In the world of Public Relations, image is everything. And whether it’s in a press release, on a blog, or just your latest tweet, how you write is important. AP style is different than the writing styles we learn in high school or even the first few years of college. But being able to write well and keep your AP style correct is a skill that is invaluable in the PR world. Some of the common mistakes that we make with AP style are made out of habit. Others are made because we got lazy or didn’t properly proofread. But no matter the reason, those simple mistakes can be a big problem. Here are the top 10 most commonly made AP style mistakes, according to ragan.com:
1. More than, over. More than is preferred with numbers, whereas over generally refers to spatial elements. The company has more than 25 employees. The cow jumped over the moon.
2. State abbreviations. AP doesn’t follow standard ZIP code abbreviations—e.g., MA for Massachusetts. Each state has its own abbreviation—e.g., Mass. for Massachusetts; N.Y. for New York; Calif. for California; Fla. for Florida, and so on. However, eight states—Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas, and Utah—aren’t abbreviated in datelines or text. Omit state abbreviations in datelines for well-known U.S. cities such as Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco, etc.
3. Titles. Capitalize formal titles only when they precede an individual’s name. If it falls after the name, make it lowercase. Mayor John Appleseed signed the proclamation; John Appleseed, mayor of Leominster, Mass., attended the banquet.
4. Numbers. Write out numbers one through nine; use figures for 10 and higher. Jodie bought three apples, six pears, and 12 mangoes. For percentages, use numerals with “percent,” not “%.”
5. Because, since. Use because to denote a specific cause/effect relationship: I went because I was told. Since is acceptable in casual senses when the first event in a sequence leads logically to the second, but wasn’t its direct cause.They went to the show, since they had been given tickets. A good tip is to use since for time elements. Since the product’s 2010 launch, it has sold more than 1 million copies.
6. Months and seasons. When using a month with a specific date, abbreviate only Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec., and spell out when using alone or with just a year. Hint: The months never abbreviated fall chronologically and are five letters or fewer—March, April, May, June, July. The seasons—winter, spring, summer, fall—are never capitalized.
7. Toward. Toward never ends in an s, same for forward, backward, upward, downward, etc.
8. Farther, further. Farther refers to physical distance. John walked farther than Jane. Further refers to an extension of time or degree. She will look further into the problem.
9. Street addresses. Street, avenue, and boulevard are abbreviated only when part of a numbered address. Road and other related causeways such as court, drive, lane, way, etc. aren’t abbreviated. 123 Public Relations Blvd., 12 Brady St., 26 Media Ave., 1 Championship Road.
10. Composition titles. Magazine and newspaper titles aren’t italicized, just capitalized. For composition titles such as books, video games, films, TV shows, works of art, speeches, etc., use quotation marks. She read The New York Times before she watched “Inception” and “Friends.” My favorite book is “The Kite Runner.”
As you can see, many of these are not just AP mistakes, but English language mistakes as well. It is important to not only proofread your own work but also have someone else proofread it. AP style changes in order to stay current with the trends. Keep a current (within the last few years) stylebook on hand and reference it if you’re ever unsure.
Remember that just like anything you learn, it can be difficult at first but keep at it and pretty soon it will be second nature. Another great resource to stay current is to follow @APstylebook on twitter.