How to Use AP Style for More Polished Blog Posts
Why Would You Want to Use AP Style?
If you’re writing for a publication, they’ll probably have guidelines you will need to follow — possibly AP style, or some variation of it. Because AP style is so commonly used, it’s a good idea to have a basic knowledge of its rules.
But if you write for yourself on your own blog, you may be asking why you should follow AP style. Of course, you don’t have to follow it — you have the freedom to write however you want. The truth of the matter is, most of your readers won’t know or care if you’re following AP style. But they will notice inconsistencies — and inconsistencies get in the way of the message you’re trying to convey.
You want to give your readers great content. They’ll be a lot more likely to read your words of wisdom if you write in a clear and concise style. You don’t have to choose AP style, there are lots of other style guides, but it’s a common and simple one which readers will find familiar.
U.S. cities and states
Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Honolulu, Houston, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New Orleans, New York, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington.
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., and Wyoming: Wyo.
Why follow AP style
In her post, “How to Use AP Style for More Polished Blog Posts,” Jennifer Geer suggests following a style guide because readers “notice inconsistencies — and inconsistencies get in the way of the message you’re trying to convey.” As Geer puts it, “following a consistent style” helps “clear away the clutter and let your content shine.” Plus, following AP style can help give your writing a more professional air. Since readers of news articles and magazine stories in print and online are generally familiar with writing that follows AP style, it’s likely at least some of your readers will appreciate your attention to rules that help make your writing easily understood.
Geer also points out a number of AP style rules, including a few with which she disagrees. Bottom line is to write for your readers. It’s fine to pick and choose the style rules that work and don’t work for you — as long as you’re consistent. AP-savvy readers will have noticed this article doesn’t comply with the AP style rule related to Oxford commas. That’s solely due to the author’s personal preference.
Common AP style rules
- Numbers: Write out numbers one through nine; use numerals for the rest (except in exceptions like the one listed immediately below or in references such as “3 million” or “3 feet”).
- Ages: Always use numerals as in “her 7-year-old daughter.”
- Commas in dates: Use a comma in a complete date such as “June 30, 2020” but not when only a month and year are listed as in “June 2020.”
- Quotations that are sentence fragments: Don’t insert a comma in most cases and don’t capitalize the first letter of the fragment. (He told them he’d be happy to “help in a flash” whenever needed.)
- Plurals that do and don’t take apostrophes: She got all A’s. The ABCs. The 1990s. The ’70s.
- Seasons: Do not capitalize spring, summer, fall, or winter.
- Titles of things: Do not underline, italicize, or use quotation marks around a name of a publication such as a newspaper or magazine. Use quotation marks for titles of movies, books, articles, stories, poems, songs, etc.
- Titles of people: Only capitalize titles such as “governor” or “president” when they proceed a person’s name.
- Toward, forward, etc.: Do not add an “s.”
- U.S. cities: There is no need to add the state when you mention one of these cities: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Honolulu, Houston, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New Orleans, New York, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington.
- Finally: Even AP now says it’s acceptable to use “they” or “their” when referring to a singular subject. Don’t use “he or she” or “he/she,” etc. The AP stylebook does consider the use of “they” or “their” when referring to a singular subject potentially jarring, but such usage has become much more widespread in recent years.
One of the exciting things to keep in mind with regard to language is that it’s constantly evolving. The fact that the AP Stylebook gets updated regularly in order to acknowledge and address changing rules makes it all the more valuable to writers and editors. While those who use AP style on the job often have online access to the AP Stylebook website through their employers, paperback and ebook versions of the AP Stylebook are widely available and affordable. And simply searching online using a phrase such as “AP style Oxford comma” leads to plenty of helpful resources.