided him with great learning opportunities, it has enhanced his personal knowledge by learning through the success of others. One of the many PRSA core values is the advancement of the profession. Judging the PRSA Silver Anvil offers a valuable learning opportunity and helps to advance the profession. Winners from the previous years have their submissions posted online for anyone to read, providing an endless resource for best practices. The nominees who do not make it to the final round are still provided with a significant amount of instructive advice and critique from the judges. The Silver Anvils are not only an opportunity for prestigious recognition winning experience, but a learning experience too.

Check out the past winners page to learn from the companies, private practitioners and agencies implementing outstanding public relations work doing that qualifies them. For more information, visit 2015 Silver Anvil Awards.

If you are interested in submitting for 2016 or know someone you would like to nominate, the Silver Anvil guidelines packet is a great please to start with plenty of helpful information. 2015 PRSA Silver Anvil Guidelines and Entry Packet is a great place to start.

If you are interested in participating the 2016 Silver Anvil Silver Anvil Awards.


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Introducing the PRSA Tampa Bay PRestige Awards

By Melissa ReelMarketing Coordinator at Design Styles Architecture

The rumors are true. The PRSA Tampa Bay Chapter will be hosting an inaugural awards recognition program, the PRestige Awards, this fall. The details are still being finalized, but we can let you know that our chapter will recognize outstanding public relations initiatives in various categories that demonstrate excellence in research, planning, implementation and evaluation. Similar to PRSA's Silver Anvil Awards, the PRestige Awards will give our chapter an opportunity to honor our local members' achievements.

Information regarding the submission deadline and guidelines will be coming soon. Award recipients will be announced at the inaugural PRSA Tampa Bay PRestige Awards Luncheon this October. Be sure to check our website regularly for updated information.

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PRSA Tampa Bay's February Program Focuses on Social Media Crisis Management

By Megan Doherty, President of the University of South Florida's PRSSA Chapter

Tampa Bay PR professionals gathered together at the Brio Tuscan Grille Tuesday, Feb. 24 for a PRSA luncheon featuring Chief Jane Castor and spokesperson Laura McElroy from the Tampa Police Department. The sold-out event focused on social media and crisis management with the primary question being: “Could Twitter Prevent Ferguson?”

PRSA Tampa Bay President Marissa Segunda, APR with Chief Jane Castor and Laura McElroy
PRSA Tampa Bay President Marissa Segundo, APR with Chief Jane Castor and Laura McElroy

As large plates of salad topped with chicken, strawberries, and grapes were passed out, Chief Castor and McElroy eloquently addressed the positive and negative effects social media plays in the depiction of a crime and its investigation. McElroy posed questions to the group about the Ferguson shooting; could the department have prevented public unrest and riots if they had released the video of Michael Brown assaulting a cashier at the Kwiki Market moments or if it had released photos of Officer Darren Wilson’s injuries. She advocated releasing information so the public has a complete picture of the events leading up to shooting.

Chief Castor discusses crisis management and dealing with the media.

McElroy explained that police departments can’t hold all of their information close to the vest.

“The public has a right to know what is happening in their community,” McElroy said. “Without compromising the investigation we have to give the citizens that information.”

McElroy then showed a series of examples in which Chief Castor and TPD had to practice transparency while maintaining the integrity of their investigation. One such incident was the death of fallen officers Jeffrey Kocab and David Curtis, who were killed during a routine traffic stop. The public and media were hungry for information on the incredibly sensitive subject, which the department provided while continuing to search for the alleged shooter.

McElroy explained her big dog theory: “The media is like a dog that eats all of the time. If you don’t feed it, it’ll get into your garbage.”

McElroy went on to discuss she has helped position the Tampa Police Department as a model organization. From police officers escorting skateboarders to skating zones on National Skateboard Day to viral videos of officers lip syncing to the song “Call Me Maybe,” McElroy has emphasized the approachability of the TPD and how the officers care for the citizens they are sworn to protect and serve.

Save the date:
The next PRSA Tampa Bay luncheon will take place on Mar. 25. The subject will be “Bienvenidos a Cuba: What An Open Cuba Means for Tampa Bay Communicators,” with speaker Bill Carlson, President Tucker/Hall.

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Spring Into Savings with PRSA's March Membership Promotion

By Melissa Reel, Marketing Coordinator at Design Styles Architecture

PRSA is offering new members who join in March a FREE 1 year section enrollment when you join PRSA National. Whether you’re a New Professional or a seasoned public relations professional, join a professional association that is designed to enhance your career, as well as provide direction and guidance where it is needed. As industry professionals, having a resource such as PRSA is priceless.

As a member of one or more Professional Interest Sections, you have access insider industry information that is critical in today's highly competitive workforce. Designed to focus on issues, trends and research in specialized practice areas and industries, Sections offer programs and face-to-face networking events that keep you connected with your peers and on top of the latest public relations best practices.

  • Association / Nonprofit
  • Corporate Communications
  • Counselors Academy
  • Counselors to Higher Education
  • Educators Academy
  • Employee Communications
  • Entertainment & Sports
  • Financial Communications
  • Health Academy
  • Independent Practitioners Alliance
    New Professionals
  • Public Affairs & Government
  • Technology
  • Travel & Tourism

Receive all the professional benefits of industry education, networking and so much more!

Existing members have the opportunity to save as well. If your current or renewing members can save $20 for a new 1-yr Section membership and pay only $40.

For current and renewing members use promo code SEC15, New members use code MAR15.

Register online at You can also call 212-460-1400 or email with any questions.


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PRSA Tampa Bay Member Spotlight: Melissa Reel

We like to put a spotlight on a PRSA Tampa Bay member to learn more about their public relations background, advice on best practices and why they love working in the field.

Next up in our #PRSATB Spotlight is Melissa Reel, marketing coordinator at Design Styles Architecture, who recently made a career switch and now works in public relations.

Name: Melissa Reel
Title: Marketing Coordinator
Company/Organization: Design Styles Architecture
PRSA Involvement (past and present): Active chapter member and Digital Communication Committee participant
Connect with Melissa: LinkedIn & Website.

Tell us a little bit about your career, educational/professional background and how you got to where you are today.
I began my career in the wine and spirits industry where I worked in the State Chain Division for a local distributor for 12+ years as a Key Account Specialist. Soon after I began my position where I worked with high volume accounts and corporate offices, I realized my passion for Marketing and Communication. I decided to return to school where I recently graduated my Bachelors in Advertising and Public Relations with a concentration in Communication from The University of Tampa.

I recently left my job in the wine and spirits industry to persue a position more focused on public relations and marketing, I begin my new position on February 16th as a Marketing Coordinator for Design Styles Architecture, a local architecture firm established in 1998 and is located in Ybor City. Thier client base ranges from private residential to  commerical, as well as The University of Tampa. I am very excited and ready to jump in and embark on this new and exciting chapter in my life.

What do you suggest students do to stand out among applicants in the competitive job market?
My advise to students is to get as many internships and take on independent projects as posssible, this will enable you to obtain experience and diversity in your skillset which will make you more marketable.

What are some of your personal hobbies outside of work/PR? 
Outside of work I enjoy practicing yoga and running, they help enhance my focus as well as keep me energized.

What do you love most about working as a PR professional? 
In my short time so far it has been the diversity of tasks that each day brings. I love to be challenged and, as well using strategy to apply the best tactics necessary to accomplish the goal.

If you're interested in being highlighted in our PRSA Tampa Bay Member Spotlight, please fill out the webform here.

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Welcome New Members, February 2015

Welcome PRSA Tampa Bay new chapter members!

  • Lisa Greene, Tampa General Hospital
  • Ellen Fiss, Tampa General Hospital 
  • Jennifer Wagner, Seminole Electric Cooperative

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What’s Old with New Business

By Joseph Priest, Corporate Writer, Syniverse

It may be the most important document in public relations: the new-business proposal. Whether you work for an agency, a corporation or a nonprofit, a focus on winning new business is a standard part of doing business.

But putting together new-business proposals can sometimes be anything but standard. Oftentimes it involves team efforts that require integrating a range of information about capabilities and experience, recruiting the right colleagues to provide insights to address certain business challenges, and rushing to compile all this information in snazzy booklets under tight deadlines.

Not surprisingly, many grammar-and-style matters can fall through the cracks when this many people touch this much information under this timeline.

In my role as an editor over the past 15 years, I’ve developed my own list of errors that are prone to arise in these situations, and below are six of the most common to be on guard against.

Mistakes in new-business materials are embarrassing, unacceptable and, of course, detrimental to business. Regardless of how much time you have to pull together a proposal, it’s important to always sweat the details and not settle for anything less than perfection.

1. Would you or will you?
When you describe a proposed course of action, you can use the conditional verb tense (would) or the future tense (will): Our team will start by developing an influencer program to identify the leading players in this space who can best spread the word about Company ABC’s message. The conditional tense is less assuming while the future tense expresses stronger intent, but either is OK. However, it’s easy to inadvertently jump back and forth between these two tenses and create a sloppy-reading section. Remember to keep this verb-tense choice consistent throughout a proposal.

2. Mr., Ms., Last Name or First Name?
When you describe the talents of your team in the bio section of proposals, it’s easy to alternate from a formal style (Mr. Joseph Gillis) to a casual one (Joseph) to one in between (Gillis), depending on how a bio was originally written or what style seems most appropriate for a prospect. Although the use of the first name tends to be a more common style nowadays, be sure to choose one style and stick with it in all the bios.

3. A Company Is Only One
When including case studies in a proposal, a common pitfall in describing past work is to refer to a corporation with a plural pronoun: When Company XYZ launched the product, they needed a way to raise awareness. This reflects the informal conversational style of referring to a person or company in a plural form. In writing, however, remember that a corporation is a singular entity and should always be referred to with the singular pronoun “it.”

4. Parallel Structure
Proposals are usually chock full of bulleted lists, so remember the most common error with bulleted lists is a lack of parallel construction. This error not only presents a grammatical issue, but the abruptness of it can read as sloppy thinking, as this example shows:

We offer a range of services to help clients gain media coverage in these ways:

  • Develop a full-scale media strategy with measurable objectives
  • Relationships with reporters of top-tier media
  • Write content, including news releases, fact sheets and byline articles
  • Media monitoring and coverage analysis
  • Provide media training for a number of interview situations.

As you can see, the second and fourth bullet points read inconsistently by not starting with a verb. Remember, if the first bulleted item is a noun, the rest of the items should be nouns. If the first item is a complete sentence, the rest of the items should be as well. Each item should be a continuation of the first bullet point.

5. Watch Your English
If you’re working on a proposal team that includes both British-English and American-English speakers, be sure to choose one kind of English as the standard and designate a native speaker who can act as a final authority in proofing the use of that English, be it British or American. Although these two kinds of English are generally interchangeable, enough differences exist to cause misunderstandings. Here are just a few issues:

  • In American English, periods and commas are always enclosed in closing quotation marks. In British English, however, only those punctuation marks that appear in the original material are enclosed in quotation marks. American English: “I won’t go,” Norma said. British English: “I won’t go”, Norma said.
  • Americans write the abbreviations Mr., Mrs., St. and Dr. with a period. Britons usually, but not always, write such abbreviations as Mr, Mrs, St and Dr, without a period.
  • In British English, collective nouns that represent groups of people generally take a plural verb, unlike American English. British English: The government are on the right course. American English: The government is on the right course.
  • There are a number of words with different spellings or meanings in each language. Here are just some frequently used words related to public relations to keep in mind, with the American-English word given first and the British-English word second: program, programme; center, centre; color, colour; period (the punctuation mark), full stop; anchor (a television news anchor), presenter; ad, advert.

6. One or two?
Finally, this may seem nitpicking, but inconsistent spacing following the end of a sentence does make a difference. For the record, correct spacing after a punctuation mark ending a sentence is one space – not two. With the large number of people who contribute to proposals, it’s likely that this inconsistency will crop up. Try to enforce the one-space rule. To be sure, this is a minor style issue, but it’s the same as if black text were used in part of a proposal and gray text in another part. It’s small but noticeable. Any inconsistency you can eliminate will make the final product better.

Got a PR grammar or style question? Bring it on. Reach me at


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The GoDaddy Doggy, Crisis Communication 101

By Melissa Reel, Key Account Specialist at Premier Beverage Company

Understanding how to effectively manage a crisis in the realm of public relations is imperative to maintain the integrity of any company, as well as its future reputation. On any given day, any company can be subject to an immediate crisis and having a solid contingency plan in place can make the difference on how the company image can recover unscathed.

GoDaddy is no stranger to controversy; their edgy and sometimes zany commercials are evidence. However, their ads do deliver the publicity they are looking for. This years Super Bowl XLIX ad is an example of their reach for publicity gone awry. The commercial is spoof on the current Budweiser ad that features a lost puppy, who was safely delivered back to his home. The GoDaddy version titled “ Journey Home” features the puppy safely making it home, however only to be sold on the family’s GoDaddy website.

While fans love the commercial, GoDaddy has fallen short according to many animal lovers and activist alike. More than 35,000 people signed in an online petition and took to social media outlets like Twitter and Face book on Tuesday and demanded the commercial be removed citing concerns over animal cruelty. In response to the ad and the out pour of support for Buddy, GoDaddy quickly responded by pulling the commercial.

GoDaddy's reaction to pulling the commercial was a swift and expedient move in crisis communication tactics. GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving immediately issued and an online apology statement titled “We’re Listening, Message Received”, he expressed the intention of a play on the current Budweiser “Lost Puppy” commercial.

In crisis management providing accurate and timely information to your stakeholders is imperative; however the information must be disseminated on the platforms which reach your current audience.

Below are some tips to consider when planning a Crisis Communication Strategy

  • Prepare a contingency plan which can customize according to your industry.
  • Develop a “Dark” Website, this website will help communicate pertinent information to your publics, as well as tell your side of the story and be launched within minutes of the crisis taking place.
  • Create a stakeholder list, this information provide a list of key persons which are affected by the crisis
  • Create a list of key media, bloggers, and social media to quickly communicate information to your audience.
  • Train a company appointed spokesperson on how to face media and online scrutiny
  • Develop team roles
  • Integrate the crisis plan with company plan


For more information on Crisis Communication, the PRSA Website offers free On-Demand Crisis Communication webinars

You can also visit the website to register for the upcoming Strategic Collaboration Conference on March 19th, which features Key Note Speaker Melissa Agnes

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Game Day. Every Day.

By Lynn Hobeck Bates, APRCommunications Manager for Visit Sarasota County

With the slogan, Game day. Every day, Rob Higgins, Director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission, understands just how competitive it is to attract major sporting events to the destination. It takes perseverance, dedication and the willingness to put in a lot of sweat-equity. It also takes business-acumen and creativity. Take for instance a fun, homemade video used in a bid to host a major basketball competition. The video showcases just how close a new hotel is to the game day location. It’s so close one can make a long shot from its balcony. Clever.

The Sports Commission’s mission is to provide economic and social impact to the region. Economically-speaking the commission is responsible for bringing millions of dollars in tourist tax collection to the region. Events such as the upcoming NCAA Women's Final Four basketball tournament, NCAA Men's Final Four hockey tournament -- the Frozen Four will not only bring athletes who will stay in hotels for several nights but it attracts thousands of fans who will travel for several days to cheer on their teams. Sporting events are not limited to major collegiate and professional sports. Youth and amateur sports bring a considerable amount of economic revenue and benefit to the area as well.

Socially-speaking the Sports Commission helps generate scholarship exposure for local athletes. To this end, they own and operate 14 local youth events and hold recruiting fairs for athletes to attend Division III schools. “Often times these kids may not even go to college if it weren’t for the athletic scholarship,” says Higgins. They also run the Event Development Institute where new sporting events are created and supported.

So what does success look like on their scorecard? “[We] don’t deem it a success unless [the sporting event] comes back a second time to Tampa Bay,” said Higgins.

Keeping athletes, sports event organizers and spectators happy ensures this success. Sometimes this even means climbing into the rafter’s to stop a rain leak during a live, nationally televised Final Four basketball game.

Higgins imparted words to live by in any business, game or, just life in general,

  • Be a part of the solution, not of the problem.
  • Never burn a bridge you may have to walk back over.
  • If you aren’t at the table, you are on the menu.
  • Be a chess player, not a chess piece.
  • Always be a student.

To learn more about the Tampa Bay Sports Commission, visit the website:

To see more upcoming PRSA Tampa Bay chapter events, click here.

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