As a vibrant member of the journalist turned PR (semi-quasi-trying to be) professional, I know a thing or two about AP Style. Whether it was through my cutthroat journalism program at the University of Florida or during my reporting days at Newsweek and The Daily Beast, I had that wonderful, yet frustratingly ever-changing, AP Stylebook figuratively beaten over my head many times.
Now, transitioning into the public relations universe I’ll find myself muttering at my desk every so often about how “email” is not hyphenated or how dumpster USED to be capitalized (ever-changing, I told you). It’s both a blessing and a curse, but now I’d like to share my curse with you and I’d like to go beyond the lack of serial commas, proper time and date format (Nov. 4 at 3 p.m. FYI) and how you should really stop trying to make Facebook two words.
So, I present to you, 5 AP Style rules you may not know
• Food is just weird
Always look up all foods. Why? Get ready for these. The “Foster” and “Wellington” in bananas Foster and beef Wellington are both capitalized. Hyphenate bread-and-butter pickles. Capitalize “Brie” in all uses. It’s “Brussels sprouts.” It’s Champagne, but then it’s also chardonnay. Is my point clear yet? Always look it up. Some of them have some really interesting reasons behind why they are they way they, well, are, too.
• It’s chairman and chairwoman and never chairperson.
The same applies to spokeswoman and spokesman. It’s never spokesperson. If you do not know the gender of the person, use the word representative. For chairman or chairwoman, never just shorten to chair, either, unless that is the organizations official title for the person.
• All of those stores
This is something that can be solved most of the time with a simple Google search if you don’t have the time to whip out your handy AP Stylebook. People, in speaking, have a tendency to make everything plural or possessive and say “Nordstrom’s” instead of simply “Nordstrom.” Here are some quick hits: Gap Inc., Tiffany & Co., Macy’s Inc., Neiman Marcus Inc., Saks Fifth Avenue Inc. and Barneys New York. Also, just while we are on the subject. It’s T-shirt. Not tshirt, t-Shirt or any other millions of ways I’ve seen flying around out there.
• Hyphens are confusing. Do not trust them.
If you ever think something could be hyphenated, please check it out. If you think it couldn’t be hyphenated, hey, still check it out. Cellphone, for instance, is one word. I’ve seen it hyphened or more often it’s two words. Carry-on? Hyphenated. 7-Eleven? (The store kind not the Beyoncé kind) Hyphenated.
• Internet is still capitalized
Why? Don’t ask me. But it is.
Bonus tips? Towards and amongst are not words. Please stop using them. Also, take the time to learn the difference between podium and lectern. A podium is not what you think it is.
I am sure I don’t have to tell you why it’s so important to follow AP Style as best as you can. In the past, when I’d receive a pitch from a public relations professional, before I was one, if I saw even one part of the release that wasn’t in AP Style I’d be a little miffed. It’s much easier to sell perfection to someone, even if they aren’t looking for it, than something they have to spend hours fixing.
So get it right the first time, go the extra mile and all of the other cliché “go above and beyond” sayings there are out there. This could be the difference between getting your story placed and getting it sent to the spam folder.