Yes, AP Style matters – a lot

AP Stylebook updates

I’m in my fourth semester teaching PR Writing and Media Relations at VCU, and the other day a student commented she had hoped she was done with the AP Stylebook after her journalism course. I laughed at her naivety, and told her that AP Style is like herpes, it never goes away. Well, so as long as you work in PR at least.

Yes, the AP Stylebook is the source of countless pedantic arguments about comma use and abbreviations, but without the rule and order it provides, the PR industry would essentially be like Mad Max: Fury Road. (Journalism more or less is that already.)

Here’s why.


First and foremost, AP style gives everyone the same grammar standards. It doesn’t matter if someone’s high school English teacher was a champion of MLA, APA, Chicago, etc., AP Style is a clear set of rules designed for clarity and simplicity. If you’ve ever had to copyedit something on a short deadline, you know how important a quick and easy answer is. And if you have an AP Stylebook on your desk, that answer is just an arm’s length away.

Journalists appreciate (read: demand) it

Journalists these days have to do a whole lot more with a whole lot less. Editing our work isn’t something they have time for, and see typos and other grammatical errors as a reason to hit delete on our pitch and move onto the next one. Writing to their standard helps your standing with them, which is critical in media relations.

To hold your superior grammar knowledge over lesser mortals

This isn’t exactly a “real reason,” but if you’re someone who likes to be right all the time, AP Style gives you an arsenal of “well actually…” retorts.

As absolute as the AP Style is, it does change its stance on things from time to time. (Over vs. more than, Web site vs. website). So if you’re still using the same AP Stylebook from your first job, it might be time to get a new edition or download the mobile app that updates with these changes.

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Greg Surber

Greg Surber, APR, is a public relations strategist through and through. He works on a variety of accounts, leading research projects and content strategies, but he also has extensive experience with more traditional PR efforts including national and trade media relations campaigns.

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