All public relations professionals have heard of it. Some follow it like the bible of PR; others consider it the bane of their existence. I fall somewhere in the middle, but it’s important to try to keep up with the rules of AP style because it’s the industry standard.
I often refer to apstylebook.com for clarification when I’m unsure. I definitely can’t claim to have memorized all of the rules, but I’ve noticed some common style mistakes that PR writers should try to avoid.
Academic degrees – Use an apostrophe in bachelor’s degree and master’s degree; they’re singular possessive. Their proper names are Bachelor of Arts and Master of Science. Associate degree is not possessive. (Tip: be especially careful of this rule in biographies and resumes!)
Datelines – City names should be in capital letters and in most cases followed by the appropriate AP style abbreviation for the state. Some popular U.S. cities stand alone. Detroit is one of them.
Double spacing after periods – This is my biggest pet peeve. The AP Stylebook clearly states in two separate sections that a single space always follows a period. It can be found in the entry for sentences and in the entry for periods. (It must be important if the rule is in the stylebook twice.)
Headlines – Only capitalize the first word and proper nouns in headlines. Use numerals for all numbers, even whole numbers below 10.
Numbers – There are a lot of rules for numbers so make sure to double check them. In general, spell out whole numbers below 10, and use figures for 10 and above. Spell out a number at the beginning of a sentence, unless it is a year.
Over vs. more than – The word “over” refers to spatial relationships while “more than” is preferred with numerals. You jump over an object. You raised more than $10,000.
Percent – Always spell out the word “percent” rather than using the symbol. Use figures for numbers when referring to percentages. For instance, Two percent and 15% are incorrect, while 2 percent and 15 percent are correct.
Titles – Only capitalize formal titles if they are used before the person’s name. Maria Leonhauser, president of Franco PR and Franco PR President Maria Leonhauser are both correct.
There are exceptions to many of these rules and the AP Stylebook is updated periodically so be sure to consult the latest guidelines if you’re unsure. It never hurts to double check.
What AP style rules trip you up? Do you have any AP style pet peeves? Leave them in our comments.
Joe Ferlito is a senior account executive at Franco Public Relations Group. You can reach him at (313) 567-5031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.