By Mia Hays

When referring to percentages in a press release, blog or article, do you write out p-e-r-c-e-n-t-or use the % symbol? How do you refer to military personnel by title? What about state names and their abbreviations? Is the “Deep South” capitalized in an article or is it “deep south”?

Why should you care, anyway?

All of this and much, much more is covered in the Associated Press Stylebook, a must-have work tool for professionals in the public relations and media industries. We can’t live without it. It sets our standard for consistency and plain old good writing.

Picture courtesy of the Associated Press.

Picture courtesy of the Associated Press.

Associated Press style, or more informally known as AP style, is most commonly used by most print journalists and public relations professionals. Birthed from the need to relay news of the Mexican-American War, the Associated Press was created as an independent news organization when six New York City newspapers combined resources, developing a more efficient way to spread news. The Associated Press has since gained momentum and is now the biggest news organization globally, with its news reports and articles read by people all over the world, every day. Through its success, the Associated Press has created its own style of writing that dominates published media.

As editors, writers, and publishers each make their mark on a piece of work, AP style is essential to maintain consistency in writing. Guidelines for AP writing include capitalization, abbreviation, punctuation, spelling, and numerals. Such rules are made with the intent to ensure accuracy, neutrality, brevity, and clarity.

The first AP style guide was published in 1977. As the language we use and our culture change over time, and new words and phrases are introduced into everyday dialogue and writing, the AP style grows and evolves too. After all, we didn’t have words like “Internet” in 1977. The AP adapts.

Like fashion trends, correct names and ways to reference a group, person, place or thing continually change. Therefore, every so often AP guidelines are revised, and a new edition of the AP Stylebook is published annually in the spring.

My advice to you? Pick up a copy of the latest Associated Press manual from Barnes and Noble or order it online. With the interest of specializing in published media, one needs a copy at hand or, at the very least, to be prepared to thoroughly Google the correct AP grammar and style use before publishing.