AP Style Cheat Sheet


It is the Associated Press style is the preferred style for news writing and journalism. It also covers magazine writing, as well. This is because the AP Style (as it’s referred to in the trade) differs from The New York Times style or the Chicago Manual of Style. If you’re new to writing news and/or switching from one style to another, be sure to keep the AP cheat sheet on hand or refer back to it whenever you’re in doubt.

Abbreviating Words

These are the guidelines for common abbreviations based on AP style:

  • Make sure to use only abbreviations that are most frequently used: The most common,–such as NASA, FBI, and CIA, can be used for any reference. Some lesser-known but frequent ones–like OSHA and NATO, can be used after spelling the entire name of the initial mention. Most of the time the stylebook suggests making use of a generic term like “the agency” or “the alliance” or “the alliance” for any references that follow the initial.
  • Do not put abbreviations that are unfamiliar within parentheses following the initial mention: “The American Copy Editors Society (ACES) for instance, can be used in full on subsequent references, or replaced with a generic reference, like “the society.”
  • Make use of an apostrophe, and write out the academic degrees like: “She holds a bachelor’s degree.” Use abbreviations for degrees only if you must provide a list of credentials following a name. start them with the commas “Peter White, LL.D., Ph.D., was the keynote speaker.”
  • Abbreviate senior or junior immediately following a name, with no comma before it to start it off: “Justin Wilson Jr.”
  • Make the names of every state when used in isolation: “He lives in Montana.” Abbreviate states with 7 or more letters when combined when paired with a city’s name using commas prior to and after the abbreviation “Pittsburgh, Pa., is a great weekend getaway spot for people who live in Youngstown, Ohio.” The listing of abbreviations that are acceptable in the section the heading State Names within the book as well as an electronic version of AP Stylebook.
  • Make sure you use abbreviations from the stylebook, don’t use U.S. Postal Service abbreviations for states There is an exception in the case if you’re providing the full address, which includes the ZIP codes: “Send contributions to Relief Fund, Box 185, Pasadena, CA 91030”.
  • spell out the name of a month if it is not accompanied by an exact date. For example: “August is hot enough to travel in Florida.” Shorten months with more than six letters, if they’re associated with a specific date like “Sept. 28.” Always spell out the months that have five or fewer letters, such as “May 15.” The list of abbreviations that are preferred in the section months within the AP Stylebook.
  • Make sure to spell out titles that are used in isolation: “She was the first female senator from the state of her birth.” Capitalize and abbreviate the majority of titles when they appear directly prior to a name “Sen. Boxer asked tough questions of Rice.” For a way to find out whether a title is abbreviated and not capitalized, look up an entry inside the AP Stylebook or check the list of titles under titles.
  • Create titles using names in direct quotes: The exceptions are Dr. or Mr. and Mrs. “Governor Pawlenty is obviously no Jesse Ventura,” she stated.
  • Use the street’s generic names (avenue north, ave, road) in cases where no address is specified: “The festival will be held on South Charles Street.” If the name is used abbreviate avenue (Ave.) boulevard (Blvd. ) street (St.) as well as the directional elements of street names: “The suspect was identified as Michael Shawn of 1512 N. Mission St.”
  • When writing news stories, do not reduce the word “news” :
    • Each day of the week
    • Percent as %
    • Cents as C/
    • “And” is the word “and,” unless the symbol and is an official part of the name
    • Christmas as Xmas


The AP Stylebook uses what’s known as downstyle, which means that words are capitalized unless the rule requires capitalization of the word. If you are unable to find an appropriate rule to capitalize any word in the Stylebook make sure to use lowercase. The most well-known guidelines for capitalization are

  • Capitalize common nouns, such as river, party, or street when it is part of the proper title for a location or thing, or individual: For example, the Libertarian Party, the Ohio River. Lowercase these commonly used nouns when used as a stand-alone or in later references: “The party did not have a candidate for president,” “She nearly drowned in the river.” Lowercase all plural references to common nouns, such as The Libertarian as well as the Green parties as well as for instance, the Monongahela as well as the Ohio rivers.
  • Reduce the name of each season, unless they are used under an official name, such as The Summer Olympics.
  • Use capital letters for”room,” or “room” only when it is used in conjunction with the number of the room or it is part of the name of the room that is designated as such: Room 315 or the Lincoln Room.
  • Low-case directional indicators: The exception is when they are referring to specific geographical regions or popular names for these regions. For instance, “the Northeast” or “the Midwest. 
  • formal titles that appear as a whole or in conjunction with names: In the latter situation, they should be separated with commas. The formal titles should be capitalized if they appear immediately before the name “The students were delighted when they heard they would meet President Obama.” Do not make job descriptions capitalized: the shortstop or police officers attorney, etc.


This AP Stylebook entry on numerals appears to be deceptively brief. If you look closely, you will find plenty of rules hidden within the cross-references. Most commonly, they are:

  • It is generally recommended to you should spell out the numbers 1 through 9: Use figures for numbers 10 to up. However, there are a variety of variations that require figures. Many but not all use measurement units.

Common exceptions are:

  • Addresses: 7 Park Place
  • Ages are not applicable to non-animated things: The 4-year-old cat and the car that is four years old
  • Cents: 8 cents.
  • Dollars: $3. It is important to note that the AP style doesn’t include two zeroes and a period when talking about an even dollar amount.
  • Dates: March 4. Be aware that dates use cardinal numbers, and not ordinal ones (don’t utilize the 4th)
  • Dimensions 5 feet 2 inches 5-by-9 cell
  • Highways: Route 7
  • Millions of billions of people:6 billion people
  • Percentages: 1 percent. It is important to note that percent is only one word.
  • Speed: 8 mph.
  • Temperatures: 2 degrees.
  • Timings: 4 p.m. Note that AP style does not contain the colon as well as two zeroes when referring to an hour with an odd number.
  • Use numbers at the start of a sentence. “Ten thousand people marched on the capital.” However, you should not write out the year: “1999 was a terrible year for technology companies.”
  • Make use of commas for setting off every three-digit group in numbers higher than 99999. The exception is for years and addresses: “12,650. “
  • Make use of decimals (up to 2 places) for amounts between billions and millions: Do this even if no exact number is needed “$3.74 billion. “
  • Include An “s” but no apostrophe to the number in order to create a plural. “She kept rolling 7s.” The same procedure applies to decades, such as the 1980s. Make use of an apostrophe for the decade only if you cut off the first figures: 1980s.

Punctuation and Miscellaneous

In general, the AP style follows the similar rules of punctuation that were that are taught in the elementary schools. But there are some crucial distinctions:

  • Do not use a comma after an adverb in a basic series. A simple series can be defined as one that has there are no elements that contain “The dinner choices were chicken, cod or beef.” Make use of a comma in series that have elements that contain and or “The menu offered a choice of bacon and eggs, pancakes, or waffles.”
  • Make use of a semicolon to make clear a sequence that has many commas. Include an underscore before the conjunction. “Parts for the carrier are made in Tampa, Fla.; Austin, Texas; and Baton Rouge, La.”

Other Common Style Rules

Here are some additional AP styles to be followed:

  • Make use of a person’s full name for the first source: On subsequent references make use of only their last name, without a title. The next and subsequent references to a married couple must be referred to as Mr. and Mrs.: “Mr. and Mrs. Oakes will honeymoon in Las Vegas.” In stories in which two persons have the same last name make sure to use their full names for every mention.
  • Time: Describe as a number with the addition of a.m. or p.m. “8:33 p.m. ” There is no need to add additional terms (e.g. morning, night, and so on) to make a distinction between night and day. Make use of “noon” or “midnight” or “midnight” rather as or 12 p.m. and 12 a.m.
  • Use hyphens for linking the various words of the compound adjective: “The five-volume report called for cleaning up the area over a 10-year period.” Don’t use a hyphen when the sentence contains “very” or an adverb with the suffix “-ly”: “a very big project, barely legal procedures.”
  • To create the plural form of one letter, you can make use of “s” and an apostrophe: “All the B’s lined towards left.” To create a plural form of several letters, you can add “s” with no apostrophe: “She mastered her ABCs in little time.”
  • To make the plural of words created from a collection of letters, you can add the”s” “s”: CDs, ABCs TVs, ABCs.
  • titles: Books films, records, TV shows, and other similar works are arranged in quotes, and the principal words capitalized “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” “Letters from Iwo Jima,” “Memory Almost Full,” “Grey’s Anatomy.” The titles of newspapers, magazines, and reference works are not given extra treatment. Newsweek, The Boston Globe, The Associated Press Stylebook.


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