Common Sense Stylebook for Public Relations Writers


(from Smith, R.D. (2012) Becoming a Public Relations Writer (4th ed.). New York: Routledge / Taylor & Francis


A stylebook is a manual with rules and norms for writing and editing.

A good stylebook helps writers use the language in a way that is natural, smooth and consistent. Following are guidelines for various public relations writing purposes. They deal with aspects of language that students have identified as needing clarification and order. The style suggestions here are consistent with The Associated Press Stylebook, the most widely used stylebook for journalistic writing. Thus public relations writers will find this Common Sense Stylebook useful in preparing news releases and other writing for newspapers and magazines.

Writing for organizational media—websites, blogs and social media, as well as print media such as newsletters and brochures—calls sometimes calls for a stylistic practice that may be different from that used for public media. Nevertheless, writers need to be consistent in style. This Common Sense Stylebook includes guidelines about stylistic options appropriate for organizational media. Though optional, they should be consistently used, according to the organization’s internal stylebook.

For more complete references, consult authoritative guides such as The Associated Press Stylebook, Webster’s New World Dictionary Fourth Edition, Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, and National Geographic Atlas of the World.


Avoid abbreviations except in situations of common usage. In general, when writing for print media, use capital letters without periods for abbreviations of organizations or terms in which the letters are pronounced separately: CIA, IBM, CEO, UCLA, TV, VCR, ABC News (but Fox News). Exception: Abbreviate U.S. and U.N. when these are used as adjectives but do not abbreviate United States or United Nations when these terms are used as nouns. For broadcast media, use a hyphen between letters to indicate that they are to be pronounced separately: C-I-A, Y-M-C-A, U-C-L-A.

Also see the following entries in this stylebook: Academic Degree, Address, Date, Dateline, Military, Organizational Name, Period, State Name, Title of People (Courtesy) and Title of People (Formal).

Academic Degree

In general, avoid abbreviations for academic degrees. Write out the names of college or university degrees, using lowercase letters except for proper nouns or proper adjectives: obtained an associate’s degree in masonry, received a bachelor’s from Central State, obtained a master’s degree in business administration, holds a doctorate in French literature (not holds a doctor’s degree). Use capital letters but no apostrophe when citing the formal name of a degree: Bachelor of Arts degree, Master of Science program.

Do not abbreviate academic degrees for public media. Academic abbreviations are an option for organizational media if readers are likely to be familiar with the abbreviation: M.S., Ph.D., M.F.A. Place these after the name, set off by commas. See Professional Credentials.


When referring to a street without a specific address, spell out Street, Avenue, etc.: Ransom Road, Madison Avenue.

When referring to a specific address, abbreviate Ave., Blvd. and St. Write out related words: Alley, Court, Drive, Parkway, Place, Road, Terrace, etc.: 20 Mango Lane, 8033 Thyme Circle.

Use numerals for an address number: 27 Anderson Blvd., 1356 Linwood Ave. Exception: One North St.

Write out a compass point when it is the name of the street: 1550 South Drive. Also write out the compass point if the street name is used without a specific address: West Main Street. Otherwise, abbreviate compass points within a complete address: 15 W. Main St.

For numbered streets, spell out and capitalize first through ninth; use ordinals for 10th and above.


Use numerals for all ages: The child, 5, was… At age 15, he went… Use a numeral with a hyphen when the age is used as part of a compound modifier before the noun: 2-year warranty, 5-year-old girl; use the hyphen when the noun is implicit: The 7-year-old was injured. Do not use hyphens when using age as a noun: The car is 5 years old.

Bracket the numeral with commas when the age is used parenthetically: Johnson, 37, was appointed…


Use the ampersand (&) only when it is part of an organization’s formal name: J & R Rentals, Inc., Johnson & Johnson.


Use an apostrophe with an s to designate possessives of most words (singular or plural):  women’s hockey, the judge’s ruling, Ohio’s capital.

Use an apostrophe without an s to indicate the possessive of a word (whether singular or plural) already ending in s: girls’ sports, the witness’ response, Arkansas’ capital.  Exception: Use ‘s with words ending in another letter with the sound of s: Marx’s biography, the fox’s den, the prince’s schedule.

Use an apostrophe to indicate omitted numbers: in the ‘60s, class of ’09. Do not use an apostrophe to designate the plural of numbers: in her 30s, during the 1980s, size 8s.

Use an apostrophe to indicate the plural of stand-alone letters: A’s and B’s, the Oakland A’s. However, do not use an apostrophe with multiple letter designations: RBIs, WMDs. Also, do not use an apostrophe to designate the plural of words: dos and don’ts.

Brand Name

Capitalize trademarks and brand names: Xerox, Toyota, Gucci Envy. For public media, use lowercase for generic terms: Lee jeans, Corolla sedan, LexisNexis database, GarageBand music application program. For organizational media, capitalization of generic terms is optional. Also optional for organizational media is the use of trademark indicators: LexisNexis®, GarageBand™.

Capitalize brand names and trademark with food items: Tabasco sauce. In general, capitalize proper adjectives when they are part of food names: Boston baked beans, Swiss cheese, Waldorf salad, Russian dressing. Consult the dictionary for such usage.


For public media, avoid unneeded use of capitalization. Use capital letters for proper nouns, full names and formal titles. Do not capitalize planets, academic or organizational departments, or job titles. Do not capitalize seasons and their derivatives: spring, wintertime. Capitalize proper nouns, including brand names, awards and holidays. See the following entries for specific guidelines on capitalization: Academic Degree; Race, Ethnicity and Nationality; Geographic Region; Government; Organizational Name; Politics; State Name; Title of Composition; and Title of People (Formal).

For organizational media, the writer may choose to use capital letters more freely to indicate importance or prestige within the organization.

Use capitals for adjectives derived from proper nouns: Boston crŹme pie, German shepherd. However, some such words have become generic and do not require capitalization: french fry. Use as an authoritative online source.

Collective Noun

Nouns that refer to a grouping of people or things are singular: committee, board, company, management, team, family, class. When referring to such a grouping, use a singular pronoun and a singular verb: The company will build its office (not their). The board of trustees wants to vote (not want).

When referring to all the individuals within the grouping, use a plural noun to make this clear: The company managers will build their office. The trustees want to vote.


Use a colon to designate a sentence within a sentence or an enumeration: His promise was simple: He would balance the budget. She indicated three favorite authors: Thomas Merton, Shushako Endo, and Thich Nhat Hahn. Capitalize the first word following a colon only if it is a proper noun or the beginning of a sentence: He has several pets: a dog, two cats, and a ferret.


In general, place a comma between each element in a series: The book includes an overview of European history, a discussion of the influence of religion, and an analysis of the effects of the rise of literacy. But with a short and simple series, do not use a comma before the conjunction: The book deals with history, religion and literacy.

Put a comma before the conjunction when another conjunction is used within one or more elements in the series: The book deals with European history, the influence of religion and education, and the rise of literacy. Use a semicolon instead of a comma to separate items in a series if at least one of the items includes material with a comma: The book deals with European history; the influence Christianity, Judaism and Islam; and the rise of literacy.

Place commas before and after parenthetical material and nonessential (nonrestrictive) phrases and clauses: The president, 42, will… The visitor, a native of Mexico, was… The senator, who is left-handed, wants… The student, who got an F, explained that…  Do not use commas with essential (restrictive) phrases and clauses that provide necessary information for the meaning of the sentence: Students who get an F must repeat the course.

Use a comma before coordinating conjunctions (and, or, but, for, nor, yet, so) when they join independent clauses: Jaleesa wanted to go to the park, but the weather was bad. Use a comma after an introductory clause beginning with subordinating conjunctions such as after, although, because, since, when, etc. Because the weather was bad, Jaleesa decided to stay home.

Use a comma after an introductory clause or phrase: After entering the university as a journalism major, she changed to public relations. But do not use a comma following a short introductory phrase: After dinner she changed her sweater.

Use a comma to separate a quotation from its attribution: “This is a beautiful day,” he said. Do not use a comma if the quotation ends with a question mark or an exclamation point: “Do you think this is a beautiful day?” he asked.

Commas, like periods, always go inside quotation marks.

Country & Political Entity

Do not abbreviate United States when used as a noun. Abbreviate as U.S. when used as an adjective. Give similar treatment to United Nations, United Arab Emirates and United Kingdom. Similarly, write out District of Columbia as a noun, but abbreviate as an adjective. Visiting the District of Columbia. Using the D.C. metro system.

Use commonly known designations for foreign nations, avoiding formal titles: Norway rather than Kingdom of Norway, San Marino rather than Most Serene Republic of San Marino, India rather than Union of India, Jordan rather than Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

Use China to refer to the mainland nation ruled from Beijing. Use People’s Republic of China or Mainland China only if necessary to distinguish from Taiwan, formally called the Republic of China. Distinguish between the Ireland or more formally Republic of Ireland (with its capital in Dublin) and Northern Ireland (with its capital in Belfast). Likewise, distinguish between England (a country in Western Europe), Great Britain (an island including the countries of England, Scotland and Wales), and the United Kingdom (a political union that includes the countries of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland).


For public media, use Arabic numbers in the traditional month–day–year format: Jan. 2, 2007; March 15, 1997. Optional for organizational media or when writing in a military or international context is the construct 15 March 2007. Do not use ordinal numbers with dates: May 1 (not May 1st); April 7 (not April 7th).

Abbreviate months with more than five letters (Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., Dec.) when the specific date is included. Spell out each month when it is used alone or with a year only: next September, December 2012. Do not use a comma to separate the year from a month without a date: January 2011.

To indicate a span of years, use an s without an apostrophe: throughout the 1990s, founded in the 1800s. Lowercase century in most usages: 21st century, the last century.

Write out days of the week when used with the date: Monday, Dec. 16, 2002.

Presume the reference A.D. unless the reader is likely to become confused: the 10th century, rather than the 10th century A.D. The abbreviation refers to the phrase anno Domini (Latin = in the year of the Lord) and is computed on the birth of Jesus, though in common usage it does not have a religious connotation. An alternative term is C.E., referring to the Common Era.

B.C. is the traditional designation for years and centuries prior to the A.D. era. The term refers to Before Christ. This is the common usage for public media. An alternative and more inclusive term is B.C.E., Before the Common Era.

A.D. or C.E. time is computed by adding from the zero point, while B.C. or B.C.E. time is computed by subtracting from the zero point.


These designations at the beginning of a news release indicate the place of origin for the release. For U.S. datelines, use city (all capital letters), state abbreviation (caps and lowercase), followed by a dash: MEMPHIS, Tenn.—Police arrested… For Canadian datelines, use city (all capital letters) and province name (caps and lowercase) [but not the country name], dash: KINGSTON, Ontario—Officials expected… For other foreign datelines, use city (all caps), country (caps and lowercase), dash: SAN JOSE, Costa Rica—Authorities investigated…

Some cities are well known regionally, nationally or internationally and may stand alone without the state/province/country designation. Consult the AP Stylebook for a listing of these cities. Let common sense prevail. For datelines in regional releases, omit the state if it is not needed for clarity.

Dimension and Size

Use figures for dimensions, but spell out terms such as inches and feet. Do not use hyphens or commas. She is 5 feet 7 inches tall. The carpet measures 6 feet by 9 feet. However, use hyphens when using as compound adjectives before a noun: the 5-foot-7-inch woman, the 6-by-9 carpet.

Use technical forms (an apostrophe to indicate feet and quotation mark to indicate inches; x to indicate length and width) only in charts or graphs: 10’11½” platform, 6 ×9 carpet. Use figures for sizes: a size 7 dress, 10W shoe.

Enumeration and Sequence

Use capitals and numerals for numbers of most items for enumeration: Room 7, Apartment 15B, Channel 7, Route 90. Use capitals and numerals for parts of a whole: Chapter 6, Page 17, Section B. Exception: a Page One story. Use Act 2 to refer to the second act. Capitalize and abbreviate number and use a numeral to indicate rank: the No. 1 draft choice.

Foreign Personal Name

Use spelling according to the individual’s preference, if known, or use the nearest English phonetic equivalent: Alexander Solzhenitsyn, not Aleksandr Solzhenitzyn. If the name has no close equivalent in English, spell it phonetically to approximate the sound in the original language: Anwar Sadat.

Follow an individual’s preference in using foreign names. Arabs often use two or three names, but on second reference use the final name in the series. Amed Butros Yamani on first reference; Yamani on subsequent references. Some Arab names include al- or el-. For example, the ruler of Qatar is Hamad bin Khalifa bin Hamad Al-Thani. Hamad is his personal name, he is the son of Khalifa who in turn was the son of Hamad. The family name is Al-Thani. In writing, upon second reference, call Sheik Hamad, Prince Hamad or Emir Hamad; in news-style writing, refer to him as Al-Thani.

The official Chinese spelling system known as Pinyin eliminates hyphens previously used in many names. Mao Zedung rather than Mao Tse-Tung. Keep the traditional hyphenated spelling for well-known historical names such as Sun Yat-sen.

Chinese and Japanese names traditionally place the family name first, followed by the personal name. Keep this format for Chinese names. However, for Western audiences, Japanese names are usually revised toward the Western style (personal name first, then family name).

Foreign Place Name

In general, use common spelling for the name of foreign locations: Moscow, Paris. Use the common English equivalent: Florence rather than Firenze, French Riviera rather than Côte d/Azure. But use the local name for less common places such as Paciano, Italy or for locations that are not commonly translated into English, such as Kyoto, Japan.

Use spelling from Webster’s New World Dictionary or National Geographic Atlas of the World. Use as an authoritative online source.

Foreign Word

Use sparingly. If the meaning is clear and usage is common, write foreign words without explanation in the text: bon voyage. If foreign words or phrases are not commonly known, use quotation marks and provide an explanation in parentheses. “We will soon have peace, insha’Allah (God-willing),” said the ambassador.

Geographic Region

Capitalize specific regions: Midwest, Northeast, West Coast, South Atlantic. Capitalize words derived from geographic regions: Western decor, Southern politician, Mediterranean climate, an Easterner.

Capitalize geographic adjectives that are part of a proper noun: Northern Ireland, West Indies, North Carolina. Use lowercase to indicate geographic sections within an area: northern France, central Mississippi. (Exception: Southern California is a widely used designation that is capitalized.)

Use lowercase to indicate direction: She traveled south. They hiked northwest.

Middle East is preferable to Mideast, though the latter is not incorrect. There is no internationally accepted definitive list, but generally the Middle East includes the countries of the Arabian peninsula (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen); the so-called “Fertile Crescent” (Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria) and Northeastern Africa/Mediterranean area (Cyprus, Egypt, Sudan and Turkey). Sometimes Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kazakhstan and the other -stans are included, though properly these are located in Central Asia.


Capitalize House of Representatives, Senate, Assembly, Legislature, Parliament, Ministry of Justice, Supreme Court, Board of Supervisors, City Council, and so on, when the term refers to a specific governmental body.

Retain capitalization when condensed forms of the term clearly refer to a particular governmental body: the Securities and Exchange Commission (first reference), the Commission (subsequent references).

For public media, use lowercase when these terms stand alone generically: Many city councils throughout the state … For organizational media, use of capital letters is optional.

Capitalize City, County, State, National, Provincial, Federal and so on, when the term is used as part of a formal name: Federal Communications Commission, St. Louis City Council, the Chamber of Deputies, Ontario Provincial Police. Use lowercase in other references: the city official, 25 counties in the state.

Capitalize Constitution when it refers to the U.S. Constitution, regardless of whether the U.S. designation is used. For references to constitutions of states and other nations, capitalize only if it is preceded by the name of the state or nation: the Kansas Constitution, Poland’s Constitution (but the constitution of Poland).

Capitalize sections of the U.S. Constitution: Bill of Rights, Second Amendment, the Preamble. Capitalize Congress when it refers to the U.S. Congress; use lowercase for congressional. Capitalize Capitol when it refers to the building in the District of Columbia or to specific state capitols.

Historic and Geologic Time

Capitalize terms of geological time, such as Mesozoic Era, Jurassic Period, Paleocene Epoch.

Capitalize names of commonly recognized historic time such as Bronze Age, Shang Dynasty, Asuka Period, Islamic Golden Age, Gupta Empire, Industrial Revolution, Victorian Era, the ‘90s, Information Age.

Capitalize names of historic events such as the Boston Tea Party, Great Depression, Prohibition, Holocaust, War of 1812.

Do not capitalize informal designations such as civil rights movement. Capitalize only proper nouns or adjectives when referring to general descriptions of a period: classical Greece, ancient Egypt. See Date entry.

Holiday and Holy Day

Capitalize the name of holidays and holy days: Groundhog Day, Christmas Eve, Kwanzaa, Passover, Ramadan, Memorial Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Lantern Festival (Chinese), Green Corn Festival (Native American), Children’s Day (Japan). Use an apostrophe for days such as New Year’s Eve, All Saints’ Day, April Fool’s Day. Exceptions: Veterans Day, Presidents Day.

Home Town

Do not use commas when designating the home town of a person or organization when the word of is used: Lee Chang of Chicago said …; Harder Sporting Goods of Williamsport built …


This punctuation indicates a connection between words or parts of words. Use it to prevent confusion. Use a hyphen to connect compound modifiers before a noun: a first-rate story, a part-time job. But usually the same word combinations are not hyphenated when they occur after the noun: The story is first rate. His job is only part time.

Use a hyphen to connect phrases used as modifiers before a noun: her don’t-give-me-attitude look.

Use a hyphen in suspended situations, with a space after the hyphen in the suspended usage: a six- to 10-month waiting period.

Use a hyphen with the following prefixes: all-, anti-, ex-, out-, post-, pro-, self-. Use a hyphen with co- when referring to occupation or status. Do not use a hyphen with the following prefixes: ante, bi, extra, half, in, multi, mini, non, over, pre, re, semi, sub, super, un. An exception to this is if the prefix creates a double letter, which would be confusing without the hyphen: re-elect, over-rated, pre-existing.

Do not use a hyphen with the following suffixes: like, fold, wide, wise. An exception to this is if the suffix causes a triple letter, which would be confusing without the hyphen: shell-like.

Do not use a hyphen following very or following an adverb ending in ly.

Inclusive Language

In general, avoid language that unnecessarily excludes groups or is biased about gender, race, religion, age or physical condition. Try to use inclusive words. However, avoid awkward-sounding or unconventional words that draw attention to their inclusiveness. For example, use firefighter rather than fireperson. Avoid he or she, him or her, his or hers. For public media, avoid s/he and he/she, although these may be appropriate for internal (especially business) media.


The Internet (capitalized) is a decentralized worldwide network of computers, also known as the Net. An intranet (not capitalized) is a private network for use inside a company or organization. The World Wide Web (capitalized) is a global system linking documents, images and other files using the Internet. The Web (capitalized) is an acceptable shorter form. Derivative words such as website, webcast, webcam, webmaster are not capitalized.

Observe correct punctuation when using an Internet address:, Use a period following the address when it ends a sentence. If an Internet address does not fit entirely on a line, break it at a natural point but do not add a hyphen or other punctuation mark.

Use a lowercase prefix with a hyphen for terms such as e-mail, e-book, e-commerce, e-reader and e-philanthropy. Use dot-com as an informal adjective describing a company that does business on the Internet.

Capitalize names of software: Adobe Acrobat, Excel, Skype. Use spacing and capitalization associated with the trademarked terms: JavaScript, FileMaker Pro, PowerPoint, iPhone, AirMac.

Use lower case for common terms associated with digital media: texting, podcast, liking, cybersquat, phishing, troll, smart phone (two words), unfriend, retweet. Use caps for proper nouns: Twitter, Facebook.

Use capitals without periods for FTP (file transfer protocol), GIF (graphics interchange format), JPG (joint photographic experts group), PDF (portable document format) and similar acronyms. Also, use caps without periods for acronyms such as LOL, IMHO, 4rl, OMG, BTW, and WTF, but make sure your audience understands the reference. Use lower case for common abbreviations: app.

Addresses for the Internet follow a protocol of the Uniform Resource Locator (URL). Various categories of Internet addresses have specific suffices: com or biz for commercial enterprises, org for nonprofit organizations, edu or ac for educational institutions, gov for government agencies, mil for military sites, net for network operators, and int for international organizations. Some new suffixes are available for specific industries, including museum, aero, travel.

Other sites use a suffix indicating the country in which they are based. Some of the common national suffixes are jp for Japan, ca for Canada, au for Australia, fr for France, es for Spain, and il for Israel. Some less familiar national suffixes include az for Azerbaijan, va for Vatican City, bf for Burkina Faso, gl for Greenland, and zw for Zimbabwe. For a more complete listing, use a search engine to locate nation domain extension.

Additionally, some American Indian sites use the suffix nsn (Native sovereign nation) such as, or


Capitalize names of military organizations when referring to U.S. forces, regardless of whether the designation U.S. is used: He served in the Army. She is an ensign in the U.S. Coast Guard. Congress is debating Navy policy.

Capitalize military titles when they appear as a title before a name; do not capitalize such titles in other situations. For print media, abbreviate most military ranks when used before a name: Gen., Adm., Cmdr., Maj., Capt., Sgt., Cpl. Do not abbreviate qualifiers for such terms: Lance Cpl., Master Sgt. Exceptions: Ensign, Seaman, Petty Officer, Airman. Also, do not abbreviate complex forms of such terms: Senior Airman, Petty Officer 1st Class. Do not abbreviate any military titles for broadcast media.

Both Marines and Marine Corps are appropriate terms. Do not use abbreviations such as U.S.A.F. or U.S.M.C.

Do not abbreviate titles standing alone without a name.

Use short titles before a name: Lt. Jones retired … Adm. Marvin attended … Use longer titles following the name: Lewis, a petty officer 2nd class, was …


Use lowercase with names of money, both American and foreign: dollar, nickel, euro, yen, peso, Canadian dollar.

In general, round off amounts of money to the nearest dollar without using a decimal: $25, not $25.00.If it is necessary to designate cents less than a dollar, use numerals and the word cents: 5 cents. For amounts more than a dollar, use the dollar sign and decimal: $1.05.

For dollar amounts less than $1 million, use the dollar sign and numbers: $250; $198,750. For dollar amounts of $1 million or more, use the dollar sign and numerals up to two decimal places with the appropriate word: $3 million, $5.25 billion.

Do not use a hyphen when using dollar amounts as nouns: $10 million. Do not use a hyphen with million or billion used as a compound adjective: the $10 million surplus.

Do not use the dollar sign for informal expressions: I feel like a million bucks. She has a million-dollar smile. I’d like a nickel for every time...


Write out cardinal numbers below 10: one, five, nine. Use numerals for cardinal numbers of 10 or above: 15, 103, 5,372. (For exceptions, see the following entries: Age, Date, Dimension and Size, Enumeration and Sequence, Money, Time, and Weight.)

For print media, use numerals and words without a hyphen for rounded cardinal numbers of 1 million or above: 5 million, 6.5 billion. For specific cardinal numbers above 1 million when the exact number is important, use numerals only: a city of 2,378,525.

For broadcast media, use hyphenated numerals and words as the number should be pronounced for cardinal numbers above 100: one-hundred-and-three, 86-thousand spectators, 14-thousand dollars.

Numerals should not begin a sentence. Fifty-seven people attended. To prevent an awkward sentence beginning with a long number, rewrite the sentence. More than 11,000 people attended.

With ordinal numbers, use numerals: 1st, 115th. (Exception: Spell out commonly used ordinal numbers: First Amendment, second base.)

Use Roman numerals to designate sequences for wars and for people: World War I, Queen Elizabeth II, Pope Benedict XVI. In using Roman numerals, I = 1, V = 5, X = 10, L = 50, C = 100, M = 1,000.

For fractions, spell out amounts less than one and use a hyphen: one-fourth, two-thirds. Use numerals for fractions greater than one: 1½, 4. Or translate fractions greater than one into decimals.

Within text, percentages should be written as figures: 0.8 percent, 1 percent, 7.5 percent. Write out the word percent within text. In statistical matter such as charts and graphs, the percent sign (%) may be used without a space following the number.

Ratios should be used with the word to: student–teacher ratio of 25-to-1. Odds and election or competition results are used without the word to: 3–2 against her; vote of 675–346; a 27–23 victory.

Do not use numerals for casual references to numbers: I’ve told you a million times.

Organization Name

On first reference, spell out the full name of an organization. Do not immediately follow the full name with an abbreviation in parentheses. On subsequent reference, use initials or organizational abbreviations with no periods: IBM, PTA.

In unusual situations, follow the organization’s preference: eBay, Toys R Us.

For public media, abbreviate common terms for business organizations (Co., Inc., Corp., Bros., Ltd.) when they are used with a specific name: Robotron Inc., Boffo Corp. When they stand alone without an organization’s name, do not abbreviate such terms.

Spell out association in all instances: Benjamin County Lung Association.

For public media, use lower case generic names when designating organizational groupings: biology department, marketing section, sales division, board of directors. Capitalize proper names in such a context: English department, Japan division. Capitalize organizational groupings if the structure is unusual or unique to the organization: General Assembly of the United Nations, Standing Council of Canonical Orthodox Bishops.

For organizational media, capitalization of organizational groupings is optional.

Commonly used alternatives may be used in place of lengthy formal names. U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Department and the Pentagon all refer to the same government agency.


Do not use periods with the initials of well-known organizations and individuals: CIA, PRSA, UNESCO, JFK.

Use periods with abbreviations of states and nations: W.Va., U.K. Do not use a space between the letters.

Use periods with U.S. and U.N. when these are used as adjectives: U.S. Mint, U.N. secretary-general. Do not use a space between the letters.

Personal Name

For public print media, use the following order: first name or initial; middle initial(s) or middle name(s); surname; qualifiers such as Jr. or III with no commas: Robert L. Marsteen Jr.; J. Winston McNamara. Do not use a space between two consecutive initials: C.J. Johnson.

Identify a woman by her own first name rather than that of her husband: Dawn Smith rather than Mrs. Ronald Smith.

For public broadcast media, common practice is to use only the first name and surname. Robert Marsteen (instead of Robert L. Marsteen Jr.). An exception to this is when the individual is commonly known by a more complete name: Martin Luther King, Michael J. Fox.

For all public media, use full names unless people are well known by single names: entertainers such as Bjork, Elvira, Madonna, Brandy, Yanni, Eminem and Ludacris; athletes including Ronaldo and Pele. Avoid using nicknames unless these are used consistently and professionally by the individual: Jimmy Carter, 50 Cent, Magic Johnson, Ice T, Meat Loaf. For organizational media, the use of middle initials and nicknames is optional. Use quotation marks around a nickname when the full name is given: Paul “Bear” Bryant, Eric “E-Train” Lindros.

For foreign names, use the foreign spelling when it is familiar to the reader: José Canseco. Otherwise use spelling and pronunciation guides that approximate English usage. If there is no English equivalent, use an English spelling that approximates the pronunciation of the name.

Place Name

For towns and cities, write out terms in place names such as Point, Fort, Mount. Abbreviate Saint in place names: St. Louis, Port St. Lucie, Sault Ste. Marie. Exception: Saint John, New Brunswick.


Capitalize the names of political parties, whether they are used as a noun or an adjective: that Republican, this Socialist candidate, the Democratic platform. Capitalize the word party when it used with the specific name: the Reform Party.

Use lowercase when the term refers to a political philosophy: conservative cause, liberal agenda, democratic ideals.

When party affiliation is relevant, use the full party designation before or after the name: Democratic Assemblyman Kim Chang… Assemblyman Kim Chang, a Democrat… Or use abbreviations for the party and the state or district: Kim Chang (D-Colo.). (Note the lack of a period with the party affiliation.)

Proper Noun

Capitalize any proper nouns that refer to a specific person, place or thing: Susquehanna River, Willamette Valley, Pendleton Ballroom.

For public media, use lowercase when the noun stands alone: river, valley, ballroom. For organizational media, use of the lowercase on subsequent reference is optional.

Capitalize the word church when it is used in reference to a denomination: The doctrine of the Episcopal Church. Capitalize the word when the proper name is used in reference to a specific congregation or building: St. Timothy Episcopal Church. But use lowercase when it refers to a building without the proper name: An Episcopal church on the corner.

Professional Credential

Do not use professional credentials for public media. For organizational media, use them sparingly. If they are necessary and recognized by readers, place them after a name, set off by commas and used without periods: Ronald D. Smith, APR. See Academic Degree.

Pronoun Agreement

Indefinite pronouns use the form of the verb that agrees with their meaning. Some indefinite pronouns are singular: each, everyone, nobody, etc. Singular pronouns take singular verbs: Nobody is happy about this.

Other indefinite pronouns are plural: both, few, many, several. Plural pronouns take plural verbs: Few are happy about this.

Some indefinite pronouns can be either singular or plural: all, any, most, none, some. These pronouns take the verb appropriate to the meaning of the prepositional phrase following the pronoun: Some of the candy was gone. Some of the candy canes were gone. Most of the people were happy to see her.

Quotation Mark

Place quotation marks before and after all quoted matter. Periods and commas always precede closing quotation marks. Question marks and exclamation points are placed before closing quotation marks if they apply only to the material being quoted. They follow quotation marks if they apply to the entire sentence.

Quotation marks are not needed in formats clearly identified as questions and answers or as indented blocks of text as in an academic or business report.

For quoted material that runs more than a single paragraph, use open quotation marks at the beginning of each paragraph but use the closing quotation mark only at the end of the final paragraph.

For news release formats, a quotation usually begins a paragraph. Generally, the attribution follows the quoted sentence or is inserted within the quoted sentence(s): “I hear you,” she said. “But I don’t like what you are saying.”

Use quotation marks around the names of songs, plays, computer games, television and radio programs, poems, speeches, and works of art. Do not use quotation marks for names of magazines, newspapers or reference materials such as dictionaries, handbooks and encyclopedias. For journalism-orientated materials such as news releases, follow AP Style and use quotation marks for names of books. In more literacy publications such as books, use italics for names of books. For organizational media such as brochures, web publications, and so on, adopt a consistent style. See Title of Composition.

Race, Ethnicity and Nationality

Capitalize proper names (either as nouns or adjectives) of races, nationalities, tribes, peoples, etc.: Arab, Jewish, Caucasian, Sioux history, Nordic pride. Lowercase informal terms for race: black, white, mulatto. Do not mention race unless it is pertinent to the story; avoid derogatory racial and ethnic terms. When pertinent, use terms of personal heritage that are preferred by members of the group. Avoid terms that are outdated or those that may cause offense.

Both American Indian and Native American are acceptable umbrella terms, but it is better to be specific: Navajo tribal official, Ojibwa writer, Lenape journalist. Avoid insulting terms such as squaw and potentially offensive terms such as warpath. Capitalize the names of American Indian tribes and nations: Arawak, Cherokee, Hopi, Seneca Nation of Indians.

Hispanic and Latino are umbrella terms, encompassing specific ethnicities such as Cuban, Dominican, Puerto Rican and Chilean. Note that people from Portugal and Brazil are Latino but not Hispanic. Avoid Chicano as a pejorative term.

Note that Arab and Muslim are not synonymous terms. Arab is an ethnic identity; Muslim designates a person who professes the religion of Islam. Not all Arabs are Muslim (many are Catholic or Orthodox). Not all Muslims are Arab (many are Asians, Berbers, Turks, Kurds or Persians).

State Name

Do not abbreviate the name of one of the 50 states when is it used without a city name within text, either as a noun or adjective. Within text, use common abbreviations (right columns, below) when the state is used with a city or town or with a military base: Watertown, N.Y., Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Md. For mailing purposes, use the official two-letter postal abbreviations (left columns, below) for states and U.S. territories.

AK                               Alaska                                             

AL                                Ala.                                                      

AR                               Ark.                                                  

AZ                                Ariz.                                                 

CA                                Calif.

CO                                Colo.

CT                                Conn.                                               

DC                                District of Columbia              

DE                                Del.                                                    

FL                                Fla.                                                    

GA                               Ga.                                                     

GU                               Guam                                               

HI                                Hawaii                                            

IA                                 Iowa                                                

ID                                 Idaho                                               

IL                                 Ill.                                                      

KS                                Kan.                                                  

KY                                Ky.                                                     

LA                                La.                                                      

MA                              Mass.                                               

MD                              Md.                                                    

ME                               Maine                                              

MI                                Mich.                                                

MN                              Minn.                                               

MO                              Mo.                                                    

MS                               Miss.                                                

MT                              Mont.                                               

NC                                N.C.

ND                               N.D.

NE                                Neb.                                                  

NH                               N.H.

NJ                                 N.J.

NM                              N.M.

NV                               Nev.                                                  

NY                                N.Y.

OH                               Ohio

OK                               Okla.

OR                               Ore.

PA                                Pa.

PR                                Puerto Rico

RI                                 R.I.

SC                                 S.C.

SD                                S.D.

TN                               Tenn.

TX                                Texas

UT                               Utah

VA                               Va.

VI                                 Virgin Islands

VT                               Vt.

WA                              Wash.

WI                               Wis.

WV                              W.Va.

WY                              Wyo.


Use New York state to distinguish it from New York City, and Washington state to distinguish it from Washington, D.C. In such uses, the word state is not capitalized because it is not part of the formal name. However, use capitals for the names of government agencies, such as New York State Board of Regents.

Use the common abbreviation when it intrudes into a proper noun: The Sacramento (Calif.) Bee, Lock Haven (Pa.) University.


For print media, use figures with lowercase designations: 7:30 p.m. Use the simple form for hourly designations: 10 a.m. rather than 10:00 a.m. An exception to the use of figures is to write out noon and midnight. Technically there is no 12 a.m. or 12 p.m. (since these mean before and after the meridien, that is, midday). There is no space between the letters a.m. and p.m.

For broadcast media, use conversational time designations: 10 o’clock this morning, 7:30 every night.

Title of Composition

Capitalize principal words of composition titles (plays, articles, blogs, television programs, movies, songs, computer games, works of art, speeches, and public relations materials such as news releases). Place quotation marks around such composition titles. Do not underline or italicize titles of compositions.

When writing for journalism-orientated materials such as news releases, follow AP Style and use quotation marks for names of books. When writing in more literacy publications such as books or in professional publications such as annual reports, use italics for names of books. Adopt a consistent style when writing for organizational media such as brochures, web publications, and so on.

Capitalize but do not use quotation marks with reference books such as catalogs, dictionaries, almanacs, encyclopedias and handbooks or with periodicals such as newspapers and magazines. Also, capitalize but do not use quotation marks with religious scriptures such as the Bible or the Quran.

Capitalize the word the when it is part of the formal and preferred name of a periodical: The Wall Street Journal, The Nation. Capitalize the word magazine only if it is an official part of the title: Newsweek magazine, Harper’s Magazine.

Title of People (Courtesy Title)

Courtesy titles are polite designations of personal and marital status. First names and surnames used without courtesy titles are the preferred usage for first reference. Do not indicate marital status unless it is pertinent to the piece being written.

For subsequent references for men, the surname without the courtesy title Mr. is standard.

For subsequent references for women, it has become common to apply this same standard when the context is professional. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will visit… (first reference). Clinton will visit… (subsequent reference). When the woman’s role is more social or when it flows from her husband’s status, it is not uncommon to maintain the traditional practice of using the courtesy title—Mrs., Miss, Ms.—according to the woman’s preference, followed by the surname: First Lady Michele Obama said… (first reference). Mrs. Obama added… (subsequent reference).

Do not use Mr. (except as Mr. and Mrs. Jones). Do not indicate marital status unless it is pertinent to the piece being written.

For organizational media, it is common to use the courtesy title with the surname for subsequent references. Use Mr. for men, and Mrs., Miss or Ms. according to the woman’s preference. These abbreviations may be used for both print and broadcast media.

Generally, courtesy titles are not used for people under the age of 18. Instead, use the child’s first name.

For print media, abbreviate Junior and Senior after a name and use without commas: Emmanuel Lee Jr. Do not abbreviate these titles for broadcast media.

Title of People (Formal Title)

Formal titles are governmental, professional or religious designations that are an integral part of the identity of an individual. In general, capitalize the title when they are used before the name and as part of the name, but use lowercase if titles stand alone or are used after the name.

For both internal and public media, capitalize formal titles when they appear before the name, but use lowercase when the title is used without the name: President Obama said… The president said…

Most titles of government officials are written out rather than abbreviated: mayor, president, prime minister, king. A few common governmental titles are abbreviated for print media when they are used before a full name or a surname: Gov. Anne Crosby-Jones, Sen. Nathaniel Stern, Rep. Seneca. Do not abbreviate these titles when they are used without the name or in any usages for broadcast media.

Do not abbreviate titles of religion: bishop, rabbi, monsignor, father, sister, brother, imam, mullah. An exception to this is Rev., which is abbreviated and used as an adjective with the word the: the Rev. Lee Breckenridge.

For print media, abbreviate most military ranks when used with a name: Gen., Adm., Cmdr., Maj., Capt., Sgt., Cpl. Exceptions: ensign, seaman, petty officer, airman. Do not abbreviate any military titles for broadcast media.

Do not abbreviate academic titles such as dean, professor and chancellor: Professor Marta Borodin.

Do not abbreviate qualifiers: Associate Justice Jaime Gonzalez, Assistant Professor Marc Tannenbaum. Capitalize formal qualified titles before the name, but do not capitalize informal qualifiers: He met with acting Mayor Jones.

For all print media, abbreviate Dr. Spell out doctor as a title with a name when writing for broadcast media. Because readers of general publications will probably presume that the title of doctor refers to someone with a medical degree, be clear if you are referring to someone with an academic degree. Do not use the title of doctor for someone holding an honorary degree.

For organizational media, abbreviations of formal titles and their use on subsequent reference are optional.

For public media, do not repeat a personal title on subsequent reference: Mayor Kevin O’Malley said… (first reference). O’Malley said… (subsequent references). As an exception to this guideline, repeat the title of persons known only by a religious name: Patriarch Theodosius, Mother Teresa.

For women, use a courtesy title or a religious title with the surname on subsequent reference, unless the woman prefers not to have the title used: Mayor Maureen A. O’Malley said… (first reference). Mrs. O’Malley said… or O’Malley said… (subsequent references). For organizational media, use of titles on subsequent reference is optional.

Formal titles of honor generally are not used for public media. For organizational media, it is appropriate to use both forms of religious titles such as Father Joseph Martin or Pastor Soo as well as more formal titles, such as the Right Rev. Joseph Martin. It also is appropriate to use titles of nobility and prestige in organizational media: His Honor, Her Majesty, His Eminence, Her Royal Highness.

Formal titles sometimes are used following the name. Lengthy titles should follow rather than precede the name.

For public media, do not capitalize formal titles used after the name: Julio Castaneda, the senator from Texas; Eugenie Buchanan, professor of fine arts. For organizational media, capitalization of formal titles that follow the name is optional.

Title of People (Functional Title)

Functional titles are descriptions of an individual according to an occupation or a role within an organization. CEO is an acceptable title, but avoid CFO and CRO and instead spell out similar job titles such as chief financial officer and chief reputation officer.

Short functional titles may be used either before or after the name. Use no commas when they are placed before the name, but use commas when they follow the name: Newspaper editor Pierre Mercier said… Pierre Mercier, the newspaper editor, said…

Long functional titles should follow the name and should be set off by commas: Evelyn Brown, senior director for public affairs, said… Mitsuo Ogawa, interim vice president for administration, will begin…

For public media, do not capitalize functional titles preceding or following the name. For organizational media, capitalization of functional titles is optional.


Use figures for weights, but spell out terms such as pounds and grams. Do not use hyphens, but use commas to separate categories. The baby weighs 8 pounds, 11 ounces. However use hyphens and no comma when using a compound adjective before a noun: the 8-pound 11-ounce baby.