Grammar Girl’s AP style tips and tricks

The latest advice on everything from hyphens to writing about race.

Man is shown writing.

Don’t get too comfortable with your Associated Press Stylebook.

It is very much a living document and is subject to change.

“Editors solicit a lot of feedback from experts in their specific industries,” Mignon Fogarty of the Quick and Dirty Tips Podcast Network,” said during her recent webinar with Ragan. “They want to get it right and it’s important to them that the entries are accurate.”

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You can watch or listen to the entire webinar any time.

Here are recent changes and other interesting insights Fogarty highlighted from the stylebook about hyphens, dashes, quotations and dates, as well as insight into complex and ever-evolving issues like race and gender.


Keep it simple when it comes to hyphens.

Fogarty said they should be used for ranges and scores, i.e., Sept. 1-3 and the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Boston Celtics 122-112. In addition, she said compound modifiers should be hyphenated when they come before a noun: (i.e., a second-rate play, long-term care, well-known care, well-known actor).

Double- and triple letter compounds should also be hyphenated (i.e., anti-intellectual and shell-like).


Fogarty said the rules are clearer when it comes to dashes.

“In general, you use dashes when commas and parentheses aren’t enough,” she said. Fogarty also said dashes should have spaces around them and can be used to set off a series that contains commas.

In addition, she said dashes should have spaces around them and can be used to set off a series that contains commas.


Fogarty said AP style has emphasized not using broad generalizations and labels when it comes to someone’s race and ethnicity.

“They are just one part of a person’s identity,” she said, adding that the stylebook calls to respect people’s preferred choices on race.

Fogarty also shared that the stylebook cautions about use of the word “community,” as in “the Black community,” since it’s a homogenizing word that can indicate everyone thinks alike when that may not be the case.

She also shared that race should only be used when it’s relevant to the story.

In addition, “Black or white” should not be used as singular nouns, but plurals are acceptable.


Like with race, Fogarty said the stylebook calls to respect people’s gender. In addition, “LGBTQ” is best as an adjective and an umbrella term. For instance, the term should not be used when the group you’re referring to is limited to bisexuals.

Fogarty also suggests avoiding using “preferred” or “chosen” pronouns, but instead saying “his pronouns are” or “they use the pronouns.”


Dates can be confusing for writers, especially with abbreviations.

“Abbreviate the long-month names when writing specific dates,” Fogarty said. ”Always write the (entire) month name when simply referring to a month.”In addition, do not include the year if you are referring to the current year. Include the year if you are referring to a past or future year.


The stylebook is laying out clearer guidelines on when to use emojis in quotes.

Fogarty also said emojis can be used in quotations, but they can be paraphrased when needed.

She said to be certain to understand the definition of the emojis you use before using them in your writing.

“Images have context,” Fogarty said. “If you don’t know what they are, you could be conveying something that you don’t mean.”

As always, Fogarty said she encourages users to check Webster’s New World College Dictionary when the stylebook rule is unclear.

Chris Pugh is a staff writer for PR Daily. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn. Send story ideas to


One Response to “Grammar Girl’s AP style tips and tricks”

    Sherry Halbrook says:

    I am very uncomfortable capitalizing the b in “Black.” It just elevates the importance of racial differences and it does so unequally, since no one capitalizes the w in white. It’s OK for the A in Asian, since Asia is a proper noun. I also intensely dislike how the noun gift has been turned into a demon vowel. I can no longer give you my opinion. I must “gift” it to you. Does that make you feel gifted?

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