Tips and Tricks: AP Style

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By: Julie Kudlacz

Like many recent grads entering the PR world, I got my degree in Journalism. AP Style was at the center of my education. What was once something I painstakingly tried to learn has now become a part of my everyday life. Good writing and communication skills are some of the few universal expectations for the majority of entry-level jobs. Without them you immediately sound both unprofessional and incompetent. Not only does knowing AP Style help your writing sound more professional. It also makes you better able to speak the language of the media outlets you are communicating with.

I put together a list of go-to AP Style rules to remember. Whenever I am reviewing a piece of writing I use this list to make sure I am not making any major AP Style mistakes.

  1. Occupations
    • Confine capitalization to formal titles used directly before an individual’s name
    • Lowercase is used when a title is not attached to a name.
    • Remember that job descriptions are not titles; do not capitalize them
  2. Numbers, Dates and Times:
    • Always write out numbers one – nine
    • For percentages, use numerals with “percent,” not “%”
    • For dates, always use figures without st, nd, rd or th
    • For times, always use figures except for noon and midnight
  3. Titles
    • Magazine and newspaper titles aren’t italicized or placed in quotes, just capitalized
    • For composition titles such as books, video games, films, TV shows, works of art, speeches, etc., use quotation marks
  4. Combining Sentences
    • If you’re combining two complete sentences, then always use a comma and a conjunction to combine the two sentences. If one of the sentences is not a complete thought, or if the two verbs share the same subject, don’t use a comma to combine the sentences.

AP Style can be confusing because it often contradicts what our natural tendencies. Learning the common AP Style rules can help improve your writing and better your relationships with media outlets.  It is also important to note that the AP Style rules are constantly changing. Staying up to speed on new rules can help you be ahead of the PR game.