While many companies create “house rules” in a style guide, many often use AP style as the foundation for these writing rules. Target audiences want to see consistent capitalization, grammar, punctuation, and other stylistic choices across all content businesses share.
What is AP Style?
AP style refers to the guidelines we find in the Associated Press Stylebook available digitally and in print. This guide updates continuously to keep up with trends regarding appropriate word choices, usage, and jargon.
Initially, the purpose behind AP style was to help journalists work with space limitations in print publications and prevent costly errors from occurring. In today’s digital age, the adoption of AP style ensures news and other media outlets maintain consistency regarding readability, conciseness, and no biases.
A Short Lesson in AP Style for Bloggers & Content Marketers
Create polished and professional content by sticking to AP style’s fundamental writing guidelines and editing rules. Below are the top lessons bloggers and content marketers should follow regarding AP style:
According to AP style, writers should only use brand names if they’re essential to the content. And, if writers use brand names, always capitalize them.
Example: Sheila’s interview with IBM is at 3:00 PM EST tomorrow.
- Directions: If it’s a compass direction, keep north, south, east, and west lowercase. If you’re referring to a region, use capitalization. (Example: Joseph is from the Northeast but attends a Southern university.)
- Derivatives: If you’re using a word deriving from a proper noun and it depends on it for its meaning, use lowercase letters. (Example: french toast)
- Proper names: If a word accompanies a proper noun describing a person, place, or thing, it requires capitalization. (Example: Republican Party)
- Titles: If a title precedes a person’s name, it requires capitalization. However, if it’s a job description, stick to lowercase. (Example: Phillip R Brangiforte, principal of East Boston High School)
Here’s where many writers experience confusion – proper comma placement. Here are two tips:
- Simple series: AP style says to avoid using a comma before conjunctions. (Example: The pillow’s polka dots are pink, green, and purple.)
- Complex series: Add a comma to separate ideas in a series. (Example: This article discusses the definition of AP style, explains basic writing and editing guidelines, and helps writers and content marketers appropriately apply these rules.)
Here’s another where I see writers writing dates similarly to how they talk. For example, it’s tempting to write August 25th, 2021. However, AP style teaches us to omit the “th” from the number (or the “st,” “nd,” and so on). (Example: On August 25, 2021, the Wall Street Journal reported that Dollar Shave Club hired Kerry Sullivan as CMO.)
Why you need a style guide
Essentially, style guides help ensure a brand’s voice remains consistent no matter where their audience reads their content. Lack of consistency causes distractions and could make companies look unprofessional.
For example, if your company uses multiple contributors, you want their content to follow the same writing guidelines regarding punctuation, tone, style, and more. For example, if you want writers to use formatted H2 subheadings, writers shouldn’t contribute work with bold or unformatted subheadings. Or, if you prefer sentence case for titles instead of title case, you also want writers to maintain that consistency.
Understanding the differences between style guides
Writers typically encounter four styles guides – here are their descriptions and differences:
- AP style: Journalism, blogs, and content marketers use AP style for recommendations regarding grammar, punctuation, spelling, usage, and more.
- Chicago: (Chicago Manual of Style) This style guide is preferred in print publishing houses for fiction and non-fiction work.
- APA style: (American Psychological Association) This style helps with comprehension in scholarly writing. It also shows writers how to use in-text citations, format papers, ethical standards, and more.
- MLA style: (Modern Language Association) Literary criticisms, language studies, and other scholarly works within the humanities segment use MLA style.
AP vs. Chicago Manual of Style: Which Stylebook is Right for You?
AP style is the guide most writers and readers are familiar with but, if you’re an academic writer and your audience is within this field, use the Chicago Manual of Style.
Why do you need a content style guide?
Content style guides ensure all writers on your company’s team or to whom you outsource work maintains consistency regarding writing rules, tones, and more.