Thursday, December 13, 2018

What AP Style is, and why journalists use it as our ultimate writing guide

I once wrote in a blog post that APA is like garlic for vampires. If you are an English teacher who teaches both APA and AP, then you'll get the reference. Those two writing styles couldn't be more different, so teaching both can be a literary nightmare. 

When journalism students and English teachers tasked to teach journalism begin their journey into media writing, there is a steep learning curve on how to write things. For example, there should not be a comma before the word and when making a list of three or more things: oranges, apples and grapes (correct for AP); oranges, apples, and grapes (correct for APA). So subtle yet so important. That little change is a hard habit to break, but break we must! 

And now, I introduce you to one of the most important primers you'll ever read as a student of journalism:

AP Style for beginning journalists / Print & Web Writing Guidelines 

The best way to start learning AP Style is to READ this AP Style Primer so you know what's covered, then go back and look up individual sections as needed. This AP Style Primer is excerpted from the actual Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law book. The AP Stylebook is used for English grammar and punctuation standardization, as well as special sections on business, fashion, food, religion and sports. 

Even if you’re not going to work for a newspaper, you must learn AP Style; it is also the style used by PR practitioners and by professionals in many other communications fields.

What the heck is AP Style anyway?
You may be instructed, in some classes, to write papers in MLA or APA Style. Good news: You don’t have to use those styles for most beginning journalism classes, and definitely not in my photojournalism and multimedia classes! Don’t confuse APA and AP — they aren’t related. APA – the American Psychological Association – developed one of the primary styles in which academic (scholarly) papers are written. An instructor or professor may ask you to use APA or MLA (Modern Language Association) Style, or possibly the style set forth in the Chicago Manual of Style for scholarly papers, but those have NOTHING to do with news-style writing.  
AP – Associated Press – is the most widely accepted style used by people who work in media, public relations, communications and related fields. Why do we need a specific style? For CONSISTENCY, so readers aren’t confused or annoyed by seeing things spelled, abbreviated or capitalized two (or more) different ways in the same article, or in two different places on the same website. The AP Stylebook says its goal is “to provide a uniform presentation of the printed word, to make a story written anywhere understandable everywhere.”
Generally, AP Style specifies the SHORTEST, SIMPLEST way to write stuff. It originated for newspaper writing, to save space, time and keystrokes. (Originally, it saved typesetters a LOT of time in days when each letter, period and comma was a separate piece of type. The New York Times and the Toledo Blade do NOTNOT** follow AP Style; it has its own style. But most news organizations and PR firms use AP Style or base their own style on AP. We will be using AP Style at the Owens Outlook student newspaper.
We are learning the PRINT version of AP Style, which is also used for newswriting on the Internet and in public relations writing. (There is also an AP Style for broadcast journalists. We will learn a few elements of broadcast style later this semester, but we won’t delve as comprehensively into broadcast style.)

**NOTNOT is used at Reuters for INTERNAL memos; for example, an editor might tell a reporter, “That’s NOTNOT on your beat.” It is never used in news stories or any published material. It came into use because the word “not” by itself can be easily overlooked.

Even if you’re not going to work for a newspaper, you must learn AP Style; it is also the style used by PR practitioners and by professionals in many other communications fields.

AP Stylebook

A LOT of CONFUSING WORDS that start with A
adviser, not advisor. all right, never alright. a lot, never alot. If necessary, look up             all ready vs. already, adverse vs. averse, affect vs. effect, aid vs. aide, altar vs. alter, among vs. between. Know the difference: alumnus, alumni, alumna, alumnae.

Avoid alphabet soup. Generally, use an organization's full name on first mention, then – if it's a well-known abbreviation – use the abbreviation on second and later references.
The American Civil Liberties Union has taken up the issue of immigration. According to the ACLU, many immigrants may not know their civil rights.
DON'T use parentheses after the first-reference full name:
WRONG: The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) took up . . .
WRONG: The Radical Underwater First United Sailors (RUFUS) will meet Tuesday.
DON'T use unfamiliar abbreviations/acronyms, even on second mention:
WRONG:          RUFUS will meet Tuesday.
CORRECT:        The organization will meet Tuesday.
A few organizations are so well known, the full name is not needed:
FBI        CIA      NASA      GOP (acceptable as second mention for the Republican Party)
But for most organizations and agencies, give the full name on first reference:
The federal Centers for Disease Control issued a warning. According to CDC Director Jack Sprat, no one should eat tomatoes until they are certified bacteria-free.
Some titles are abbreviated when used before names:
Sen. Sherrod Brown / Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman
Rep. Marcia Fudge / Reps. Tim Ryan and Marcia Fudge
the Rev. Otis Moss  (NOTE the word THE: It is incorrect to say Rev. Otis Moss)
Gov. John Kasich / former Gov. Ted Strickland

Use periods in these:                           DON'T use periods in these:
a.m., p.m.                                               CIA, FBI, FCC, FDA, CDC
B.C., A.D.                                               GOP
B.S., B.A., M.A., Ph.D.                           CBS, ABC, AP, RCA
U.S.                                                        IQ, OK (The committee OK'd the measure.)
                                                               AIDS (DON'T say AIDS Syndrome – that's redundant)
Some months are abbreviated SOMETIMES – see the section on DAYS, DATES & TIMES.

Abbreviate the INC. or CO. in company names WITH NO COMMA: 
After positive employment statistics, stock prices rose Thursday, including stocks of local firms such as Moon Plastics Inc. and the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. and tech stocks including Apple Inc.


Lowercase common nouns when they stand alone:
Let's canoe on the Cuyahoga River.  Sen. Sherrod Brown opposed the Iraq War.
Let's canoe on the river.                      The senator opposed the war.
A student's year in school, major or department is NOT usually capitalized. CLASS NAMES are not usually capitalized.
He is a freshman history major; his professor is director of the history department.
This semester, she is taking algebra, newswriting, British literature and art history.

Some writers capitalize unfamiliar names: Media Writing, Fundamentals of Media Messages, Applied Communication.                                                              


COLLECTIVE NOUNS (usually) take SINGULAR verbs and pronouns; this is basic GRAMMAR.  Note that BRITISH USAGE differs considerably from American usage.

class                            committee                  corporation/company               crowd
family                          group                          herd                                          jury
orchestra / band         organization                sports                                       team
Sports IS a career that some journalists choose.
The jury HAS reached ITS decision.
The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. HAS released ITS first-quarter earnings report.
The team won ITS most crucial game of the season.
However, team NAMES take plural verbs.
            The Indians have won six games in a row.
            The Jazz have moved ahead in their division.
The Miami Heat are not my favorite team.

DON'T USE: today, yesterday, tomorrow, last night.
DO USE: the day of the week. Some texts say it's OK to use "today.” “Today” is certainly used in AP BROADCAST STYLE, which differs from AP PRINT STYLE. But AP says don’t use “today” or “tonight” in print or digital stories – the kind we’re writing now.

Never abbreviate days of the week. Spell them out: Monday, Wednesday, etc.
If you are writing about tonight's meeting for tomorrow's paper, say:
City Council voted at Monday's meeting to ban wrong-headed thinking.
If you are writing about an event within a week, just use the day of the week:
City Council will meet Tuesday.
City Council voted Tuesday on a measure that will . . .
If you are writing about an event more than a week in the future or past, use the date:
The budget committee will meet Nov. 10, Jan. 12, March 8 and May 10.
Abbreviate some months if a specific date is used.
The meeting will be Jan. 12.
             Exceptions: Never abbreviate March, April, May, June, July

DAYS / DATES / TIME continues from previous page
But don't abbreviate months used without a specific date.
The meeting will be in January.
The terrorist attacks in September 2001 changed our lives.
Most news stories do not mention the year: They deal with events in the current year. If you are using a complete date with a year, set the year off with a pair of commas:
The ad hoc committee first met Feb. 14, 2007, to plan the convention.
If you are using only the month and year, spell out the month and don't use the commas:
The ad hoc committee first met in February 2007 to plan the convention.
Don't use: AM, PM, A.M., P.M., o'clock, 6:00 – Use: 6 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 8:45 a.m.
Don't try to figure out if 12 p.m. is noon or midnight – just use noon or midnight.
Don't say 7 a.m. Tuesday morning – it's redundant.
Generally, list TIME, then DATE, then PLACE.
            WRONG:  The meeting will be at the Kiva on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.
CORRECT: The meeting will be at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Kiva.


Include an identifier on the first reference: John Smith, Lakewood Falls Bank president, and Smith’s mother, Sarah Johnson, AND/OR the person’s age, city of residence, job.

The first time you give a name in a story,              On second / subsequent mentions,
give the FULL, CORRECT NAME:                            use a shorter form:
Cuyahoga Community College                           Tri-C or the college
Kent State University                                          Kent State or KSU or the university
Lakewood Falls City Council                              council or City Council
Lakewood Falls Board of Education                  the school board or the board
Dr. Fred Smith                                                   Smith
Fred Smith, M.D.                                               Smith
the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.                          King    
President Barack Obama                                  Obama

In general, for children 15 or younger, use the first name on second reference; however, in serious stories, such as a 15-year-old charged with murder, use the last name on second reference.  For those ages 16 and 17, use the surname for a serious story and the first name for a lighter story or feature.

AP changed its style on internet and web; both are now lower case, as are website, webpage and webfeed.
Don’t use a hyphen in email, but do use one in e-book, e-commerce, etc.

Generally, spell out zero through nine; use digits for 10 or more.
            She has three brothers.
            About 40 attended the meeting.

(NUMBERS / MONEY / PERCENTAGES / FRACTIONS  – continued from previous page)
Exception: Spell out numbers that start a sentence.
            Fifty students protested on Blanket Hill.
Exception: Age is ALWAYS given in digits unless it opens a sentence.
Ryan Smith, 3, and his brother, Joshua, 3 months, were uninjured.
Three-year-old Ryan and 3-month-old Joshua were uninjured.
More exceptions: 7 mph, 2 percent, a ratio of 5-to-1, U.S. Highway 1, minus 6 degrees.   ALSO:      The Supreme Court voted 5-4.
The Indians won 7-3.
NOTE: These are the ONLY times we use hyphens with numbers. Otherwise, use TO:
            The meeting will be from 2 to 4 p.m.
            Thirty to 40 are expected.
Use a comma in four-digit numbers: 5,280
For figures larger than 999,999, spell out million, billion, trillion.
            President Barack Obama proposed a $477 billion jobs plan.
            John Smith, 19, of Akron, won a $2,500 scholarship.
            Damage was estimated at $500,000, according to police.
            The bridge repairs will cost $16 million, according to the highway department.
Use CENTS for amounts of less than $1: The special admission will be 50 cents.
DIMENSIONS: Use figures and spell out words such as inches, feet, yards, etc.

Limit decimals to two places: Polls indicate 82.37 percent of Americans love ice cream.
Hyphenate compound adjectives – words joined together to modify a noun that follows:
He is 5 feet 6 inches tall.
The 5-foot-6-inch man was a tremendous three-point shooter.
The snowstorm dumped 5 inches of snow on Northeast Ohio.
A 5-inch rush-hour snowfall created a traffic logjam downtown.
Spell out fractions of less than one; use mixed digits or decimals if higher than one. DON’T use a slash mark. Other fractions should be written with a space and a hyphen:
one-half           one-third         two-thirds        1.5                   1 3-16
Spell out percent – don’t use the % symbol.

OK, OK’d, OK’ing, OKs, but not okay.

PUNCTUATION (Most AP punctuation is basic GRAMMAR!)
In general, follow standard punctuation rules, but remember:
OMIT the final comma in a simple series – the one before the word and. Grammarians call this the SERIAL or OXFORD COMMA. Some grammarians still use it, but modern grammar textbooks tell us to OMIT it in a simple series. Use this style in JOURNALISM, but for English and other classes, check with your teacher on his or her preference.
WRONG:          He enjoys running, skiing, and swimming.
CORRECT:        He enjoys running, skiing and swimming.
As in Standard American grammar, the comma and period ALWAYS go INSIDE the closing quotation marks.
“At least once a year, I try to watch the movie ‘Airplane,’ ” she said.
(PUNCTUATION continues next page)

PUNCTUATION continued from previous page
Placement of other punctuation with quotation marks depends on the sentence.
She said, "Aren't you ever going to grow up?"
Have you read the book "The DaVinci Code"? (quotes inside the question mark)
BUT: Have you seen the movie "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" (outside)
AP: DO include a comma in four-digit figures:
A mile is 5,280 feet.
The software costs $3,000.
As in standard grammar, use a hyphen in compound adjectives:
It was a 28-mile bicycle race.
A little-known rule of grammar says a gerund is preceded by possessive case, as in, "The farmer told the boys he didn't mind their playing in his melon patch."
But DON'T use a hyphen with adverbs ending in -ly or with adverbs such as VERY:
This is a gravely ill little boy. / He is a very sick little boy.
He is a relatively weird guy, but he's a very nice boss.

Lowercase spring, summer, fall, autumn, winter and derivatives such as springtime. Capitalize these words only when they are part of a proper name: Summer Olympics.

Always give street numbers in DIGITS, even if the number is lower than 10.
In an address WITH A STREET NUMBER, abbreviate ONLY: Street, Avenue, Boulevard
1234 Goober St.
1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
8 Crabtree Blvd.
DON’T ABBREVIATE:                 Road, Alley, Circle, Drive, Terrace
            594 Fairwood Road
            1778 Nottingham Circle
DON’T ABBREVIATE street, avenue or boulevard without a street number:
She lives on West Boulevard.
The White House is on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Also, abbreviate compass points in a street address containing a street number:
            539 N. Delaware Ave.
            1781 Jackson St. N.E.
Spell out and capitalize First through Ninth streets.
Use numbers with  st/th/nd/rd  for 10th and above. DON'T just use a d: WRONG: 42d Street
The organization's office is at 2000 E. Ninth St.
The organization's office is at 2000 E. 10th St.
Smith, 24, of 407 W. 42nd  St., was charged with drug possession.
Fire destroyed a vacant building at 3024 E. 32nd St.
When you are naming two streets, do this:
The accident at First and Zapata streets killed a 7-year-old boy.
DON’T EVER USE TWO-LETTER POSTAL ABBREVIATIONS in news stories or in any other writing!!! (Exception: Use postal abbreviations if you give a full mailing address, including Zip code. Then – and only then – you may use OH, etc.)
DON’T abbreviate states in stories. (This 2014 rule reflects a change in long-standing AP Style.)
            He lived in Texas, but his heart was in Tennessee.
When you give a city and state together use a PAIR OF COMMAS around each state:
He lives in Jackson, Mississippi, but his wife lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and his girlfriend lives in Austin, Texas.
The following cities stand alone. DON’T add the state.
Atlanta                        Baltimore                     Boston                         Chicago
Cincinnati                    Cleveland                   Dallas                          Denver
Detroit                         Honolulu                      Houston                       Indianapolis
Las Vegas                    Los Angeles                 *Miami            
Milwaukee                   Minneapolis                 New Orleans               **New York
Oklahoma City            Philadelphia                Phoenix                       Pittsburgh
St. Louis                        Salt Lake City              San Antonio                San Diego      
San Francisco              Seattle                         ***Washington
*Usually, in Ohio, we DO specify Miami, Florida, to avoid confusion with Miami University.
**DON’T say New York City unless it is confusing to omit the word City:
   In New York City, it snows every St. Patrick's Day. (Omitting City would be confusing.)

For cities outside the U.S., give the city and country in same format as city and state:
I have always wanted to visit Nairobi, Kenya, in the spring.

2014 AP DATELINE STYLE: Traditional state abbreviations* (not two-letter postal abbreviations) are still used in DATELINES, but eight short state names are never abbreviated:  Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Texas, Utah and Ohio.

A dateline is used at the beginning of some stories, as follows:
NEW ORLEANS – Hurricane Katrina devastated the region.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Storm victims were evacuated to this central-Alabama city.
NEW YORK – Security was stepped up outside the United Nations headquarters.
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – Sportswriters from around the world are gathering here for baseball's Hall of Fame Game this week.
CLEVELAND – Cleveland is the new permanent home of the P&G Ohio Classic, which stars the football teams of historically African-American colleges.
KENT, Ohio – Poet laureate Rita Dove spoke at University Auditorium on Sunday.
*AP uses these abbreviations in datelines ONLY:
Ala.           Ariz.          Ark.           Calif.        Colo.        Conn.      Del.           Fla.            Ga.
Ill.               Ind.           Kan.          Ky.             La.             Md.           Mass.        Mich.        Minn.
Miss.          Mo.           Mont.       Neb.         Nev.         N.H.          N.J.           N.M.         N.Y.
N.C.          N.D.          Okla.        Ore.          Pa.            R.I.             S.C.           S.D.           Tenn.
Vt.             Va.            Wash.       W.Va.       Wis.           Wyo.

Spelled theater except in proper names, as in the Ohio Theatre at Playhouse Square.

TIME (also see DATES)
Don't use: AM, PM, A.M., P.M., o'clock, 6:00 – Use: 6 p.m., 7:45 a.m.
Don't try to figure out if 12 p.m. is noon or midnight – just use noon or midnight.
Don't say 7 a.m. Tuesday morning – it's redundant.
Generally, list TIME, then DATE, then PLACE.
            WRONG:  The meeting will be at the Kiva on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
CORRECT: The meeting will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Kiva.
DON'T  use Miss, Mr., Mrs., Ms. OR unless it is part of a direct quotation. Refer to both men and women by first and last name the first time you mention them: Susan Smith or Robert Smith. Refer to both men and women by last name only on all subsequent references: Smith or Jones. Don’t use courtesy titles (Mr., Mrs. Ms., Miss) except in direct quotes OR if a woman specifically requests it.
AP Style uses "Dr." only for medical doctors, osteopaths, dentists, etc. – NOT for people with Ph.D. degrees. For people with Ph.D. degrees, say:
            Jerry Lewis, who has a doctorate in sociology, is an expert on crowd behavior.
In general, capitalize titles only when they are formal titles used before a person's name.
When a title comes before a name, DON'T use a comma.
On Jan. 28, 2008, President George Bush gave his final State of the Union speech.
Chief Executive Officer Jack Twyman said he is comfortable with analysts' estimates.
Don't capitalize occupations or other descriptors such as class rank, even before a name.
When a job description comes before a name, DON'T use a comma.
He praised cafeteria worker Sylvia Smith for her quick response.
He praised history teacher Jacqueline Stewart for her insightful comments.
The Indians can't get a win unless pitcher Justin Masterson starts.
In class, he sits next to sophomore Amanda Miller.
Some titles are abbreviated when used before names:
Sen. Sherrod Brown / Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman
Rep. Dennis Kucinich / Reps. Marcia Fudge and Steven LaTourette
the Rev. Otis Moss  (NOTE the word THE: It is incorrect to just call him Rev. Otis Moss)
Gov. John Kasich / former Gov. Ted Strickland

In PRINT style, we often put titles after names, especially longer titles.
Then, the title becomes an APPOSITIVE and must be set off with a PAIR OF COMMAS.
Note that when a title follows a name, it is lower case.
Stan Wearden, former dean of the College of Communication and Information, spoke.

Just to confuse you, when a title comes before a name but follows an article – A, AN or THE – the title is an appositive. Thus, it is set off with a PAIR OF COMMAS and ISN'T CAPITALIZED.
The former dean, Stan Wearden, will speak at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Kent State University.

Titles that stand alone (without proper names) are lower case.
The dean spoke.
The senator supported the jobs measure.
The president endorsed Rep. Nancy Pelosi.

Titles that fall within DIRECT QUOTATIONS are spelled out.
"Governor I. M.N.A. Fogg is a moron," Smith said.

DIRECT QUOTATIONS ARE NEVER ALTERED. If the speaker uses a title, include it.
"The outcome of the trial rests on Mrs. Jones' testimony," the prosecutor said.

(AP Stylebook references: composition titles, newspaper names, magazine names)
NOTE:  News style does NOTNOT** use italics or underlining. This dates to the days when newspapers did not have a typeface that included italics or underlining.
In standard grammar, we underline or italicize book titles, but in news style, we put book titles in quotation marks:
            Have you read "The DaVinci Code"?
 Titles of the following require QUOTATION MARKS:
BOOKS             works of art                                          plays                songs
movies             speeches & lectures                              poems             TV shows
operas             computer and video games 

Exceptions:      The following SHOULDN’T be set off by quotation marks:
-        books of the Bible
-        reference materials (dictionaries, encyclopedias, almanacs)
-        Also, don’t  use quotation marks around software names: Windows
DON’T use quotation marks with the NAMES of newspapers and magazines.
Some magazines and newspapers have the words "the" or "magazine" as part of their names. Capitalize according to the publication's preferred style.
            Northeast Ohio's largest newspaper is The Plain Dealer.
            A Canadian publisher bought the Beacon Journal.
According to a story in the Sept. 9 issue of U.S. News & World Report, New Orleans musician Dr. John is angry about the disaster response in his hometown.

Time magazine and Newsweek magazine do not use the word "magazine" as part of their names, but Harper's Magazine does.

**NOTNOT is used at Reuters for INTERNAL memos; for example, an editor might tell a reporter, “That’s NOTNOT on your beat.” It is never used in news stories or any published material. It came into use because the word “not” by itself can be easily overlooked

In titles, capitalize the principal words. Capitalize A / An / The ONLY if it is the first word.

The "Mona Lisa" hangs in the Louvre.

The book "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" by Douglas Adams gave us our class motto, "Don't panic."

Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech is perhaps his most famous.

The American Heritage Dictionary is my favorite, but Webster's New World College Dictionary is the one specified by the AP Stylebook.

(This AP Style primer was brought to you by my colleagues at Kent State University. Special shout-out to KSU journalism professor Susan Zake for emailing this AP Style Primer to us journo teaching folks!)