AP Style Cheat Sheet

AP Style Cheat Sheet

Instead of flipping through the AP Stylebook for every basic question, use this cheat sheet to look up general AP style rules and spellings.

The AP Stylebook is the ultimate resource for any little question about the Associated Press style, but for quick reference on the basic rules of AP style, this cheat sheet is perfect. Post it beside your computer or pack it in your bag as a quick reference when writing.

Numbers in AP Style

Spell out numbers under 10. Avoid wording two numbers back-to-back. If this is necessary, spell one number out and use a numeral for the other. Spell out numbers if they begin a sentence unless the number is a year. Exceptions to these rules include the following in which numerals should always be used:

  • Ages
  • Days of the month
  • Degrees of temperature
  • Dimensions
  • House numerals
  • Percentages
  • Proportions
  • Scores
  • Serial Numbers
  • Speeds
  • Sums of money
  • Time of day
  • Time of races
  • Votes
  • Years

Preferred Spellings of the Associated Press

The following spellings are preferred (note one-word, two-word and hyphenated entries):

  • African-American
  • Asian-American
  • A lot
  • Backyard
  • Best-seller
  • Call letters
  • Child care
  • Coed
  • Courseload, coursework
  • Coworker
  • Datum (singular), Data (Plural)
  • E-mail
  • Freelance, freelancer
  • Fundraiser, fundraising
  • Game Boy
  • Gray
  • Health care
  • Homecoming
  • Home page
  • Home-schooled, home-schooler, home schooling
  • Middle East
  • Percent
  • Spokesman, spokeswoman (never spokesperson)
  • Touch-screen
  • Policymaker
  • JetBlue Airways
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Midwest (region)
  • Online
  • Outpatient
  • Teenage, teenager
  • Video game
  • Web site
  • Well-informed
  • ZIP code (ZIP stands for zone improvement program)

Time in AP Style

Always remember that your job is to simplify the information, not complicate it. Follow these quick tips for time in AP style:

  • Lowercase a.m. and p.m. and use periods.
  • Do not use :00 after an on-the-hour time. Simply use the numeral.
  • Avoid redundancies like 9 p.m. Tuesday night.
  • Use noon or midnight for 12:00, but only use the word, not the redundant 12 noon or 12 midnight.

Use Punctuation and Capitalization Sparingly

Unlike other types of writing, Associated Press style uses the least amount of punctuation and capitalization necessary to convey the intended message. AP style’s goal is clear, concise writing, and punctuation’s goal is to guide readers, not confuse readers.

Capitalize proper nouns and other nouns occasionally when they are used with a proper noun. Do not use the serial comma (the final comma before the conjunction) in a series.

Avoid Alphabet Soup

While acronyms and abbreviations are preferred after first reference for some words and organizations, readers should immediately understand the acronym or abbreviation. Do not use multiple acronyms or abbreviations in a sentence unless their meaning is transparent. Don’t make readers spoon through alphabet soup to understand your intention.

Do not use periods for most acronyms, but do use periods for two-letter acronyms: FDA for Food and Drug Administration or U.S. for United States. If the acronym spells an unrelated word, use periods between letters to avoid confusion.

If these quick tips haven’t already made this clear, here’s one more reminder: keep it simple, avoid redundancies and use minimal capitalization and punctuation.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.