Common AP Style Errors
The AP Stylebook sets forth the rules of writing for the news industry. For those of us writing for and pitching news to reporters, it’s important to know and follow their style. This is particularly true as newsrooms continue to become leaner than ever before, with even less time – not to mention tolerance – for reformatting our material for us.
Do you need to brush up on your AP style? Here are some of the most common errors I regularly observe.
1. It’s Internet, not internet. You should capitalize Internet, just as you should capitalize World Wide Web. Upon second reference, the Net and the Web are acceptable. But don’t confuse the two, because Internet and World Wide Web aren’t synonymous. The Web exists on the Internet, just as other applications, like email, exist on the Internet. In regard to related terms, it’s intranet and website, webcam, webcast and webmaster, but Web page and Web feed. Is there an easy way to remember this? Not really, but as you practice using these terms correctly, you’ll learn.
2. Titles are capitalized when used directly before a person’s name, such as Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg. When the title follows the name, it is not capitalized and is set off by commas, such as Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer.
3. State abbreviations in AP style are not the postal codes used when you mail a letter. It’s Nashville, Tenn., not Nashville, TN. Years ago I photocopied the list of state abbreviations from my stylebook and it always occupies a spot in the corner of my office bulletin board for quick reference.
4. Over v. more than. Over refers to spatial relationships: The clock hangs over the mantle. More than is preferred with numerals: There were more than 1,000 people at the event. They raised more than $1 million.
5. Write out numbers up to nine and use numerals for 10 and above.
I could go on and write about at least five or six common more AP style mistakes, but I only have 24 hours in a day and 15 other things I need to get done!