One of the standard pieces of advice to young journalists trying to find their voice is to “write as you speak”. Imagine you are telling your story to a friend and simply transcribe it on to the page.
I like to think that’s not all there is to good writing, but it certainly helps you to connect with your readers, which is really the whole point.
It’s not as easy as it sounds, though, especially as computers allow you to endlessly go back and “improve” what you’ve just written. If you’re not careful, you end up knocking the life out of it. producing a more formalised style which does not convey your meaning in the same succinct and immediate manner.
This over-editing syndrome is never easier to spot than in direct quotes. Jamie’s recent restaurant woes brought a flurry of off-the-shelf comment from experts hoping to grab a few column inches, but most said things like: “Oliver is paying the price for his continued failure to bring value for money to the mid-market dining sector”, which was was never going to fly because a) no one speaks like that, and b) BORING!
So if you are going to include quotes in a press release, try to make it a bit more interesting, but at the very least make it sound like something someone actually said, and the not the result of five revisions by the legal department.