Posted on: May 13, 2015
By Jen Boes, Communications Strategist
Unless you have worked as a journalist or public relations professional, you are probably not very familiar with AP style. So why should you care about it? If you generate content or are in charge of approving content that will be disseminated to the media (i.e., press releases, press kits, opinion pieces) you must use AP style if you want the information you are providing to be trusted and respected by the reporters you work with. You need to speak their language.
AP style, short for Associated Press style, is a writing style for journalists. The “rules,” covering spelling, language, punctuation, usage and journalistic style, are published annually in the AP Stylebook. There’s also an online version you can subscribe to, which I think is the better way to go since AP style guidelines change in some way, shape or form every year.
These rules are determined by, you guessed it, the Associated Press. The Associated Press is one of the most trusted sources of news in the world. It is owned by the more than 1,400 U.S. newspapers that make up its membership and receive the news content it generates. It published its first stylebook in 1953.
Really, the only way to ensure you stay on top of AP style is to use the AP Stylebook. It is the journalists’ and public relations professionals’ bible. I have been writing content for the media for more than 20 years now, and I still don’t know all of the rules and guidelines by heart.
Some, in fact, can be quite confusing. One that has been frustrating people for years is the rule that you don’t capitalize professional titles that appear after a person’s name. For example, “John Smith, marketing director for Sun Oil” would be correct. If I had a dollar for every erroneous edit I’ve gotten back related to this rule, I’d be rich by now.
Using numbers correctly can also be confounding. For example, AP style dictates that you spell out numbers 1 through 9. Once you get to ten and up, use numerical figures. One exception is ages. For ages, always use numerical figures.
Then, there’s the number of spaces that go after a period. Most people who learned to type on a typewriter will stand firm that it’s two spaces. AP style says it’s one.
And, did I mention those pesky changes the AP likes to make? It’s been ingrained in my brain since I was a college student which states are to be abbreviated and how according to AP style. Well, in 2014, the folks at the AP decided to change the rules. Now, all state names are to be spelled out.
That brings me back to the AP Stylebook. The best way to make sure you follow all the right rules and guidelines (and there are thousands of them) is to refer to the stylebook and refer to it often. You can purchase a hard copy or subscribe online here: https://www.apstylebook.com. The 2015 edition launches May 27. Happy writing!