The what and why behind AP style in public relations writing

For business owners who do not have a marketing background or have not previously worked with a public relations professional, it is common to not know about the use of AP style. As PR professionals, we at Obsidian live and breathe AP style. We apply it to most, if not all, of our writing, from news releases to annual reports and social media content.

You may be wondering, what is AP style? And what’s the purpose of writing in AP style if readers get the gist of your message? Keep reading to find out.

Defining AP style

Short for “Associated Press style,” AP style essentially provides guidelines and standards for news writing and journalism in the United States, including newspapers, online news outlets and magazines. As the conduit of information between the media and the client, public relations professionals adopted the use of AP style in any piece of written communication they create.

AP style dictates specific rules surrounding grammar, spelling, punctuation and language usage. Common rules in AP style that may differ from other forms of writing styles include how we write numerals, professionals’ job titles, physical addresses and abbreviations. But there’s so much more! The “AP Stylebook” has more than 5,000 entries and is continuously updated with new topics, as well as terms to eliminate any forms of bias, stereotypes and offensive language.

What’s the point of writing in AP style?

Content for news stories often come from multiple sources. For instance, if they’re writing about a product launch, a journalist will likely reference the website content of the business, along with any supporting documents like news releases and fact sheets from PR representatives. Writing in AP style ensures a consistency for all writers to follow.

Specifically for PR writers, it’s essential to write in AP style as most newsrooms are becoming more understaffed and facing pressure to turn around stories faster. Providing information in the format that they use makes their job easier, and they’ll be grateful for it!

Beyond that, the Associated Press created AP style under four principles – consistency, clarity, accuracy and brevity. It was first intended for print publications that had limited space to fit articles. When done right, news stories and communication materials align with these principles to clearly drive their messages. It minimizes any room for ambiguity and maximizes objectivity, which can be helpful to get the media coverage (and the correct message) that you want.

With more standards being added to the stylebook each year, it’s nearly impossible to remember all of the AP style rules. That’s where we come in! And while it’s nearly impossible to have the entire stylebook memorized, the most proficient PR writers are well versed in AP style standards. We’ll ensure your content aligns with the guidelines so you don’t have to.