by Kim Stangle
The age of citizen journalism and user-generated content has surely shifted the focus away from proper grammar and style in many publications. But to coin a phrase my mom often used growing up … “just because your friends do it, doesn’t mean you should.”
We still proofread every document produced in our office (with the exception of conversational e-mail) paying special attention to grammar, punctuation and AP Style … the time-honored rules developed as the standard for journalists by The Associated Press.
In honor of the newly released 2009 AP Stylebook, here are 25 helpful style tips:
toward not towards; afterward not afterwards
Use figures for people and animals (My dog is 3 years old.), but not for inanimates (The building is fifteen years old.).
Hyphenate ages expressed as adjectives before a noun (the 2-year-old girl).
all right not alright
When in doubt, lowercase is probably your best bet. Avoid the tendency to overcapitalize!
Capitalize: proper nouns, proper names and formal titles (but only when immediately before a name).
It’s only necessary to capitalize city when it’s part of an official city’s name (New York City).
Lowercase ALL ‘city of’ phrases. However, we typically capitalize ‘City of’ phrases when referring to the city’s government office as an organization.
When used, do not set off with commas (OrLANtech Inc. not OrLANtech, Inc.)
daylight saving time not daylight savings time (no plural ‘s’)
website not Web site (AP Style made the groundbreaking change to the lowercase, one-word option April 2010.)
Internet but intranet
ensure vs. insure (only use insure for references to insurance)
flier (an aviator or handbill) vs. flyer (Flyer is the proper name of some trains and buses.)
historic it was a historic event not an historic
it’s (contraction of it is or it has) vs. its (possessive form of the pronoun it)
media (when referring to mass communication) is plural (the news media are not is)
millions, billions (use figures except in casual uses)
9/11 Sept. 11 is preferred when describing the terrorist attacks in the U.S.
There are many rules to learn when expressing a number, but the best rule of thumb is: Spell out whole numbers below 10, use figures for 10 and above.
It’s not necessary to use ‘on’ before a date or day of the week when its absence would not lead to confusion, except at the beginning of a sentence.
(We plan to meet Tuesday. On July 3, the commission will meet to review the plan.)
over (use with spatial relationships) vs. more than (use when referring to numbers)
(The plane flew over the city. We have been in business more than 24 years.)
pique (to excite or arouse an emotion) vs. peak (the pointed top of something; a time of day, year, etc., when demand is greatest)
stationary (to stand still) vs. stationery (writing paper)
The following states should not be abbreviated in text or datelines: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah.
Only use two-letter abbreviations (e.g., FL) with full addresses, including ZIP code.
T-shirt not t-shirt
Figures: Add an s (1970s)
Single Letters: Use ’s (mind your p’s and q’s)
quotation mark punctuation:
The period and 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.