Like, a lot.
Still, we read a lot of writing from PR pros every day and find that AP style is followed sporadically at best.
This could be hurting your chances of getting coverage or placement of submitted stories.
Who uses AP style?
The AP Stylebook has been formally published since 1977 and is soon to release its 56th edition. The style is set by the Associated Press, but is largely considered the Bible for most journalists, regardless for what outlet they work for, across print, digital, TV and beyond. Most journalists will have a dog-eared, coffee-stained copy of the fat book sitting on their desks for easy access (or else a login for the online stylebook). The style is designed to prioritize clear, concise language.
No, not every outlet uses AP style.The New York Times has its own style guide, as does The Economist. Less formal (but still popular) blogs or social media influencers might not use any style guide save their own whims. And most news outlets will tweak AP style to meet their own needs and quirks rather than adhering to every esoteric rule.
However, AP style is followed often enough that it creates a common, consistent logic most journalists recognize and understand, even if they don’t use it. If you regularly pitch publications and aren’t sure what style they use, ask! Some sites publish theirs online for easy access.
Give your pitch the best chance
If your work involves any kind of media relations, you already understand that journalists are now an endangered species — overworked, underpaid and always under increasing pressure to produce more. The copy editors who once made sure style guidelines were followed have largely gone extinct, and their regular editors are even more stressed and harried.
This means that any time a journalist spends deleting your Oxford commas or lowercasing your job titles following a person’s name is time they could have spent reporting, interviewing and building relationships.
A journalist might not even consciously realize that they’re rejecting your pitch because of style inconsistency. They might take a glance at it and grumble that they don’t have time for it before returning to the mountain of other pitches erupting from their inbox. When there are so many to choose from, why waste time correcting simple errors in a press release?
Ultimately, using AP style in your writing follows the most fundamental rule of communications: know your audience. Speak their language. For thousands of journalists, AP style is that language. And while it can be finnicky and odd and have strange rules that make no sense — why do you put quotation marks around video game titles but not software titles?—applying the style properly can mean the difference between your pitch being hurled into a digital trash can or being published.
Help a journalist out. Use AP style.