It would be nice if the press release didn’t contradict itself within two paragraphs

Excited press release arrives in inbox.

Tens of thousands of teenagers set to invest in shares it says.

This, I feel instantly, is Not True. First, teenagers don’t care about shares. They care about who they might have sex with next, and whether they’ll be hot, and where it’ll be.

Second, teenagers don’t have the money to invest in shares.

Third, teenagers who might be interested in shares and know enough about them to do things with them will have noticed that the stock markets are impossible to pick at the moment. Up! Down! Sideways! Up and then down!

So let’s continue reading.

Financial education charity, the ifs School of Finance, today confirmed that record numbers of 14-19 year olds will take part in the 2008-9 ifs Student Investor competition.

Well (leaving aside the Unnecessary Comma of Evil) that seems unequivocal. Could it be that I was wrong with points one, two and three? Let’s continue reading on.

Thousands of school and college students across the UK will invest a fantasy £100,000 in the stock market over a four month period when the online trading competition starts later this month

Oh. Right. Fantasy money. Not real money.

The competition has proved more popular than at anytime in its fourteen year history with more than 30,000 teenagers expected to take part when the competition starts on Monday 24 November.

Apart from the fact that the grammar in this press release is just diabolical – are they ignoring the wavy green lines? – that’s quite a lot of teenagers. But as to whether it’ll turn any of them into hedge fund supremos – well, I don’t think so. And the headline is a lie. They’re not “investing” in shares. They’re playing with fantasy money. It’s like saying “thousands of teenagers to manage football teams” when you run a Fantasy Football site. It’s a lie.

And people wonder why journalists find PR stuff annoying? It’s because it wastes our cognitive effort on junk like this.


  1. In a way, I think this is more a function of the rubbish way that adults, especially in schools, talk to kids.

    It’s meant to be inspirational. “Today, what you are going to be doing is buying and selling shares/being prime minister for a day/finding out just what it is like to live in an African village/becoming entrepreneurs and making and selling your own invention….”

    To which the only sane answer is a rolling of the eyes and a blunt, “no we’re not. We’re going to look at some worthy CD rom or play some daft role play game.”

    To their credit, most young people humour the adults. But the temptation not to must be severe. I understand your irritation. But spare a thought for the poor kids.

  2. Perhaps the release just had “The Missing Quotes of Hyperbole”?

  3. *sigh*

    Perhaps this was written by a fantasy role playing teenager?

  4. The first thing any press release has to do is get you to read it, then get you write about it. Success!

    As a former PR person myself I can see that this is badly written and misleading – you aren’t meant to leave your audience feeling cheated – but it did work, kind of…

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