Basics Of The AP Style Guide

Hoping to pursue a career in print journalism? Whether you’re hoping to be part of a local newspaper team or wanting to apply in a public relations office, mastering the AP style is a necessary task every aspiring journalist must fulfill.

Recognized to be the go-to style for journalism, The Associated Press style, or AP style, refers to the common style rules used for news writing that help writers achieve an accurate, clear, tight, and neutral tone. Generally, this covers issues regarding proper language usage, spelling, grammar, capitalization, abbreviation, punctuation, and more.

To help you develop a basic understanding of the AP style, we have prepared a brief rundown of some of the most common rules that come with it. Continue reading to learn more.

Basics Of The AP Style Guide



Under AP style, journalists are guided to be very careful in abbreviating words to deliver a clear and accurate message. Specifically, following AP style, writers can only use widely recognized abbreviations, such as FBI, NASA, and CIA.

Meanwhile, when dealing with less-known subjects, writers can still abbreviate the words, as long as they will spell out the full name of the subject on the first mention.

In addition to that, when writing news articles, the AP style recommends not to abbreviate the days of the week, percent as %, and cents as ¢ to deliver a clearer and more accurate report.


Generally, the AP stylebook suggests the use of uppercase when dealing with titles that appear before a person’s name (e.g. President Obama, Dr. Pasion) and lowercase when dealing with titles that appear after or without a person’s name (e.g. Jeremiah Wafer, a lawyer from London; the mayor approved the bill).

Writers are also advised to not capitalize the articles “a,” “an” and “the,” along with other conjunctions and prepositions that are not longer than three letters.


When dealing with numbers following the AP style, journalists are only provided with one simple rule: spell out numbers one through nine and use figures for numbers 10 and above.

However, this rule does not apply when presenting an address (e.g. #56 Fauna Street), an age (A 21-year-old immigrant), dates (e.g. Dec 3), temperatures (e.g. 7 degrees), time (e.g. 3 p.m.), percentages (e.g. 15 percent), speed (e.g. 10 mph), dimensions (e.g. He is 6-foot-3), cents (e.g. 2 cents), dollars (e.g. $5), millions (e.g. 25 million), and billions (e.g. 10 billion).


One of the main features of AP style is it does not use the Oxford comma. This means that you won’t need to add a comma before a conjunction in a simple series (e.g. She decided to invite Marie, Lloyd, and Evita).

However, writers are recommended to use a comma when dealing with a series that include elements containing and or or (e.g. She has taken up Mathematics, Logic, Culture and Arts, and European Literature).

Following the AP style, commas and periods are also positioned within quotation marks (e.g. “I’m having the best time of my life,” he claimed).

When dealing with a quote that is more than two sentences, use a colon after attribution.


When you need to cite a title, AP style requires that you use quotations when dealing with books, movies, recordings, or television shows (e.g. “The Chronicles of Narnia”).

On the other hand, magazines, newspapers, and reference works will be presented as they are, without the need to set them off in quotation marks (e.g. The New York Times).

Referencing A Person

Whenever you need to mention a person, AP style requires that you cite the person’s full name on the first reference. For the succeeding references, you will have to use only his or her last name, with no accompanying title.

Plural Form

When dealing with single letters, AP style requires that you add an apostrophe followed by an “s” to create the plural form of the subject (e.g. All C’s). Meanwhile, multiple letters will only require the use of an additional “s” to create their plural form (e.g. ABCs, TVs).

Basics Of The AP Style Guide

The Bottom Line

Whether you’re set to join a local newspaper or a public relations office, knowing the basics of AP Style is a necessity. From press releases, alerts, Q&A’s, pitches to much more, knowing this commonly used writing style will surely help you create accurate and impressive press materials.