While proofreading a corporate communications piece recently I noticed that the writer either did not know AP style or did not make an effort to look up AP style rules for the story. It could have been that the writer did not work in the communications department and was unaware AP style is used.
Most corporations and many smaller businesses use The Associated Press Stylebook and often their own company style guide to set standards for writing. Some small businesses don’t follow AP style, but these business owners need to create their own style – a set of guidelines to make their writing consistent for their customers.
If you are a corporate communicator, you know that the AP Stylebook is just as much your writing bible as it is the gold standard of writing for professional journalists. And like journalists, your job is to know basic AP style rules and look up what you don’t know. Following AP style gives your company a consistent way of communicating. Consistency builds trust. Trust is good for business.
That’s why everything published by the company (online or in print and internally and externally) needs to first be funneled through its corporate communications department.
It may be helpful for communicators, therefore, to pass on a few tips to noncommunicators who regularly contribute to business writing.
Here are two suggestions:
- Know some AP style basics, such as:
- Headline capitalization: Capitalize the first letter, then use lowercase.
- Abbreviations: Spell out abbreviated words on first reference. Use abbreviations in subsequent references. See the stylebook for exceptions.
- State names: Spell out state names with cities. (A change from the long-standing rule.) Use a comma after the state name if in the middle of a sentence.
- Capitalization of corporate titles. Capitalize titles before the name of the person. After the name, add a comma and use lowercase for the title.
- Commas in a series: Don’t use a comma in a series before “and” (Lions, tigers and bears).
- Commas for independent (noun-verb) clauses: Use the comma before “and” (Dorothy said hi, and the lion blushed.)
- Get an AP Stylebook.
- Look up what you do not know in the AP Stylebook.
- If your company has its own corporate style guide, as most do, with variations of AP style, make sure you use it.
So, if you regularly contribute to business publications and you are not a trained communicator, learn some basic style rules to help your company send a consistent message.