AP Style in the Digital Age













September 2013

Do you ever find yourself wondering whether to write a historic day or an historic day? Maybe not, but you're probably wondering now.*

One of the foremost resources for answering that and many other linguistic predicaments is The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law. The AP Stylebook was first published in 1953 (more than 100 years after the AP first started breaking news in 1846) and has since become the industry standard for many newspapers, magazines and other media.

The first edition was 60 pages; the 2013 edition is nearly 500. Though some may consider AP style – or grammar in general – erudite, The AP Stylebook is revised every year to reflect modern changes in language.

Why adhere to AP style?

Just because modern technology has abbreviated our language with "GTG," "BRB" and "IDK" (all AP-approved, thx) doesn't mean that modern professional PR writers should throw vowels to the wind.

You want members of the media to read the information you send them. Editors are paid to work with language, and a press release or info blast filled with errors is more likely to be ignored – or worse, mocked – by recipients.

When SEO and AP collide

SEO is a vital component of any online publication, but when, if ever, should AP take precedence over SEO? In fact, it seems somewhat rare that the two collide in an impactful way; many tenets of web writing, like keeping paragraphs short and striving for brevity, are completely in line with AP style.

Some AP-SEO conflicts arise regarding keywords, when AP mandates that certain words be hyphenated or be two words instead of one. (Google has a brief guide to punctuation and how it can affect search engine results.)

But since AP changed "e-mail" to "email" and "Web site" to "website," there are fewer sources for dispute (though AP currently stands by "live-blog" instead of "liveblog" and "e-book" instead of "ebook").

Google algorithms change 500 to 600 times per year, so it's getting harder to win the Google search game with strictly SEO. And many of the most common SEO mistakes are related to problems separate from punctuation. End conclusion: don't sacrifice a cohesive style for SEO; instead, use AP as a guideline, not a rulebook, and tailor it to your company's needs.

Don't just write like the AP – link like AP

In its Social Media Guidelines for AP Employees, the AP reminds staffers to "link to content that has been published online rather than directly uploading or copying and pasting the material." This is not only best practice to avoid copyright issues, but linking and being linked to can help to increase your site's value.

*According to AP style, the answer is a historic event. And if any grammarian sticklers are wondering why we flout AP style and write The AP Stylebook instead of AP-sanctioned "The AP Stylebook," the italics follow our BurrellesLuce house style, which draws heavily on AP style but makes a few of its own modifications.

About BurrellesLuce

BurrellesLuce is the U.S. leader in media monitoring. Professionals in a wide range of industries rely on our comprehensive curated content from local and national print, online, broadcast, and social media sources. BurrellesLuce has a turnkey copyright compliance program that allows us to provide copyright-compliant, behind-the-paywall content not available to other services. BurrellesLuce combines grade-A content with easy-to-use software, allowing users to evaluate and analyze their media coverage and PR efforts. It's all integrated into our user-friendly interface, BurrellesLuce WorkFlow™.

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