AP style rules for the Super Bowl, Olympics and more

If you’re producing social media posts or writing pitches surrounding these and other sporting events, take these guidelines into consideration. They can help you perfect your copy.

Crafting content for the Super Bowl and Olympics? Be mindful of trademark regulations—along with style conventions in your writing.

In a recent Twitter chat, Oskar Garcia, Associated Press assistant sports editor, shared several AP style rules that communicators should heed when creating copy for sporting events.

One rule in particular sparked a heated conversation:

The rule raised the hackles of many writers:

Here are several additional rules to follow when writing about the Super Bowl, Olympic Games and other sporting events:

1. “Game day” is two words.

Here’s AP Stylebook’s guidance:

2. Nicknames aren’t replacements—and write around team names’ singular forms.

Though some NFL athletes have nicknames, don’t replace their given names—unless it’s preferred. That goes for anyone with a nickname, such as President Jimmy Carter.

Aside from names, it’s best to avoid sentences that use a singular form of a plural team name:

3. Go ahead, use “champs.”

AP Stylebook isn’t all business, after all:

4. Certain school initials are OK to use.

Aside from the Super Bowl, you might write content or pitches about a particular college or university team. As long as it’s not confusing, AP style says to use them:

Major college football conferences that follow this rule include UNLV, SMU, BYU, UCF, TCU, UConn, UCLA, LSU, ETSU, UTEP, UTSA and VMI—but local organizations might have in-house style guides that include an abbreviation for nearby colleges and universities.

AP Stylebook also offers a list of college basketball conferences that follow the rule, which can be handy for upcoming March Madness promotions.

5. Pluralize “RBI.”

If you’re writing about baseball, you might use the abbreviation for “runs batted in,” a statistic that often accompanies player performance. Though it’s only the first word that’s plural, when using the abbreviation—add the “s” at the end:

6. Esports doesn’t have a hyphen.

Esports is a growing event—and now is stylistically closer to a popular digital communications tool, “email.” That’s because AP Stylebook dropped the word’s hyphen:

7. Grab winning marks with proper capitalization.

“Olympics” is always capitalized—as is “Games,” “Winter” and “Summer” when used alongside it. For example, it’s “Winter Olympics,” “Summer Olympics” and “Olympic Games.”

Further, the AP Stylebook’s entry reads, in part:

Each is staged every four years, but two years apart. The next Winter Games are in 2018 in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Capitalize Games when attached to the host city or year: the Pyeongchang Games and the2018 Games. When standing alone, spell games lowercase: The games open Feb. 9, 2018.

One thing you shouldn’t capitalize is the “c” in Pyeongchang.

Speaking of Pyeongchang, don’t forget to include “South Korea” after the country’s cities—in most cases, it’s necessary:

8. Know your abbreviations—and team notations.

If you’re referring to national Olympic committees such as the U.S. Olympic Committee or the British Olympic Association, abbreviations (USOC and BOA, respectively) are OK upon second reference. However, don’t use “NOC” as shorthand for the national organizations.

AP Stylebook’s guide to the 2018 Pyeongchang Games also warns communicators to note the following when referring to athletes from Russia:

Around 90 countries will send athletes to the Olympics, including some from Russia, who will be identified as “Olympic Athletes from Russia” when competing. The country’s Olympic committee is banned because of doping violations, and the Russian flag will not fly any sooner than the closing ceremony.

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