Spend even a modest amount of time around the world of professional writing, and you will come across the term AP Style. However, many people aren’t aware of what AP Style actually is.
AP Style is a set of rules and guidelines for formalized news writing published by The Associated Press.
What people usually forget is that The Associated Press is a real organization. It has buildings and employees and computers and sells products to produce a profit. The AP’s main product is news feeds or wire stories which are reprinted in newspapers all over the country. Take a look at your local paper and you’ll notice the author of each story is usually listed. For local stories or coverage that was actually researched and written by the newspaper’s staff you will see a name and maybe a location. The stories that say either AP or Associated Press were not actually written by anyone at the newspaper. They were bought by the newspaper from AP.
AP Style In Professional Writing
AP Style is actually a specific kind of writing. It is writing for news stories. However, many people, both freelancers and clients use the phrase AP Style as a way to describe a more formal writing style. AP Style is like what you read in the newspaper. For example, this article is not written in AP Style. All of the “you” makes this article informal.
But, AP Style is so much more than just formalization. There is an entire book called “The Associated Press Stylebook” that contains all manner of writing rules regarding terminology, phrasing, and punctuation.
Many otherwise knowledgeable professionals ask for AP Style to be used in writing for publication on non-news websites. Ironically, AP Style requires the use of spelling and punctuation that is opposite of what most websites want both for SEO purposes, and for what their readers want. For example, AP Style requires the use of a space between web and site for the term web site. However, most websites and blogs use the word website without a space. The same thing goes for email which AP requires to be written as e-mail (also for e-commerce, e-book, and e-business). Don’t worry, AP Style won’t make you write i-Phone because iPhone is a brand name.
Still, the AP Stylebook is a great resource for the professional writer. There are a million issues that come up in writing every day that you may have never been considered before. For example, should part time be hyphenated? AP has a rule for that. It is hyphenated when used as a modifier as in part-time job. It is not hyphenated otherwise as in the waiter is part time.
Basically, the AP Stylebook is a reference for any writer who comes across those little nuances that just don’t seem to have solid answers grounded in even advanced grammatical knowledge. Everyone knows what NASA is, so do you have to spell it out the first time you use it? You probably know that it is President Barack Obama, but what about other politicians? How do you reference the Speaker of the House? What about other congressmen? When should it be capitalized? Should you say congresswoman? If so, is there such a thing as congresswomen if you are speaking about multiple female members of Congress? And, by the way, when should Congress itself be capitalized?
There are a thousand examples like this. The point is, that these aren’t the kinds of things you learned in English classes even if you went to graduate school. In fact, for every other person in the world except a professional writer, these are the kinds of things that no one cares about.