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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PRSA Group Membership Deal

Now is the time for your company's PR team to join PRSA! The PRSA Group Member Program is offering a “Memorial Day 2016” promotion now through Friday, June 3rd for all New Groups (5 members or more from one company) that join during this time.  Take advantage of the following discounts:

  1. Waived $65 Initiation Fee for all New Members.

  2. Waived $35 Reinstatement Fee for all Reinstated Members.

  3. Waived (1st Year) $60 Professional Interest Section dues (one Section only, excludes Counselors Academy) for all Members in the Group.


  1. Waived (1st Year) Chapter dues (cost varies per Chapter) for all New Members in the Group.

You can visit for more information on benefits, program criteria and employer advantages (copy below).  To join as a New Group, contact for the next steps.  I look forward to hearing from you and bringing the team on board as a PRSA Group member.

Employer Advantages:

  • Single Invoicing. Make a single payment each year for group members' dues, rather than numerous individual payments.

  • Transferability of Membership. Each membership within a group is easily transferable. This is convenient when an employee changes departments or leaves your organization.

  • Ease of Adding New Members. PRSA will prorate the dues to maintain the same term year and renewal date.

  • Employer Posting Opportunities. Receive discounted or free postings on PRSA's career and employment website, the PRSA Jobcenter.

  • Listings in Online Organization Search. Take advantage of complimentary listings in our Find-A-Firm Directory.

  • The Best Pricing on PRSA Events. Save on registration for on-site training at the annual PRSA International Conference, as well as various specialty conferences and seminars throughout the year.

  • Geographic and Sector-Specific Networking. Membership to specialty communities, such as our local Chapters or Professional Interest Sections, is provided according to group size.


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Member Spotlight: Paula MacDonald

This Member Spotlight profiles Paula MacDonald, APR, who is president and owner of Image Suite PR, a digital PR agency serving the hospitality industry. She joined PRSA Tampa Bay in 2012, served previously on the Digital Communications and Agency Leaders committees, and this year was elected a board member and named co-chair of the Accreditation Committee.

1. First news publication you read in the morning?
Social Media Current to fulfill my social media obsession, followed by Hotel News Now Daily Update.

2. First public relations job?
As I transitioned from a video and multimedia production role, I landed my first PR-focused position with the newly formed Office of Public Information for the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida in Tampa in 2000. I later became the first public information officer for the City of Temple Terrace, in 2005.

3. Most important career mentor?
I found a most unlikely mentor in my former boss’s executive assistant when I worked for the City of Temple Terrace. Cathy Tack is a feisty, no-nonsense lady with a quick wit and a passion for doing the right thing, and I value her friendship and support beyond our time working together.

4. Top grammar, style or writing pet peeve?
Overused phrases, such as “Can I pick your brain?”

5. Most rewarding accomplishment in public relations?
Earning my APR in 2015, after more than 10 years of studying and stalling on initiating the process. Something was always getting in the way, but the truth was that I was getting in my own way.

6. Advice to new public relations professionals?
Don’t be afraid to dive in to anything and everything. Search your heart for the career that you love, and don’t settle for just a paycheck.

7. Job you would pursue if you weren’t in public relations?
If I were not having such a great time in PR, I would probably focus my sights on becoming a screenwriter and motion picture director, which is what I was originally trained to do with my education.

8. Favorite movie?
I’m a Star Wars fan from way back, and Yoda’s my guy. “Do or do not. There is no try.”

9. Favorite vacation?
Anyplace my family can take our two dogs, an Australian shepherd and a border collie. We’ve only traveled locally across the state with them, but we look forward to a trip to see snow in the future.

10. Any three dinner guests?
Michael Jackson, Justin Bieber and George Lucas.

As a child, I was a nationally ranked BMX racer, and I still enjoy riding BMX bikes. I even tried racing again a few years ago in the cruiser class, and even though I haven’t raced competitively since 2012, as you can see in this photo from a Sarasota track, I have a lot of fun!

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PRSA Members were Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a Day

By Alexandria DiBenigno, senior at the University of South Florida and social media and junior PR coordinator at Conversa

On April 1, members of PRSA toured One Buc Place and met Nelson Luis, senior director of communications for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The tour began by congregating in the press conference room where many members were excited for the chance to take a picture behind the podium. 

Nelson then brought members to the media room and explained how each media outlet has its own station to work from. “We like to make sure the media is happy,” Nelson said with a smile, which made a room full of public relations practitioners laugh in agreement. 

Members were next brought to an auditorium where the PRSA Tampa Bay President Jennifer Dunn introduced Nelson and noted his prestigious legacy in the world of sports communications. 

Nelson began his career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1995 as an intern, but left in 1999 to follow the PGA Tour and later joined the Houston Rockets as their director of media relations, before returning to the Buccaneers in 2013. 

Nelson also described his experiences working with the coaches and players that make up Tampa’s NFL team. He realized during the course of his career that it’s important to not control the players and limit what they say, but instead encourage them to promote and protect the Buccaneer brand. As a result, many coaches and players have grown to trust and respect the advice given to them by Nelson and his team.

 As members exited One Buc Place, they noticed a statue showing an overjoyed team and coach after scoring a touchdown. Thank you to Nelson and his team for also showing this much passion by cheering on its team’s success in the press box. 

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