A communicator’s guide to AP style

Improve your media relations efforts by making sure you have clean copy. Consider these tips.

This article originally ran on PR Daily in March of 2017.

For journalists, The Associated Press Stylebook is the industry bible.

They live and die by its grammar and style rules, and most have taken numerous journalism school classes to perfect writing in alignment with AP style.

AP style errors in press releases are glaringly obvious to reporters and could turn many journalists off from considering a press release. Still, mastering the 500-page book, which is updated every year, can be a daunting task.

Below are AP style tips that every PR professional should know, along with commonly made mistakes to avoid. Although you should always have an AP Stylebook at your desk, consider this your cheat sheet for quick reference.


Only use the abbreviations Ave., Blvd. and St. with a numbered address. Always use figures for a numbered address.


His address is 1600 Pike St.

He lives on Pike Street.

For street names that are numbers, spell out and capitalize First through Ninth. Use figures with two letters for 10 and above. Example: He lives on Third Avenue. She lives near 10th and 22nd streets.

Spell out Interstate on first reference, then abbreviate.


She drove down Interstate 5 to get to work.

She also took I-5 when she drove home.


When writing about height, weight or other dimensions, use figures and spell out words such as feet, miles, etc.


She is 5-foot-6.

He wrote with a 3-inch pencil.


Hyphenate the words that go together when using adjectives to modify words.

For example:

energy-efficient products, much-anticipated announcements, long-term relationships.

Generally, words that end in “–ly” are adverbs and shouldn’t be hyphenated.

More than versus over

In 2014, AP Stylebook ruled that both “over” and “more than” are acceptable terms when referring to something of greater numerical value:

However, many communicators still hearken to the old guidance: Use “more than” when referring to numbers and “over” when referring to spatial elements.

For example:

We acquired more than 100,000 customers.

The cow jumped over the moon.


Write out numbers one through nine, and use figures for 10 and above. Spell out a number if it starts a sentence unless it’s a year.

For percentages, use numbers and do not use the % symbol. Example: 39 percent.


AP style generally doesn’t use the Oxford comma. Do not use a comma before the last item in a simple series.

Punctuation almost always goes inside quotation marks.


“No exceptions,” I said.

Johnny, did you say, “Thank you”?


Use a colon to separate hours from minutes, but do not use :00.


1 p.m.

3:30 a.m.

When referencing a.m. and p.m., place the periods in this manner. Use “noon” and “midnight” instead of “12 p.m.” and “12 a.m.”


Formal titles that precede an individual’s name are capitalized. Titles that fall after are lowercase. Don’t capitalize generic job and department names, either.

For example:

We clapped when President Donald Trump cut the ribbon.

Patty Smith, director of marketing at XYZ, attended the ceremony as well.

Use a person’s full name when first introducing them. After the introduction, refer to them by their last name.

This list covers the basics of AP Style, but it’s certainly not comprehensive. If you’re ever unsure about a rule, break out your book and look it up.

You can also download AP StyleGuard, a solution that integrates with Microsoft Word and automatically checks your documents for AP style. It might seem trivial, but linguistic consistency matters—especially to journalists.


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