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AP Style: The latest, greatest and a quick refresher

Image Credit: Unsplash / Lauren Mancke

The everyday person hears the term “AP style” and it likely means nothing to them. Meanwhile, one whisper of “AP style” around The Firm and you’re likely to prompt a memory flood of writing and style rules through all of our brains.

A quick backgrounder: Associated Press (AP) style refers to the guidelines from “The Associated Press Stylebook” that are used as a consistent grammatical guide for news writing. While it originated as a guide for journalists, it has since evolved into the leading reference for public relations and corporate communications writing. PR pros and marketing specialists are doing themselves (and their agency) a severe disservice if they choose not to observe what many have referred to as the “grammar bible.”

When PR pros write in AP style they are essentially conforming to the uniform language of the newsroom. Speaking the same language as journalists improves credibility and creates consistency. It also increases the chances of your press release or pitch getting attention from the media. Further than just news writing, AP style can also be key when creating brand perception. At the end of the day, no one really wants to read bad grammar.

To help you stay on the good graces of journalists and editors everywhere, here’s a quick refresher on some common AP style guidelines:

Technological terms: Since the world around us is always changing, it makes sense that the grammar used to describe it would too. For example, you old-schoolers probably remember the groundbreaking hyphen drop that occurred when AP style changed “e-mail” to “email”. Don’t worry, “e-book” has managed to still hang on to its hyphen.

More recently, AP also made the announcement that the words “internet” and “web” should be lowercase. Speaking of internet and web, don’t you dare use these terms interchangeably. According to AP, the web, like email, is a subset of the internet. They are not synonymous.

Numbers: Since numbers have been around for a little bit longer than the internet, the rules that surround them don’t generally change as much. In general, numbers one through nine should be spelled out and any numbers higher than 10 should be represented by figures. Furthermore, numbers used at the beginning of a sentence should be spelled out unless they are representing a year. This one is easy enough, right?

Titles: Any time one is referring to a president or governor it’s probably best to do so correctly! In general, one should only capitalize formal titles when they appear before a person’s name. Note how president and governor are both lowercase above because they stand alone. Formal titles such as pope, vice president and senator should also be capitalized when they are followed by a name. Meanwhile, us non-world leaders with simple job descriptions and informal titles get to remain lowercase. According to AP, determining whether a title is formal or informal depends on the practice of the organization that confers it.

In the PR world, nothing can be certain except death, taxes and yearly AP Stylebook changes.

Stay up to date with the AP Style website or we can help you stay on top of it (and your PR strategy, too). Contact The Firm Public Relations & Marketing today at 702.739.9933 or newbusiness@thefirmpr.com.

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