Writer and editor Maria Dal Pan interviews costume designer Patricia Field at her boutique January 8, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Abbott/Getty Images, license obtained for use)

4 Writing Tips I’ve Carried from Newsroom to Boardroom

Maria Dal Pan

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My career as a writer took a path I never expected.

After graduating university with an English Literature degree, I spent 10 years as a business reporter, entertainment editor and features writer, working my way through daily news. Then, as newspapers bled jobs during the Great Recession, I realized I could put those same skills to work writing press releases, speeches and internal communications — first for the government, then for CEOs of global corporations.

I have learned a lot during the first 20 years of my career. Still, no matter what kind of writing I’m doing, I frequently find myself relying on the handful of tips I picked up from my earliest days in the newsroom.

To my friends in any field where the written word is important (PR, investor comms, content marketing, the list goes on…), I hope sharing this is helpful. And to the editors that held me to the highest standards, even when they were at their most… um… let’s just say gruff, I am forever indebted.

1. The Rule of 32

My first post-newspaper job was for the State of Nevada, working as the public information officer for the division that regulates insurance. Being “on the other side of the desk,” as they say, was eye opening. My job included fielding inquiries from such places as The New York Times during the passage of the Affordable Care Act and helping constituents understand the laws affecting their health, auto and homeowners’ policies.

It was akin to journalism in the sense that my mission was to help make complex topics easy to navigate. But, as I quickly discovered, that’s about where the similarities ended. So I was grateful when the National Association of Insurance Commissioners held a workshop for PIOs like me in St. Louis, bringing together colleagues from across the US. There, renowned public relations firm Edelman ran a session on writing press releases. The first thing they covered was the Rule of 32.

“Who knows what the Rule of 32 is?” I remember the Edelman rep asking the group. Very few hands sprung up. My favorite journalism professor would be pleased to know mine was one of them (shout to Dr. Dennis Jackson, if you’re reading this!) because the Rule of 32 was something he hammered into our young…

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Maria Dal Pan

Writer, editor, collaborator and expert on visual language. Interested in working together? Find me at https://erwinparkcommunications.com