Get on board with AP Style

Within the sphere of social media, it is not uncommon to encounter a number of grammatical errors. Social media is a fast-paced occupation; it is always on the move. In the midst of these everyday advancements, businesses have adopted their own methods when it comes to dealing with gramatical issues.

The exciting part of social media is that it is flexible. Social media allows room for change and innovation. It is creative and vibrant. However, there must be a balance between two. AP style has provided this flexibility.

“The first Associated Press Stylebook came out in 1953. It was 60 pages, stapled together, distilled from a thousand suggestions and ideas, a stack of newspapers and big dictionary.”

Since then, AP books have changed it’s style but not it’s relevancy. AP has stayed a loyal companion for journalists and PR practitioners. It remains dedicated to “its original concept: to provide a uniform presentation of the printed word, to make a story written anywhere understandable everywhere.”

So why is AP style important to us as journalists and PR students and professionals? Well … for the main concept it was originally made for: uniformity within the written press.  AP style has contributed to making the field of journalism and PR a more refined art.

As fellow journalists and PR practitioners, we are all fairly familiar with this book. We have learned a number of spelling, puncutation and dateline rules. However, I still find myself stumbling over some of the simplest of rules. I am fairly certain I am not alone in this dilemma.

So here is a list of some of the most common mistakes made within AP style:

  1. Commas in a sequence: This is a highly common mistake. When writing a list, do not include a comma before the conjunction in a series. Meg went to the store and bought pepperoni, apples, eggs and toothpaste. However, put a comma in front of the conjunction if an integral part of the sequence contains a conjunction. Sammy had salad, roast beef, and macaroni and cheese for dinner.
  2. a.m. / p.m.: This one gets me more often than I would like to admit. I think to myself, “it’s just two little letters after the time–is it REALLY that critical?” And yes. There is a rule in place for time. So the next time you are pulling together a quick briefing sheet, remember that you are meeting with the press contact at 10 a.m. or 3:30 p.m. If an event takes place on the hour, such as 11 a.m., it is not necessary to include a colon followed by zero.
  3. Datelines: Datelines should contain a city name, written entirely in capital letters and the city is frequently followed by the state, county or territory where the city is located, e.g. PORTLAND, Ore. However, certain cities do not need to be followed by the state or country since they are nearly synonymous with the state or country in which they reside, such as Atlanta, London, New York, Paris, Chicago, Seattle, San Diego and Tokyo. For a complete list, refer to your AP Stylebook.
  4. State abbreviation: Things would be so much easier if all state abbreviations were treated the same. But alas, we are not so lucky. That is why AP-appropriate state abbreviations are different than zip code abbreviations. Here is a quick refresher: Ore. rather than OR, Wash. versus WA and Wyo., not WY. Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah are never abbreviated.
  5. Its/it’s: This is one of my favorite grammar rules, regardless of what stylebook I am using (Yes, I have favorites. I also enjoy reading the AP Stylebook in my free time. Nerd alert!) When using it’s as a contraction for it is, by all means use it’s. However, it does not possess things. Therefore if a company announces its new product, leave the apostrophe out, lest you be scorned by the AP gods. And your supervisor.

Don’t be afraid to admit your flaws. Don’t let weaknesses with grammar hinder your voice in your writing. That’s where AP Style can help aid you along the way.

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