By Rose Strong
So often we hear about content being king. The creation of content for press releases, websites, blogs, industry publications, eNewsletters and the like is all part of that royalty. You need to create as much of it as you can and use it to your advantage.
However, there’s so much to consider when writing content in any industry. Thinking about search engine optimization (SEO), being clear in your message, knowing and reaching your target audience, and determining what standardized writing style guide to follow can all be very baffling.
Furia Rubel follows the guidelines in the Associated Press Stylebook and uses AP style for our writing unless a client has usage or terms specific to their industry. AP style is a standard reference against which all news writing is gauged. It is a standardization that promotes ease of reading and comprehension.
NOTE: Many examples of AP style included here have been taken from internet sources and checked for accuracy. Since the AP style online version is a paid subscription, hyperlinks won’t show unless you are a subscriber. Some others are just written out as per the guidelines in the Associated Press Stylebook.
Although there are other style guides such as The Chicago Manual of Style or The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage, most news media outlets use AP style in their publications. When Furia Rubel receives an article or blog from our clients, we edit and make corrections according to AP style. We always proofread for the clients since most people shouldn’t proofread their own work – only fresh eyes will find the errors. Even this blog was proofread by someone else in the Furia Rubel office and edited for AP style. We sometimes need to explain this to clients when we send the content back for final approval, as they’re not always aware of the style we use and why we use it.
Regardless if it’s a website, a blog or your electronic newsletter, sticking to the same style throughout your writing is good for both consistency and for anyone in the media reading your content looking for source information, a quote to use in their article, or a possible reprint for their own publication.
Making less work for an editor of a publication is very appealing and you’ll have a higher chance of someone using your writing if they don’t have to rewrite or make numerous corrections to fit their publication’s style.
Common AP Style Challenges to Avoid
Here are eight AP style rules that are frequently used incorrectly:
- Take the use of the percent symbol. We often want to use it as a shortcut when writing figures for a financial organization or quoting statistics. The percent symbol doesn’t come through all computers the same. AP style uses the word percent in every instance.
- Another item that often needs correcting is the use of “quotation marks,” which AP style frowns upon unless used for actual quotes by someone speaking or if there is an unfamiliar term used in the content. For further information on quotation marks click here.
- In addition to the above, the use of capitalization can be a difficult one to swerve around. Some clients prefer to have their titles or certain words particular to their organization capitalized, however, there are some clear rules about the use.
- Acronyms can be challenging to manage when you’re writing something that includes studies or quotes from organizations and government agencies. AP style advises to avoid alphabet soup. Remember, your reader may not recognize an acronym, so you should spell it out. In all uses the official name or what the acronym stands for should be written out in the first instance and then can be used as an acronym in any occurrence thereafter. For example, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- Writing titles can be tricky. Formal titles written out before the person’s name are capitalized, but if written out after a person’s name they ought to be lowercase. Both sentences below are correct.
- Furia Rubel’s President Gina Rubel started the company 15 years ago.
- Gina Rubel, president of Furia Rubel, has been owner of the agency for 15 years.
- A recent change by the editors of AP style now makes it standard to write the names of states and commonwealths in full without abbreviations in all instances. However, cities that are widely known do not have to be followed by their home state or commonwealth name, such as Philadelphia, Seattle, Los Angeles, New York City, Memphis, New Orleans, Atlanta, Detroit, Houston, Miami, Las Vegas, and several others.
- Numerals are another hurdle to jump when writing and following any style guide. Be sure to check usage, but typically, you’d spell out numbers zero to nine. From 10 and above you would write the numerals.
- Using the word over vs. the term more than – although the Associated Press Stylebook has succumbed to the pressure and says either is acceptable, they are not acceptable here at Furia Rubel. We’re a bit old fashioned that way and consider the word over to be a verb describing an action and will use the term more than to express numerals.
The Associated Press Stylebook is updated and published each spring, so be sure you keep up-to-date. The 2018 Stylebook included almost 200 new and updated entries since the publication of the 2017 edition. There are sure to be more changes in the 2019 version. With your Associated Press Stylebook subscription, you can test your knowledge of AP style by taking AP style quizzes. Let us know how you do!