The Associated Press Stylebook is considered to be The Bible of the newspaper industry. It even says so on the cover of the copy I have sitting on my desk. There are not many occasions that I do not pick it up to check the correctness of my writing. With hundreds of pages of entries on grammar, spelling, usage, and more, it is nearly impossible to remember them all. Here are a few of the entries that I find most useful:
- State names – spell out the names of the 50 states when they stand alone in textual material. When abbreviating states, eight states are never abbreviated. These are: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas, and Utah.
- Professional titles – lowercase and spell out titles when they are not used with an individual’s name. Same rule applies when used in constructions that set them off from a name by commas. Example: Jaclyn Deter, public relations specialist, contributes to this blog.
- Compound modifiers – when using two or more words to express a single concept, use a hyphen to link all the words in the compound. However, do not use a hyphen with the adverb very and all adverbs that end in –ly. Example: This is not always an easily remembered rule.
- That v. which – use that for essential clauses. Use which for nonessential clauses. Example: Wendy’s is a restaurant that sells old-fashion hamburgers. McDonald’s, which sells chicken and hamburgers, has a decent dollar menu.
- Semiannual – this means twice a year and is a synonym for biannual. Do not confuse it with biennial, which means every two years.
Finally, here is an entry that will make several people happy: “It is acceptable in instant-message and texting conventions to remove punctuation and characters, most often vowels, to save time typing or thumbing letters.”
These are just a few tips that I find useful and have flagged in my Stylebook. If you do not already have a copy, I strongly recommend getting one. Even if you do not write for a living, it is still important to communicate accurately with others.