I will never forget the first time I heard the term AP style. In my first public relations job, I had written a news release and my supervisor returned the draft full of red ink and said, “This release doesn’t follow AP style.”

Short for “The Associated Press Stylebook,” AP style is the writing style followed by most journalists. Unlike traditional rules, it includes such stylistic changes as lowercase titles, one space after a period and the absence of the Oxford comma before the conjunction in a list of three or more items.

The first guide was published in 1953. Since then, editors often make revisions – just as Webster’s adds new words to its dictionary each year. In 2016, Stylebook editors made internet and website lowercase in all instances.

This year, AP Stylebook editors announced a change that was a bit concerning at first: allowing the plural “they” to be used as a singular pronoun. My initial reaction was that this was caving in to the way people generally speak, using the all-inclusive “they” instead of “he” or “she.”

Looking into it further, I learned that this change is intended for gender equality. Another change for gender equality is accepting "LGBTQ" when referencing the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer community.

During my nearly 30 years as a public relations professional, I have explained AP style to numerous clients. Many of them have wondered why their titles are not capitalized or why there is not a comma before “Inc.” in their company name.

It is fair to wonder whether AP style matters and if it is still relevant. I submit that it does and that it is. One of the main goals of the public relations practice is to make work a bit easier for journalists. PR pros can help do that by providing content that reporters can use in their stories, in the format that they use themselves.

If you or your business is interested in starting or enhancing a public relations program, contact Cook Communications LLC today. We can help you determine what is newsworthy and then package it in AP style for the news media.

- Tim Cook

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