Associated Press style provides guidelines for journalists, but it is also used by many businesses and nonprofit organizations. Many publications and organizations develop their own style guides. If you are working as a journalist, a working knowledge of AP style is critical. Keep in mind that the Associated Press Stylebook includes thousands of entries. My goal is to highlight some of the most important AP guidelines.
Are subheadings capitalized in AP style?
Capitalize all of the principal words of the subheading or subtitle (e.g., AP Style Subheadings). Capitalize all “major” words, including nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs and pronouns. Use lower case for “minor” words such as and, or, nor and but (e.g., Correct Spelling of AP Style Subtitles). Don’t capitalize articles, prepositions or conjunctions that include fewer than four letters.
AP Style and Capitalization
Only capitalize state, federal, division, department, section, board, unit, etc. if it is part of a formal name. Examples: The Food Quality Control Board or Sebastian called the department.
Common nouns should be capitalized. Examples: the Snake River, the Green Party
Capitalize the word room when it is used with a room number. Examples: Room 1524, the Lincoln Room
Don’t capitalize job descriptions. Examples: attorney, postal worker
Punctuation and AP Style
Always use a single space after punctuation.
Don’t use commas before a conjunction in a simple series. Example: In business school, they learned that planning, strategy and marketing are critical for success. Her sisters are Sarah, Maria and Joanna. Use a comma before the terminal conjunction in a complex series, if part of that series also includes a conjunction. Example: Webene offers several different types of websites for businesses, brochure websites, e-commerce and high conversion sites, and membership websites.
Names and AP Style
Use the person’s first and last name the first time they are mentioned in your article. On second reference, use only last name with no title. Example: National Precision Engineering Board Chair Victor Richardson managed the project. Richardson said industry standards are critical.
AP Style Abbreviations
Always use periods when abbreviating academic degrees and professional certifications: Ph.D., R.N., B.A., M.S., etc. Example: John Peterson, J.D., was a leader of the community. Use an apostrophe and spell out college degrees. Example: He has a bachelor’s degree.
AP Style Acronyms
Using the AP style, you are not required to use acronyms. If you are going to use an acronym in your paper, you should begin by writing out the full phrase that makes up the acronym. Don’t put acronyms in parentheses following the first reference – for example, “The Building Quality Control Association (BQCA) …”
AP Style and &
You should only use an ampersand when you write the name of a company: M & M, Procter & Gamble, H & M. Otherwise the ampersand should not be used in place of and.
AP Style Addresses
Street names should be capitalized and spelled out “First” through “Ninth.” And for streets above nine, use figures with two letters:
- I live on Ninth St.
- My office is on 29th St.
- My apartment is 138 Eight Ave.
- My house is 125 22nd St.
Spell out the generic parts of street names when no specific address is provided. Example: Our main office is on Flower Fields Road.
How to write ages in AP style?
If you write about ages, using AP style, always use figures. When age is used as a substitute for a noun or as an adjective, then it should be hyphenated. Avoid using apostrophes when writing about an age range.
- The woman is 30 years old.
- She is in her 50s.
- The event is for 12-year-olds.
- The boy, 9, has a sister, 13.
Titles and AP Style
The AP style requires the use of quotation marks around book titles, TV shows, works of art, computer games, poems, speeches, and songs. Examples: They sang “We Are The Champions” before the game. Author George Meszaros read from his latest book. “Triumph On The Web.”
Titles of People
Capitalize formal titles when they appear before a person’s name. Lowercase titles if they are informal. Examples: President Lincoln; President-elect Biden; Sen. Dianne Feinstein; Alex Padilla, a senator from California.
Numerals and AP Style
Don’t start a sentence with a figure. The only time you should start a sentence with a figure when the sentence begins with a year. Examples: 1987 was an exciting year. Four thousand students have graduated this year. Three musicians took the stage.
Use roman numerals to describe sequences or wars. Examples: George V, World War I, Francis II.
When writing about money, use numerals. For cents or sums of $1 million or more, spell the words cents, million, billion, etc. Examples: $32,95, $123,100, $6 million, 2 cents.
Dates, Months, Years, Days of the Week
Use figures for dates and years. Use Arabic figures and avoid using st, nd, rd, or th with dates. Always capitalize and spell out the month unless it is used with a date. When used with a date only spell out the following months: March, April, May, June and July, and abbreviate Jan., Feb., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec.
There is no need to use a comma when only the year and month are given. Use the letter s without an apostrophe after figures when writing about decades or centuries. Examples: The vacation starts Sept. 12. The training begins in December. The 1400s.
Time and AP Style
Use figures when writing about time. The two exceptions are noon and midnight. Use a.m. or p.m. Don’t capitalize and avoid spaces. Examples: 10 p.m not 10:00 p.m. The movie starts at 10 p.m.
Technological Terms and AP Style
The correct spelling and capitalization of frequently used technological terms:
- social media
- Google, Googling, Googled
Dimensions and AP Style
Use figures and spell out words when writing about height, weight or other dimensions. Examples: He is 7-foot-1. She wrote with a 5-inch pen.
Distance and AP Style
For distances over 10, use figures. Spell out the distance below 10. Examples: The airport runway is exactly four miles long. My train covered 457 miles.