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AP Style Quick Tips

By Katelyn McBride

As newsletter editor of PRSSA, I’ve had the opportunity to improve my own writing skills through reading and editing  many other people’s work.  Although I am not an expert in AP or English grammar, (and have the worst spelling of anyone I know), there are a few common AP errors that I’ve noticed and want to address.

The Associated Press (AP) stylebook is like my bible. Knowledge of AP style is important for journalists and PR practitioners, which is why familiarity with this guide is critical! Here are some tips:

1. Lists: Place commas between list items, but do not place a comma before the last conjunction (and, or) if the series is made up of simple items.

Simple: Was the culprit Jack, Chuck, Dan or Nate?

Complex: Please fetch me the coffee cup on the counter, my notebook on the table, and  that piece of paper on the floor.


2. Academic majors: These are NOT capitalized unless it is a language.  I am majoring in journalism and Spanish. (In general, I see a lot of overcapitalization.)

3. Titles (of people): Don’t capitalize if it stands alone or isn’t directly before a name.

Example: Talk to Megan McIntyre, the PRSSA president.

Example: Talk to PRSSA President Megan McIntyre.

4. Titles (of things): Know the name of your own institution, and anything else important. You attend The University of Iowa, not the University of Iowa.  Respect a company’s choice of how it capitalizes or punctuates its name. Check the Web site!

Fleishman Hillard (or) Fleishman-Hillard

Stuff Etc. (or) Stuff Etc

Better Homes & Gardens (or) Better Homes and Gardens

*Hint: the second choice is right for all of these!

5. Cities/States: Let’s take California for example… CA is only an abbreviation when it’s a mailing address. If you are from San Diego, in the text it should read,

Blair is originally from San Diego, Calif., but now lives in Ann Arbor, Mich.

State abbreviations are something you probably need to refer to the AP stylebook for, unless you have a really good memory. (Oh, and there are eight states that are not abbreviated in text; Iowa is one of them!)

Hopefully you learned something about AP through these few tips, but remember to keep your stylebook handy in case you ever have a doubt on how to style something.

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One thought on “AP Style Quick Tips

  1. Just a note: the AP styebook is managed by a panel of editors who make changes as often as monthly. For example, the term ‘Web site’ was recently changed “website.” Check the AP stylebook online for constant updates!

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