Writing with Style: Friendly Reminders on Why AP Style Matters in PR

As the realms of journalism and PR continue to evolve, so do the rules of writing and AP style. We may like to think that it’s the pure strength of our ideas and fabulous content that win the day, but the truth is that clarity and presentation are vital to help those ideas shine.

For marketers, writing in AP style makes it easier to stay on the same page with readers and get our messages across. And, of course, readers have an easier time staying engaged with writing that is clear and easy to understand.

But, as anyone who has an AP Style Guide can tell you, there are a HECK of a lot of rules to remember. So I thought it would be beneficial to flag a few simple points worth keeping in the back of one’s mind from my favorite desk reference—2017 edition.

5 AP Style Reminders for Marketers

  1. Capitalizations – In general, AP style recommends avoiding unnecessary capitals. For titles, AP style requires writers to ONLY capitalize titles when they precede a name; otherwise, they are lowercase. Example: Governor Mark Dayton vs. Mark Dayton, the governor of Minnesota. Publications are also capitalized, but not italicized or put in quotes – that is for the composition title itself. Example: Alexis read an article from Time Magazine before turning on CBS to watch “60 Minutes.”
  2. Co- and Co. – Retain the hyphen with nouns, adjectives and verbs indicating occupation or status (co-author), but disregard for other combinations (coed). Co. should not have a preceding comma when used with a business name. Same goes for Inc., Ltd. or other corporate names.
  3. Months – When referring to a specific date, abbreviate only the months of Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec. Always spell out a month either when using the word alone, or with a year alone.
  4. Numbers ­­– In writing, spell out one through nine. For addresses, only use abbreviations (Ave., Blvd. and St.) with numbered addresses. Spell out percent, dollars and cents alongside monetary value (45 dollars). Also, spell out numbers at the start of a sentence, fractions less than one, and when used as an adjective.
  5. Commas in Simple vs. Complex Series Passions tend to run high on this matter, but the AP’s rule is to not put a comma before the conjunction in simple series, only a complex series or phrase. Hence, “The flag is red, white and blue,” but also, “The best sandwiches are pastrami and Swiss, ham and cheddar, and peanut butter and jelly.”

Like it or not, AP style is the norm for the vast majority of communications jobs, and it contributes to clarity and consistency for readers across platforms and organizations. While companies often develop their own style guides, AP style is frequently the foundation they build on, and it’s not uncommon to see a sentence like, “For any issues not addressed here, refer to AP style,” in a corporate style guide.

Still want to avoid the tedium of AP style altogether? Get in touch with the content and editing wordslingers at SCG today.

(And in case anyone is wondering, a speaker stands behind a lectern, on a podium or rostrum, or in the pulpit.)

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Phoebe Janisch

Phoebe seeks to better the world with clear communication strategies. As an avid storyteller, researcher and University of Minnesota student, she looks forward to finding her own imaginative spark at SCG while learning from some of the most innovative mentors and organizations west of the Mississippi.


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