Reporters, editors and others use the AP Stylebook as a guide for grammar, punctuation, principles and practices of reporting – which is why it is important as PR professionals to keep aligned with it.

Not only does AP style give us consistency in all our writing, it also lets us connect with media by speaking their language. This is why every now and then it is good for us to go back to our handbooks for a refresher on AP and keep up-to-date on any changes made.

Here are some common mistakes we at RH Strategic have come across and some helpful reminders for the PR industry:

  • Remove all italics: AP Style is not one to deal in italics. Sure, italicizing newspaper titles and book titles looks great in reporting and even calls a bit of attention to the publication, but according to AP this is a big “no.”
  • The dreaded Oxford/Serial comma: AP does not use a comma before the last item – in a simple series. When it comes to complex series, a comma is needed for clarity. Ex. It is important to know whether the murder had a knife, whether the murderer had a gun, or whether the murderer is actually a murderer.
  • Keep all states abbreviated correctly: This is an easy one to check in the handbook. Maryland is Md., Massachusetts is Mass., etc. It is important to note this only applies to datelines, photo captions and lists. The AP made a change in 2014 that requires all state names to be spelled out in the body of stories.
  • Remove all double spaces after periods: This is an easy one to miss in editing, but it’s also an easy one to quickly fix. Everything should only be one space apart. Luckily, Microsoft Word allows you to search for double spaces for quick and easy correction.
  • Keep updated on any AP changes: Remember when email was “e-mail” and website was “web-site?” These changes happen as our culture adapts to new jargon and introduces new terms.
  • Do not capitalize job titles unless they immediately precede a name. This one is as easy one to remember. Ex. Principal John Smith vs. John Smith, principal at Anywhere High School.

Do you have any AP Style errors you see frequently or have any tips for keeping track of AP Style? Let us know in the comments below!


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RH Strategic is a Seattle and D.C.-based communications firm providing strategic public relations for innovators in the technology, public sector, and healthcare markets.