Associated Press (AP) Writing Style Tips!

Here are some AP writing style tips that I have acquired. Whatever the style, consistency is key.

Number-related (Article 1)

Numbers. One through nine are spelled out, while 10 and above are written as numerals. She walked six blocks while carrying 12 books.

Percentages. Percentages are expressed as numerals and followed by the word “percent,” not “%.” Interest rates rose 3 percent.

Ages. Ages are expressed as numerals. Kevin is 29 years old.

Dollar Amounts. Dollar amounts are expressed as numerals, and the “$” sign is used. $1, $1o million.


Street Addresses (Article 1). Numerals are used for numbered addresses. Street, Avenue and Boulevard are abbreviated when used with a numbered address, but otherwise are spelled out. Route and Road are never abbreviated. Our apartment is on 24 Independence Ave. We live on Independence Avenue. 

Dates  (Article 1.) Dates are expressed as numerals. The months August through February are abbreviated when used with numbered dates. March through July are never abbreviated. Months without dates are not abbreviated. “Th” is not used. The seasons – winter, spring, summer and fall – are never capitalized. Please note our meeting on Nov. 10. November is a beautiful month.

State abbreviations (Article 2). Each state has its own abbreviation: Mass. for Massachusetts; N.Y. for New York; Calif. for California; Fla. for Florida. Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah – are not abbreviated.


Job Titles (Article 1). Job titles are generally capitalized when they appear before a person’s name, but lowercase after the name. President Obama. Barack Obama is the president.

Film, Book & Song Titles  (Articles 1 and 2). Capitalized and placed in quotation marks (this includes TV shows, works of art, speeches, video games). Do not use quote marks with reference books or the names of newspapers or magazines. Magazine and newspaper titles are not italicized; just capitalized. I read in Politico that Congress is in session. My favorite book is “Creating a World Without Poverty.” Have you seen “Revenge?”

Grammar (Article 2)

More than, over. Use more than with numbers, and use over when referring to spatial elements. In college, I wrote more than 100 papers. The store is just over the hill.

Because, since. Because indicates a specific cause-effect relationship: I went because I was told. Since describes an event in a sequence that leads logically to the second. They went to the show, since they had been given ticketsSince the product’s 2010 launch, it has sold more than 1 million copies.

Toward/Towards. Toward never ends in an s, same for forward, backward, upward, downward, etc.

United States, U.S. United States as a noun; U.S. as an adjective. The United States is a country north of Mexico; I need all of my U.S. documents when traveling.

That, Which. Use that for essential clauses, important to the meaning of the sentence. I remember the day that we met. Use which for nonessential clauses, where the pronoun is less necessary, and use commas. The team, which won the championship last year, begins its new season next month.

Farther, further. Farther refers to physical distance. Pittsburgh is farther west than Philadelphia. Further refers to an extension of time or degree. If you have any further questions.

Some ad-hoc rules (Article 2). Boo-boo; bull’s-eye; dot-com (not; gobbledygook, G-string; hanky-panky; Kmart (no hyphen, no space, lowercase m); hell (not capitalized); OK; OK’d; pooh-pooh; T-shirt; U-turn

Article 1) Rogers, Tony. “The Basics of Associated Press Style.” Journalism., n.d. Web. 08 Jan. 2014.

Article 2) Vittorioso, Steve. “Twelve Common Mistakes of AP Style Twelve Common Mistakes of AP Style.” InkHouse, 19 Apr. 2011. Web. 08 Jan. 2014.

Mental Floss’ Article on Comma Usage (Hint: Consider Clarity & Economy)


The Best Shots Fired in the Oxford Comma Wars

According to the article  the Oxford comma, “the comma before the conjunction at the end of a list,” is predominately used to enhance the clarity of a given passage. While I agree with this style, Oxford University Press style, because I believe that  clarity is paramount, others prefer economy (keep it simple and allow the reader to move on). Whatever the style, just don’t let it get in the way of your message!

Pro: “She took a photograph of her parents, the president, and the vice president.”

This example from the Chicago Manual of Style shows how the comma is necessary for clarity. Without it, she is taking a picture of two people, her mother and father, who are the president and vice president. With it, she is taking a picture of four people.

Con: “Those at the ceremony were the commodore, the fleet captain, the donor of the cup, Mr. Smith, and Mr. Jones.”

This example from the 1934 style book of the New York Herald Tribune shows how a comma before “and” can result in a lack of clarity. With the comma, it reads as if Mr. Smith was the donor of the cup, which he was not.

And then there is this example, which could have been resolved by the use of the semicolon.
“By train, plane and sedan chair, Peter Ustinov retraces a journey made by Mark Twain a century ago. The highlights of his global tour include encounters with Nelson Mandela, an 800-year-old demigod and a dildo collector.”

Languagehat dug this gem out of a comment thread on the serial comma. It’s from a TV listing in The Times. It supports the use of the Oxford comma, but only because it keeps Mandela from being a dildo collector. However, even the Oxford comma can’t keep him from being an 800-year-old demigod. There’s only so much a comma can do.

Okrent, Arika. “The Best Shots Fired in the Oxford Comma Wars.” Mental Floss, 22 Jan. 2013. Web. 23 Dec. 2014.

Proposal Writing Tips (brought to you by Carl Dickson at

There are a few staples necessary to create a winning proposal (not to include pricing):

1. Compliant response per Government stipulations in the RFP, Section L, and Section M
2. Past performance and relevant experience provide substantiation for claims
3. Proposal is easy-to-read and customer-centric

How do we craft a proposal that is customer-centric? First, always put your conclusion first! Second, start is to ask yourself questions that will allow you to think like the decision maker. For example:

  • What am I going to get or what will the results be?
  • How much is it going to cost and is it worth it?
  • What could go wrong?
  • Why should I believe you? How can you prove you can do this?

Need more information? Click here.

But, what if you don’t know the customer that well? First, look to the proposal for hints. For example, does the RFP mention price frequently? Does the RFP emphasize quality? If the RFP, Section L and Section M cannot help, again, think like the decision maker. For example:

  • What matters to people like them?
  • How does a person like that tend to make decisions?
  • What matters to organizations like theirs?
  • How does an organization like that tend to make decisions?

Once you start thinking like this, it is hard not to write everything as if you are responding to a proposal.


Dickson, Carl. “8 Things You Can Do To Transform Mediocre Proposal Writing Into Great Proposal Writing.” 8 Things You Can Do To Transform Mediocre Proposal Writing Into Great Proposal Writing., 2013. Web. 23 Apr. 2013. <;.


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