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AP Style Writing What Is It

Updated on November 9, 2017

Associated Press Stylebook

AP Stylebook
AP Stylebook

AP Style Writing

When it comes to writing for business, the gold standard for freelance writers and business owners or clients, is AP Style writing. Ironically, AP Style isn't a style of writing the way MLA Format or APA styles. Both of the latter, have clearly defined rules for how text and sources should be written and laid out. That isn't what AP Style is.

So, what is AP Style?

AP Style is actually not a style at all, but rather a set of guidelines regarding how to use certain terms, words, and phrases, as well as some general rules about how text should be written. For example, AP Style makes no comments about where to put certain information in a paragraph, nor where or how to use footnotes or end notes. What AP Style does rule on is whether or not one should write cell phone or cellphone.

AP Style is, as the name suggests, the professional style guide of AP, or the Associated Press. As such, it is aimed primarily at journalists or journalistic style writing like what appears in newspapers, magazines, or wire stories. However, its clean, business-like, approach to writing is what draws many businesses to require AP Style in writings produced for them, whether in-house, or by freelancing or contract.

The rules of AP Style are published in a book titled Associated Press Stylebook. The book is often referred to as the AP Stylebook, or the AP Style Guide, though neither is an official name. For the most part, AP Style conforms to general grammar rules. The Style Guide does have a small grammar section which includes things like the proper use of punctuation marks like the comma or semicolon, as well as a guide to sentence and paragraph construction.

The majority of the AP Stylebook is dedicated to a section that simply contains words and phrases which could cause confusion in their use. Particular emphasis is given to words and phrases commonly used in journalism, but which might not merit an entry in a regular dictionary; the names of organizations, countries, and both political and military jargon are the most common examples. Other words and phrases include colloquialisms and technological words which have become common, but not yet established enough to have an entry in Websters.

ArcticLLama, the blog of a freelance writing company has a regular feature called "Adventures in AP Style" that chronicles the ways in which AP Style guides professional freelance writers. The series can be a useful way to discover just what AP Style does and does not cover when it comes to writing.


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    • Hub Llama profile image

      Hub Llama 7 years ago from Denver, CO


      MLA is a pretty strict writing style that is primarily for use in academic settings and the journals/magazines that publish articles written by the same.

      AP Style writing actually isn't a style at all. Rather it is a collection of rules and suggestions to help writing be technically correct and accurate in areas where plain grammar rules and dictionaries don't really help (technology, military, news, and the like).

      My suggestion would be to just stick with proper English grammar and a writing tone/style that matches your audience. Then, use the AP Stylebook when you run into those iffy situations like is there a space in cellphone?

      And, I know that I capitalize Congress for U.S. Congress, but what about states that have one?

      Hope that helps.

    • Challah1202 profile image

      Challah1202 7 years ago from Chandler, TX

      I'm never sure how to decide between MLA and CMS, and now I have to add AP to the pot. For general stuff not intended for use in a journal do you have any advice?

    • HubMania profile image

      HubMania 8 years ago from India

      Nice and informatory article, particularly the AP style article writing tips. Thanks. It is a new stuff and therefore I have bookmarked it.