Why We’re AP Style Sticklers

AP Stylebook website
Screenshot from http://www.apstylebook.com

Who cares whether a person uses one space or two between two sentences or if “gray” is spelled “grey”?*

We do.

So does the Associated Press. The AP Stylebook has long been deemed “The Journalist’s Bible,” standardizing everything from punctuation and numerals to commonly used proper nouns in newspapers and media outlets nationwide. PR professionals should equally revere it; here’s why:

Why AP Style Makes Sense

One of the core goals of a PR practitioner is to make reporters’ jobs easier – providing them with timely information, interview sources, data, high-quality images, etc. Ideally, the reporter will, in turn, include the PR practitioner’s client in his story (assuming a good angle exists).

By consistently using AP style in PR materials and correspondence, members of the media will know you are aware of – and respectful – of their practices. If they need to copy a date or definition directly, they can do that too.

So, in line with the “make it easy for the media” decree, press releases, pitches, media advisories – EVERYTHING – should be in AP style.

Practice Makes …

The best way to learn AP style is to practice it. Check the AP Stylebook, website, iPhone app or Twitter to verify proper usage.

Also, keep this cheat sheet in mind to remedy common errors:

– Cities: In press releases and article datelines, major cities are NOT followed by state abbreviations (e.g. “SAN DIEGO – April 29, 2014 –”).

However, the AP Stylebook just released a newer rule that states should be spelled out, instead of abbreviated, in body content when standing alone or accompanying other non-major cities (e.g. “The 2014 U.S. Parachute Association National Skydiving Championships of Canopy Piloting will swoop in to Zephyrhills, Florida on May 21-23.”).

– Serial commas: There is NO comma before “and” in a series (e.g. “I bought apples, bananas, bread and milk at the store.”) – UNLESS one of the elements in the series also has a conjunction, or it is a complex sentence (e.g. “This morning, I got out of bed, brushed and flossed my teeth, and changed into my work clothes.).

Title capitalization: We know it looks more important to capitalize all titles, but a person’s title should NOT be capitalized unless it is listed right before the name (e.g. “Vice President Alan Smith” or “Alan Smith, vice president.”).

Yes, we are AP sticklers – frequently stopping ourselves from editing everything we read to conform to AP style and wincing at the most minor infractions – but we are not ashamed. We do not claim to be the ultimate experts, but we do know that consistency in the written word can make a huge difference.

Anything that trips up a reader (including members of the media) takes away from a document’s message. And for those sticklers like us (of which reporters are a large percentage), the smallest error can lead materials to be disregarded or discredited entirely. Why risk it?


* In case you were wondering, the first choice on each example, respectively, is the proper usage in AP style.

Note: This blog post was adapted from 2010 for the SoCalPRBlog – but it’s still applicable …