At first glance, the Associated Press Stylebook, in all its 600-plus-page glory, can appear incredibly daunting. This is especially so for new public relations students with no experience using the style. Many wonder how one can learn and adapt to a style that has so many guidelines. Fear not, there are plenty of tips and tricks to help you master AP style. Below are 6 strategies to utilize when learning AP style.
Become Familiar with Common Style Rules
Becoming familiar with the most common style guidelines is necessary to become an AP style pro. Depending on the content you’re working with and/or the organization you work for, you may focus on some areas more than others but there are still some basic areas every future PR professional should be knowledgeable about. Specific guidelines to study include numerals, addresses, titles, capitalization, datelines, months, abbreviations and acronyms, composition titles and punctuation.
It is also a good idea to focus on areas that are relevant to the career path you want to take. For example, if you plan to work in sports PR, you might want to read up on the sports section of the stylebook.
This first strategy may seem pretty exhausting, but the following strategies will aide in becoming familiar with the most common style rules.
Bookmark Your Pages
Once you become more acquainted with the AP Stylebook, you’ll find yourself referring to similar sections over and over again. An easy and fast way to refer back to these sections is to bookmark their pages. Using sticky notes or tabs, mark the locations of those sections you find yourself referring to the most. This is a very large book and half of the trouble can be finding the section itself. Creating these bookmarks allows you to save time and become more familiar with the book in the process.
When in Doubt, Google it
Occasionally, you’ll come across a word or phrase that you can’t seem to find an AP style entry for, if that’s the case, a simple Google news search might solve your problem. When conducting the news search, look for how it is used in reputable news organizations such as The New York Times or The Washington Post. Make sure to look through multiple instances of the word’s usage among various reputable sources. If at least a few use it the same way, copy their style.
Highlight While You Write
While writing, highlight any word/phrase you think may need to be checked for AP style errors. Revisit these at the end of your paper to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything. This enables you to be able to focus on the content of your writing first and foremost. You also won’t forget to check any potential AP style errors.
Create Mnemonic Devices
Create your own mnemonic device to remember some of the common rules. For example, for general numbers, you can remember S.S. for Single digit, Spell it out.
Practice, Practice, Practice
The only way to truly learn AP style is through trial and error. There are many quizzes available online that can really help you become more familiar with AP style by putting your knowledge to the test. It’s also a good idea to read the news on a daily basis. Think of reading the news as an opportunity to study AP style; the more you read, the more you are exposed to AP style.
There are many different strategies included in this blog post, but what’s most important is finding those that work best for you. Once you find it, you’ll be on your way to becoming the next AP style pro!