Writing in AP Style

The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law provides basic grammar, spelling, and punctuation rules for all journalists. Journalists and editors must know these rules in order to provide a proper reporting technique. There are many resources for learning AP Style, including the Purdue Writing Lab; this list will help you avoid some of the most common mistakes.

  1. Percent or %?

Typically, our instinct is to use the percent sign, but AP Style requires reporters to spell out the word “percent.” E.g. 70 percent of the student body loved the presentation.

  1. Time

The proper way to write out the time is to use numerals with the time of day spaced as “a.m.” or “p.m.” Do not include “:00” if the time lands on the hour.E.g. The event took place at 3:30 p.m. Attendees gathered at 3 p.m.

  1. Titles

Use capital letters for titles, such as job titles or positions, if they come before a person’s name, and use lowercase letters if they come after a person’s name. E.g. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders vs. Bernie Sanders, senator of Vermont.

  1. Numbers

Numbers below 10 should always be spelled out, unless they are referencing someone’s age. E.g. The girl was 9 years old. or Sally, 9, said that she wanted a doll for Christmas. 

  1. First name, last name, or both?

When mentioning someone in an article for the first time, reference them by their first and last name. For the rest of the piece, use their last name.

  1. Months.

Spell out the name of a month, unless used with a date. E.g. One day in April vs. Apr. 10. Do not use “th,” “rd,” “st,” etc. The numeral is the important part. 

It is necessary to understand the importance of AP Style to present yourself more professionally to an editor or others in the workplace. If you are a journalist working up to an editor position, knowing these aspects is necessary to being a productive editor.

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