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Associated Press Style, Quick Reference Guide

Read the original quick reference guide from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Academic Degrees

Use an apostrophe and spell out academic degrees

Use abbreviations for degrees only when you need to include a list of credentials after a name; set them off with commas. 

Acronyms

Don’t use them

Spell out on first mention. On subsequent mentions, use generic terms such as the board, the division, etc.

Don’t put acronyms in parentheses after the first reference (for example, “The Water Quality Control Division (WQCD) …”). 

Addresses

Spell out all generic parts of street names (avenue, north, road) when no specific address is given. 

When a number is used, abbreviate avenue (Ave.), boulevard (Blvd.), street (St.) and directional parts of street names. 

Capitalizations

Do not capitalize federal, state, department, division, board, program, section, unit, etc., unless the word is part of a formal name. 

Capitalize common nouns such as party, river and street when they are part of a proper name. 

Capitalize the word room when used with the number of the room or when part of the name of a specially designated room.

Lowercase directional indicators except when they refer to specific geographic regions or popularized names for those regions. 

Capitalize formal titles that come directly before a name. 

Lowercase formal titles that appear on their own or follow a name. 

Never capitalize job descriptions regardless of whether they are before or after a name. 

Dates, Days and Times

Always use Arabic figures, without st, nd, rd or th.

When a month is used with a specific date, abbreviate Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec.

When a phrase lists only a month and year, spell out the month and do not separate the month and the year with commas.

When a phrase refers to a month, day and year, set off the year with commas. 

Use figures except for noon and midnight 

Use a.m. or p.m. (with periods) 

Names

Use a person’s first and last name the first time he or she is mentioned. On second reference, use only last name with no title. 

Do not use courtesy titles such as Mr., Mrs., Miss or Ms. unless they are part of a direct quotation or are needed to differentiate between people who have the same last name. 

Numbers

In general, spell out numbers one through nine, and use figures for numbers 10 and higher. There are many exceptions that always take figures. Common exceptions include: 

  • Addresses
  • Ages, but not for inanimate objects
  • Cents
  • Dollars. Do not include a period and two zeroes when referring to an even dollar figure.
  • Dates. Dates take cardinal numbers.
  • Dimensions
  • Highways
  • Millions, billions
  • Percentages. Percent is one word.
  • Speed
  • Temperatures
  • Times. Do not include a colon and two zeroes when referring to an even hour. 

Spell out numbers used at the beginning of a sentence. Exception: Never spell out years. 

Use commas to set off each group of three digits in numerals higher than 999 (except for years and addresses). 

Use decimals (up to two places) for amounts in the millions and billions that do not require a precise figure. 

Add an s but no apostrophe to a number to make it plural. The same rule applies to decades. Use an apostrophe on a decade only if cutting off the initial figures. 

Use hyphens for phone numbers. 

Punctuation, Quotation

Apostrophe

  • For plural nouns ending in s, add only an apostrophe.
  • For singular common nouns ending in s, add ‘s
  • For singular proper names ending in s, use only an apostrophe:
  • For singular proper names ending in s sounds such as x, ce, and z, use ‘s 
  • For plurals of a single letter, add ‘s
  • Do not use ‘s for plurals of numbers or multiple letter combinations 

Bullets 

Associated Press style is to use dashes, not bullets, for lists that follow a colon. The department prefers bullets, but punctuate them per AP style: After each bullet, capitalize the first letter and use periods at the end of each item. 

Colon 

  • Capitalize the first word after a colon only if it is a proper noun or the start of a complete sentence. 
  • Colons go outside quotation marks unless they are part of the quoted material. 

Comma 

  • Don’t use a comma before a conjunction in a simple series. 
  • Use a comma for a series that included elements containing and or or 

Hyphen 

  • Use hyphens to link all the words in a compound adjective.
  • Do not use a hyphen if the construction includes very or an adverb ending in –ly 

Parentheses

Avoid using parentheses when possible. If parentheses are required the rules are: If the parenthetical is a complete, independent sentence, place the period inside the parentheses; if not, the period goes outside. 

Period 

Use only one space after the end of a sentence. Period. Here’s why.

Quotation marks 

  • Single quotation marks should be used only for a quote within a quote. Do not use quotation marks for word emphasis. 
  • The period and the comma always go within the quotation marks. 
  • The dash, semicolon, question mark and exclamation point go within the quotation marks when they apply to the quoted matter only. They go outside when they apply to the whole sentence. 

Semicolon

Use a semicolon to clarify a series that includes a number of commas. Include a semicolon before the conjunction. 

Spacing 

Use only one space between sentences. Here’s why.

State Abbreviations

  • Ala.
  • Ariz.
  • Ark.
  • Calif.
  • Colo.
  • Conn.
  • Del.
  • Fla.
  • Ga.
  • Ill.
  • Ind.
  • Kan.
  • La.
  • Md.
  • Mass.
  • Mich.
  • Minn.
  • Miss.
  • Mo. 
  • Mont.
  • Neb.
  • Nev.
  • N.H.
  • N.J.
  • N.M.
  • N.Y.
  • N.C.
  • N.D.
  • Okla.
  • Ore.
  • Pa.
  • R.I.
  • S.C.
  • S.D.
  • Tenn.
  • Va.
  • Vt.
  • Wash.
  • W. Va.
  • Wis.
  • Wyo.

Cities Not Requiring State Names

  • Atlanta
  • Baltimore
  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Cincinnati
  • Cleveland
  • Dallas
  • Denver
  • Detroit
  • Salt Lake City
  • San Antonio

  • Honolulu
  • Houston
  • Indianapolis
  • Las Vegas
  • Los Angeles
  • Miami
  • Milwaukee
  • Minneapolis
  • San Diego
  • San Francisco
  • New Orleans
  • New York
  • Oklahoma City
  • Philadelphia
  • Phoenix
  • Pittsburgh
  • St. Louis
  • Seattle
  • Washington

Titles

  • These formal titles are capitalized and abbreviated as shown when used before a name both inside and outside quotations: Dr., Gov., Lt. Gov., Rep., Sen. On second reference, use the last name only. 
  • Generally, capitalize formal titles when they appear before a person’s name 
  • Lowercase titles if they are informal, appear without a person’s name, follow a person’s name or are set off before a name by commas. 
  • Lowercase adjectives that designate the status of a title. 
  • If a title is long, place it after the person’s name, or set it off with commas before the person’s name. 
  • Abbreviate and capitalize most titles when they are used directly before a name 
  • Spell out titles with names used in direct quotes with the exception of Dr., Mr. and Mrs. 
  • Lowercase formal titles that appear on their own or follow a name 
  • Never capitalize job descriptions — shortstop, police officer, attorney and so on. 
  • Titles of books, movies, recordings, television shows and similar works are set off in quotation marks, with all principal words capitalized 
  • Titles of magazines, newspapers and reference works get no special treatment 

Technological Terms

  • BlackBerry, BlackBerrys
  • Download
  • eBay Inc. (use EBay Inc. when the word begins a sentence)
  • e-book
  • e-book reader
  • e-reader
  • email
  • cellphone
  • Facebook 
  • Google, Googling, Googled
  • Hashtag
  • IM (IMed, IMing; for first reference, use instant messenger)
  • Internet (after first reference, the Net)
  • iPad, iPhone, iPod (use IPad, IPhone, or IPod when the word begins a sentence)
  • LinkedIn
  • social media
  • smartphone
  • the Net
  • Twitter, tweet, tweeted, retweet
  • World Wide Web
  • website
  • Web page
  • webmaster
  • YouTube 

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