Why should you try to keep up with the Associated Press (AP) style updates? When we all use the same style of writing and punctuation, we not only increase consistency, but we improve readability and look more professional.
Recently, the AP style guide was updated with many new entries. Below, we are sharing the ones that are most pertinent to the university audience.
News, science and health
News stories should be geared toward the general public. If you’re going to share it, it needs to be accessible by general readers, written for the layperson and contain no jargon. Good litmus test? Ask yourself “whether it would be talked about at the dinner table.”
Share science stories if they are “relevant or interesting to general readers.”
Try harder with headlines
This does not only apply to news organizations. It applies to the headings on your website and headlines for your blog content.
“Headlines are key to any story. A vivid, accurate and fair headline can entice people to dig in for more. A bland, vague or otherwise faulty headline can push readers away. Often, a headline and photo are all that many readers see of a story. Their entire knowledge of the piece may be based on those elements.”
Your headline should stand alone and reveal key content. Think of each line of content, including your headline, having one job to do: Make readers want to read more.
- Headline should match the tone of the story – a decline in your area? Don’t make a punny headline.
- Attribute as needed.
- Build in keywords that you think people use when searching for your topic.
- Sentence cap your headline, meaning only capitalize the first word and proper nouns. Exception: The first word after a colon is always uppercase in headlines.
- Avoid abbreviations and alphabet soup.
- And “use numerals. Don’t spell out numbers in casual uses or formal names.”
“Avoid using the phrase committed suicide.” Instead, if this tragedy occurs, use an alternate like “killed himself, took her own life or died by suicide.”
The verb commit can bring the connotation of a criminal act.
“Do not refer to an unsuccessful suicide attempt. Refer instead to an attempted suicide.”
The book has revised this entry as well. “Do not describe an individual as disabled or handicapped unless it is clearly pertinent to a story. If a description must be used, try to be specific about the type of disability or symptoms. An ad featuring actor Michael J. Fox swaying noticeably from the effects of Parkinson’s disease drew nationwide attention.
“Avoid descriptions that connote pity, such as afflicted with or suffers from multiple sclerosis. Rather, has multiple sclerosis.”
For more tips on writing on brand at Missouri State, visit the Editorial Style Guide or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with specific questions.