AP Style quick start

AP Style basics, grammar, punctuation

Numbers

One through nine are generally spelled out, while 10 and above are generally written as numerals. Example: He carried five books for 12 blocks.

Percentages

Percentages are always expressed as numerals, followed by the word “percent.” Do not use a percent sign. Example: The price of gas rose 5 percent. Exception: Use percent sign in headlines. Example: Tuition to increase 2.3%

Dollar amounts

Dollar amounts are always expressed as numerals, and the “$” sign is used. Example: $5, $15, $150, $150,000, $15 million, $15 billion, $15.5 billion

Street addresses

Numerals are used for numbered addresses. Street, avenue and boulevard are abbreviated when used with a numbered address, but otherwise are spelled out. Route, drive and road are never abbreviated.

Example: He lives at 123 State St. His house is on State Street. Her house in at 2345 Annie Glidden Road.

Dates

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. Example: The meeting is on Oct. 15. She was born on July 12. I love the weather in November.

Numbers in casual expressions

Spell out numbers in common expressions. Examples: a million-to-one chance, a thousand times no, a thousand and one uses.

Sentence starts

If a numeral begins a sentence it must be spelled out. It is often preferable to rewrite the sentence. Examples: Ninety-eight years ago about 500 million people were infected by a deadly strain of the H1N1 influenza virus. Instead: A deadly strain of the H1N1 influenza epidemic infected about 500 million people 98 years ago.

Do not spell out calendar years that start a sentence. Example: 2008 was a bad year for the housing industry.

Measurements

Use numerals for ages, temperatures, dimensions, heights, times, sports scores, speeds, all numbers that contain decimals, even if under 10. Examples: A 9-year-old boy was injured. His brother, 14, was not hurt. The low temperature Monday in DeKalb was 1. A 5-by-10-foot box fell out. The truck was moving at about 5 mph.

Attribution

  • Need first, last name and title or other identifier such as “of DeKalb” or “senior English major”
  • Always use “said,” not “exclaimed,” “suggested,” “complained.”
  • FIRST REFERENCE: Title / name / said … , in that order unless the title is more than three words.

… SA President Joe Blow said.

… said Joe Blow, president of the National Association of Students for Wombat Awareness.

  • SECOND REFERENCE: Last name / said.

… Blow said.

FOR DIRECT QUOTATIONS: To surround the exact words of a speaker or writer when reported in a story:

 

  • “I have no intention of staying,” he said.
  • “I do not object,” he said, “to the tenor of the report.”
  • Franklin said, “A penny saved is a penny earned.”
  • A speculator said the practice is “too conservative for inflationary times.”

 

WRONG: “I have no intention of staying.” He replied.

Punctuation with quotes

  • Periods and commas go inside quotation marks
  • Other punctuation marks go inside quotes when they apply to the quoted material only. Example: Did he ask, “Is it time?” or “it is time”? Will it be “business as usual”? The chairman would not say.
  • Put quotation marks around composition titles (books, songs, movies, plays, TV shows, etc) but not periodicals (newspapers, magazines, etc) or religious texts (Bible, Koran, etc.) or reference works (AP Stylebook). Do not underline or italicize any of the above.
  • Use single quotes in headlines
  • Use single quotes inside double quotes

 

Capitalization

When in doubt, don’t capitalize

Don’t capitalize college classes, seasons, titles used without names

 

Courtesy titles

Refer to both men and women by first and last name, without courtesy titles, on first reference: Susan Smith or Robert Smith. Refer to both men and women by last name, without courtesy titles, in subsequent references. Use the courtesy titles Mr., Miss, Ms. or Mrs. only in direct quotations or after first reference when a woman specifically requests it: for example, where a woman prefers to be known as Mrs. Smith or Ms. Smith.

When it is necessary to distinguish between two people who use the same last name, as in married couples or brothers and sisters, use the first and last name, without courtesy title.

In cases where a person’s gender is not clear from the first name or from the story’s context, indicate the gender by using he or she in subsequent reference.

Job titles

Job titles are generally capitalized when they appear before a person’s name, but lowercase after the name. Example: President Barack Obama. Barack Obama is the president.

Doctor

Use Dr. in first reference as a formal title before the name of an individual who holds a doctor of dental surgery, doctor of medicine, doctor of optometry, doctor of osteopathic medicine, doctor of podiatric medicine, or doctor of veterinary medicine: Dr. Jonas Salk.

  • The form Dr., or Drs., in a plural construction, applies to all first-reference uses before a name, including direct quotations.
  • If appropriate in the context, Dr. also may be used on first reference before the names of individuals who hold other types of doctoral degrees. However, because the public frequently identifies Dr. only with physicians, care should be taken to ensure that the individual’s specialty is stated in first or second reference. The only exception would be a story in which the context left no doubt that the person was a dentist, psychologist, chemist, historian, etc.
  • Composition titles
  • Apply the guidelines listed here to book titles, computer game titles, movie titles, opera titles, play titles, poem titles, album and song titles, radio and television program titles, and the titles of lectures, speeches and works of art.

The guidelines, followed by a block of examples:

  • Capitalize the principal words, including prepositions and conjunctions of four or more letters.
  • Capitalize an article – the, a, an – or words of fewer than four letters if it is the first or last word in a title.
  • Put quotation marks around the names of all such works except the Bible and books that are primarily catalogs of reference material. In addition to catalogs, this category includes almanacs, directories, dictionaries, encyclopedias, gazetteers, handbooks and similar publications. Do not use quotation marks around such software titles as WordPerfect or Windows.
  • Translate a foreign title into English unless a work is generally known by its foreign name. An exception to this is reviews of musical performances. In those instances, generally refer to the work in the language it was sung in, so as to differentiate for the reader. However, musical compositions in Slavic languages are always referred to in their English translations.

Time, date, place (In that order. Remember: Totally Drunk People)

Example: The dance will be 9 p.m. Saturday in the Sky Room of Holmes Student Center.

Dates, months, years, days of the week

For dates and years, use figures. Do not use st, nd, rd, or th with dates, and use Arabic figures. Always capitalize months. Spell out the month unless it is used with a date. When used with a date, abbreviate only the following months: Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec.

Commas are not necessary if only a year and month are given, but commas should be used to set off a year if the date, month and year are given. NO: January, 2012  YES: January 2012  YES: Jan. 10, 2012

Use the letter “s” but not an apostrophe after the figures when expressing decades or centuries. Do, however, use an apostrophe before figures expressing a decade if numerals are left out. Examples: The Declaration of Independence was adopted July 4, 1776. The semester begins in January. The 1800s. The ’90s.

If you refer to an event that occurred the day prior to when the article will appear, do not use the word “yesterday.” The same goes for the word “tomorrow.” Instead, use the day of the week. Capitalize days of the week, but do not abbreviate. If an event occurs more than seven days before or after the current date, use the month and a figure.

Examples:

Future, fewer than seven days from publication date: Free flu immunizations will be available to students Friday.

Past, fewer than seven days from publication date: The deadline to pay tuition for spring semester was Monday.

Future, more than seven days from publication date: My drivers license will expire July 19, 2016.

Past, more than seven days from publication date: She was married April 27, 2006.

Books, periodicals, reference works, and other types of compositions

Use quotation marks around the titles of books, songs, television shows, computer games, poems, lectures, speeches and works of art.

Less/fewer: Use “fewer: for quantities that can be counted. Example: The express lane is for customers with 12 or fewer items. Use “less” for quantities that cannot be counted but represent a portion or percentage. Example: I have a lot less milk after accidentally spilling most of the gallon on the floor.

Hyphens: Use with modifiers when all words are necessary for the description. Example: He received a 10-year sentence. Do not use hyphens with adverbs. NO: The dictator was surrounded by heavily-armed guards.

Compiled from AP Stylebook, Purdue Online Lab, “Newswriting Guide” by Rachel Bard

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