AP Style, or Associated Press Style, provides guidelines for grammar and citations and is the preferred style for journalists. The Stylebook has rules about acceptable word use and is updated continuously to keep up with current trends. It’s a long-running joke that the AP stylebook is a journalist’s Bible, but there’s more truth to it than not. AP style is drilled into budding reporters’ brains in college and an expectation when they move into the newsroom.
As a publicist, being able to speak the language of journalists will only help you get ahead. While there are in-house style rules, the general rule of thumb for media outlets is to use AP style and to note the handful of exceptions.
Here are 5 AP style rules to keep top of mind as you draft your next media release:
If I had a nickel for every second I spent correcting addresses I find in press releases, company websites and Google, I could have retired years ago. It’s a small but cumbersome task, especially for listicles and guides where there’s address after address.
– If the street name is numbers one through nine, write them out (First, Second, Third, etc.)
– All cardinal directions are abbreviated; only single directions have a period after (N., S. etc.)
– Only Avenue, Boulevard, and Street are abbreviated: Ave., Blvd. and St. (Pro tip: We all want ABS, and ABS are abbreviated!)
1164 SW Second Ave.
1 N. Dynamo Lane
Foods to capitalize
For those in hospitality, you’re going to be running into a lot of food and wine names that need to be capitalized (and plenty that should not). Foods and wines that are named for a place need to be capitalized since it’s a proper noun.
Spaghetti Bolognese, Yorkshire pudding, Boston cream pie, Champagne, Chianti, and Brussels sprouts have capitalized words because they are named for a place.
Speaking of Champagne, unless you know that it’s from the Champagne region of France, it’s best to stick to “sparkling wine” or the more playful “bubbles.”
News flash: bloody mary is not capitalized (I didn’t make up the rules)
A change in 2019 had many journalists up in arms: AP style was changed to trade out the word “percent” to the symbol %. For example, “99% of journalists wanted to scream when they heard the news.”
We’re still upset about it (like when “Web site” became “website” in 2010).
Some items are so embedded into the English language that we forget that they’re trademarked. For example, Kleenex, Dumpster, and Windbreaker are all trademarked products. When putting out information, be sure to verify if the product is actually from those companies. Otherwise, it’s recommended that you should use the more generic terms tissue paper, trash container, and jacket.
AP isn’t always the quickest to adapt when it comes to people of color and LGBTQ people, and it takes a lot of discussion and debate to add changes to the guide. Because of this, many organizations have taken it upon themselves to create their own style guide. Here are a few to bookmark:
- Asian American Journalists Association Style Guide (currently under review)
- GLAAD Media Guide
- National Association of Hispanic Journalists Cultural Competence Handbook
- Native American Journalists Association Resource Guide
- Society of Professional Journalists Diversity Style Guide
- Trans Journalists Association Style Guide
This post is part of PR agency, Durée & Company’s ongoing Guest Blog series, The #DynamoDigest, where we have tapped select journalists and Influencers whose work we admire and respect. In this series, top tips and best practices are shared across a variety of topics impacting the public relations industry today.
By: Christiana Lilly, a full-time freelance journalist based in South Florida who still has her 2004 copy of the AP Stylebook. Her work has been published in the Washington Post, Newsweek, Teen Vogue and Shondaland, as well as regional newspapers and magazines. She serves on the board of the Society of Professional Journalists Florida chapter.
About Durée & Company
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