PR Training

Craft Snappy Sound Bites: List, Rhyme and Twist

A good sound bite can help you support your points, give your story a human voice, change the pace of the piece and add creativity and color to your copy. Unfortunately, too often, quotations in press releases sound as if they were manufactured by a computer, not spoken by a human being.

When the Federal Trade Commission needed to explain why the agency had decided not to develop a do-not-spam registry (Officials feared that spammers would target people on the list.), a spokesperson said:

“You’ll be spammed if we do and spammed if we don’t.” 

You’ve got to love that sound bite! How can you craft such a memorable, quotable line for your copy? One approach is to list, rhyme and twist. Here’s how:

1) List.
Write down the key or topic words from your article,then expand your list, the more words, the better. Try synonyms, antonyms and different forms of your key word — “spam,” “spams,” “spammed” and “spamming,” for instance. Note: Visual Thesaurus and OneLook Reverse Dictionary are great tools for expanding your list.

2) Rhyme.
Use rhyming dictionaries to find words that rhyme with your key words. My favorite is RhymeZone. Keep looking. RhymeZone doesn’t recognize “spammed.” But it did send me to OneLook Dictionary Search for words ending in “ammed.” (Input “*ammed.”) I searched for one of them — “slammed” — back at RhymeZone, which gave me this list: crammed, dammed, damned, jammed, rammed, scammed.Next, find phrases that include those rhyming words at Phrase Thesaurus (requires a subscription) or ClichéSite.com. In fact, I found another starting point for the FTC sound bite by doing this research:

Publish and be damned.

3) Twist.
Now substitute your key word for the rhyming word. Make it:

Publish and be spammed.

Don’t Wait for the Muse
Some lucky public relations professionals are natural-born phrase twisters. I have to substitute systems and processes for talent. If you’re like me, you’ll list, rhyme and twist key words when you need to write your next quotation. You’ll be more likely to end up with a snappy sound bite instead of a lame-ass quote.

How to Write Killer Quotes
A good sound bite can help you support your points, give your story a human voice, change the pace of the piece and add creativity and color to your copy. Unfortunately, too often, quotations in press releases sound as if they were manufactured by a computer, not spoken by a human being.

Would you like to learn more approaches for writing killer quotes? If so, please join me at PRSA’s April 16 teleseminar, “Create Snappy Sound Bites: How to Write Moving Quotes and Memorable Quips.” In this program, you’ll learn how to transform your quotations from blah-blah to brilliant.Ann Wylie, president, Wylie Communications

By Ann Wylie, president, Wylie Communications, works with communicators who want to reach more readers and with organizations that want to get the word out. She travels from Hollywood to Helsinki, helping communicators at such organizations as NASA, AT&T and H&R Block polish their skills and find new inspiration for their work. For PRSA, she presents programs like “Writing That Sells — Products, Services and Ideas” in on-site sessions across the country. She is the author of more than a dozen learning tools, including Rev Up Readership.com, a toolbox for writers. In addition to writing and editing, Ann helps organizations launch or revitalize their Web sites and publications. She has served as a public relations professional in an agency, corporate communicator for Hallmark Cards, editor of an executive magazine and as a consultant in her own firm. Her work has earned more than 60 communication awards.

Join Ann for her teleseminars Create Snappy Sound Bites: How to Write Moving Quotes and Memorable Quips.”

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