Why learning AP style is a must for PR pros

Students of public relations, minor in journalism to help you fine-tune your writing (and make it easier for news outlets to pick it up). On top of that, buy—and study—the latest AP Stylebook.

I spent the first four years of my career without knowledge of AP style.

I would write press releases, yet I had no idea why journalists would either correct, reject or ignore them altogether.

My professional life changed when I started my time with the Round Rock Express, working for Larry Little.

A journalism major, Little taught me the basics of AP style in the first month, followed by more in-depth rules over the following year. I learned that I should write out numbers one through nine. I learned about proper state abbreviations: In text, it is Fla., not the postal abbreviation FL. ( Editor’s note; AP style now has us write out state names.)

Here’s a major mistake that 99 percent (not 99%) of people still make: Did you know you cannot perform a given task “on a day?” No, you did not go to the store on Saturday. You went to the store Saturday. Do not bring casual speaking habits into your professional writing.

Larry Little changed my professional life, and since then I have heeded AP style. I get each year’s new AP Stylebook, making sure to note recent changes. Although I have improved my writing over the years, I have also seen cleaner writing help my PR career. More of my press releases are answered, and more op-eds are published. I submit white papers with confidence and have conviction in debating peers about the capitalization of professional titles.

However, the more acquainted with AP style and professional writing I become, the more I notice that many communicators and marketers are not so familiar.

If I were filling five entry-level PR jobs right now, I’d fill them all with journalism majors. I wouldn’t ask any questions about PR in the interview; I’d simply ask 10 basic AP style questions.

I can teach a young adult how to gain exposure for a client. I can teach them about digital marketing, social media monitoring and proper pitching techniques.

I could teach them all that much more quickly than I could teach them how to write properly.

Those who are just starting out and who have a passion for communications should follow that desire. Immerse yourself in the great world of public relations. Learn all the new digital marketing tactics and how to connect with the world’s best journalists.

It’s an exciting world with ever-changing technology—but please take a journalism class and buy an AP Stylebook. It doesn’t matter how well you get your message out there if that message isn’t written properly.

Zachary Reed is manager of marketing and communication at Triumph Bancorp, Inc. A version of this article originally appeared on LinkedIn.

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Topics: PR

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