Many media relations pros often use “house style” when drafting a press release or statement.
It’s important to consider, however, that most journalists will probably roll their eyes and change your bolded, capitalized “YUM! BRANDS” to the less aggressive “Yum Brands.”
This tip and more come from Associated Press reporter Michelle Chapman, who offered them in last week’s #APStyle chat.
If the goal is to get a reporter to pick up your story, perhaps it’s time to stop writing “Walmart” and “eTrade” and instead, follow Chapman—and journalists nationwide—in adhering to AP business style. Here are a few highlights:
Ride-sharing, ride-booking, ride-hailing
If you’ve been describing Uber as a “ride-sharing” service, it’s time to reconsider.
Although certain editors argue that you don’t in fact, “hail” an Uber (as it’s all done through the app), the AP Stylebook says the term is preferred over ride-sharing.
Millennial-friendly publication Buzzfeed goes as far as labeling “ride-sharing” a PR buzzword and agrees (in its own lengthy style guide) that it shouldn’t be used:
The term “ride-sharing” is a holdover from the also improperly named “sharing economy” and really doesn’t describe what companies like Uber and Lyft do. Though Uber has recently introduced a carpooling service, the vast majority of services that Uber and Lyft and others provide mimics a traditional taxi or driver service. You don’t get in an Uber to share a ride with another paying passenger.
&, *, #, !
Deciding whether to include a special character in an organization or spokesperson’s title is challenging. Sometimes it feels natural to include an exclamation point or ampersand in your press release when referring to a brand with one in its title. It’s even trickier when you come across a situation like this:
Although the AP Stylebook says to follow an organization’s preferred spelling, it advises against using most symbols and characters:
If you’re referring to ETrade’s head of marketing, follow this rule:
Unless you’re interviewing ETrade’s chief executive officer:
Names of corporations
Although some organizations have standalone entries in the Stylebook, e.g. Tribune Publishing Co. or Twenty-First Century Fox Inc., there’s an additional five pages dedicated to “company names.”
Here, you can find references for using the versus The before an organization’s title, where it’s acceptable to use an ampersand and the correct spelling of “eBay.” Hint: it’s eBay, unless it’s mentioned at the beginning of a sentence.
RELATED: Free download: 10 punctuation essentials.
The Stylebook says the formal name of an organization need not be used on the first reference—Costco is acceptable for Costco Wholesale Corp.—but should be used somewhere in the story if the subject matter could affect an organization’s business. Otherwise, the Stylebook says to follow what’s listed in a company’s U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing:
Here’s an exception to jot down:
Names of people
The AP Stylebook’s rules for titles such as spokesman/woman, congressman/woman etc., are fairly consistent.
For business terms, it advises being a bit more creative with titles similar to the ones above:
For guidance on titles of nobility, military titles and formal titles, consult the AP’s list under “Titles.”
The Stylebook says to uppercase formal titles (President Barack Obama, Pope Francis or Vice President Joe Biden). If dealing with an occupational title—not denoting a scope of authority, professional or academic activity—use lowercase. For example, astronaut Sally Ride or creative director Joe Schmo.
Now, get back to business.