AP Stylebook – The Only Constant is Change

Recent changes to the Associated Press Stylebook have surprised the industry it governs. Much to the dismay of many traditional journalistic writers and grammar purists, last month the Associated Press declared that “over” is now an acceptable substitute for “more than” when indicating greater numerical value. Apparently the AP had more change in store.

Effective today, May 1, the Associated Press will spell out names of states in stories. The change is said to increase consistency and efficiency for international stories, as state names have been spelled out in those texts for years.

The official entry in the Stylebook is as follows:

“SPELL OUT: 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. No state name is necessary if it is the same as the dateline. This also applies to newspapers cited in a story. For example, a story datelined Providence, R.I., would reference the Providence Journal, not the Providence (R.I.) Journal. See datelines.”

State abbreviations will continue to be used in the following cases:

  • Datelines
  • Photo captions
  • Lists, agate, tabular material, nonpublishable editor’s notes and credit lines
  • Short-form identification of political party affiliation (EXAMPLE: D-Ala., R-Mont.)

As with any AP Style rule, there are a host of exceptions and deviations. See the full text of the rule issued by the AP and published by Poynter here.

Just when you think you know the Stylebook from cover to cover, the AP serves up a curve ball. As public relations professionals, we must constantly monitor for industry wide changes and adapt our writing to adhere to new journalistic standards.



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