USA Today

USA Today. McPaper. The newspaper with the cutesy graphics and not much copy. The one you trip over when you leave your hotel room, and the one you take from the flight attendant when they’ve run out of the Times or the JournalUSA Today gets no respect.

Agreed, it’s nowhere near as satisfying a read as The New Yorker. However, if you’re passionate about economical and snappy writing, and determined to avoid dense, impenetrable marketingspeak, we’d recommend a fresh look at McPaper.

In the writing classes I teach for San Francisco PR agencies, I tell students that they can learn a lot from USA Today. Once they stop smirking, I lay out my case: Read a USAT headline, and you’ll find out practically everything you need to know about the story—clear as daylight. Stories are written in classic J-school pyramid style, with the most important bits up front. And you’d be hard pressed to find extraneous words to cut.

Contrast USAT’s style with much of the verbal excess that you battle to remove from marketing and PR collateral (and remember: the Content Bureau is your biggest ally when it comes to fighting fluff). There’s a tendency to think that extra words—especially really loooooong ones with lots of letters—make copy sound more important.

But when you get ruthless with copy, and pare it down to the bare essentials just like they do in USAT, more people read it and understand it, and follow your call to action—pick up the phone, buy your product, and so on. It’s that simple.

By Chris Kent