March 11, 2020


Associated Press (AP) is the quintessential guide for journalism and by proxy – public relations. It is the fundamental guideline that outlines the journalistic style of writing and includes specific rules for spelling, language and punctuation. Another way to phrase it would be the Wikipedia definition: “AP Stylebook, also known by its full name The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law, is an English grammar style and usage guide created by American journalists working for or connected with the Associated Press to standardize mass communication.”

Every year, new rules emerge. Some are created to keep up with ever-changing American English lexicon and others are now considered antiquated based on societal temperament. AP published their first modern Stylebook in 1953 and now releases an updated version every May.

For a sneak peek as to what’s new in 2020, let’s dive in. Between politics and viruses, there’s plenty to talk about.

This year – no surprise – politics take center stage. Often times via their Facebook page, AP will share writing tips as well: Exercise caution with the term “precincts reporting” because in states with large numbers of early votes, one precinct might account for as much as half of the total vote. If it is necessary, also include an estimate of the outstanding vote. Even their February #APStyleChat focused on how to cover the primaries.

Another topic is the coronavirus. As AP states: COVID-19 is acceptable on first reference for the coronavirus disease that first appeared in late 2019. Because COVID-19 is the name of the disease, not the virus, it is not accurate to write a new virus called COVID-19. Instead: A new virus caused a disease called COVID-19.

Evergreen updates for this year include weather style tips. For example, rainstorm is one word and the preferred term over rain event. Similarly, snowstorm is one word.

AP also tackles the Oxford comma. They now state it is not needed in certain series such as BLT (bacon, lettuce and tomato) because the term is fairly simple. On the other hand, a more complex sentence may require it, for example: “For breakfast I had bacon, toast, eggs, and orange juice.”

AP is also adding new capitalization and abbreviation rules.  For example: avoid abbreviating the word – building – and capitalize when it is part of a formal name such as the  Empire State Building. City hall can be capitalized if it follows the name of the city such as North Las Vegas City Hall. Conversely, it should lowercased when it is in a plural form such as Henderson and the North Las Vegas city halls.

For more information, follow the Associated Press on Facebook at

~ Carla Campos