PR writing in focus: The ABCs of AP style

by | Jul 6, 2018 | Public Relations

Does it drive you crazy when you see EST during daylight saving time? Or when someone mentions daylight savings time? You and I clearly share a love for AP style.

Two of the most common cringe-worthy errors that come across my desk?


  • Correct: 9 a.m.
  • Incorrect: 9am, 9AM, 9:00 a.m.


  • Correct: Director of Sales Jane Smith or Jane Smith, director of sales
  • Incorrect: Jane Smith, Director of Sales and director of sales, Jane Smith
  • (Commas, capitalization and more – I can’t!)

I fell in love with the written word—factual, not fiction—in college, thanks to professors Dr. Eileen Wirth and Dr. Carol Zuegner at my alma mater, Creighton University, where my public relations major sat within the Department of Journalism and Mass Communications (now known as the Department of Journalism, Media and Computing). I had no idea then that all those late Wednesday nights (which usually rolled well into Thursdays) working to get The Creightonian shipped to the printer, and earning my bachelor’s degree in journalism, would be so helpful on a daily basis in the world of public relations.

When it comes to putting pen to paper, I prefer dealing in facts and the objectivity that comes along with professional or academic, as opposed to creative, writing. Composition style aside, a public relations industry-wide acceptance for and adherence to AP style provides an expectation of high-quality writing. Clients will receive clean and consistent work—and journalists appreciate it, too.

Another thing I love about AP style is just when you think you have it all figured out, the rules change.

The “AP Stylebook” is not a dust-covered tired tome sitting at the back of your office bookshelf. It’s dynamic and constantly amended to reflect the condition of the world’s ethos. There is a new edition issued each year, and political and cultural conversations help to shape the book’s evolution. New additions to the 2018 edition range from simple (emoji is used in both single and plural instances) to complex (how and when to use “unborn baby,” “unborn child” or “fetus”).

At Hollywood Agency, we have the two most current editions at our reception desk so everyone has access to them for reference. Let’s face it, my tabbed and dog-eared edition is just a little dated at this point, but I can’t bring myself to get rid of it. We’ve had 20 great years together.

If you don’t have a hard copy of the “AP Stylebook,” here are some sites I’ve found to be helpful when looking for commonly-searched AP style questions:

Last, but not least, don’t forget to follow AP Stylebook on Twitter at @APStylebook.

To purchase a 2018 edition, click here.

This post originally appeared on Hollywood Agency’s Backstage blog.

Monica Higgins
Monica Higgins is an Account Director at Hollywood Agency in Boston.


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