The Basics of AP Style

What is AP style?

AP style, or Associated Press style, is the writing style guide used by the Associated Press. It is a standardized way of writing created and maintained by the Associated Press, a long standing authority within the news world.

Each year the Associated Press publishes an updated version of The Associated Press Stylebook. Many of the main style aspects remain the same, but each year there are small edits, additions and subtractions to the way that AP style is used. The stylebook is a useful reference to have, especially when unsure how to treat specific words and ideas within writing.


Who can benefit from using AP style?


AP Style is a necessity for journalists and those in the news industry. Public relations professionals writing press releases should know AP style as well because they work closely with newspapers, but essentially AP style can be useful to anyone.

Many businesses and companies will use a writing style guide to create a common writing style for their communications. Some of them even use AP style, so learning the basics is a perfect idea. It also makes a good starting point for knowing how to use a style guide, regardless of whether you end up using AP style regularly or use another style guide during your career.


What parts of AP style do I need to know?

There is a lot that is included in AP style, and much more than can be covered in a simple blog post. However, knowing some the basics of AP style can get you started. Here are 10 basics of AP style that are most common and most useful:


In general, spell out numbers one through nine and use figures for numbers 10 and above. Numbers that are two words are connected with a hyphen.


Ariana has six dolls that she plays with regularly.

There are twenty-six stops on Leslie’s regular bus route.


Always use figures instead of spelling out ages. Use hyphens for ages that are used as adjectives before a noun or that substitute a noun.


Ryan is 7 years old.

The 12-year-old boy is living with his grandparents.


Use figures in specifying time except for “noon” and “midnight.” Use a colon to separate hours from minutes, and use “a.m.” and “p.m.” rather than using “o’clock.” The abbreviations for “a.m.” and “p.m.” are lowercase letters with periods after each letter.


We eat lunch at noon every day.

The supervisor meeting is at 9 a.m. on Tuesday.


Always use figures without the additions of “st,” “nd,” “rd” or “th.”

In all cases, capitalize the names of months. Only abbreviate the months Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., and Dec. when used with a date. Spell out months when using alone or with a year. When dates contain the month, day, and year, place the year within commas.


The Annual General Meeting is always held on the second weekend in November.

Many couples celebrate their relationships on Feb. 14, also known as Valentine’s Day.

Cameron is counting down the days to Dec. 16, 2016, which is the last day of classes for the fall semester.


Do not capitalize seasons unless they are a part of a formal name.


Hector said that fall is his favorite season.

The 2018 Winter Olympics will be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea.


Use figures for percentages. Percent is spelled out and the symbol is not used. For a range, spell out the middle word rather than using a hyphen.


The professor said that 80 percent of the class passed the exam.

Between 15 and 20 percent of employees will be selected for a random performance evaluation.


Only use street abbreviations (Ave., Blvd., St.) with a numbered address. Spell them out and capitalize when a street name is referenced without a number. Spell it out and leave it lowercase when used alone or with more than one street name. Similar words such as “drive,” “alley,” “road,” etc. are always spelled out.

Always use figures for an address number, and capitalize and spell out First through Ninth when used as street names, use figures for 10th and above.

Abbreviate compass points on a street except for when there is no number included.


The president of the United States lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

The local park is located on Falcon Boulevard.

The location for the party is 1234 W. Grandison Drive.

Dollar Amounts

Use figures and a $ sign in all references to specific dollar amounts below $999,999.

For amounts over $1 million, use up to two decimal places, and do not put a hyphen before the word “million.”


Rachel borrowed $50 from Vicki for car repairs.

The estimated cost of the business renovation is $2.36 million.

Job Titles

Job titles are capitalized only if directly preceding the name of the person who holds that title. Titles that come before a name that if offset by commas or that do not come before a name are not capitalized.


President Frank Thomas will speak about the company’s expected earnings in a press conference Wednesday.

The current vice president, Joe Biden, was born in Scranton Pennsylvania.

Composition Titles

Capitalize the main words in a title and put quotations around the title, except for the Bible and books that are primarily reference materials. This includes book titles, magazine titles, movie titles, poem titles, song titles, etc.


Selena’s favorite novel is “Of Mice and Men.”

Lin Manuel-Miranda’s hit musical, “Hamilton,” follows the story of founding father Alexander Hamilton.


Do you use AP style? What do you think is the most important rule of AP style?

Alisa Scott

I’m Alisa Scott, a digital content developer intern for The Visual Communication Guy. I am a communication major with a minor in English. I enjoy visual communication, design, writing, social media, advertising and public relations. Although I'm still undecided on what I want to be when I grow up, I am currently aspiring to work in public relations.