5 Tips to Remember AP Style Tricks


Admit it. We have all felt this way. AmIRight?

I heart my red pen. In fact, as many people with whom I have worked will tell you that next to my smartphone (Have phone, will tweet), my flaming, crimson rod of righteous indignation is always by my side.

Okay, so it’s just a Sharpie, but it sounds like it should come with “Movie Trailer Guy” voice when I say it like that.

Anywho, I am asked from time-to-time about AP Style memory tips. Those soothsayers of the journalistic lexicon like to trick things up, which keeps hacks and flacks alike from never running out of a Secret Santa gift. Nonetheless, if you fancy such a thing, I have a few quick tricks for some AP Style conundrums that could help you out in a pinch.

ellipsis em dash1. Spaces, people! AP Style loves spaces. Unfortunately, many copywriters and PR folk do not. To show a dramatic pause or an abrupt change in thought, some are accustomed to using either an “em dash” (about the width of an “m”) or an ellipsis (those three dots that look like someone fell asleep on the period button). While many understand when to use those pesky punctuation marks, many more forget how. There is a space before and after the use of said mark. Yes, really.

name plate2. En-Titled Much? Ah yes, we love our titles, don’t we? From ogling over our new business cards to forcing people to read the bronze name plate greeting them on your desk, we all have titles. However, regardless how hard you have worked for that title or how much you want to be called that title, it’s not an act of high treason or sacrilege to drop the title after the first reference. In fact, it’s preferred. Use the grand poobah’s title the first time and use his or her last name thereafter.

towards3. The Ward Family. My last name is one that everyone and their mother decides is lonely so generous dimwits give me an “s” — all the time. Therefore, I’m Shawn Paul W-o-o-d-to most that meet my acquaintance and then become familiar with my natural scowl. I don’t know what it is about the human psyche that doesn’t appreciate me being a lone tree and not a forest, but that’s the case. The “Ward” family is like that as well — toward, upward, downward, sideward, backward or forward. Keep the “S” out.

ie eg4. It’s All Latin to Me. There are two terms in Latin that everyone uses interchangeably and that needs to stop immediately. Why? Because of Julius Caesar stumbled upon your blog, he would cuss you out. And since you don’t want that to happen, here’s the difference: exempli gratia and id estForget that the former means “for example” and the latter means “that is.” They do, but it doesn’t matter if you are using it incorrectly. Use the first letter — e.g. means “example” and i.e. means “in other words.” Oh, and no need for “et cetera” or “etc.” after a parenthetical series there either. A little Latin goes a long way.

like such as5. “Like” is not Just for Valley Girls. People who overuse the word “like” in a sentence is about as welcome in a newsroom as someone who believes he or she is a “people person” is welcomed into a PR office. To wit, some editors when they see the word “like” in copy, the 1980s creeps up in their medulla, flashbacks of leg warmers and bad hair ensues, and the word is marked out immediately. There is a need for “like” in copy, and it is different from “such as.” Try this: If you can switch out “for example” (or “i.e.” for those scoring at home), use such as. Only use like to compare things. Like, really!