Lead sentence stretches from Houston to Sugar Land

Public Relations Tactics newspaper published a January article, “Outlook 2010: PR trends,” that predicts that press releases will be packaged like news stories. I reviewed a few releases on Business Wire today to see if this trend is taking hold.

I don’t see it but I’m not a trend spotter either. I am no Bianca Bartz.

What I did see is a bunch of wordy, insignificant, self-flattering announcements that any editor would toss in one to five seconds. I say five seconds because it took me that long to speed read a 73-word lead sentence in a press release issued by a multibillion corporation in our state.

The lead reads, “As government and healthcare leaders invest billions of dollars in healthcare information technologies (IT) to improve the accessibility, affordability and quality of healthcare for their citizens, hospital datacenters may not be ready for the demand that more patients and digital information will create, according to a survey of hospital IT executives at small and medium hospitals in the U.S., U.K., Canada, China, France and Germany conducted by the HIMSS Analytics, sponsored by (name withheld).”

For fun, read that as an announcer would. I am a jogger with good aerobic functions, including lung capacity, and I recited it all on my second try after sucking in several cubic feet of air. (Yes, I know that sentence lengths for the eye are longer than for the ear, so no blog responses on that, please.)

Newspapers articles are written at an eighth-grade reading level and so are press releases as a general rule. The supersized lead has a Flesch-Kincaid Grade level score of 14.

It scored 19 on the Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease test. The lower the score, the harder to read. The Harvard Law Review has a readability score in the low 30s.

The lead sentence registered a Gunning Fog index measure of 16.25, just under 17, a university graduate level. An eighth-grader wouldn’t make it past the first couple of lines without tweeting, “OMG, this smarticle hype is an endlessbummer.”

Granted, writing on technical subjects aimed at college graduates can exceed an eight-grade level. But certainly, that lead—long enough to reach from Houston to Sugar Land if put in 36-point type—doesn’t effectively isolate the kernel of the message.

The stripped-down version is hospital datacenters are not prepared for the coming influx of more patients and digital information, indicates a company-sponsored survey.

My blog was written for high school sophomores if you cut out the datacenter lead sentence that I quoted. That one sentence increases the reading difficulty one grade level. LOL.

— Mike Wysatta, PRSA Houston Board Member

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9 Comments

Filed under Media, Public Relations, Uncategorized

9 responses to “Lead sentence stretches from Houston to Sugar Land

  1. I always learn so much from these posts, thank you!

  2. really good article. i hope to apply some of these in my blog. thank you!

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    • bloggenblitzen

      We just added an image to the PRSA’s latest blog posting. Your comments are spot on. We need more visuals. — Mike Wysatta

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