Have you ever listened to any beautiful piece of music that sounded so good, you played it repeatedly? One of the key factors that contribute to the melody of a song is harmony. When there is harmony, the song will often turn out right.

The same goes in writing. For your writing to be perfect, it has to follow a pattern consistently. No matter how talented a writer you are, if you write without following a pattern or writing style, you stand the risk of having a disorganized work that will quickly kill the interest of most readers.

Presently there are various writing styles available, but one that easily stands out is the AP writing style. It is the most or commonly accepted writing style among journalists, media outlets, etc. It stands out because of its uniqueness, and how easy it makes reading comprehension.

However, like most systems, the AP writing style could pose a challenge to master. This article will be offering you an easy way to make your work AP style compliant, without stress. Before we go into that, we will first discuss some basic things about the AP style that you should be aware of. Here we go!

What is the AP Style?

The AP writing style is a pattern of writing that specifies how key details in your write –up should be written. These details include Ages, dates, numbers, acronyms, etc. The AP writing style stems from the book – “The Associated Press stylebook and Briefing on Media Law” (1953).

This book isthe official style guide of the Associated Press (a non-profit news agency established in 1846), andis often been used by news organizations, magazines, and websites, etc. It has also been used by some brands as a basis to form their own style guides.

The AP writing style guide follows the American-English grammar, punctuation and principles of reporting, including some definitions and rules for usage and styles for abbreviation, capitalization, spelling and numerals.

Interestingly, this style guide is reviewed every year, making it necessary to constantly look out for changes in the rules.

Who Uses the AP Style?

Journalists uses the Associated Press writing style majorly. However, they are not alone in the use of the AP style. The following professionals still make use of the AP style:

  • Editors.
  • PR Professionals.
  • Marketers.

How to Denote Ages

When writing a person’s age, the AP style recommends to always use numerals. When using age as an adjective (that is using a person’s age to describe him), then use hyphens. Find below some examples:

The 17-year-old was commended for his bravery.

Ritchie is 20 years old.

Abbreviations and Acronyms

In AP writing style, we use abbreviations for well known organizations. For example:


“FIFA has released the football calendar for 2021”.

When writing about organizations that are not popular, spell out their full names on first mention, then use abbreviations for subsequent mentions. A quick example:

“The Nigerian Football Federation has announced the amount of money donated by Fans”.

In cases where people are less likely to understand an abbreviation, then spell out the full name each time you refer to the organization.

Abbreviations for Formal Titles

The AP style recommends that formal titles should be abbreviated. Political, medical, etc. titles should be abbreviated and placed before the names of the person bearing them (the titles). Some examples are:

  • Political titles: Sen. Hillary Clinton, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, etc.
  • Medical titles: Dr. Ben Carson.

Follow the above examples when writing political titles and medical titles, etc.

Citiesthat should be spelt fully

According to the AP style of writing, some cities are very popular, so they should be spelt out fully. These cities are in two categories – cities in USA and international cities. The cities that fall into this category are as follows:

USA Cities:

Cleveland Dallas Indianapolis
Cincinnati Denver Las Vegas
Chicago Detroit Los Angeles
Boston Honolulu Miami
Atlanta Baltimore Houston Milwaukee
Minneapolis St. Louis Washington
New Orleans Salt Lake City  
New York San Antonio  
Oklahoma City San Diego  
Philadelphia San Francisco  
Phoenix Seattle  

International Cities

Amsterdam Baghdad Bangkok Beijing
Beirut Berlin Brussels Cairo
Djibouti Dublin Geneva Gibraltar
Guatemala City Havana Helsinki Hong Kong
Islamabad Mexico City Milan Monaco
Montreal Moscow Munich New Delhi
Panama City Paris Prague Quebec City
Rio De Janeiro Rome San Marino Sao Paulo
Shanghai Singapore Istanbul Jerusalem
Johannesburg Kuwait City London Luxembourg
Macau Madrid Stockholm Sydney
Tokyo Toronto Vatican City Vienna

How to Format State Abbreviations

The AP Style has a specific format for abbreviating states in the United States of America. This is a comprehensive list of them:

Alabama: Ala. Arizona: Ariz. Arkansas: Ark. California: Calif.
Colorado: Colo. Connecticut: Conn. Delaware: Del. Florida: Fla.
Georgia: Ga. Illinois: Ill. Indiana: Ind. Kansas: Kan.
Kentucky: Ky. Louisiana: La. Maryland: Md. Massachusetts: Mass.
Michigan: Mich. Minnesota: Minn. Mississippi: Miss. Missouri: Mo.
Montana: Mont. Nebraska: Neb. Nevada: Nev. New Hampshire: N.H.
New Jersey: N.J. New Mexico: N.M. New York: N.Y. North Carolina: N.C.
North Dakota: N.D. Oklahoma: Okla. Oregon: Ore. Pennsylvania: Pa.
Rhode Island: R.I. South Carolina: S.C. South Dakota: S.D. Tennessee: Tenn.
Virginia: Va. Vermont: Vt. Washington: Wash. West Virginia: W. Va.
Wisconsin: Wis. Wyoming: Wyo.    

Formatting Dates and Time in AP Style

Formatting dates, days, months, years and time follows this format in AP style:

  • Dates: Follow this format: Monday (day), July 1 (month + date), 2018 (year), that is Monday, July 1, 2018.
  • Times: Do not use colons for times on the hour. Example: 9 a.m., 4:16 p.m.
  • Days: Do not usest., th., and rd. Simply write only the number. For example, September 3, not September 3rd.
  • Months: Abbreviate months with a long spelling (Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec.) when writing out a specific date. Spell out the names of months when not used to indicate a specific date. Example: Sept. 3, 2018.
  • Years: Use numerals when writing them rather than spelling them out. Example: 2020, not twenty-twenty.
  • When writing time, a.m. and p.m. should use periods and lower case letters.
  • Never say yesterday, when referring to the past. Instead, use the day of the week.

Writing Datelines

When writing your date line in a news article using the AP Style, first write the location, month, date, and then the year the story took place. If the story happened in a US location, include the name of the city and the state if necessary, in your dateline. Find below some examples:

  • Cairo (June 12, 2019).
  • Monaco (Dec. 3, 2018).

Formatting Rules for Numbers

This writing style stipulates to spell out numbers form one to nine, and use numerals/digits for numbers 10 and above. However, there are exceptions to this rule. You should always use numerals when writing the following:

  • Addresses
  • Ages
  • Monetary values.
  • Dates and times.
  • Sizes and dimensions.
  • Percent.
  • Speeds.
  • Temperatures.

When Roman numerals are used?

When referring to the sequence of events or people, feel free to use the Roman numerals. For example:

  • Super bowlXX.
  • World War II.

Writing Percentages

Always spell out the word “percent”, whenever you have the need to refer to it. For example:

  • The politician promised a 20 percent reduction in taxes.

Sentences with Years

Never start a sentence with a number, unless you are referencing a year. For instance:

  • 2018 was the year France won her most recent football trophy.

Sizes, Dimensions, and Distances

When writing out sizes, dimensions, and dimensions, use digits and then spell out units of measurement. For example:

  • The spade is 5 feet long.
  • Peter and his friends walked 3 miles to see the game.

Punctuation in AP Style

As you may have noticed so far, the AP style has its unique style of writing which may be different from what you are familiar with. This applies to its punctuation rules as well. They are as follows:

  • General Punctuation
    • Use a single space after a period.
    • Commas should go inside quotation marks.
  • Serial Commas: Commas are not included before conjunctions when writing in AP style. However, they could be used to separate items on a list. For example
    • He was given a book, a pen, a pencil, and a wristwatch.
  • Using Periods: Apart from being used to indicate the end of a sentence, it is also used to indicate an abbreviation. For example:
    • Sen. Hillary Clinton lost the US presidential election in 2016.
  • Singular Nouns Ending with “s”: When a singular noun ends with an “s”, add an apostrophe at the end of the spelling. As in:
    • He is James’ best friend.

Writing Peoples Names:

When writing a person’s name the first time, write both their first and last name. Subsequently (in the same article), use only their last name to refer to them.

Using Hyphens

Hyphens should only be used to connect words in compound adjectives. Example:

  • James is a part-time worker.

Writing Quotes

Take note of the following when writing quotes:

  • Periods and commas should always go within quotation marks.
  • Use single quotations for quotes within quotes.


“The bowl of soup spilled all over the floor,” said my sister. “It’s a real ‘messy situation’ in the kitchen.”

Writing Books, Movies and Song Titles

When writing out the title of books, movies or a song, use quotation marks. Doing it any other way is unacceptable in AP style. For example:

  • It turned out that “Total Recall” was not a documentary.

Other Considerations

  • Do not capitalize job titles before names.
  • Capitalize formal titles before people’s names.

AP Style Tools and Apps

With so many rules to follow with the AP writing style, it is refreshing to know that there are apps available to help you keep your articles AP compliant. Here are a few available:

  • AP Lingofy (Browser Extension) at store.apstylebook.com/ap-lingofy-for-web-browsers/ap-lingofy.html
  • AP Style Guard (Desktop App) at www.style-guard.com/styleguardforoffice.aspx
  • AP Style Dates and Times (WordPress Plugin) at https://wordpress.org/plugins/ap-style-dates-and-times/

This Article by no means exhausts the AP writing stylebook. It however captures key points that can help you master the AP writing style in a short while.

As the title hints, you could use this as a checklist to ensure that your work is AP Style compliant.

Feel free to check out the apps and tools listed above, as they will help you eliminate human errors and ensure your articles are fully AP style compliant.