Journalism 133: Prof. Craig: AP Style Basics

AP Style Basics


First reference
Use first and last name on first reference. 

Second and subsequent reference
Last name only on second and subsequent reference.

Middle names
Stylebook says: “Use middle names only with people who are publicly known that way (James Earl Jones), or to prevent confusion with people of the same name.” Fullest ID is especially important with criminal suspects.

Courtesy titles
Don’t use courtesy titles (Mr., Mrs., Ms., Miss).


Zero through nine
Spell out “zero” through “nine”: Missoula has one university, three public high schools and two private high schools.

Follow the same rule with ordinals: First, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, 10th.

Figures for 10 and greater
He bought 10 apples, 16 melons, 25 oranges and 250 lemons. Follow the same rule with ordinals: ninth, 10th, 11th, 50th, 100th.

Use figures for percentages, except as the first word of a sentence: The price increased 5 percent. Five percent is the interest rate.

First Word
Spell out numbers as the first word of a sentence. See Stylebook for exceptions.

Spell out numbers used casually: There are hundreds of people. I told him a thousand times. If I had a million dollars.

Use figures for ages: He’s 5 years old. He’s a 5-year-old prodigy. Joe Jones, 65, died Friday.

Spell out fractions less than one: one-half, two-thirds, three-quarters. Use figures for fractions greater than one: 1½ , 2¾ . Convert to decimals when practical: 1.5, 2.75.

Decimals and Dimensions
Use figures for decimals and dimensions: The ore weighed 3.2 tons. He was 6 feet 2 inches tall, making him a 6-foot-2-inch man.


Proper nouns
Capitalize proper nouns: Jule Banville, Canada, Boeing Co., Kettlehouse Cold Smoke, etc.

Formal names
Capitalize common nouns that are part of a formal name: University of Montana. Flathead Lake. Glacier National Park. Republican Party.

Common nouns
Lowercase common nouns in other uses: the national park, a placid lake, his country, federal government, Kettlehouse beer.

Lowercase seasons, except as part of a proper name. J170 is offered in the spring and the fall.

Principal words of titles
Capitalize principal words of titles. Most titles go in quotes: “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.”



AP: Use only the most commonly recognized abbreviations. The most common, such as NASA, FBI, and CIA, can be used on all references. In most cases, however, the stylebook suggests using a generic reference such as the agency or the alliance for all references after the first.

Unfamiliar abbreviations
Don’t put unfamiliar abbreviations in parentheses after the first reference (for example, “The American Copy Editors Society (ACES) …”). Instead either repeat the full name on subsequent references or use a generic reference, such as the society.

Academic degrees
Use an apostrophe and spell out academic degrees: “She holds a bachelor’s degree.” Use abbreviations for degrees only when you need to include a list of credentials after a name; set them off with commas: “Peter White, LL.D., Ph.D., was the keynote speaker.”

Name suffixes
Abbreviate junior or senior directly after a name, with no comma to set it off: Justin Wilson Jr.

Names of U.S. states
Spell out the names of all states when used alone: “He lives in Montana.” Abbreviate state names of seven or more letters when used with a city name, with commas before and after the abbreviation: “Pittsburgh, Pa., is a great weekend getaway spot for people who live in Youngstown, Ohio.” You’ll find the list of acceptable abbreviations under State Names in the stylebook.  Be sure to use the stylebook abbreviations and not the U.S. Postal Service abbreviations for states unless you are providing a full address including ZIP code: “Send contributions to Relief Fund, Box. 185, Pasadena, CA 91030.”

Never abbreviate these:
In writing news stories, never abbreviate:
* The days of the week.
* "Percent" as %.
* "Cents" as ¢.
* "And" as & unless it is an official part of a name.
* Christmas as Xmas.


AP: A formal title generally is one that denotes a scope of authority, professional activity or academic activity: senator, doctor, general, president, chairman, police chief, etc.

Lowercase without the name
Lowercase when used without the name. Examples: The president spoke. The captain died. He is the committee chairman. 

Uppercase before the name
Capitalize the title when it goes before the name. Example: Mayor John Engen.

Lowercase after the name
Lowercase the title when it goes after the name. Example: John Engen, mayor.

When to use commas in titles
Use commas to set off the title when it follows the name: Dick Barrett, state senator from Missoula, introduced the bill.

Lowercase when comma separates a title
Lowercase a title when sentence construction requires a comma separating title before a name: The president of the university, Royce Engstrom, held a press conference.

When to abbreviate
Abbreviate these titles when used before a name: Dr., Gov., Lt. Gov., Rep., Sen. Abbreviate most military and police titles: Gen., Capt., Pvt., Cpl., etc. See Stylebook entry for military titles for complete list.

Informal titles
Lowercase occupational and descriptive titles: janitor Bill Jones, farmer John McDonald, engineer Mary Smith, actress Julia Roberts, etc.


Numbered addresses
Follow the rules for numbers and abbreviate “Street,” “Avenue” and “Boulevard.” Abbreviate compass points using periods. Abbreviate quadrants without periods. 500 Evans Ave., 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., 101 Second St. W., NW 142nd St. 

Addresses without numbers
Spell out and capitalize. Abbreviate compass points: Higgins Avenue, Front Street, E. Fourth Street.

Informal vs. formal
Spell out “drive,” “terrace,” “circle,” “road,” etc. Capitalize if part of a formal name: Big Flat Road, Mullan Road, DuPont Circle.

Use numerals, and spell them out on first reference: Interstate 90, U.S. Highway 93. On second reference: I-90, Highway 93.

Post Office boxes
Use abbreviation with periods, capitalize “Box”: P.O. Box 123.


Dollar signs and decimals
For amounts, use the dollar sign and figures: $5, $100, $1 million.
Use decimals: $1.50, $99.95, etc.
Don’t include decimals for round numbers: It’s $1, NOT $1.00. 
For amounts less than $1, spell out “cents”: 5 cents, 25 cents, 99 cents. 

Days, Time, Months

Spell out days of the week: Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, etc.
Avoid vague references such as “last Friday,” “this Friday,” “next Friday.” If it’s not clear which day you’re referring to, use the date.
Don’t use today, yesterday or tomorrow to refer to time element. (Unless you're writing broadcast.)

Use figures except for noon and midnight. 
Use a colon to separate hours from minutes: 10:15 a.m., 12:30 p.m.
Lowercase “a.m.” and “p.m.,” and use periods: 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 9-11 a.m., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Omit the :00 for top-of-the-hour times: The meeting starts at 7 p.m. I awakened at 8 a.m.
Time generally precedes day: The meeting is set for 7 p.m. Monday. 
When possible, follow this order: time, date, place. The event kicks off 11 a.m. Tuesday in the University Center.

Spell out March, April, May, June and July in all uses.
Spell out all months when used without a date: The election is in November. Hunting season begins in September. The budget proposal is due in May.
Abbreviate January, February, August, September, October, November and December when used with a date: The semester began Aug. 27. His birthday is Oct. 4. The fiscal year ends Sept. 30. 
Spell out the other months with dates: Taxes are due April 15. The meeting is scheduled for May 6.
Use figures WITHOUT st, rd, nd or th for dates: She was born Dec. 3. The wedding is June 21. 
Wrong: Taxes are due April 15th. He resigned Nov. 3rd.
Generally use day or date, not both: The meeting is Sept. 1. The meeting is Saturday. 
Avoid: The meeting is Saturday, Sept. 1.


AP: The names of the 50 U.S. states should be spelled out when used in the body of a story, whether standing alone or in conjunction with a city, town, village or military base. Use the two-letter Postal Service abbreviations only with full addresses, including ZIP code.

Following are the state abbreviations, which also appear in the entries for each state (ZIP code abbreviations in parentheses):

Ala. (AL) Hawaii (HI) Mass. (MA) N.M. (NM) S.D. (SD)
Alaska (AK) Idaho (ID) Mich. (MI) N.Y. (NY) Tenn. (TN)
Ariz. (AZ) Ill. (IL) Minn. (MN) N.C. (NC) Texas (TX)
Ark. (AR) Ind. (IN) Miss. (MS) N.D. (ND) Utah (UT)
Calif. (CA) Iowa (IA) Mo. (MO) Ohio (OH) Vt. (VT)
Colo. (CO) Kan. (KS) Mont. (MT) Okla. (OK) Va. (VA)
Conn. (CT) Ky. (KY) Neb. (NE) Ore. (OR) Wash. (WA)
Del. (DE) La. (LA) Nev. (NV) Pa. (PA) W.Va. (WV)
Fla. (FL) Maine (ME) N.H. (NH) R.I. (RI) Wis. (WI)
Ga. (GA) Md. (MD) N.J. (NJ) S.C. (SC) Wyo. (WY)

Lowercase directions
Lowercase directions: “north,” “south,” “east,” “west,” “northwestern,” etc.: Lake County is north of Missoula County. Plentywood is in Montana’s northeastern corner.

Capitalize when referring to specific region: Montana is in the West. Mississippi is in the South. Also: Westerner, Southerner. Hollywood makes Western movies, but some musicians sing country western music.

Recognized vs. Informal
Capitalize recognized geographic areas but not informal ones: Southern California is capitalized but western Montana isn’t.


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