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Style tips


How are hurricanes ranked?

Hurricanes are ranked 1 to 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Read about Hurricane Joaquin.

seat belt

Seat belt or seatbelt?

Seat belt. Two words. 

in, into

Did a thief break into or break in to a house?

In indicates location: He was in the room.
Into indicates motion: She walked into the room. 

body mass index

Is it a high body-mass index or body mass index that can be an indicator of high body fatness.

See “body mass index” entry: no hyphen. 

Bubble Wrap

Should I use bubble wrap or Bubble Wrap to protect the shipping content?

See “Bubble Wrap” entry. A registered trademark. Unless the trademark name is important to the story, use cushioning or packaging material.


When should I use female instead of woman?

Use female as an adjective, not woman: She was Alaska’s first female governor. 


Why are some drink names capitalized?

Like other recipes, if a cocktail is named for a person or place, it is capitalized. Otherwise, lowercase. Unless it’s a brand name, schnapps is lowercase. A Manhattan is capitalized, an old fashioned is lowercase. Lowercase vermouth, which goes into a Manhattan. 


Do you describe someone as African American or African-American?

AP uses the hyphen to designate dual heritage, such as African-American, Mexican-American, Hispanic-American, Italian-American and Asian-American. 

first-grade student

Is he a first grade, first-grade, 1st grade or 1st-grade student?

first-grade student. See “grade, grader” entry. 

blood alcohol

Is it his blood-alcohol level or blood alcohol level that is too high?

See “blood alcohol content” entry: As a noun phrase, no hyphen. Authorities may use level in that context, so it’s equally acceptable. 


How do you measure wildfires?

It’s wildfire, one word. Use square miles to describe the size of the fires. 


Can you just use AP in your article to refer to The Associated Press?

Use The Associated Press on first reference (the capitalized article is part of the formal name.) On second reference, AP or the AP (no capital on the) may be used. 


When should you use pled as the past tense of plead?

It’s plead, pleaded, pleading. Do not use the colloquial past tense form, pled. 

warm up (n.), warm up (v.)

A sports question from fans: Which is correct? Warm-up or warmup?

Warmup (n.) and warm up (v.) were added to AP Stylebook Sports Guidelines in 2015. 

part time, part-time

Is it a part time job or a part-time job?

Hyphenate part-time when used as a compound modifier: She works part time. She has a part-time job. 

department Chairman

Should I talk to department Chairman or Department Chairman John Smith?

According to “academic titles” entry: Lowercase modifiers such as department in department Chairman Jerome Wiesner. 

Web page

Do you visit a webpage, web page or Web page?

Web page is capitalized and two words, as in the “website” entry. 


Did you make a big boo boo or boo-boo?

See “boo-boo” entry: always hyphen. 


Is it pontiff or Pontiff?

Pontiff is not a formal title. Always lowercase. 


How to you refer to services such as Uber and Lyft?

Ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft let people use smartphone apps to book and pay for a private car service or, in some cases, a taxi. They may also be called ride-booking services. Do not use ride-sharing

BLT, zip-close bag

Guess what I brought for lunch today?

Thinking about lunch? Pack a BLT (OK on first reference) in a zip-close bag (Ziploc is a brand name.) 

collectors’ item

Is it a collectors’ item or collector item?

The term is plural possessive to indicate that such an item is typically sought by more than one collector. 

headwind, head wind

Is it head wind or headwind?

AP stories favor headwind (one word,) although Webster’s makes it two words (head wind.) 


Do you describe someone as Asian American or Asian-American?

AP uses the hyphen to designate dual heritage, such as African-American, Mexican-American, Hispanic-American, Italian-American and Asian-American. 

global warming

How do you refer to those who don’t accept climate science?

To describe those who don’t accept climate science or dispute the world is warming from man-made forces, use climate change doubters or those who reject mainstream climate science. Avoid use of skeptics or deniers


Why is today seldom used in newspaper articles?

Use today only in direct quotations and in phrases that do not refer to a specific day: Customs today are different from those of a century ago. Use the day of the week in copy, not today

allude, refer

When should I use allude instead of refer?

To allude to something is to speak of it without specifically mentioning it. To refer to something is to mention it directly. 

Coast Guard

Should Coast Guard be capitalized?

Capitalize Coast Guard when referring to this branch of the U.S. armed forces: the Coast GuardCoast Guard policy

onto, on to

Do you hold on to or hold onto your horses?

One-word onto means on top of, aware of. Otherwise use two words: hold on to, log on to. 


Do you abbreviate artificial intelligence as A.I. or AI?

The abbreviation for artificial intelligence is AI, not A.I. 

school terms

Style Quiz: Schoolbook or school book? Schoolyear or school year?

Schoolbook, schoolchildren, schoolroom, schoolteacher, schoolwork and schoolyard are one word, but school year, school age, school day and school bus are two. 


Does biannual mean twice a year or once every two years?

Semiannual means twice a year, a synonym for biannual. Do not confuse with biennial, every two years. 


Was it a horrifying minuteslong or minutes-long encounter?

Seconds and minutes generally can be timed or accurately estimated, so it’s better to use figures for those measurements, usually hyphenated as compound modifiers. 


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AP Stylebook

The 2018 edition of The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law includes about 200 new or revised entries, with chapters covering data journalism, business, fashion, food, religion and sports terms, as well as media law, news values, punctuation, social media and a new chapter on polls and surveys. ISBN: 978-0-917360-67-1.

© 2010-2019 The Associated Press and Tansa Systems. All rights reserved.


This collection contains a list of almost 3000 chemical compounds, their chemical composition, and links to web reference materials for each.

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