OK, I’ll admit it. I’m obsessed with “The Associated Press Stylebook.” It’s my bible to grammar geekdom. (Note the spelling of “OK,” that quotation marks – not italics – are used around a book’s title and that “bible,” in this use, is lowercase because it’s a non-religious reference.)
It pains me that most PR and marketing pros don’t use AP Style. I judge those people now, just like I judged them back when I was a newspaper journalist and editor. There’s a reason for our conformity, folks.
First, it makes us look smart. You start losing points the minute you capitalize every word in your press release’s headline and subhead. Follow the rules. Doing so suggests that you comprehend the English language. Second, it makes editors’ lives easier. Traditional media outlets follow AP Style to create consistency across the publication. If you don’t write in AP Style, they have to edit your work so that it follows AP Style. Heavy editing doesn’t bode well for the publication of your release or article. I definitely “overlooked” a few poorly written submissions in my journalism days and, in a time when many journalists wear many hats, it’s nice to be nice.
As journalism and PR continue to evolve – and expand into more channels with fewer characters, the disregard for my beloved Stylebook grows. Even if you don’t get it all right (“all right” is always two words – never one, BTW), here are a few that drive me particularly nutso.
- Capitalizing job titles: Company presidents are, no doubt, very important people. However, the word “president” does not need to be capitalized every time it’s used. Titles – all titles – are only capitalized if they come directly before a person’s name. If a comma comes between the title and the name, or the title comes after the name, the title is not capitalized.
- Get your datelines right: You’re used to two-letter abbreviations for letter writing, but with AP Style, states are a different beast (i.e. Florida is Fla., Arizona is Ariz., and Washington is Wash.). Also, you don’t need the state abbreviations in datelines when you’re writing out of larger cities. No state mentions needed for Boston, New York, Las Vegas, etc.
- Towards is not a word. It’s toward. Period.
- Website. It’s one word. No caps. Boom.
- The numbers game: Spell out numbers below 10. For 10 and above, use figures. Also, avoid starting a sentence with a number. If you have to use it at the start of a sentence, spell it out. Calendar years are an exception to this rule.