The PR Professional’s AP Style Cheat Sheet

For journalists, the Associated Press (AP) Stylebook is the industry “bible.” They live and die by its grammar and style rules, and most have taken numerous journalism school classes to perfect the art of AP style writing. As such, AP style errors in press releases are glaringly obvious to reporters and could turn them off from considering a press release. But mastering the 500-page book, which is updated every year, can be a daunting task.

Below is a list of the top AP style tips that every PR professional should know and some of the most commonly made mistakes to avoid. Although you should always have an AP Stylebook at your desk, consider this your cheat sheet for quick reference.


Only use the abbreviations Ave., Blvd. and St. with a numbered address. Always use figures for a numbered address. Example: His address is 1600 Pike St. He lives on Pike Street.

For street names that are numbers, spell out and capitalize First through Ninth. Use figures with two letters for 10 and above. Example: He lives on Third Avenue. She lives near 10th and 22nd streets.

Spell out Interstate on first reference, then abbreviate. Example: She drove down Interstate 5 to get to work. She also took I-5 when she drove home.


When writing about height, weight or other dimensions, use figures and spell out words such as feet, miles, etc. Examples: She is 5-foot-6. He wrote with a 3-inch pencil.


Hyphenate the words that go together when using adjectives to modify words. For example: energy-efficient products, much-anticipated announcements, long-term relationships. 

Words that end in “–ly” are adverbs and should never be hyphenated.

“More Than” Vs. “Over”

Use “more than” when referring to numbers and “over” when referring to spatial elements. For example: We acquired more than 100,000 customers. The cow jumped over the moon.


Write out numbers one through nine, and use figures for 10 and above. Spell out a number if it starts a sentence unless it’s a year.

For percentages, use numbers and do not use the % symbol. Example: 39 percent.


AP doesn’t like the Oxford comma. Do not use a comma before the last item in a simple series.

Punctuation always goes inside quotation marks. Example: “No exceptions,” I said.

State Abbreviations

AP doesn’t follow standard ZIP code abbreviations. Instead, each state has its own unique abbreviation. For example: Mass. for Massachusetts, N.Y. for New York, Calif. for California, Fla. for Florida, and W. Va for West Virginia. Note that eight states aren’t abbreviated: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah. In addition, omit state abbreviations for well-known U.S. cities (Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Miami, New York, etc.)


Use a colon to separate hours from minutes, but do not use :00. Example: 1 p.m., 3:30 a.m. When referencing a.m. and p.m. always place the periods in this manner.


Formal titles that precede an individual’s name are capitalized. Titles that fall after are lowercase. For example: We clapped when XYZ Co-Founder Joe Bloe cut the ribbon. Patty Smith, director of marketing at XYZ, attended the ceremony as well.

Always give someone’s full name when first introducing them. After the introduction, refer to them by their last name.

This list covers the basics of AP Style, but it’s certainly not comprehensive. If you’re ever unsure about a rule, be sure to break out your book and look it up. You can also download AP StyleGuard[1], a solution that integrates with Microsoft Word and automatically checks your documents for AP style. It may seem trivial, but grammar matters – especially to journalists.

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