GRAMMAR TRAP: ME VS. MYSELF

For some reason, "me" has gotten a bad rap lately. People seem to avoid it in certain situations. They tend to substitute "myself," instead. They shouldn”t.

Examples: When you have completed the survey, return it to myself. The teacher gave the assignment to Ruth and myself.

"Myself" is not an objective pronoun, so it isn”t an acceptable substitute for "me."

"Myself" is a reflexive pronoun (like "itself," "herself," "yourselves," etc.). That means the action of the verb is turned back on the subject.

Example: I made a fool of myself.

It can also be an intensive pronoun, a "-self" pronoun used to emphasize another word in the sentence.

Example: I myself saw the alien.

Helpful Hint: "Myself" is correct when "I" is also in the sentence.

If there's a grammar trap you”d like us to discuss or you have a tip that will help the rest of us avoid a grammar trap, please let us know.


NEWSLETTERS THAT WORK

Your newsletter makes a statement about Purdue and/or the Cooperative Extension Service and its image is important. The following tips may be helpful in improving your newsletter.

At the invitation of Cindy Barnett, CFS educator in Whitely County, Agricultural Communication critiqued a newsletter called "News Notes to Parents." Several counties in northeastern Indiana share in the production of the newsletter that is distributed through daycare centers.

Overall, the newsletter looked good and had excellent content. But, these ideas for improvement are general enough to apply to other newsletters, whether they are developed on campus or in the counties. In the case of "News Notes to Parents," Ag Comm. and ACN showed the CFS educators how to design a cleaner and more readable newsletter on the SUN system computers.

Here are some suggestions for improving your newsletter:

Look for other newsletter tips in future issues of "On Target."


CHECKLIST FOR PREPARING NEWSLETTERS

Editor's Note: This checklist, from Oregon State University's "The Backgrounder," is a handy reference guide to help make your newsletter more readable, attractive and complete.

WRITING STYLE

FORMAT and LAYOUT

HEADLINES

TEXT

ONE LAST CHECK


FOCUS GROUPS PART 4 - POTENTIAL PROBLEMS

This is the final installment in a series of four articles examining focus groups.

There are a few big problems (and a hundred little ones) that crop up while conducting a focus group. Here are three to be aware of:

  1. One of the most common problems is the tendency for folks to want to be team players and agree with what they perceive as the feeling of the group. Make sure, up front, that you explain that disagreement is valued and welcome.

  2. Every group has a dominant and submissive person. The key is to balance them and draw out the quiet one. Start by asking some non-threatening questions and allow the person to open up from there.

  3. It's key for the facilitator to remain objective. I can't stress this enough. If the facilitator is too close to the subject, it can be difficult to be effective. If it's your program that you're investigating, consider having a colleague act as discussion leader. You'll be one step removed and probably get more valid responses.


AVOID THESE "NINE WORST" MEDIA MISTAKES
by Joe Marks, University of Missouri Agricultural Communications

After 34 years and 13,000 news and feature stories, here's what I've learned:

"The average American adult has an 8th-grade reading level and a 30-second attention span."

Now, that may not seem like much to learn. But it summarizes nearly everything I need to know. After all, for effective communication, the rules are:

We often forget those rules. As a result, we often make avoidable mistakes. Here's what I see as our nine worst mistakes when writing press releases or otherwise dealing with the media.

9. Give them the whole load. ("By gosh, it took me two years to do this study, and you're going to get every painful detail!")

8. Mention everyone. ("I've got to give credit to everyone who ever worked with me. There was the janitor who cleaned my office, my mom who....")

7. Give every bureaucratic title in full detail as soon as possible. ("'Fall is the best time to kill lawn weeds,' says Ergot Frump, Oregon State University Extension turf specialist and interim acting associate director for outreach and education in southeast central Oregon who gets half his funding from the state's grass seed producers and rest from the OSU Agricultural Experiment Station....")

6. Show off your intelligence. (The data would indicate that the species interaction with fertility is interrelated with climatology, ecology, and other factors too complicated for the average peon to understand.")

5. Tell how politically correct we are. ("Extension offers equal opportunity....") This does not belong in a news release. Professional journalists don't like this stuff.

4. Save the best for last. We drone along for about 10 paragraphs, then tell the readers, "By the way, this effort boosted profits by 50 percent." Remember what I said about the average reader's attention span? Get to the point FAST!

3. Send out lots of unnecessary press releases. I remember a time when some specialists in a midwestern university asked me to send out three press releases to announce a barley tour. I asked how many barley growers there were in the state. "A couple dozen," was the reply. "Well, then," I said, "skip the press releases and call them or send them a letter."

2. Depend on the media to do your job. I get paid to work with and through the media, but I'm the first to admit that (a) the media aren't the only way nor the best way to communicate with our clientele, and (b) the media can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. The best strategy is to have a good product and "sell" it with a mix of mass media and personal contact.

1. Don't respond when the media call. We in information offices have spent years building good media relations. Those relations take a beating when we ignore or refuse a media request. Sometimes all you can say is "I'm sorry; that's out of my area. Perhaps you can call...." But at least give a response.

I leave you with this thought:

To be an effective writer, use active verbs, personal words, short sentences, and quotable quotes. And remember, the most profitable kind of writing...is ransom notes.


Q & A: EXTENSION NEWS RELEASES

We have received some questions from Extension educators in the recent months about use of Purdue-developed news releases.

Currently, Agricultural Communication sends two types of news releases, by email, to campus and county staff.

  1. Potential news articles are sent to CFS and 4-H/Youth educators, for their use only, by way of the CFS and 4-H/Youth email groups, respectively. Also each month, about six brief public service announcements (PSAs) are sent to ANR educators.

    These articles, developed for educators only, have a paragraph at the top of the email that begins with, "For first use by Extension Educators." These are intended as a starting point for local articles or columns in newspapers or newsletters. As noted in some of the email releases, after 30 days Purdue may re-issue an article on the same topic to the general news media. Educators may still use such an article, but should be aware that after the 30-day holding period, it may appear in a local newspaper anyway. You might contact your editor to check for duplication.

  2. Ag Comm. also sends news releases directly to the news media on a variety of topics from agriculture to consumer and family science to 4-H/Youth issues. These are also sent to Extension educator email groups.

    These general news releases do not say, "For first use by Extension educators," therefore be aware that the news media in your community may receive them from Purdue. We cannot tell you which news media outlet receives each news release, because the list varies with each release based on content and intended audience. In other words, the list is customized each time.

If you have questions or concerns about who is receiving Purdue news releases in your county, the best bet is to visit with your local editors or reporters. They may be eager to have your input into what Purdue sends them. (Or, they may not be receiving Purdue releases at all. If they want to receive them, please let us know.)

Some educators have met with local newspaper editors and arranged to email or fax additional comments to these general stories. (Because of email, educators should receive releases before the newspapers.) If the newspaper does not hear from the educator by a pre-arranged time, the news release is printed as is.



We want to hear from you. Do you have a communication question? Do you have a comment on this issue of "On Target"? If so, please e-mail any of our writers.

It is the policy of the Department of Agricultural Communication Service of Purdue University that all persons shall have equal opportunity and access to its programs and facilities without regard to race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age or disability. Purdue University is an Affirmative Action employer. These materials may be available in alternative formats.

October 1996 / November 1996


Agricultural Communications, Purdue University
An electronic newsletter with communication tips and information