AP Style in Public Relations: Top Five Tips for Press Releases

Woman typing on laptop
Photo courtesy of Pexels.

By Diana G. Haven

Our team collectively cheered the recent release of the 56th Edition of the Associated Press Stylebook, a spiral-bound guide widely used as a writing and editing standards-setter by the media, corporate communications and worldwide. New editions are released every other year, and the 56th has almost 300 new and revised entries since the last update in 2020, including a new chapter on the importance and inclusion of inclusive storytelling; new information on how to cover immigration, the coronavirus and race-related topics; and an updated chapter on using social media for reporting.

The AP Stylebook sets the guidelines for AP Style, which promotes uniformity and consistency for public-facing information, whether it’s a press release, a newspaper story or a corporate whitepaper. It dictates the rules of news writing, including standardized punctuation and grammar conventions and how to use abbreviations, titles and formal names. Learning AP Style often takes place at the start of a journalist or PR person’s career, as it’s usually taught in college and university communications and public relations courses.

AP Style is so widely used that not doing so may jeopardize your brand’s reputation with the media and other key audiences and affect your company’s overall credibility. We recommend ordering your copy today to ensure you and your team are up-to-date and using terms and phrases appropriately.

Our top five most useful AP Style tips for your next press release:

  • There are eight states that you should not abbreviate when written in text: Idaho, Iowa, Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah. The other states have specific AP Style abbreviations that differ from those used by the U.S. Postal Service. For example, California’s AP Style abbreviation is Calif., not CA.
  • Datelines on stories and press releases should contain a place name, entirely in capital letters, followed in most cases by the name of the state, country or territory where the city is located. There’s a list of 30 U.S. cities that do not require a state in a dateline, including San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, Miami and Chicago.
  • Job titles are generally only capitalized when they directly precede the person’s name. You would use lowercase and spell out titles when they’re not used with an individual’s name or in constructions that set them off from a name by commas. For example, “Chief Executive Officer Barbara Smith” and “Barbara Smith, chief executive officer” are both correct, as is “the chief executive officer discussed new hires.”
  • For numerals, in general, spell out zero through nine, then use numerals for “10 and above and whenever preceding a unit of measurement or referring to the ages of people, animals, events or things.”
  • A recent change to AP Style: use the % sign when paired with a number. In casual cases, use words rather than numbers (“She said they had a zero percent chance of winning.”) Use percentage rather than percent when not paired with a number. (“The percentage of people agreeing with the president on this issue is very high.”)

Additional Writing Resources: