Best Practices

A Comprehensive Guide to AP Style

“Are you familiar with AP style?”

This is a common question in any PR interview. If your mind immediately wanders back to a college paper you wrote in APA Format, do not fret, you’re not alone—and no the two are not related.  Although you may have no experience writing in AP style — it’s something you most likely see everyday whether you know it or not.  AP style is the standard for most U.S newspapers, magazines and press releases.

Why AP style?

  •      Consistency
  •      Correctness
  •      Clarity
  •      Conciseness
  •      Credibility

For anyone looking for a career in journalism, PR or any field that involves the media, purchasing an AP Stylebook is a must. Even journalists with years of experience keep an AP Stylebook close by for reference.


Below is an outline of some of the basics of AP style.


  •      One through nine are spelled out.
  •      10 and above are written as numbers.

Ex. Lucy ate five bagels and drank 11 glasses of orange juice for breakfast (She was hungry).


  •      Percentages are always presented in numerals and followed by the word “percent”.

Ex. Revenue increased by 15 percent.


  •      Commas and periods always go inside quotations.

Ex. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. She replied, “You never do.”

  •      In a list, commas do not go before a conjunction.

Ex. I’m not sure if I want to get a cat, dog, goat or iguana.

  •      Use a single space after a period

Movies, Books, and TV Shows

  •      For title of movies, books, poems and TV Shows, do not use italics. Use quotations instead.

Ex. Have you read “The Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway?

  •      Newspapers and magazines have no special punctuation.

Ex.  I can’t believe what that article in The Washington Post said.


  •      When using names, use a person’s first and last name on first reference. After that, just use their last name without courtesy titles such as Ms. Mr. Mrs. or Miss, unless they are part of a direct quote. *Insider’s Tip: While AP style directs you to use just last names, some news outlets — like the New York Times — stick with more formal standards and always use Mr. or Ms. on repeated references.

Ex. John Williams wore a red shirt. Williams paired his red shirt with black pants.


  •      Titles are only capitalized when they appear directly before and individual’s name.

Ex. President Obama

     Lincoln was the president during the Civil War.


  •      Spell out all months when a date does not directly follow.

Ex. The last time I saw him was in September.

  •      Abbreviate only if the month is six letters or longer.

Ex. Classes begin Aug. 6 and end May 21.

The best way to learn AP style is to practice, practice, practice. Another way is to take quizzes online and put your skills to the test. Try it out for yourself here!