Let the Games Begin: Correct Olympics Terms

By Joseph Priest, Corporate Writer, Syniverse

The Olympics are almost here, and each biennial competition seems to draw bigger and bigger media coverage than the one before. This summer’s event promises to figure prominently in our communications, and it will be helpful to know some of the ins and outs of writing Olympic terms correctly. To help us navigate these words, below are a few guidelines for some of the most common Olympic terms that we’re bound to come across in the next few weeks.

In addition, the AP Stylebook has created a special 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games topical guide that provides  specific guidance on Olympics terms as well as some helpful facts and figures.

Enjoy the games, and go, USA!

Olympics and Olympic - Both the noun and adjective should be capitalized in nearly all references. Here are the spellings for some common terms (these spellings also apply for the Paralympics and its related terms):

  •          Olympic Games
  •          Summer Olympics
  •          Summer Games
  •          Olympic Village
  •          Olympic flame and torch relay
  •          Olympic opening ceremony
  •          Olympic closing ceremony.

“Olympics” can be lowercased on the rare occasions when it’s used in a generic sense: video-game olympics, arm-wrestling olympics.

Olympiad - This word is often mistaken as a synonym for “Olympics,” and for this reason it’s best to stay away from “Olympiad” altogether. An Olympiad, in fact, is a period of four years that begins on Jan. 1 of the Olympic year. Each Olympiad has been numbered consecutively in Roman numerals that go back to the 1896 Athens games. This year’s Olympics are the Games of the XXXI Olympiad, which began on Jan. 1 of this year.

games - This is a confusing one. “Games” should always be capitalized when used after “Olympic,” but AP style says to lowercase “games” when it’s used alone to refer to the Olympics. However, this is curiously a practice that many major media do not adhere to. Moreover, style guides for such publications as the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times conflict with AP style and say that “games” should be capitalized when used alone. The AP’s guideline is the most sound of the two practices and based on a standard capitalization rule, in which the shortened form of a proper noun is lowercased if it’s understood or often used that way as a common noun. (For example, the Empire State Building is properly referred to in shortened form as “the building” but not “the Building”; but an event with a title like 2016 Coast to Coast Rockfest is correctly referred to in abbreviated form as “Rockfest,” because “rockfest” isn’t a commonly used noun. In any case, with the dissension between the AP and other media, writing either “Games” or “games” when this word is used alone is fine: Kim is going to the Games in Rio.

Rio - Acceptable as a first reference for the city, provided that the full name, Rio de Janeiro, is used somewhere in the story, according to AP style. However, in less formal communications, I recommend not even worrying about spelling this out a single time since “Rio” is so common and well-known that there is little chance of it being confused with another name.  

medalist - This word is spelled with one “l” in American English, but two in British English.

medals - The names of Olympic medals are not capitalized: Michael Phelps won four gold medals and two silver medals at the 2012 Summer Olympics.

events - Likewise, the names of Olympic events should not be capitalized: Ryan Lochte won the men’s 200-meter freestyle in London.

Carioca - This is the name for a resident of Rio.


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Member Spotlight: Jenny Blevins

Member Spotlight: Jenny Blevins

Jenny Blevins is a marketing coordinator at Franklin Street, has been a member of PRSA Tampa Bay for more than five years and is the 2016 chapter treasurer, and, in college, held several positions in PRSSA for the University of Nebraska at Omaha chapter, including membership chair.

First news publication you read in the morning?
The Tampa Bay Business Journal. It’s local, and I love reading the “7 ways to start your day” with my coffee.

First public relations job?
My first job was with HNTB, an architectural and engineering firm, at its corporate office in Kansas City, Missouri. It was so interesting to learn about how bridges and tunnels are planned and designed.

Most important career mentor?
I have a few, but I would have to say that my mother and father, who are both doctors at a teaching hospital, have taught me so much about continuing education and never giving up.

Top grammar, style or writing pet peeve?
The improper use of “their,” “there,” and “they’re,” and the improper use of the word “therefore.”

Most rewarding accomplishment in public relations?
When I was in college with PRSSA, my team won the National Organ Donor Awareness competition – which was a lot of fun and a lot of work! I also have had the pleasure to work with many talented writers and reporters across the world.

Advice to new public relations professionals?
Dip your toes in everything until you find out what you really like, because I found that even when I am not writing articles, press releases or blogs, my writing skills still come in handy for so many other things. Also, it’s OK to be a jack of many trades, and being able to wear many hats is important in our industry because our roles change so often!

Job you would pursue if you weren’t in public relations?
My family owns a scuba dive center in South Tampa, so I would have to say that I would be a dive master off Truk Lagoon or somewhere exotic. With my upbringing and love of sea life, I would also consider marine biology.

Favorite movie?
I love the classic Audrey Hepburn movies and musicals, but I also have the guilty pleasure of watching Labyrinth, with David Bowie, at least once a year.

Favorite vacation?
Recently, my husband and I went on our honeymoon to the springs up in North Florida, where we camped for five days and dived and kayaked. It’s really awesome to live somewhere with such diverse wildlife and so many state parks.

Any three dinner guests?
My three dinner guests would have to be Bob Marley, Robin Williams and Gene Wilder.

Me (left) off the coast of Jupiter, Florida, on a shark dive where we later encountered a nine-foot scalloped hammerhead!

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PRSA 2016 International Conference Scholarship

The PRSA 2016 International Conference is a great opportunity to enhance your personal and professional network, while engaging with some of the world's most influential companies and organizations that call Indiana home. Connect with thousands of colleagues and more than 150 industry experts from all career levels, sectors, work environments and industries for three days of practical insight and networking.


PRSA Tampa Bay is offering one scholarship for a member to attend the conference Oct. 23-25 in Indianapolis. To be considered, please complete the application by 12 p.m. on August 12. A selection committee from another PRSA chapter will choose the scholarship recipient and the winner will be notified by August 26.

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Watch Out For These Capitalization Errors

By Joseph Priest, Corporate Writer, Syniverse

Capitalization seems easy – basically, everything should be lowercase except the beginning of sentences and proper nouns – but within these guidelines is room for much variation and confusion. Here are some of the most common pitfalls in public relations writing that professionals should be on guard against.

Academic Majors
Someone can major in public relations, accounting or engineering, but not Public Relations, Accounting or Engineering. This can be a sensitive but important point to address with executives in writing their bios.

Compass Directions
Lowercase “north,” “south,” “east” and “west” unless they’re being referred to as regions:

  • I moved back north because I’m not originally from the South.

When an area is well-known as a region, capitalize it:

  • She traveled from Southern California to the East Coast.

This can be tricky to determine, though, and sometimes it’s necessary to consult multiple resources – such as a dictionary, a stylebook and even a local newspaper – to find out if a region like the western part of our state should be ‘’western Florida” or “Western Florida.” (The former is the most common usage.)

Company and Product Names
The capitalization of proper nouns is one of the most basic principles of English, so unless a company or product that uses creative capitalization is a client, names such as adidas or jetBlue should be written as Adidas and JetBlue. Likewise, company or product names that use all caps, like VISA or NIKE, should be written with just one capital letter, Visa and Nike, because the creative capitalization is considered a decorative element of their logos.


Names that don’t begin with capitals but introduce them within a letter or two, like iPhone or eBay, are OK to write in midsentence, but don’t begin a sentence with a lowercase letter. The sentences-begin-with-capitals rule supersedes all:

  • IPhones are on sale.

Job Titles
The basic AP style rule is that a title shouldn’t be capitalized unless (1) it’s used directly before a name and, importantly, unless (2) the title is a formal title, one indicating a scope of authority or professional activity. However, this formal title part can make this rule awfully complex. So after years of trying to clarify the complex nuances of this (as quick examples, “account executive Melanie Ralston” and “janitor Ray Nicolette” include titles that would be properly lowercased because they’re not formal titles), I’ve concluded that it’s the single most confusing one in PR and contradicts a basic instinct in PR – to accord status to organizational leaders. Consequently, in the interest of simplicity, this is what I recommend:

Media Relations
For media relations documents, such as news releases, follow AP style and capitalize formal titles used directly before an individual’s name:

  • I saw Chief Financial Officer Jackie Brown when she visited yesterday.

In other instances, lowercase the title:

  • I hope to see Jackie Brown, chief financial officer, when she visits.


Brand Marketing, Internal Communications and Corporate Communications
For these communications, including brochures, newsletters and blog posts, it’s acceptable and even advisable to capitalize these titles both before and after names:

  • Max Cherry, Vice President of Sales, traveled to Singapore to attend the conference.

New Updates: internet and web (ugh)
The usually sound Associated Press recently announced that it officially changed its spelling of “Internet” and “Web” to “internet” and “web.” As I recently wrote, I’m not in favor of this change and don’t find the argument for the lowercasing convincing, but I’m in the minority.   

Do any capitalization rules cause confusion for you? I would love to know.


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PRSA Sunshine District Conference: Day 1

A PRSA Tampa Bay team is down in Miami this weekend for the 2016 PRSA Sunshine District Conference, and they’re sharing on-the-scene reports. Here’s their recap of the first day.   

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Greetings from Sunshine District Conference 2016

Several members from PRSA Tampa Bay have headed down to Miami for the 2016 PRSA Sunshine District Conference this week, and they will be sharing on-the-scene video updates from the event. Here’s their first report!

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June PRSA Happenings

Here is what you should be on the lookout for this month: 

Webinars (Free for Members)

  • June 23: Turn Lame Quotes into Killer Sound Bites: Go from Bleh to Brilliant
  • June 29: Exposing Collaboration Myths: Learn What 100 Million Intranet Activities Can Tell You about Internal Communications 
  • July 21: Craft Content Marketing Pieces that Almost Write Themselves

Workshops/Partner Events

  • June 16: Social Media and Public Relations Planning
  • June 22: Beyond Engagement
  • June 23: Public Relations Strategic Planning
  • June 28-29: Catch Your Readers Writing Workshop
  • July 26-27: Social Media & Storytelling Summit
  • July 27-28: NOT Your Father’s News Release Writing Workshop

To register or learn more about webinars, workshops, and partner events click here.

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Member Spotlight: Christie Ebanks

Christie Ebanks is an account coordinator at True Blue Communications, has been a member of PRSA Tampa Bay since October 2015 and is the 2016 chair of the membership committee, and, in college, held several positions in PRSSA for the Brigham Young University-Idaho chapter, including president.

First news publication you read in the morning?
I watch the local news when I’m getting ready for work. Then I read theSkimm when I get in the office.

First public relations job?
My job now is my first “official” PR job. Before I started working with True Blue Communications, I did a lot of freelance work and internships, and I held a marketing director position at a local healthcare agency.

Most important career mentor, and why?
Noelle Fox, APR, president and chief strategist at True Blue Communications, and past president and current assembly delegate for PRSA Tampa Bay. She inspires me to be a better writer and communicator.

Top grammar, style or writing pet peeve?
When someone says, “I could care less.” The correct way is “I couldn’t care less.”

Most rewarding accomplishment in public relations?
Seeing the success of something I created, like when PR Daily published one of the blog posts I wrote for True Blue Communications on social media etiquette. You can read it here.

Advice to new public relations professionals?
Join PRSA! It’s the best way to network with professionals in your area, and it could even land you a job.

Job you would pursue if you weren’t in public relations?
TV news anchor.

Favorite movie?
Pretty much any chick flick, but, if I had to pick one, it would probably be How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. I can quote the entire movie!

Favorite vacation?
A visit to the Cayman Islands. My husband’s family has a lot of family history on the island, so it was neat to learn about it and take in the beautiful views. 

Any three dinner guests?
The entire cast of Friends. I know that’s more than three, but I can’t pick just three! 

When I'm not doing PR, I enjoy exploring the outdoors with my husband. We love biking, kayaking and camping.

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One Error PR Pros Should Not Make

By Joseph Priest, Corporate Writer, Syniverse

This mistake has had copy editors throwing their hands over their heads for so long that you would think everyone would get it right by now, but they don’t. At the same time, there is growing pressure for a change in usage for “comprised of” that is worth knowing.

The Correct Way to Use ‘Comprise’ Now
First, a look at the current correct usage, according the AP Stylebook, the Chicago Manual of Style, Garner’s Modern English Usage and other authoritative guides. “To comprise” means “to contain or embrace,” so something is not properly “comprised of” something else. The correct way to use “comprise” is in the active voice:

          The national tour comprises 12 cities.

When writers use “comprised of,” the word they usually mean to use is “compose,” in the passive voice. “To compose” means “to create or put together” and can be used in both the active and passive voice:

          Bart composed a news release.

          The media kit is composed of seven documents.  

“Constitute,” in the sense of form or make up, is another option that can be used for “comprise” or “compose”:

          Four TV news stations, three magazines and one newspaper constitute the local media targets.

However, even when used correctly, “comprise,” “compose” and “constitute” tend to sound stilted. A less formal and more useful verb in many cases is “consist”:

          The board consists of four executive officers and six committee chairs.

And an even more informal and colloquial option is some form of “made up of”:

          Sections on market analysis, media strategy and new tactics make up the critical parts of the new-business presentation.

          The account team is made up of two account executives, one account supervisor and one vice president.

Gathering Pressure for a Change
Although the use of “comprise” in the active voice only is still the standard for most well-edited publications today and the use endorsed by the authorities mentioned above, there has been growing pressure for the sanctioning of “comprised of.”

The pressure is based mostly on the sheer amount of this word’s use (or misuse) and is not without precedent. Similar changes in usage led to the sanctioning of “safe haven,” which is a redundancy; the definition of “careen” to also mean “to lurch or swerve speedily,” which was formerly a definition reserved for the verb “career”; and the pronunciation “komp-tro-ler” for the word “comptroller,” which is properly pronounced exactly as the word “controller” is.

But we’re not there yet with “comprised of.” Acceptance for this change by the language community – which includes dictionaries, usage guides, stylebooks, and leading news publications – has not gained critical mass yet, and “comprised of” continues to be considered poor usage.

For this reason, PR pros would be well-advised to refrain from using “comprised of” in their work and try to keep in mind this simple principle with “comprise”: the whole “comprises” the parts; the whole is “composed of” the parts.

Make sense? I would love to know if “comprised of” creeps into any of your work or if you have confusion about its use.

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PRSA Sunshine District Conference Scholarships

As a benefit to our valued chapter members, PRSA Tampa Bay is offering two $500 scholarships for chapter members to attend the 2016 Sunshine District Conference. This year’s conference is June 16-18 at the Biscayne Bay Marriott in Miami. Learn more about the conference here.

About the scholarship: The scholarship recipients will be required to perform a volunteer role during the conference. Be sure to indicate in your application which role(s) you are willing to perform, if you are awarded a scholarship. The Tampa Bay Chapter scholarship will cover the conference registration fee ($275) and partial travel expenses (hotel, mileage reimbursement) up to a combined total of $500. The chapter will register and pay the registration fee for the selected recipient(s). Recipients will need to pay for their travel expenses up front and submit receipts to the PRSA Tampa Bay chapter treasurer for reimbursement after the conference. Any travel costs beyond the $500 mark are the responsibility of the attendee. If the recipient is unable to attend the conference, the scholarship will be awarded to another member.

To apply, complete the online application found here

Deadline to apply: Tuesday, May 24 at 5 p.m.

Judging: A selection committee from another PRSA chapter will review and choose the scholarship recipients based on merit and need.

Winners will be notified the week of May 30.


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