February 11, 2021

New Rules for AP Writing in 2021

The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law, more commonly shortened as The AP Stylebook, is the quintessential guide for journalism and – by proxy – public relations. The stylebook outlines basic American-English grammar, punctuation and principles of reporting. This includes many definitions and rules for usage as well as styles for capitalization, abbreviation, spelling and numerals.

Although it was created and made for American journalists, it has become the leading reference for most forms of mass communication over the last half-century. AP ensures articles written by different writers are consistent, clear and accurate across the board.

From the ever-changing media landscape to new cultural movements, AP style rules frequently change and adapt to help journalists report more accurately. With a heavy focus on updates related to political events, let’s talk about some of the most important rules as well as new changes to expect in 2021.


With 2020 being an election year, The AP Stylebook placed a strong emphasis on capitalization rules surrounding the title, “president.” It is recommended to only capitalize president when it appears as a formal title before one or more names. Examples include President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump. AP recommends lowercasing president in all other uses. For example, the president exclaimed he would handle the situation tomorrow or he is running for president.

The stylebook also added a new entry for the use of president-elect. AP recommends always hyphenating and lowercasing the suffix, “-elect.” For a newly elected candidate, the term can be implemented as soon as the race is called for any elected office. Examples of this include President-elect Joe Biden or Joe Biden, the president-elect.


The AP Stylebook also added a new entry on how to properly use the term “homeless.” Homeless is generally acceptable as an adjective to describe people without a fixed residence. Avoid using the term “the homeless.” Instead, use terms such as homeless people, people without housing or people without homes. AP also notes that it should only be mentioned that a person is homeless when it is relevant and needed to convey a story.


One notable evergreen update involves the term, “midnight.” The argument whether midnight occurs at the end of the previous day or the beginning of the next ultimately resulted in the word being deemed as more confusing than functional. With clarity being the main goal of AP style, it is recommended for news professionals to now be as specific as possible when describing time around midnight. Examples include 11:59 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 1 or 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 2.

For more information on the latest AP style rules, follow the Associated Press Stylebook on Facebook at

By Katalina Sith