3 AP style rules worth remembering

The style handbook virtually every journalist uses on a daily basis is also an invaluable resource for PR pros.

Consistency in messaging is crucial in establishing a brand identity for your company. It’s not just in the words you use, either. The grammar and punctuation of your messages also has an impact.

The AP Stylebook is the holy grail of grammar and punctuation rules for journalists and media professionals, including PR pros. You’ll find a copy of the guide on everyone’s desk in our office, but it’s still common to hear someone call out, “What’s AP style for…” while in the middle of writing.

Here are a few of our most commonly used AP style rules:

Combining sentences

This rule feels like it goes against everything you learned in elementary school. If you’re combining two complete sentences, then always use a comma and a conjunction to combine the two sentences. If one of the sentences is not a complete thought, or if the two verbs share the same subject, don’t use a comma to combine the sentences.

Both of these sentences are correct:

Our team loves AP style, but sometimes we forget the little nuances.

Our team loves AP style and uses it every day.

To hyphenate or not

When using adjectives to modify words, hyphenate the words that go together, such as energy-efficient products, much-anticipated announcements or long-term relationships.

The curveball is that you should use a comma to separate adjectives when the words could be used separately. So when you’re writing about a book that is big and is also green, it’s a big, green book.

Never hyphenate words that end in “–ly.” They’re adverbs and don’t fall under this rule. The same goes for “very” and other adverbs that don’t end in “-ly.”

“More than” 100 miles over the speed limit

One of the most persnickety rules of AP style was recently overturned by the powers-that-be at the AP. AP style loyalists still hold to the original rule, and we continue to use it for the sake of consistency.

“More than” is used when referring to numbers, and “over” is used when referring to spatial relationships. The best way to remember this rule is to think about speeding— you’re going more than 100 miles over the speed limit.

Not only does using the AP Stylebook ensure that you’re speaking consistently across all messaging platforms, but when dealing with media, speaking their language and following their style helps gain clout with journalists.

What are some AP style rules you often have trouble remembering?

A version of this article originally appeared on the Markstein PR blog.


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