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For PR, does AP Style still matter?

February 23, 2015

Starting about the time Noah sent out his, “Ark 1.0 Offers Hope, Segue to Earth 2.0,” one of the basic rules of press release writing has been to adhere to AP Style.

The thinking has been two-fold: First of all, doing so would promote consistency. No more arguing about how to use commas in a series, no more debates about who gets a “Dr.” before his or her name. Check the Stylebook. End of debate.

Second – and perhaps most important – doing so would put our releases in the style preferred by the people receiving them. Most newspapers are pledged to AP style, and reporters and editors who see our releases have tended to be pretty darned dictatorial about the best way to abbreviate states and whether “statehouse” is one word or two.

In other words, adhering to AP Style allowed you to write with confidence.

Lately, though, that confidence has been shaken. These days, a quick read of daily newspapers reveals not only style deviations from paper to paper, but also inconsistencies within a single publication. What once would have been considered a gross violation of the sacred AP Style now seems to be shrugged off as inconsequential nitpicking.  What once would have earned a rookie reporter a smack on the knuckles with a pica pole now is ignored.

Why? Let us count the reasons:

  • Centralized copyediting, which takes copy review from a local desk to a remote location.
  • The rush and hurry of today’s journalism, which requires not only copy for print editions but also blogging, Tweeting, posting and commenting – not to mention video appearances, radio shows, etc.
  • The dumbing down of writing in general, which seems unlikely to recover from the everything-is-OK style of the digital world.
  • And … well, you get the point.

So, with all of that in mind, should PR types give a darn about AP Style? I, for one, argue that, yes, we should. It still will help us remain consistent with what we deliver. It will allow us to be confident that, should our copy fall into the hands of some copy desk dinosaur, it will appreciated. It will allow us to be assured that, should our releases simply be reprinted as submitted (a once-unthinkable event now considered routine), they will be readable.

And, finally, it will give us the satisfaction of knowing that SOMEONE is upholding high standards.

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