Ernie Pyle’s writings from the battlefields of Europe and the Pacific in World War Two earned him accolades from the American people. President Harry Truman told of Pyle that “No man in this war has so well told the story of the American fighting man as American fighting men wanted it told. He deserves the gratitude of all his countrymen.”
As Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein uncovered Watergate in the early 1970s that toppled the popular Presidency of Richard Nixon, the work of Woodward and Bernstein was called “maybe the single greatest reporting effort of all time.”
The common denominator for all journalists, the great and the not-so-great, is they write in Associated Press style. AP style is used by many newspapers, magazines, and public relations offices across the United States; the style offers consistency, clarity, accuracy, and brevity to people working in U.S. newsrooms.
Some guidelines include using firefighter for fireman or firewoman; police officer for policeman or woman; and other unintentional non-offensive languages.
Other guidelines include:
- Abbreviations and acronyms: Try to spell out names rather than abbreviate them. An example might be United Nations for U.N. It is typical to abbreviate after spelling out the name for brevity.
- Addresses: Abbreviate Ave., Blvd., and St. and directional cues when used with a numbered address. Always spell out other words such as alley, drive, and road. If the street name or directional cue is used without a numbered address, it should be capitalized and spelled out. If a street name is a number, spell out First through Ninth and use figures for 10th and higher.
An example may when addressing the United Nations Headquarters:
405 East 42nd St., New York, N.Y.
- Datelines: Newspapers use datelines when the information for a story is obtained outside the paper’s hometown or general area of service. Datelines appear at the beginning of stories and include the name of the city in all capital letters, usually followed by the state or territory in which the city is located.
Examples might be:
New York: Members of the United Nations convened today…
Albany, N.Y.: State legislators will vote on…
There are other AP guidelines that must be followed for accuracy and consistency. Among them are days of the week, miles, times and titles, dimensions, and punctuation. Consult the most current Associated Press Style Guide for more information.
The AP Style Guide contains over 5,000 entries. This may seem immense especially to a news reporter or journalist but consider this. The effort you put into following AP will pay off in the end.
Maybe one day, you will be as great as Pyle, Woodward, and Bernstein. Persevere. Be curious. Forge onwards.
This is the 2nd in a three-part series on writing styles.