AP Style Essentials

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What’s a stylebook?

AP Style dog Jannet WalshIf you are trying to get your work published as a public relations professional or journalist, using a writing style that used by most publications in the  United States is vital.  (The  Associated Style, AP Style, for the United States:  Use periods in the abbreviation, U.S. within texts.  In headlines, it’s US, (no periods).

Topics using in a stylebook:  Capitalization, abbreviations, punctuation, titles and general word usage.  Example:  The AP style for the word internet is now lowercase, formerly was Internet.  Make sure you are using the most current version available.

The Associated Press Stylebook  It’s considered the journalist’s stylebook.  If you are preparing a news release that’s vital to your organization, if it’s not written in a style that can be quickly edited, then you have a better chance of getting your writing published.  The AP stylebook is available as a  book, website or smartphone app.

AP style is the standard for writing news release and other content for media in the United States.  Your style of writing can make or break your career if news release are deleted in journalist’s email inboxes.

Key to Stylebook entries – The word will be in boldface, followed by usage, while others will simply give the correct spelling, indicating capitalization or other notes, including any abbreviation.


AAA  Formerly the American Automobile Association.  Headquarters is in  Heathrow, Florida.

more than, over Acceptable in all uses to indicate greater numerical value.  Salaries went up more than $20 a week.  Salaries went up over $20 a week.  See over.

website  Also, webcam, webcast, webmaster, webpage, webfeed, the web.

Other stylebooks – There are other stylebooks, such as The New York ties Stylebook and The Wall Street Journal Stylebook.    Organizations also develop  their own stylebooks.

AP Style Highlights, essentials

This listing is a just a few highlights for AP style, but you need to make sure you have the most current version for quick reference.  The Associated Press Stylebook   

It can be overwhelming at first, but please see below for the essentials. 

By the Numbers

  • Spell out one through nine, then go to figures for 10 and up.  NOTE:  If a sentence begins with a numeral, rewrite or spell it out.  Exception:  Years –  2017 will be a great year. (If a year is at the beginning of a sentence.)
  • Use numbers for ages:  She is a 21-year-old student.  The law is 1 year old.
  • Ratios:  Always use numerals.  The mayor won the election by a 2-to-1 ratio.
  • Dimensions, use figures and spell out inches, feet, yards and more.  The boy is 4 feet 8 inches.
  • Percent:  Write percent, not per cent or %. It’s a singular or plural verb, depending on the sentence.  Same topic, two ways to write:  The professor stated 75 percent of her students failed the course.  As a result, 25 percent of the students failed the course.  (Note:  Make sure figures add up to 100 percent)
  • Dollars and cents:  Dollars and Cents are written in lowercase.  Use the $ and numeral for an exact number:  The computer costs $4,000.  Amounts less than one dollar, use numerals.  The candy cost 50 cents.  Use a $ and numeral to two decimals points for amounts over $1 million and up:  The university union cost $6.45 million.  Spell out casual, not exact dollars, uses:  I loaned her a dollar (or penny).


  • Titles are usually capitalized only when used before a name:
    President Lincoln, Professor Walsh, Pope Francis.  If not used before a name, don’t capitalize:  The president  talked to journalists during a news conference.  The professor is absent minded.   Medford College is know for their  famous Professor Brainard.
    There’s a movie by Walt Disney about this calledThe Absent-Minded Professor. Use quotations for a movie title, period is inside end of quotes.  See compositions, titles in the Ap stylebook for more help.

  • Some titles are descriptive for jobs and are not capitalized, not a actual title:  astronaut John Glenn, assistant coach John Smith.  NOTE:  If you don’t know, ask what the person’s title is, get a business card or check the company’s website.
  • Royalty:  King, queen and other royal titles follow similar guidelines.  Capitalize them only directly before a name:  If I were a princess, I’d be called Princess Mary.
  • Former or acting:  More complicated – It’s former President Gerald Ford and acting Mayor Sue Smith.  Don’t capitalize the qualifying word, such as former or acting.
  • Long titles: If the title is long, put it after the name.  James Brown, the president of the student union, wants free lunch for all students.  Or  The president of the student union, James Brown, wants free lunch for all students.


  • Always capitalize proper nouns:  Jim, Minnesota, Ford (cars, and the president)
  • Capitalize common nouns when part of the full name of a person, place or thing:  Democratic Party, Lake George, Litchfield, Minnesota. (NOTE:  It’s Minnesota, not MN or Minn. in text, used with postal zip codes.  See AP stylebook for state names.
  • Some words use a proper noun and depend on that word for meaning.  They should e capitalized, as in Jewish, Christian, Muslim, English, Marxist.  Other words no longer depend on proper nouns for their meaning:  french fries, pasteurize, venetian blind.
  • First word of a sentence is always capitalized, even if it a proper noun that is not usually capitalized.  Example:  e.e. cummings, all lowercase, used at beginning of sentence:  E.e. cummings.  (Rewrite this to avoid looking odd or an error.
  • Composition titles, principal words in a book title, movie and related publications are capitalized, including prepositions and conjunctions of four or more letters:  “Gone with the Wind.”  (NOTE: Period inside of quotations.)
    “Of Mice and Men”
    “Today” TV program  (Note:  TV is the acceptable abbreviation from of television, as a noun and adjective for AP style.)
    “The Mary Tyler More Show”


  • Abbreviate titles before a full name, except in quotations:  Dr., Lt. Gov., Mr., Mrs., Ms., Rep., the Rev., and Sen.  When used before a full name in a quote, spell out all expect Dr., Mr., Mrs., and Ms.
  • After a name, abbreviate junior and senior as Jr. and Sr. (Don’t add another period after if abbreviation is used at end of sentence:  My father’s name is Martin J. Walsh Jr.  NEVER: My father’s name is Martin J. Walsh Jr..  (ONLY one period to end sentence.)
  • Always abbreviate a.m., p.m., A.D., and B.C.  (It’s never A.M. or P.M. or am or pm.)
  • Months:  Specific dates, abbreviate Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec.  Spell out months when used alone or with a year only.  I started working at the public relations agency in January 2017, and graduated from college on Nov. 15, 2017.
  • U.S. States:  Spell out all states when they stand alone.  Eight states are never abbreviated:  Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah.  The other states are abbreviated when used with the name of a city, whether in datelines or in the text.  See AP stylebook for state namesPunctuation:  Place one comma between the city and the state name, and another comma after the state name, unless ending a sentence or indicating a dateline.He was traveling from St. Cloud, Minnesota, to Seattle, Washington.  She said Cook County, Illinois, was Mayor Daley’s stronghold.

    Headlines:  Avoid using sate abbreviations in headlines whenever possible.

    Use New York state when necessary to distinguish the state form New York City.

    Use state of Washington or Washington state when necessary to distinguish the state from the District of Columbia.


  • Abbreviate: street, avenue and boulevard when used with a specific address.
    123 Main St.
    Spell out otherwise:  I rode my bike down Main Street to the restaurant.
  • Spell out:  court, lane and road always
  • Always use figures for addresses:  100 Main St., not One Hundred Main St.
  • Spell out:  First through Ninth if used in a street name, then use figures.
    1234 11th Ave., not 1235 Eleventh Ave.
  • Abbreviate compass points if it a specific address: 123 S. Main St.
    If it’s just a street, no house number:  South Main Street not S. Main St. (Spell out Street)

The internet (lowercase is AP style for internet)

  • Basics:  It’s internet (formerly Internet), the Net, World Wide Web, the Web, website, dot-com, JPEG, DVD, CD-ROM, online, cyberspace and email.
  • Listing web address:   Include:  https://  for the address https://multimediatoolkit.me   UNLESS the site contains questionable content,
  • In stories:  use the and of the website than the website address.  Use Facebook instead of Facebook.com, unless it is  legal reference like Amazon.com Inc.
  • Go to AP stylebook, see internet for more details.


  • Phrase located in parentheses is inside a sentence, place the closing parentheses inside the period:  The football team gave everything they had (but still lost).
  • If it a separate thought, the closing parentheses goes outside the period.
    The football team gave everything they had. (Unfortunately, still lost.)
  • Political designation –  Do not use parentheses, use commas.
    Bobby Jones, D-Minn., said Friday he will run president next year.


  • Plural nouns NOT ending in s, add ‘s.
  • Plural nouns ending in s, add an apostrophe
    dogs’ leashes
  • Singular nouns NOT ending in s, add ‘s
    school’s playground
    Applies the same for x or z
  • Singular common nouns ending in s, add ‘s unless the next word begins with s
    the waitress’s order book
    the waitress’ sugar
  • Singular proper names ending in s, use only an apostrophe
    Jones’ house
    Phyllis’ car
  • It’s is NOT possessive (it is a contraction of it and is).  It means:  it is.
    Its is a possessive
    A dog likes its food, not it’s


  • Hyphen – Use if the prefix ends in a vowel and the word that follows begins with the same vowel.
    re-entry, anti-inflammatory  (Cooperate and coordinate are exceptions.)
  • Use hyphen if the word that follows is capitalized.
    The book was written by ex-president Barack Obama.
  • Pre – :  Stylebook does not list exceptions to Wester’s New World Dictionary, including pre-empt, pre-exist and pre-election.
  • Co-:  Nouns, adjectives and verbs that describe a partnership, use a hyphen.
    Co-author, co-worker, co-pilot
    Do not use a hyphen in the following:  coexist, coeducational and cooperate.
  • sub-:  Generally don’t use hyphen
    subtotal, subcommittee, submachine gun

More fine points

  • Adviser, not advisor
  • amid, not amidst
  • minuscule, not miniscule
  • doughnut, not donut
  • amok, not amuck
  • Further/farther
    Further is an extension of time or degree.
    We need to that this idea further.Farther is used to show physical distance.
    I live farther than from you  do.
  • Imply/infer:
    You imply something by what you say or write.
    People infer something from ready your words.