Apostrophes, School Choice, and More: 7 AP Style Rules You Need to Know

We know journalists are busy, and it can be difficult to keep up with recent AP Stylebook changes. So we’ve done the work for you, rounding up a few of the recent significant — and just plain interesting — updates to the AP Stylebook.

AP Style Rules - 7 Reminders to Brush Up On

Is one of your New Year’s resolutions to boost your AP Style knowledge? Same here.

Here’s a list of rule reminders to help answer some of the most common style guide questions.

Looking for more AP Style help? Make sure to read through past editions of our AP Stylebook recaps. If you have a Stylebook license, make sure also to check out the recent Impeachment Inquiry Topical Guide.

School Choice

This term refers to “education strategies that give parents the option of enrolling children in schools other than the assigned district public school, often using public funding.”

Also remember:

  • Terms like classroom, schoolwork, blackboard, chalkboard, and whiteboard are written as one word.
  • Names of books, poems, plays, films, and songs should be capitalized and placed inside quote marks.

Textbooks, apple, pencils and ABC blocks on top of a desk

Casualties

Since casualties can refer to either deaths or injuries, the term generally should be avoided. Ask for more detail if the term is used by the authorities. If no other specifics are available, be sure to make this clear.

Covering dangerous or traumatic events can take a toll on reporters’ mental health. The International Journalists Network has some helpful tips for protecting yourself physically and mentally in these situations.

A wrecked car left in the road at night

Achilles

Achilles tendon does not require an apostrophe, but Achilles’ heel does.

Some additional health-related rules:

  • Health care (two words) is preferred in AP Style. Whichever way you write it, make sure you use it consistently.
  • Heatstroke (one word) is the body’s failure to regulate heat.

person standing on gray stone facing the beach

Apostrophes

October’s Twitter chat was all about apostrophes. It started off with a reminder that this punctuation mark should never be used to make a word plural – something I came across many times during my years of proofreading press releases.

Here are some of the other tips:

  • A bit of an exception to the plurals rule, apostrophes should be used to make a single letter plural. Make sure to dot your I’s and cross your T’s.
  • Plurals of figures (1920s) and multiple letters (ABCs) don’t require an apostrophe.
  • The three R’s are reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic.
  • Use an apostrophe if a measurement precedes a noun, like two weeks’ vacation, but it isn’t needed if the measurement precedes an adjective, like two months pregnant.
  • For singular proper names ending in s, AP Style is to add only an apostrophe to make them possessive: Achilles’ heel, for example. For proper names that already have an apostrophe, like Lowe’s, you don’t need to add anything to make them possessive.

Person sitting at a desk with open notebook and laptop

Deities

Monotheistic deities like God, Allah, the Father, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, etc. should be capitalized. The proper names of pagan and mythological gods also should be capitalized — Thor, Aphrodite, Zeus, etc.

Pronouns referring to the deity (him, thee, who, etc.) should be lowercase.

architectural photography of church interior

Livestreaming

Livestream and livestreaming should be written as one word, no hyphen.

Smartphone on a tripod recording a performance

Versus/vs./v.

Which version of “versus” should you be using? According to AP Style, it depends on the situation:

  • “Versus” is appropriate is most cases: The proposal to revamp Medicare versus proposals to reform Medicare and Medicaid …
  • In short expressions, however, the abbreviation “vs.” is OK: The issue of dogs vs. cats.
  • For court cases, use “v.”: Brown v. Board of Education.

twitter vs linkedin

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Rocky Parker works in Audience Relations at PR Newswire. Check out her previous posts for Beyond Bylines and connect on LinkedIn. When she’s not working, Rocky typically can be found cooking, binge watching a new show, or playing with her puppy, Hudson.

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