Associated Press style, or AP Style, are the grammatical rules followed by journalists and many print media outlets in the United States. In my opinion, it's one aspect of print media and the news industry that ought to creep more into business blogging and digital media, although it hasn't crept as quickly as I would have hoped. It's understandable, as only in the last few years have journalists made the leap from traditional media to brand marketing and brand journalism. However, any content creator out to follow the rules of AP style blogging for the sake of consistency, accuracy, and clarity. Here's are some AP rules that apply to online content creation:
Upon first reference, mention the full name and title of the person. Each additional reference should use the last name only. Here's an example from an industry magazine:
John Daws, Owner of Daws Engineering, agreed that nitrogen tire inflation has its benefits for trucking fleets, but specified that this benefit can only be retained if the trucking fleets owns its own tire casings.
“The benefits accrue over time,” Daws said. “The first year the casing is mounted is when there’s the biggest oxygen intrusion.”
It should be noted the use of the title in the first sentence is incorrect. AP style dictates the titles, when following the name of the person, are lower case. Therefore, it should read, "John Daws, owner of Daws Engineering."
Spell out abbreviations and acronyms on first reference. Use the abbreviation or acronym on each additional reference. There are a few acronyms that can be used on first reference, such as AAA, AARP, and NASA. But, other than that, spell it out on first reference to avoid confusion.
Also note that abbreviations and acronyms do not contain the periods in between each letter. It's return on investment, then ROI, not R.O.I.
When using a month with a day, abbreviate the month. Exceptions are March, April, May, June, and July, which are always written out and never abbreviated. When the month stands alone, or is used with a year, spell out the entire month. Example:
Jan. 31, 1988
In general, always spell out numbers zero through nine, and use numerals for numbers 10 and up. These rules will differ under certain circumstances, such as percentages, temperatures, statistics etc. (Since these rules can be tricky, we'll do a blog post just on the AP style of numbers within the next week).
Really large numbers are typically spelled out i.e. one million, one billion. It is also acceptable to use both the numeral and the spelling for clarity's sake i.e eighty-two thousand (82,000).
Note that with the exception of a year, when starting a sentence with a number, that number needs to be spelled out. Example:
2008 was a horrible year for investors.
Thirty-three students showed up to class today.
To indicate time, use the numerals and specify morning or evening. Example:
9 a.m. (nine in the morning is also acceptable, albeit wordy)
6 p.m. (what's not acceptable is 6 p.m. in the evening, as that is redundant. Pick one or the other).
If referencing either 12 p.m. or 12 a.m., it's better to use noon or midnight to avoid confusion. Also note that it's a.m. and p.m., not AM/PM or am/pm.
Understand that this isn't an exhaustive list of AP style blogging rules. We have more rules in the related links, and we will cover more of them in the future.
One last note about AP style blogging: there are very few rules that are optional or up for debate. It's not a matter of preference whether or not you want periods in between the letters in an acronym or in a.m. or p.m. It's not an option to use the percent symbol, unless it's in a headline.