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Sunday, November 13, 2005

Quick Reference
Associated Press Style Guide

The Associated Press was founded in 1848 as a cooperative effort among six New York newspapers that wished to pool resources for gathering international news. Today, with over 3,700 employees in 121 countries, the AP is the world's single largest news organization. Every day, more than a billion people read, hear or see AP news.
From the beginning, AP reporters have written their dispatches for readers from diverse social, economic and educational backgrounds and a wide range of political views. The AP therefore strives to keep its writing style easy to read, concise and free of bias. The Associated Press Stylebook, first published in 1977, clarified the news organization's rules on grammar, spelling, punctuation and usage. Now in its sixth edition, the Stylebook is the standard style guide for most U.S. newspapers, magazines and public relations firms.
The following Quick Reference is taken from The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual, Sixth Trade Edition.


• Never use an abbreviation that will not be easily understood.
• Abbreviate Saint before a city or institution, but see AP for Saint John and Sault Ste. Marie. Do not abbreviate Fort or Mount. St. Paul Mount Bachelor Mount Vernon Mount Sinai HospitalSt. Louis Fort Bragg Fort Lauderdale Saint John
• Abbreviate names of months more than five letters when followed by a date, but spell out when referring to the month generally. DO NOT abbreviate March, April, May, June, July. in February Feb. 5 March 30 April 7 Sept. 10, 2000in September 2000
• Abbreviate names of political parties when used parenthetically or in election statistics: U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said today….
• Abbreviate and use numerals in specific addresses. Spell out and follow the normal style rule for numbers when making a general reference to a street. Abbreviate building when giving a room number, but spell it out in a general reference. Always spell out Route and Highway.815 E. Harris Ave. East Harris Avenue 314 S. Eighth St. W.South Third Street West Humanities Building 338 Humanities Bldg.California Press Assn. U.S. Route 2 U.S. Highway 93
• DO NOT abbreviate:*United States and United Nations when used as nouns. (Abbreviate as modifiers and as parts of military titles: U.S. Ambassador, U.N. General Assembly, Gen. Thomas Jones, U.S.A. – ret.)*Names of foreign countries *percent (spell out)*days of the week (except in tabulations) *cents (spell out)*William to Wm., James to Jas., etc.
• Abbreviate titles followed by a name. DO NOT abbreviate titles following names or standing alone.Prof. Lyle E. Harris Lt. Gen.Assoc. Prof. Tim Pilgrim Maj. Gen.Asst. Prof. Cheryl Breeden Brig. Gen.Atty. Gen. Col.Gov. Lt. Col.Lt. Gov. Maj.Sen. Capt. Rep. 1st Lt.Gen. 2nd Lt.
*DO NOT abbreviate president, secretary, treasurer, principal, major, superintendent, commodore, director, attorney, manager, auditor, justice, one-syllable titles or any title that is not generally recognized in its abbreviated form. Spell out titles of Navy enlisted men (Boatswain’s Mate 1.C., Chief Gunner’s Mate, Seaman 2.C., etc.).
• Abbreviate Co., Inc., Ltd. and Corp. when part of a corporate title.
• Always give the first names or initials of persons the first time they appear in a story.
• Use Dr. only for physicians, dentists members of the paramedical professions (osteopaths, optometrists, chiropractors, podiatrists etc.) and clergymen who hold earned or honorary doctorates.
• After first use in a compound title, use only the main word of title.Lt. Col. Mark J. Clark Col. ClarkMaster Sgt. June S. Yeap Sgt. YeapAsst. Prof. Alice Boyer Prof. Boyer
• Rev. should always be preceded by “the.”the Rev. R. L. Dale the Rt. Rev. Msgr. Edward Beal Msgr. Bealthe Most Rev. James Riley, archbishop of Philadelphia Archbishop RileyRabbi Joshua Goldbloom Rabbi GoldbloomCardinal James McKay Cardinal McKay
• DO NOT capitalize an occupation or descriptive adjectives and nouns used before a name.defense attorney Arnold Beckersecond baseman Bobby Richardsonfuturist Rad Bradbury
• Place long titles after the name.Kris Bulcroft, vice provost for undergraduate education.


• Capitalize titles preceding and attached to a name, but use lower case if the title follows a name or stands by itself. Long titles should follow the name.President Karen Morse Karen Morse, president of Western Washington UniversityMayor Richard Stevens the mayorPresidents Bush and Clinton
• Capitalize specific regions, but not the points of the compass.Middle West the Pacific Northwest Southern California Western District back East east the East western
• Capitalize the names of religions, adjectives denoting religious denominations and nouns to designate the Supreme Being. Lowercase pronouns referring to the deity.Buddhism Methodist Catholic his word he himthee thy whose
• Capitalize names of races and nationalities, but put descriptive adjectives in lower caseNegro Oriental Egyptian Caucasian white black coloredBUT: Only identify race when it is ESSENTIAL to the story (see AP Style Guide).
• Capitalize abbreviations of college degrees (write without space between letters). But, if mention of academic degrees is necessary, the preferred form is to avoid abbreviation (see AP Style Guide).
• Capitalize common nouns and their distinguishing modifiers in names of associations, societies, companies, streets, etc.Elizabeth Park Sehome High School Blythe Plumbing Co.Lake Chelan Parks Hall Associated Student BoardHarris Avenue Westin Hotel Carver GymSafeco Field First Methodist Church Budget Committee
• Capitalize the formal names of schools and departments of Western Washington University, but use the informal names whenever possible.WWU Department of Communications (but: communications department)WWU Financial Aid Office (but: financial aid office)
• Capitalize the formal names of congressional committees, specific courts, government agencies, etc.Senate House Legislature ParliamentCity Council Supreme Court Foreign Relations Committee
• Capitalize holidays and special or historic events.Fourth of July National Milk Week ReformationWorld War II New Year’s Eve Christmas (not Xmas)15th annual WWU Fine Arts Festival
• DO NOT capitalize student board or board of trustees or other widely used internal elements of an organization unless used as part of the formal title (see organizations and institutions in AP Style Guide).board of trustees WWU Board of Trustees
• Capitalize chapter, room, highway, etc. when followed by a number or letter.Administration 33 Lakeway Inn, Room 2 Interstate 5
• Capitalize the names of the planets, stars and groups of stars. Capitalize earth only when using it in association with the names of other astronomical bodies that are capitalized.The planets are Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus…The sun warms the earth.
• Capitalize the names of political parties and the word “party” if it is customarily used as part of the organization’s name, nouns denoting members of a political faith (Democrat, Republican, Nazi, Communist) and adjectives denoting a specific political allegiance (Democrat, Fascist, Red). Do not capitalize such words when they denote a system of government rather than a political party.Republican Party nazism Communist leader democratic system
• Capitalize articles and prepositions in names when a Christian name or title does not precede them, except in names when personal preference guides the usage.Henry van Dyke Van Dyke Alexis de Tocqueville De Tocqueville
• DO NOT capitalize a.m. and p.m. Always use figures with them. Do not use spaces in the abbreviations.9:35 a.m. 9 a.m. 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. 3 to 5 p.m. noonmidnight
• DO NOT capitalize academic degrees when spelled out, or names of college classes. bachelor of arts degree master’s degree junior freshman class
• DO NOT capitalize the seasons.summer winter fall spring
• DO NOT capitalize former, ex-, or –elect when used with titles.former President Bill Clinton President-elect Naderex-Sen. Slade Gorton
• DO NOT capitalize prepositions, conjunctions, or articles in titles of books, etc., except when they begin the title. Bands are capitalized, but not contained in quotes.“ The Man Who Came to Dinner” “For Whom the Bell Tolls”Pearl Jam


• Spell out the numbers one through nine; for 10 and up, use Arabic numerals.
For ages and percentages, always use Arabic numerals, even for numbers less
than 10.
• Spell out numerals that start a sentence; if the result is awkward, recast the
sentence: Twenty-seven detainees were released yesterday. Yesterday, 993
freshmen entered the college.
• The one exception to this rule is in a sentence that begins with a calendar year:
1938 was a turbulent year for Leon.
• Use Roman numerals for wars, monarchs and Popes: World War II, King
George VI, Pope John XXIII
• The figures 1, 2, 10, 101, and so on and the corresponding words — one, two,
ten, one hundred one and so on — are called cardinal numbers. The terms 1st, 2nd, 10th, 101st, first, second, tenth, one hundred first and so on are called ordinal
• For large numbers: use a hyphen to connect a word ending in y to another
word: twenty-one, one hundred forty-three, seventy-six thousand five hundred
• Do not use commas between other separate words that are part of one number:
one thousand one hundred fifty-five
• Spell out casual expressions: A thousand times no!
• Proper names: use words or numerals according to an organization’s practice:
3M, Twentieth Century Fund, Big Ten
• as a noun, United States: The prime minister left for the United States
• as an adjective, U.S. (no spaces): A U.S. soldier was killed in Baghdad
• as part of organization names (see the AP Stylebook under “U.S.”)
• Spell out the names of the states in text when they appear alone: Wildfires
continued to rage through southern California yesterday.
• Abbreviate them when they appear in conjunction with the name of a city, town,
village or military base: Needham, Mass., Oxnard Air Force Base, Calif.
• Do not abbreviate Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah
(the two states that are not part of the contiguous United States and the states
that are five letters or fewer)

• Place one comma between the city and the state name, and another after the
state name, unless at the end of a sentence or in a dateline (e.g. She traveled
from San Diego, Calif., to go to school in Kansas City, Mo. Now, she’s thinking
of moving to Santa Fe, N.M.)


• Put the city name in CAPITAL LETTERS, usually followed by the state, country
or territory where the city is located.
• Domestic and international large cities stand alone in datelines (see the AP
Stylebook under “datelines” for a complete listing).
• Do not abbreviate Canadian provinces and territories.
• In most cases, use the conventionally accepted short form of a nation’s official
name (e.g. Argentina rather than Republic of Argentina), but there are exceptions.
• Use an article with El Salvador (but not with Gambia, Niger, and so on).
• Within stories: Follow the city name with further identification in most cases
where it is not in the same state or nation as the dateline city.


• Avoid abbreviations: Billy Bob, who has a doctorate in philosophy.
• Use an apostrophe in bachelor’s degree, a master’s, etc.
• There is no apostrophe in Bachelor of Arts or Master of Science.
• Use abbreviations such as B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. only when the need to identify many people by degree on first reference would make the preferred method
cumbersome; use the abbreviations only after a full name and set the
abbreviations off with commas: Samuel Cotton, Ph.D., lectured yesterday on


• Always use Arabic figures, without st, nd, rd or th.
• Capitalize months.
• When a month is used with a specific date, abbreviate only Jan., Feb., Aug.,
Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec. (e.g. Oct. 4 was the day of her birthday.)
• When a phrase lists only a month and year, do not separate the month and the
year with commas. (e.g. February 1980 was his best month.)
• When a phrase refers to a month, day and year, set off the year with commas.
(e.g. Aug. 20, 1964, was the day they had all been waiting for.)


• Use figures except for noon and midnight
• Use a colon to separate hours from minutes (e.g. 2:30 a.m.)
• 4 o’clock is acceptable, but time listings with a.m. or p.m. are preferred


Apostrophe (')

• For plural nouns ending in s, add only an apostrophe: the girls' toys, states' rights.
• For singular common nouns ending in s, add 's: the hostess's invitation, the witness's answer.
• For singular proper names ending in s, use only an apostrophe: Descartes' theories, Kansas' schools.
• For singular proper names ending in s sounds such as x, ce, and z, use 's: Marx's theories, the prince's life.
• For plurals of a single letter, add 's: Mind your p's and q's, the Red Sox defeated the Oakland A's.
• Do not use 's for plurals of numbers, or multiple letter combinations: the 1980s, RBIs

Colon (:)

• Capitalize the first word after a colon only if it is a proper noun or the start of a
complete sentence: He promised this: The company will make good all the
losses. But: There were three considerations: expense, time and feasibility.
• Colons go outside quotation marks unless they are part of the quoted material.

Comma (,)

• Do not put a comma before the conjunction in a simple series: John, Paul,
George and Ringo; red, white and blue.
• Use a comma to set off a person's hometown and age: Jane Doe, Framingham,
was absent. Joe Blow, 34, was arrested yesterday.

Dash (--)

• Make a dash by striking the hyphen key twice. Put a space on either side of the
dash: Smith offered a plan — it was unprecedented — to raise revenues.
• Use a dash after a dateline: SOMERVILLE — The city is broke.

Hyphen (-)

• Use a hyphen for compound adjectives before the noun: well-known actor, full-
time job, 20-year sentence
• Do not use a hyphen when the compound modifier occurs after the verb: The
actor was well known. Her job became full time. He was sentenced to 20 years.
• Do not use a hyphen to denote an abrupt change in a sentence—use a dash.


• The perceived need for parentheses is an indication that your sentence is
becoming contorted. Try to rewrite the sentence, putting the incidental
information in commas, dashes or in another sentence. If you do use
parentheses, follow these guidelines:
• If the material is inside a sentence, place the period outside the parentheses.
• If the parenthetical statement is a complete independent sentence, place the
period inside the parentheses.


• Use a single space after the period at the end of a sentence.
• Do not put a space between initials: C.S. Lewis; G.K. Chesterton.

Quotation marks (“ ”)

• In dialogue, each person’s words are placed in a separate paragraph, with
quotation marks at the beginning and end of each person’s speech.
• Periods and commas always go within quotation marks.
• Dashes, semicolons, question marks and exclamation points go within the
quotation marks when they apply to the quoted material. They go outside when
they apply to the whole sentence.
•Use single marks for quotes within quotes: She said, "He told me, 'I love you.'"


• Of books, computer games, movies, operas, plays, poems, songs,
television programs, lectures, speeches and works of art:

- Put quotation marks around the title.
- Capitalize the first and last words of the title.
- Capitalize the principal words, including all verbs and prepositions and
conjunctions with more than three letters
- Translate a foreign title into English, unless the American public knows
the work by its foreign name: Nietzsche’s “Thus Spake Zarathustra”;
Mozart’s “Magic Flute” BUT “Amores Perros”; “The Bhagavad-Gita.”

• Of newspapers and magazines:

- Do not place in quotation marks.
- Capitalize the in the name if that is the way the publication prefers to
be known.
- Lowercase the before names if listing several publications, some of
which use the as part of the name and some of which do not: Time
Newsweek, the Washington Post, and the New York Times.
- Where location is needed but not part of the official name, use
parentheses: The Huntsville (Ala.) Times, The Toledo (Ohio) Blade.

• Of places:

- The best reference for foreign geographic names is the most recent
edition of “Webster’s New World College Dictionary.” The second-best
reference is the “National Geographic Atlas of the World.”
- Lowercase compass directions: The warm front is moving east.
- Capitalize names of U.S. regions: The Northeast depends on the
Midwest for its food supply.
- The “Middle East” applies to Afghanistan, Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Iraq,
Israel, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South
Yemen, Sudan, Syria, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. The
term is preferable to “Mideast.”

• Of ethnic groups:

- The preferred usage for African Americans is “black.” The term is not
- Preferred usage for Caucasians is “white,” also not capitalized.
- Preferred usage for Asian people is “Asian,” capitalized. Please note
that in British usage the term applies only to people of the Indian
- “American Indian,” capitalized with no hyphen, is preferred over “Native

• Of seasons:

- Lowercase “spring,” “summer,” “fall” and “winter” and derivatives such
as “wintertime” unless part of a formal name: I love Paris in the
springtime; the Winter Olympics.


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Associated Press Style Essentials. WWU Journalism Department Home Page

Quick Associated Press Style Guide. The COM Writing Center Home Page. Retrieved November 13, 2005.


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