AP Style – With You For the Long Haul

By: Sydney Schoolfield


Recognize that picture? If not, you must not have had the pleasure of taking Dr. Junker’s writing courses yet. Those who have taken the quizzes in Junker’s class know that the AP Stylebook is a standardized way of referencing people, places, dates, things and so much more. The book is commonly used as a writing and editing reference in newsrooms and corporate offices worldwide.

So why am I writing a blog post on a 500-page book with more terms than you can count? Well, if you think this book will be buried in your bookshelf gathering dust after college, you’re wrong. After speaking with several public relations professionals, I learned that they always have their books handy and some even refer to the book as the “journalist and public relations bible.”

On the bright side, once you get the hang of it, you won’t have to flip through all of the pages for every word you write.

Here are a few basic AP style tip rules that are commonly forgotten. We’ll call it AP Style 101:


On first reference, list the person’s full name (i.e. Dr. Tom Smith). On second reference, only list the person’s last name (i.e. Smith); however, if the story involves family members with the same last name, use first and last name.


Although the exact time of day an event has occurred is not necessary in most stories, these guidelines apply. Use numeric figures except for 12 p.m. and 12 a.m. In these cases, use noon and midnight. Use a colon to separate hours from minutes. Examples: 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 9-11 a.m.


When referencing months, always capitalize the name. When a month is used with a specific date, abbreviate Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., and Dec., but spell out the others. Spell out the month when using alone or with a year alone.


Spell out street names when they are used alone or with more than one street name (i.e. Pennsylvania Avenue). Use the abbreviated versions of Ave., Blvd., and St. only with numbered addresses (i.e. 1400 Pearl St.)


Generally, writers should capitalize formal titles used directly before an individual’s name (i.e. Sen. Jane Smith). However, when the title is used without a name, lowercase and spell it out (i.e. The senator was here).


In general, spell out the numbers one through nine. Use figures for 10 and above.

State Names

When used in the body of a story, state names should always be spelled out. In datelines, most states are abbreviated. However, they are not abbreviated in the same form as postal codes (see your AP style book). In addition, Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah are never abbreviated.

Composition Titles

For titles of movies, books, operas, poems and more, capitalize all the principle words as well as the first and last words. Put quotation marks around all of these titles excluding the Bible, almanacs, dictionaries and encyclopedias.

Hope you enjoyed AP Style 101. Go ahead and personalize your AP Stylebook with tabs and stickers, because it’s not going anywhere!