Style Guide

  • 1

    Abbreviations and Acronyms

    Abbreviations are shortened forms of words; acronyms are forms of abbreviations where words are formed from the first letter(s) of a series of words.

    General rules of thumb:

    • Avoid alphabet soup. Don’t use abbreviations or acronyms that are not easily understood by a wide audience.
    • Avoid using acronyms to reduce word count.
    • Let context determine whether an abbreviation or acronym is used over a full reference or generic term (company, organization).

    First vs second references

    Use the full word or phrase in the first reference without putting an abbreviation or acronym in parentheses afterward or offsetting it with commas or dashes.

    • The Online News Association reported…

    • The Online News Association (ONA) reported…

    Use an acronym for a second reference only if the acronym or abbreviation is clear without an identification in the first reference.

    • The association reported…

    • The ONA reported… (ONA is not a well-known acronym.)

    Caps and periods

    Best practice – Consult the AP Stylebook or the first abbreviation listed in Webster’s New World College Dictionary for specific capitalization and period use on a case-by-case basis. Otherwise, follow the general guidelines below.

    Caps – Use all caps and no periods when letters in the acronym are spelled out individually.

    • ABC, CNN, FBI, IBM, USA

    • A.B.C., C.N.N., F.B.I., I.B.M., U.S.A.

    Periods – Omit periods in acronyms except in cases where the acronym spells an unrelated word.

    Exception – Most two-letter abbreviations require periods.

    • A.D., B.C., U.S., U.N. (Exceptions: AP, GI, EU)

    • AD, BC, US, UN

    For acronyms of more than six letters, Capitalize the first letter. Use lowercase for remaining letters.

    • Nasdaq

    • NASDAQ

    Use only one period (.) when an abbreviation or acronym ends a sentence.

    Days of the week

    Never abbreviate days of the week unless they are used in tabular format.

    • The staff wears jerseys on Fridays.

    • The games usually fall on Tues. and Thurs.

    Months of the year

    Use abbreviations when months of the year are listed with a specific date (“day, month” or “day, month, year”) for these months: Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec.

    Spell out these months: March, April, May, June, July

    • The merger is to take place on Dec. 15, 2012.

    • March 13, 2013, is the deadline.

    • The event falls on December 12, 2012.

    • The company formed on Mar. 17, 2011.

    When months are listed alone or with the year only, spell out all months of the year.

    • August is the best time to go camping.

    • By Sept., the nighttime temperatures are too low.

    State abbreviations

    Abbreviate state names when they appear in text with the city, county, town, village or military base. Use a comma after the state name unless it ends a sentence.

    • The office moved to Lansing, Mich., two months ago.

    • The event is in Lansing, Michigan.

    Do not use postal-code, two-letter, all-cap abbreviations unless a full address is given.

    • The main office is at 332 S. Center St., Green Bay, WI.

    • The stadium is in Green Bay, WI.

    Never abbreviate Alaska (AK), Hawaii (HI), Idaho (ID), Iowa (IA), Maine (ME), Ohio (OH), Texas (TX) and Utah (UT), but do use postal codes for addresses.

    Use the below abbreviation chart for all other states. Postal code, two-letter abbreviations are in parentheses.

    Alabama Ala. (AL)
    Arizona Ariz. (AZ)
    Arkansas Ark. (AR)
    California Calif. (CA)
    Colorado Colo. (CO)
    Connecticut Conn. (CT)
    Delaware Del. (DE)
    Florida Fla. (FL)
    Georgia Ga. (GA)
    Illinois Ill. (IL)
    Indiana Ind. (IN)
    Kansas Kan. (KS)
    Kentucky Ky. (KY)
    Louisiana La. (LA)
    Maryland Md. (MD)
    Massachusetts Mass. (MA)
    Michigan Mich. (MI)
    Minnesota Minn. (MN)
    Mississippi Miss. (MS)
    Missouri Mo. (MO)
    Montana Mont. (MT)
    Nebraska Neb. (NE)
    Nevada Nev. (NV)
    New Hampshire N.H. (NH)
    New Jersey N.J. (NJ)
    New Mexico N.M. (NM)
    New York N.Y. (NY)
    North Carolina N.C. (NC)
    North Dakota N.D. (ND)
    Oklahoma Okla. (OK)
    Oregon Ore. (OR)
    Pennsylvania Pa. (PA)
    Rhode Island R.I. (RI)
    South Carolina S.C. (SC)
    South Dakota S.D. (SD)
    Tennessee Tenn. (TN)
    Vermont Vt. (VT)
    Virginia Va. (VA)
    Washington Wash. (WA)
    West Virginia W.Va. (WV)
    Wisconsin Wis. (WI)
    Wyoming Wyo. (WY)

    Note: Use the word “state” to distinguish between New York state and New York City when necessary.

    United States

    Abbreviate United States when used as an adjective. Use periods.

    • U.S. population continues to grow.

    • United States security is stronger than ever.

    Spell out United States when used as a noun.

    • In the United States, people expect immediate gratification.

    • The corporate office is based in the U.S.

  • 2

    Apostrophes

    Apostrophes are used to show omission, show plurals of single letters and show possession.

    General rules of thumb:

    • Contractions may be used in AP Style, but avoid overusing them. Stick with those that appear in the dictionary and are commonly used in everyday speech and writing.
    • When using an apostrophe with a pronoun to show possession, make sure the meaning requires an apostrophe (your vs. you’re, its vs it’s, whose vs. who’s).

    Show ommission

    Omission of letters – An apostrophe notes the omission of letters at the beginning, middle or end of a word.

    Examples:

    1. rock ‘n’ roll
    2. ne‘er
    3. ‘til

    Omission of figures – An apostrophe notes the omission of figures in years and decades. Ensure the implied century is obvious within the context.

    Examples:

    1. 1920s to ‘20s
    2. class of 1978 to class of ‘78

    Show plurals of letters and numbers

    Apostrophes are used to show the plural form of single letters.

    Examples:

    1. The student earned four A’s and two B’s.
    2. Dot your i’s, and cross your t’s.

    Note: Apostrophes are not used to show plurals of numerals or multi-letter combinations.

    Show possession

    Nouns with the same spelling for singular and plural forms – Treat them as plural nouns even when the meaning is singular. Add ‘s to show possession for those not ending in s, and add only the apostrophe to show possession for those ending in s.

    Examples:

    1. the two deer’s antlers
    2. the lone pair of scissors’ handle
    3. the two fish’s scales

    Plural nouns ending in s – Add only the apostrophe to show possession.

    Examples:

    1. the girls’ room
    2. the horses’ corral
    3. the states’ borders
    4. the CEOs’ dining area

    Plural nouns not ending in s – Add ‘s to show possession.

    Examples:

    1. men’s
    2. women’s
    3. alumni’s

    Plural noun forms with a singular meaning – Add only the apostrophe to show possession, but also view the section on inanimate objects below.

    Examples:

    1. shingles’ symptoms
    2. the news’ headlines

    Note: For names of entities in plural form, follow the same construction.

    Examples:

    1. United States’ security
    2. Smith Brothers’ profit

    Singular common nouns ending in s – Add ‘s to show possession if the following word does not start with s. If the following word starts with s, use only the apostrophe to show possession.

    Examples:

    1. the waitress’s aprons
    2. the waitress’ shifts

    Singular nouns not ending in s – Add ‘s to show possession.

    Examples:

    1. the girl’s room
    2. the horse’s corral
    3. the state’s borders
    4. the CEO’s dining area

    Exception: Words ending with an ‘s’ sound that are followed by a word starting with s. In these cases, add only the apostrophe to show possession.

    Examples:

    1. appearance’ sake
    2. conscience’ sake

    Otherwise:

    1. appearance’s cost
    2. conscience’s voice

    Singular proper names ending in s – Add only the apostrophe to show possession.

    Examples:

    1. Mr. Jones’
    2. Curtis’ hat

    Pronouns – Interrogative and relative pronouns show possession with different forms (yours, ours, mine, its, theirs, his, hers). For other pronouns, follow the applicable rules for nouns.

    Examples:

    1. anyone’s guess
    2. others’ choices
    3. another’s opportunity

    Compound words – Using the applicable rules for nouns based on spelling and/or meaning, use the apostrophe on the word closest to the object being possessed.

    Examples:

    1. anyone else’s opinion
    2. the lieutenant governor’s mansions (one governor)
    3. the lieutenant governors’ mansion (more than one governor)

    Descriptive phrases – Don’t add an apostrophe to a word ending in s when it’s used descriptively instead of to show possession.

    Examples:

    1. a writers cheat sheet
    2. Green Bay Packers defensive lineman

    Note: To determine if the word is used descriptively, check if the long form of the phrase includes “for” or “by.” If it does, skip the apostrophe.

    Examples:

    1. a cheat sheet for writers
    2. a defensive lineman for the Green Bay Packers

    If the term is a plural word not ending in s, use ‘s to show possession.

    Examples:

    1. the young men’s group
    2. the children’s play area

    Inanimate objects – There is no rule on using plurals and showing possession for inanimate objects, but avoid personifying them too often. Instead, use an “of” construction.

    Examples:

    1. symptoms of shingles, not shingles’ symptoms
    2. the headlines of the news, not the news’ headlines

    Inanimate objects – For an object that is owned jointly, use an apostrophe after the last word only. For objects owned individually, use an apostrophe after both words.

    Joint:

    1. Sammie and Suzanne’s office
    2. Maggie and Sam’s desk

    Individual:

    1. Sammie’s and Suzanne’s offices
    2. Maggie’s and Sam’s desks
  • 3

    Colons

    Colons are most commonly used at the end of a sentence to introduce texts, tabulations and lists.

    General rules of thumb:

    • Only capitalize what follows a colon when it’s a proper noun or the start of an independent sentence.
    • Colons go outside of quotations marks unless the colon is part of a direct quotation.
    • Never combine a dash and a colon.

    Connecting two independent sentences

    Use a colon when one independent sentence introduces a second independent sentence.

    Examples:

    1. He gave this promise to employees: No one is losing their job.
    2. The CEO announced plans for growth within the company: The new office buildout begins on Monday.

    Introducing a list

    Use a colon to introduce a list.

    Example:

    1. There are three main employee costs: compensation, overhead and insurance.

    Showing emphasis

    Use a colon to create emphasis.

    Example:

    1. Rick does only one thing after work: sleeps.
  • 4

    Commas

    Keep punctuation to a minimum in AP by only using commas when necessary for clarity or when following a particular rule.

    General rules of thumb:

    • For help with commas outside of rules explained in this quick reference guide, AP defers to the comma usage guide in Webster’s New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition.
    • Use commas consistently in similar situations throughout an entire article.

    Commas and conjunctions

    Use a comma in front of conjunctions, such as “and,” “but” and “for,” that connect two complete sentences.

    Example:

    1. The writer followed AP style, and he referenced his guide frequently.

    Note: Usually this comma is necessary when the subjects of each clause are clearly stated, but no comma is necessary when the subject is shared between the clauses.

    Example:

    1. They plan on visiting the museums and intend to catch a play as well (shared subject of “they”).

    Keep in mind that imperative sentences where “you” is implied are independent sentences. Connecting two imperative sentences requires the comma because each clause has its own subject even if the subject is the same.

    Example:

    1. Connect the pieces, and sand the rough edges.

    Commas and direct quotations

    Introducing direct quotations – Use a comma when introducing direct quotes consisting of one sentence within a paragraph, and do not use a comma when quoting a partial or indirect quotation.

    Example:

    1. Jordan says, “the trip to Russia was an experience the students are unlikely to forget.”
    2. He claimed the experience was “one of the best of his life.”

    Note: Use a colon to introduce direct quotations of more than one sentence.

    Attributing direct quotations to a source – Use a comma and not a period after a direct quotation to show attribution.

    Example:

    1. “The night is still young,” stated her date.

    Commas and equal adjectives (coordinate adjectives)

    Use commas between adjectives that are equal in rank. When you can replace a comma with “and” without changing the meaning, the adjectives are equal.

    Example:

    1. a long, winding road
    2. a brightly lit, crime-free area

    Note: If the last adjective outranks previous adjectives because it is an essential part of a noun phrase, omit the comma.

    Example:

    1. an expensive fur coat (fur coat is a noun phrase)
    2. the yellow baseball cap (baseball cap is a noun phrase)

    Commas and essential/nonessential clauses and phrases

    Offset nonessential clauses and phrases with a comma. Omit offsetting commas with essential clauses and phrases.

    Example:

    1. Writers who don’t proofread their work should not get upset over editorial comments.
    2. Writers, especially the ones who clearly don’t proofread, should not take issue with comments from an editor.

    Commas and hometowns and ages

    Use offsetting commas when a person’s hometown or age is used as an appositive.

    Example:

    1. Samuel Perkins, Kansas City, Mo., finished in first place.
    2. Sarah Jenkins, 37, was the first on the scene.

    Commas and introductory elements

    Use a comma between an introductory clause or phrase and the main clause.

    Example:

    1. When you no longer enjoy city life, move to the country.

    Note: You can omit this comma after short introductory phrases if no confusion results, but use the comma if comprehension is hurt by its omission.

    No comma needed:

    1. During the day you do not need to lock the door.

    Comma needed:

    1. On the road below, the crowd stood in silence.

    Commas in a series (serial comma)

    Separate elements in a series, but omit the comma right before the conjunction in a simple series.

    Example:

    1. Before you start, collect signatures, addresses and contact emails.

    Note: If an important element in a series uses a conjunction, use the comma before the concluding conjunction in the series.

    Example:

    1. The complimentary breakfast consists of hash browns, toast, and ham and eggs.

    Include the comma before the concluding list element in a complex series.

    Example:

    1. The big difference lies in whether you intend to visit each part of the city, whether you want to hit all the major cultural exhibits, and whether you want to hit all the major cultural exhibits, or whether you want to take in some of the city’s hidden gems.
  • 5

    Company Names

    A company’s formal name should appear at least once in an article.

    General rules of thumb:

    • To look up a publicly traded company’s formal name, consult the New York Stock Exchange or Nasdaq.
    • Even if it’s included in the formal name, do not use a comma after Ltd. or Inc.

    Spelling and capitalization

    Follow the official spelling and capitalization for company names.

    Example:

    1. eBay, not Ebay

    Exception: If the name starts a sentence, capitalize the first letter regardless of the official spelling.

    Example:

    1. EBay is an easy way to sell things you no longer want but that still have value.

    Company names and all caps – Only use all caps for company names when each letter is pronounced individually.

    Example:

    1. BMW
    2. Ikea
    3. USA Today

    Company names with symbols – Omit symbols from company names to avoid distracting readers.

    Example:

    1. Yahoo, not Yahoo!
    2. Google Plus, not Google+
    3. E-Trade, not E*Trade
    4. Toys R Us, not Toys “R” Us

    Company names with ampersands (&) – Include the ampersand only if it’s part of a company’s official name and not to replace the word “and.”

    Company names with “the” – Capitalize “the” only if it’s part of the official company name. Otherwise, use all lowercase.

  • 6

    Dashes

    Dashes are used to note for a series within a phrase, for an abrupt change or to show emphasis.

    General rules of thumb:

    • Always put a short space on both sides of a dash unless it’s used to replace a bullet point.
    • Never use a dash and a colon together.

    For a series within a phrase

    Use offsetting dashes when a series that would normally require commas is used within a phrase requiring offsetting commas.

    Example:

    1. Making sure your new cat has the right supplies – a litter box, kitty litter, food dishes and toys – is a must-do step in preparing to bring your pet home.

    For an abrupt change

    Use a dash to show an abrupt change in thought within a sentence and to show an emphatic pause.

    Change:

    1. The CEO introduced a new policy – it was not one employees would easily support – at the company-wide meeting.

    Emphasis:

    1. Their vacation is scheduled for December – as long as everything goes according to plan.

    For attribution

    Use a dash in front of the author or composer of a quote.

    Example:

    1. “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.” – Albert Einstein.
  • 7

    Dates

    General rules of thumb:

    • Always use arabic numerals, and omit st, nd, rd or th.
    • Use abbreviations when months of the year are listed with a specific date (day,month or day, month, year) for these months: Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec.
    • Always spell out the following months: March, April, May, June, July.
    • Spell the month out for dates consisting of only month and year, or consisting of month only.

    Day, month, and year

    Use a comma after the year when using the day, month and year. Abbreviate the month when a month requiring abbreviation is used.

    • The wedding is set for Jan. 14, 2013, and is in their hometown.

    • January 14th, 2013 is the date for their wedding.

    Day and month

    Omit the comma when using the day and month only. Do not use a comma after the date unless another comma is warranted. Abbreviate the month when a month requiring abbreviation is used.

    • The wedding is set for May 14 next year.

    • Next May 14, is the date of their wedding.

    Month and year

    Omit the comma after the year, and spell out the month.

    • August 2010 is when the changes were implemented.

    • August 2010, marked the beginning of a new company-wide approach.

    Year only

    No comma is necessary unless the year rounds out an introductory phrase. Starting a sentence with a year is the only exception to avoiding the placement of numbers at the start of a sentence.

    Example:

    1. She spent most of 2008 in Vermont.
    2. When the big storm hit in 2012, most people were prepared. 2001 is a year that changed many American’s outlook.

    Note: Use an s only when showing decades.

    • the 1900s, 1980s.

    • the 1900’s, 1980’s

    A.D.

    Short for anno Domini, or in the year of the Lord, A.D. is placed before the figure for the year because the full phrase would read as “in the year of the Lord [year].”

    • Roman armies destroyed Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

    • Roman armies destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

    B.C.

    Short for before Christ, B.C. is placed after the figure because the full phrase would read as “in the year [year] before Christ.”

    • Julius Caesar was assassinated on March 15, 44 B.C.

    • Julius Caesar was assassinated on March 16, B.C. 44.

  • 8

    Essential, Nonessential Clauses

    Both essential and nonessential clauses give additional information about a word or phrase. They are also referred to as restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses, respectively.

    General rules of thumb:

    • A clause always contains a subject-verb agreement. If it does not and is a related group of words, it’s a phrase.
    • An essential clause is necessary for a sentence to retain its meaning and does not require offsetting commas.
    • A nonessential clause is easily omitted while retaining the meaning of a sentence and requires offsetting commas.
    • Spell the month out for dates consisting of only month and year, or consisting of month only.

    Punctuation

    The use or omission of commas surrounding essential or nonessential clauses conveys your intended meaning

    Essential:

    1. The dancers who overslept were late.

    Implies that only the dancers who overslept were late.

    Nonessential:

    1. The dancers, who overslept, were late.

    Implies all the dancers were late, and they all overslept.

    Use of that, which

    That – “That” is the pronoun preferred for introducing essential clauses referring to inanimate objects and animals without names.

    Example:

    1. The manager remembered the day that he started working for the company.

    Which – “Which” is the only acceptable pronoun to introduce nonessential clauses referring to inanimate objects and animals without names.

    Example:

    1. The office, which was remodeled five years ago, still looks like a newly developed space.
  • 9

    Essential, Nonessential Phrases

    Essential phrases are critical to convey intended meaning, and nonessential phrases provide more information that is not vital to the meaning of the sentence.

    General rules of thumb:

    • A phrase is a related group of words that does not have a subject, does not have a verb or does not have either.
    • Essential phrases do not require offsetting commas.
    • Nonessential phrases require offsetting commas.

    Essential phrases

    Essential phrases are not set off from the rest of the sentence with commas. Omitting the commas helps to provide clarity in meaning.

    Example:

    1. She visited her son Mark over the holidays.

    “Mark” is not offset by commas when “she” has more than one son because the son’s name is critical in knowing which son she visited.

    Example:

    1. They intend to play the award-winning song “Need You Now” at their wedding.

    “Need You Now” is not offset with commas because without it, you do not know which award-winning song.

    Nonessential phrases

    Nonessential phrases are set off from the rest of the sentence with commas. The commas imply the information is helpful but not necessary for the sentence to make sense.

    Example:

    1. She visited her son Mark and his wife, Jenny, over the holidays.

    That Jenny is the name of Mark’s wife isn’t necessary information to the meaning of the sentence.

    Example:

    1. They intend to play the 2011 Grammy Award Song of the Year, “Need You Now,” at their wedding.

    There is only one Grammy Award for Song of the Year each year, so the name of the song isn’t necessary for the sentence to make sense.

  • 10

    Exclamation Points

    Exclamation points are most commonly used with emphatic expressions, but they are also sometimes part of a direct quotation.

    General rules of thumb:

    • Use exclamation points sparingly.
    • Never use a comma or period after an exclamation mark.

    Emphatic expressions

    Use exclamation points to show very strong emotions, degrees of surprise or levels of incredulation.

    Placement with quotation marks

    Place the exclamation point inside the quotation mark if it’s part of a quotation and outside the quotation mark if it’s not part of a quotation.

    Example:

    1. “Stop!” the police yelled at the fleeing suspect.
    2. I fell asleep reading Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick”!

    Avoiding overuse

    Use a comma after mild interjections, and use periods after mildly exclamatory sentences.

  • 11

    Hyphens

    Hyphens join two or more words to form one idea or help avoid ambiguity.

    General rule of thumb:

    • Use hyphens only when necessary to avoid confusion.

    Avoiding ambiguity

    Use a hyphen when not using the hyphen clouds the intended meaning.

    Example:

    1. The CEO intends to speak with a group of small-business men.

    “Businessmen” is usually one word; however, it does not make sense here. To show that the sentence refers to a group of men who own or run small businesses, the hyphen is used.

    Compound modifiers (adjectives)

    A compound modifier is two or more words that express a single concept.

    When a compound modifier precedes the noun it modifies, use a hyphen with all words in the modifier. Do not hyphenate a compound modifier when one word is “very” or an adverb ending in “ly.”

    Examples:

    1. a well-known author
    2. a better-suited alternative
    3. a greenish-yellow blanket
    4. a very good cake
    5. a slyly worded poem

    Exception: When a compound modifier that is hyphenated when it’s before the noun it modifies appears after the noun and directly after a form of the verb “to be,” use a hyphen to avoid confusion.

    Examples:

    1. The author is well-known.
    2. The student is quick-witted.
    3. The authors are well-known.

    Duplicated vowels, tripled consonants

    Use a hyphen to avoid duplicated vowels and tripled consonants.

    Examples:

    1. anti-inflammatory
    2. pre-empt
    3. bell-like

    Suspensive hyphenation

    Use suspensive hyphenation when two hyphenated phrases share a common element.

    Examples:

    1. short- and long-term investments
    2. small- and medium-sized businesses
    3. 10- to 20-year sentence
  • 12

    Numerals

    Numerals express numbers with a figure, letter, word or group of words.

    General rule of thumb:

    • Use hyphens only when necessary to avoid confusion.

    Note: Do not make two sets of numbers parallel by breaking the normal construction.

    • There were five boys and 11 girls.

    • There were 5 boys and 11 girls.

    Ages

    Always use figures for ages. When “years” or “years old” are not required within the context, the figure for ages is assumed to be years.

    Examples:

    1. The house is 10 years old.
    2. Her daughter is 17.
    3. His son is 2 years old.

    Ages as adjectives or noun substitutes – Use hyphens for adjectives in front of nouns or as substitutes for nouns.

    Examples:

    1. The doctor has a 3-year-old girl (adjective before a noun).
    2. The man, 35, has a brother, 22 (noun substitute).

    At start of sentence

    Spell out numerals at the beginning of a sentence. The only exception is numerals identifying a calendar year.

    • Last semester, 898 new freshmen attended the college.

    • 2012 saw the highest amount spent on presidential elections in history.

    • 898 new freshmen attended the college last semester.

    Decimal units

    Decimal units are shown with numerals and a period. Do not exceed two decimal places in text unless there is a special circumstance.

    Examples:

    1. 15.37 cubic feet
    2. 35.35 meters
    3. 6.3 kilometers

    Amounts less than 1 – Use the numeral zero in front of the decimal point, and keep the measurement type singular.

    Examples:

    1. 0.75 cubic foot
    2. 0.45 meter
    3. 0.90 kilometer

    Degrees of temperature

    Note – Temperatures never get “warmer” or “cooler”; they get higher or lower.

    • Temperatures during the day are rising.

    • Temperatures during the day are getting higher.

    • Temperatures are getting warmer during the day.

    Use figures for all temperatures except zero. For temps below zero, use a word not the minus sign.

    Examples:

    1. The low yesterday was minus 11.
    2. Yesterday’s low was 11 below zero.
    3. 8-degree temperatures
    4. temperatures fell 8 degrees
    5. temperatures in the 20s (no apostrophe)

    Celsius – When the scale is required, use “degrees Celsius,” and when the degrees and scale are clear, use “C” with a space between the figure and the C and no period for the abbreviation.

    Examples:

    1. 37 degrees Celsius or 37 C

    Fahrenheit – When the scale is required, use “degrees Fahrenheit, and when the degrees and scale are clear, use “F” with a space between the figure and the F and no period for the abbreviation.

    Examples:

    1. 78 degrees Fahrenheit or 78 F

    Dimensions

    Use figures, and spell out the unit of measurement for depth, height, length and width. For adjectival forms in front of nouns, use hyphens.

    Examples:

    1. She is 5 feet 8 inches tall.
    2. the 5-foot-8-inch girl
    3. the 5-foot girl
    4. The crawl space is 16 feet long, 8 feet wide and 4 feet high.
    5. The bedroom is 10 feet by 13 feet.
    6. the 10-by-13 bedroom
    7. Last night 8 inches of snow fell.
    8. Note: The apostrophe to notate feet and quotation mark to notate inches (5’8”) is only used in context that is very technical in nature.

    Distances

    Spell out numerals one through nine; use figures for numerals 10 and above.

    Examples:

    1. She runs five miles daily.
    2. She walks a total of 20 miles every week.

    Fractions

    Amounts less than 1 – Spell out with hyphens between words.

    Examples:

    1. one-eighth
    2. one-fourth
    3. two-thirds
    4. seven-sixteenths

    Mixed numbers – Use a full space between the whole number and the fraction.

    Examples:

    1. 1 ½
    2. 12 ⅞

    Monetary units

    Cents – Spell the word “cents” in all lowercase, and use it with figures and no dollar sign for amounts less than a dollar.

    Examples:

    1. 7 cents
    2. 89 cents

    For amounts larger than a dollar, use the decimal form and dollar sign.

    Examples:

    1. $1.05
    2. $2.12

    Dollars – Use the dollar sign and figures unless it’s a casual reference or an amount without a figure.

    Examples:

    1. The game cost $15.
    2. Please give her a dollar.
    3. Dollars saved add up over time.

    Amounts less than $1 million – Use figures with dollar signs and appropriate commas.

    Example:

    1. $6
    2. $30
    3. $400
    4. $2,000
    5. $780,000

    Amounts more than $1 million – Use two decimal places, and omit hyphens between a figure and a word.

    Examples:

    1. The company is worth $5.45 million.
    2. The company is worth exactly $5,452,393.
    3. The company proposed a $200 million budget.

    Percent

    Percent is one word, not two.

    For percentages and percents – Use figures. For partial numbers, use decimals, not fractions.

    Examples:

    1. 1 percent
    2. 3.5 percent
    3. 11 percent
    4. 3 percentage points

    Amounts less than 1 – Use a zero in front of the decimal.

    Example:

    1. Profits only rose 0.8 percent over the first quarter

    Ranges – Use “to” between the figures, or use between/and.

    Examples:

    1. 11 to 14 percent
    2. between 11 and 14 percent

    Proportions

    Always use figures for proportions.

    Example:

    1. Profits only rose 0.8 percent over the first quarter

    Speeds

    Always use figures for speeds.

    Examples:

    1. The car was only moving at 10 mph.
    2. winds of 10 to 15 mph
    3. 10-mph wind

    Note: Aim to avoid constructions that require extensive commas.

    • 8-mph winds

    • 8-mile-per-hour winds

    Weights

    Use figures for all weights, and spell out the unit of measurement. Hyphenate when the weight is in adjectival form before the noun.

    Examples:

    1. The can weighs 2 pounds, 8 ounces.
    2. the 2-pound, 8-ounce can
  • 13

    Parentheses

    Parentheses are generally used to show incidental information.

    General rules of thumb:

    • Use parentheses sparingly; they are jarring to readers.
    • If you find the need to use parentheses, it’s often a sign your sentence is too convoluted. Try to rewrite the sentence without the parenthetical information.
    • If the incidental information must be included, use offsetting commas or dashes instead whenever possible.

    Punctuation

    Parenthetical fragments – The period goes outside the closing parentheses when the parenthetical information is not a complete sentence.

    Example:

    1. The sun was shining (which is better than another rainy day).

    Stand-alone complete sentences – An independent sentence that stands alone and is enclosed in parentheses requires the period to go inside the closing parentheses.

    Example:

    1. The laundry is almost all washed. (There were eight loads when she started washing it.)

    Dependent complete sentences – For an independent sentence enclosed in parentheses that is dependent on the rest of the sentence it falls within, omit ending punctuation and normal sentence capitalization.

    Example:

    1. The drive is shorter (it felt much longer on the return trip) than expected.
  • 14

    Pronouns

    A pronoun takes the place of a noun or noun phrase for the subject, object or possessive case.

    General rules of thumb:

    • Pronouns must have a clear antecedent to avoid confusion.
    • “They” is not an acceptable non-gender, singular pronoun in AP style.
    • Avoid excessive use of pronouns when the subject, object or possessive case is well-established.

    Gender pronouns

    He or she – Avoid this construction. If you do not know whether the antecedent is male or female, use an alternative word, rephrase the sentence or make the subject plural to use a plural pronoun.

    • A new business owner should prepare for costs new owners don’t always expect to incur.

    • A new business owner should prepare for unexpected costs.

    • New business owners should prepare for costs they don’t expect to incur.

    • A new business owner should prepare for costs he or she doesn’t expect to incur.

    Pronouns referring to animals – When the sex or name of the animal is known, use he or use she. When the sex or name is not known, use its.

    • The dog was anxious; it barked loudly.

    • Rover was scared; he barked loudly.

    • The cat was hungry; it kept rubbing against its food dish.

    • Suzy-Q the cat kept rubbing against her food dish.

    • The dog was anxious; he barked loudly.

    • The cat was hungry; she kept rubbing against her food dish.

    Note: “They” should never be substituted for a singular pronoun because the sex is not known. “They” is a plural pronoun and can only refer back to plural subjects, objects and possessive cases.

    • When someone needs something, the person simply rings a bell.

    • When someone needs something, they simply ring a bell.

    Pronouns and collective nouns

    Collective nouns are singular, so they require singular pronouns. Use its, not their.

    • The company sends its well wishes.

    • The company sends their well wishes.

    Pronouns and point of view

    The three main points of view are first person, second person and third person.

    First person – Never use first person in AP style unless it is within a direct quotation or is specifically required for a business website. (This includes using I, me, we, our and us.)

    Second person – Second person is permissible in more informal pieces of content where directly addressing readers is necessary. (This includes using you.)

    Third person – Third person is the preferred point of view in AP style. It helps keep information more neutral and keeps writing more professional. (This includes using she, he, it and they.)

    Pronoun/antecedent agreement

    An antecedent is to what a pronoun refers earlier in the text. To keep pronouns and antecedents in agreement, pronouns must match their antecedents in number. If an antecedent is singular, then the pronoun must also be singular. Plural antecedents take plural pronouns.

    • Her friend dislikes that restaurant and never wants to go.

    • Her friend dislikes that restaurant. They never want to go.

  • 15

    Semicolons

    Semicolons are used to create a separation of thought or information. The separation is greater than with a comma but less than the period creates.

    General rules of thumb:

    • Keep the use of semicolons to a minimum.
    • Semicolons are one of the exceptions to placement with quotation marks. Place semicolons outside quotation marks.

    Between independent clauses

    Semicolons link two related independent clauses when a coordinating conjunction is used. The second independent clause is not capitalized unless it starts with a proper noun.

    Example:

    1. Her gift was supposed to arrive last Friday; it arrived this Monday.

    Exception: When extensive punctuation is used in one or more additional clauses when a coordinating conjunction connects two independent clauses, use a semicolon in front of the conjunction. The best practice, however, is to break the two independent clauses into two sentences.

    Example:

    1. The dancers took one final bow, hurried off the stage in a flurry of movement, and rushed back to their dressing rooms; but even with their quick retreat, they were unlikely to make it on time for the beginning of the party.

    Followed by a number

    When a number immediately follows a semicolon, use figures if the numeral rule calls for them. Unlike with sentences, it’s okay to start the second independent clause with a number within a sentence containing a semicolon.

    Example:

    1. Most of the dancers were late; 30 out of 35 of them arrived at least 10 minutes late.

    In a series

    Semicolons are used to clarify a series only when absolutely necessary. When the elements in a series are very long or when elements contain other material that must be offset by commas, use semicolons in place of commas.

    Example:

    1. She is survived by a daughter, Jane Doe, of New York City; two sons, John Doe, of Flint, Mich., Joe Does, of Boston; and a brother, Ken, of Madison, Wis.

    Exception: Reconstructing the sentence when possible to minimize the punctuation is always the best choice.

  • 16

    Split Infinitives

    A split infinitive is created when an adverb splits the infinitive form of a verb (“to help” is an infinitive verb form).

    General rule of thumb:

    • Keep the infinitive form of the verb intact by moving the adverb that creates the split infinitive to after the infinitive form of the verb.

    Avoid creating a split infinitive.

    • She was told to exit quickly.

    • The company was expected to evacuate hastily.

    • She was told to quickly exit.

    • The company was told to hastily evacuate.

  • 17

    Subject/Verb Agreement

    Subject/verb agreement is a simple principle. Singular subjects require singular verbs; plural subjects require plural verbs.

    General rules of thumb:

    • Don’t be misled when a phrase comes between the subject and the verb. The verb must agree with the subject of the sentence, not the noun or noun phrase in the phrase that comes between the subject and the verb
    • Singular verbs often end in s (dances, flies, walks).
    • Plural verbs often end without an s (dance, fly, walk).

    Collective nouns

    Collective nouns are singular. They require singular verbs.

    • The company adds additional employees around Christmas.

    • The company add additional employees around Christmas.

    Compound subjects connected with and

    When two or more singular subjects (nouns or pronouns) are connected with “and,” use a plural verb.

    • The mayor and his wife are on the way.

    • The governor and his daughter is on the way.

    Compound subjects connected with or

    When two or more singular subjects (nouns or pronouns) are connected with “or,” use a singular verb.

    • The company representative or the CEO is attending.

    • The manager or the supervisor are attending.

  • 18

    Terminology

    Language continually changes and evolves. With it, terminology and specific spellings and meanings develop for particular words, jargon and new technology.

    General rule of thumb:

    • For spellings and rules related to specific terminology usage not outlined in this guide, refer first to the official AP Stylebook and second to Webster’s New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition.

    Computer file extensions

    File extensions are considered technical jargon in most cases and are easily avoided by rewriting the sentence. When writing about file formats, though, it is often essential to include the extension.

    When a file extension is essential, put the extension in quotation marks, and give a brief explanation.

    Example:

    1. Installation requires you to download an “.exe” file, a common file type for launching programs.

    When a file extension is being discussed more at length, acronyms are acceptable in almost every instance where you are giving instructions on handling the specific file type.

    Example:

    1. JPG or JPEG files are short for Joint Photographic Experts Group, one of two main types of image compression mechanisms on the Web.

    Used in a sentence: JPEG files do not allow you to save the layers within an image; they compress the layers into a simpler file format.

    Computer-related instructions

    When typing computer-related instructions, enclose any series of keystrokes within quotation marks. Place any punctuation outside the quotation marks – even when it breaks the rule for periods and commas.

    Example:

    1. Type “chkntfs c:”, and hit Enter.

    Note: When typing navigation instructions for moving around a website, troubleshooting a computer or software or providing step-by-step instructions, omit quotations around the names of keys and tabs, but use capitalization.

    Example:

    1. Go to the Start Menu. From there, click on Control Panel.

    Computer and technical terms

    The following list outlines common terms focusing on computers and technology. Use these preferred spelling and capitalization in AP that’s provided below.

    • Ajax, not AJAX
    • bit, an abbreviation for binary digits and acceptable in all references
    • byte, a computer word made up of bits, or binary numbers
    • cellphone, not cell phone
    • click-through rate
    • email, not e-mail
    • gigabyte, kilobyte
    • Google
    • Google Plus, not Google+
    • JavaScript
    • Java
    • Internet
    • URL
    • Web, Web pages, website

    Internet and social media terms

    The list of terms below are the preferred spelling and capitalization for terms related to social media.

    • aggregator
    • API
    • app (application on first reference preferred)
    • avatar
    • blog
    • Bluetooth
    • check in
    • click-thrus
    • cloud
    • crowdsourcing
    • curate
    • direct message
    • download
    • e-book
    • e-reader
    • emoticon
    • end user
    • Facebook
    • feed
    • Foursquare
    • friend, follow, like
    • geolocation
    • geotagging
    • Google Plus, not Google+
    • Google, Googling, Googled
    • handle
    • hashtag
    • IM
    • Internet
    • Internet TV
    • iPad
    • iPhone
    • keywords
    • link shortener
    • LinkedIn
    • live-blog
    • mashup
    • mention
    • metadata
    • microsite
    • modified tweet
    • Myspace
    • reply
    • retweet
    • RSS
    • scraping, mirroring
    • search engine optimization, not SEO
    • smartphone
    • social media
    • social media optimization
    • social networks
    • status
    • streaming
    • subscribe
    • tablet
    • tag
    • text messaging, instant messaging
    • trending
    • Tumblr
    • Twitter
    • unfollow
    • unfriend
    • user interface
    • VoIP
    • WAP
    • website, Web, Web page
    • widget
    • Wi-Fi
    • wiki
    • Wikipedia
    • YouTube
  • 19

    That, Which

    General rules of thumb:

    • In most cases, if an offsetting comma is required, use “which.”
    • In most cases, if an offsetting comma is not required, use “that.”

    That

    “That” is the pronoun preferred for introducing essential clauses referring to inanimate objects and animals without names.

    Example:

    1. The manager remembered that day that he started working for the company.

    Exception: “Which” is used to introduce an essential clause referring to an inanimate object or animal without a name when “that” is used as a conjunction to start another clause in the same sentence.

    Example:

    1. She said Friday that the offices which needed the most work were not part of the previous remodel.

    Which

    “Which” is the only acceptable pronoun to introduce nonessential clauses referring to inanimate objects and animals without names.

    Example:

    1. The office, which was remodeled five years ago, still looks like a newly developed space.
  • 20

    That as a Conjunction

    “That” is used as a conjunction to introduce a dependent clause when a sentence sounds or looks awkward without it.

    General rules of thumb:

    • There is no hard and fast rule, but the guidelines below outline a few situations where “that” is used as a conjunction.
    • When in doubt, use “that.” Including it when you shouldn’t is less awkward than omitting it when it must be there.

    Dependent clause follows a form of the verb “to say” – Use “that” as a conjunction.

    Example:

    1. The woman said Tuesday that she had left her purse at home.

    After some verbs, “that” is required – Use “that” as a conjunction following these verbs: advocate, assert, contend, declare, estimate, make clear, point out, propose and state.

  • 21

    Time References

    General rules of thumb:

    • Use a.m. and p.m. for time listings whenever possible.
    • Use official names for time periods when it’s applicable.
    • Use figures, not words, for numerals in time references.

    Historical periods of time

    Widely recognized epochs – Anthropology, archaeology, geology and history all speak of historical periods of time with official names. Capitalize these as proper nouns.

    Examples:

    1. the Bronze Age
    2. the Dark Ages
    3. the Middle Ages

    Widely recognized periods and events – Capitalize those with official names.

    Examples:

    1. the Boston Tea Party
    2. the Great Depression
    3. Prohibition

    General time period descriptions – Capitalize proper nouns and proper adjectives only in descriptions of general periods.

    Examples:

    1. classical Rome
    2. the Victorian era

    Century – Use ordinal numbers for 10 and above; spell out numerals for nine and below. Use lowercase letters.

    Examples:

    1. the sixth century
    2. the 19th century
    3. mid-19th century

    Note: Use the official AP Stylebook for capitalization for historical periods of time not found here, or use Webster’s New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition as a reference. If Webster’s uses lowercase for the sense in which the word is used, then use lowercase.

    Midnight, noon

    Use midnight and noon, not 12 a.m. and 12 p.m.

    • The birthday party starts at noon and ends at midnight.

    • The party starts at 12 p.m. and ends at 12 a.m.

    Time of day

    Use figures for all times of day except noon and midnight, and separate hours from minutes with a colon. Use periods for a.m. and p.m. abbreviations.

    Examples:

    1. 10 a.m.
    2. 3 p.m.
    3. 4:30 p.m.

    Time spans – If both times are in either the a.m. or p.m., use a hyphen between the figures, and include the abbreviation only once. If one time is a.m. and the other is p.m., use “to” between the times while using the abbreviations for each.

    Examples:

    1. 2-5 p.m.
    2. 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

    Avoid redundancies – Omit “morning” and “tonight” when using a.m. and p.m.

    • 8 a.m.

    • 8 p.m.

    • 8 a.m. Tuesday

    • 8 a.m. this morning

    • 8 p.m. tonight

    • 8 a.m. Tuesday morning

    Note: Using a time construction that includes “o’clock” (5 o’clock) is acceptable, but a.m. and p.m. are preferred.

  • 22

    Titles

    Composition titles

    Composition titles apply to the following:

    • book titles
    • computer game titles
    • movies titles
    • opera titles
    • play titles
    • poem titles
    • album and song titles
    • radio and television programs titles
    • titles of lectures
    • titles of works of art

    Rules for composition titles:

    • Capitalize principal words
    • Capitalize prepositions and conjunctions of four or more letters
    • Capitalize all words when they are the first and last word in a title
    • Use quotations around all works except the Bible and books used as a catalog of reference material (almanacs, directories, dictionaries, handbooks and similar publications).

    Examples:

    1. the “CBS Evening News”
    2. “Brave New World”
    3. “Gone With the Wind”
    4. “Mona Lisa”
    5. “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich”
    6. Encylopædia Britannica

    Software titles

    Capitalize using the rules for composition titles, but do not use quotations around software titles.

    Examples:

    1. Windows
    2. Microsoft Office
    3. WordPerfect

    Smartphone and game app titles

    Smartphone apps – Regular, non-gaming apps are not put in quotation marks, but they are capitalized according to the rules for composition titles. The word “application” is not capitalized.

    Example:

    1. Netflix app

    Smartphone apps – Gaming apps are put into quotation marks and capitalized like composition titles.

    Example:

    1. “Angry Birds”

    Websites and app (non-game) titles

    The names of most websites and apps (that are not game apps) are capitalized without quotation marks.

    Examples:

    1. Facebook
    2. Pinterest
    3. Kindle app

    Exception: Computer game apps require quotation marks.

    Examples:

    1. “FarmVille”
    2. “Mafia Wars”
  • 23

    Quotation Marks

    General rules of thumb:

    • Capitalize the first word of direct quotations even if it’s not at the beginning of the sentence, but leave the second part of quotes separated by attribution lowercase unless it’s a proper noun.
    • Capitalize the first word of partial direct quotations only if the quote starts the sentence.

    Direct quotations

    Use quotation marks to surround the exact words of speakers or writers. Offset the quotation marks with commas as needed to introduce the quote or give attribution.

    Examples:

    1. “I plan on leaving,” he answered.
    2. “It’s really not a big deal,” he said, “I wanted to leave early.”
    3. Joe whispered, “The secret is out now.”

    Partial quotes – When quoting only a phrase, attribution offset with commas isn’t necessary. Avoid quoting something a speaker or writer didn’t say.

    Example:

    1. A bystander said the accident was “too horrific to even discuss.”

    Example:

    1. Original quote: She said, “You cannot actually think that will work.”

    Putting the quote in text:

    • She said they couldn’t actually “think that will work.”

    • She said “they couldn’t actually think that will work.”

    Unnecessary fragments – Do not put a few ordinary words in quotation marks.

    • Sarah said she would move to Canada if the presidential candidate she voted for lost.

    • Sarah said she would “move to Canada” if the presidential candidate she voted for lost.

    Typing instructions

    When typing computer-related instructions, enclose any series of keystrokes within quotation marks. Place any punctuation outside the quotation marks – even when it breaks the rule for periods and commas.

    Example:

    1. Type “chkntfs c:”, and hit Enter.

    Note: When typing navigation instructions for moving around a website, troubleshooting a computer or software or providing step-by-step instructions, omit quotations around the names of keys and tabs, but use capitalization.

    Example:

    1. Go to the Start Menu. From there, click on Control Panel.

    Unfamiliar words

    A word or words may be put in quotation marks when it is first introduced. Omit the quotation marks on subsequent references.

    Example:

    1. “Kilohertz” measure broadcast frequencies.

    All subsequent references to kilohertz would be without quotation marks

    Surrounding punctuation

    • Periods and commas go inside quotation marks with one exception: keystrokes put within quotations for giving instructions require the comma or period to go outside to avoid confusion.
    • Dashes, colons, question marks and exclamation points go inside the quotation marks only when they apply to or are part of a direct quotation. Otherwise, these types of punctuation go outside the quotation marks when they apply to the entire sentence.
  • 24

    Who, Whom

    General rules of thumb:

    • If you can replace the pronoun with “he,” the correct choice is “who.” If using “he” is awkward, “whom” is the correct choice. Do the same trick using “they” for plural constructions.
    • When the preposition of “to” precedes the pronoun, “whom” is the correct choice.

    Who

    “Who” is the pronoun used for referring to humans and animals with a name. It’s always the subject of a sentence, clause or phrase and never the object.

    Offsetting commas are used for nonessential clauses starting with who and omitted for essential clauses.

    Examples:

    1. The boy who fell during recess appears to be unharmed.
    2. Her mother, who is also a professor of law, has law licenses in three states.
    3. Who is knocking on the door?

    Whom

    “Whom” is used when someone is the object of a preposition or verb.

    Examples:

    1. The doctor to whom she was referred specialized in rare diseases.
    2. Whom do you wish to ask?