Week 3: Getting Started with Media Writing
It is important that we stay consistent in the way we present our words and punctuation when writing for a publication like a newspaper. To remain consistent, we will follow the same journalistic style in our writing that is used in the industry: AP (Associated Press) Style.
The AP Style is commonly accepted journalistic standards for usage, spelling, grammar and punctuation. It is the standard style guide for most U.S. newspapers, magazines and public relations firms.
The complete AP Stylebook is lengthy and specific, but here are some of the more commonly employed rules.
Rules for Numbers:
- Spell out:
- Whole numbers below 10
- Numerals that start a sentence. Example: Twenty-seven detainees were released yesterday.
- For large numbers use hyphen to connect word ending in y to another word. Example: twenty-one or seventy-six thousand
- Use figures:
- For 10 and above.
- For all ages and percentages (even less than 10).
Rules for Time:
- Time: a.m. vs. p.m.
- Recognize “8 p.m. tonight” is redundant. Write 8 p.m. Monday.
- Do not capitalize AM or PM. Example:We have to meet at 7 A.M. for pictures (no).
- Use figures except for noon and midnight
- Write time of day like this: 2:30 a.m. or 8:45p.m.
- Days and Dates
- Always use numerals without st, nd, rd or th in dates.
- Avoid using yesterday, today and tomorrow (story publication could be delayed)
- When writing about events use months and dates. Example: “April 30” and “June 5.”
- When referring to a month, day and year, set off year with commas. Example: 20, 1964, was the day they had all been waiting for.
- Never abbreviate months not immediately precede a date
- Abbreviate only if month’s name is six letters or longer Example: We got married in September last year.They were married Aug. 6 last year and divorced March 5.
- Compositions (books, movies, music, articles)
- Capitalize the in title if that is the way publication prefers to be known.Capitalize first and last word of title.
- Capitalize all words four letters or longer.
- Do not capitalize articles “a,” “an” and “the” OR conjunctions or prepositions, unless four letters or longer. Examples: The Elements of Style, Gone With the Wind, The Inquirer
- Capitalize formal titles before a name
- Titles after a name or standing alone are ALMOST NEVER capitalized. Examples: I saw President Obama; Dr. Hemmert, LSU president, attended the meeting.
- College Courses
- Do not capitalize the names of school subjects unless it is the official course titles or the name of a language: Examples: English (yes); math (no); Geometry 101 (yes).
- Use an apostrophe to indicate possession in singular and plural nouns that do not end in s. (boy’s shorts, Margie’s books, Francis‘ telephone).
- Use an apostrophe to indicate omitted letters or numbers: ’12-13 school year.
- The possessive form of personal pronouns such as its and yours do not need an apostrophe.
- In a series, use them before an “and”.
- Use one in a sentence after a conjunction IF the part of the sentence following the comma would be a complete sentence (it must have its own subject).
- Exclamation point
- Don’t use exclamation points. Use a period instead.
- Use the semicolon to separate phrases containing commas, statements of contrast and statements too closely related.
- Do not use a semicolon when a period would work just as well.
For this activity, you will consult “the journalist’s bible,” The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law. Please find the answer the 20 questions below using the Stylebook. Type your answers on a Word or similar word processing software, also noting the page numbers referencing those answers. Bring your Word document to class electronically on Tuesday (attach to the body of an email, have your answers on a flash drive, etc.).
- Do you order Girl Scout Cookies or Girl Scout cookies (that is, with or without a capital C)?
- Hyphenated or not: “a week-long event” or “a weeklong event”?
- Are those emails from Nigerian princes examples of Spam (capitalized) or spam (lower case)?
- When conducting research, should Wikipedia be used as a primary source?
- Which of the following are trademarks and should be capitalized (if, indeed, they have to be used at all): Velcro, Frisbee, Breathalyzer, Styrofoam, Band-Aid?
- When using the “microblogging platform” known as Twitter, does one Twitter or Tweet?
- Is it correct to use tidal wave as a synonym for tsunami?
- Which of the following may be used in an AP news story: ditto marks [〃], italics, brackets?
- Arbitrate and mediate both appear in reports about labor negotiations, but only one of the terms calls for the handing down of a decision. Which one?
- Which is correct: associate degree or associate’s degree?
- In a recipe, two cupfuls or cupsful?
- Which of the following social media terms are acceptable to the AP editors: app, mashup, retweet, unfriend, click-thrus?
- Do you visit a Web site or a website?
- Does writer’s guide need that apostrophe?
- Which pronoun should be used in reference to a ship, she or it?
- Which of the following words and phrases should be avoided (except when in quoted matter)?
Coke (as a slang term for cocaine)
Handicap (in describing a disability)
Scotch (to describe the people of Scotland)
- Is it acceptable to use the term “Obamacare” anywhere in a news story?
- Is there any difference between an epidemic and a pandemic?
- What does fulsome mean?
- What is the difference (if any) between farther and further?