The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law, usually called the AP Stylebook, is an English grammar style and usage guide created by American journalists working for or connected with the Associated Press over the last century to standardize mass communications. It is a guide for grammar, punctuation and principles of reporting, including many definitions and rules for usage as well as styles for capitalization, abbreviation, spelling and numerals.
The first publicly available edition of the book was published in 1953 and was updated biennially over the next 20 years. Today the AP Stylebook is updated annually (usually in June). On September 28, 2009 the Associated Press released the first mobile edition of the Stylebook for the iPhone—the AP Stylebook app. In 2013, Associated Press publisher's celebrated the book's 60th anniversary (edition numbers are no longer used). The first Basic Books edition was published in August 1977. Modern editions are released in several formats, including trade paperback, flat-lying spiral-bound, an online subscription and an iOS mobile app.
Writers in broadcasting, magazine publishing, marketing departments and public relations firms traditionally adopt and apply AP grammar and punctuation styles. Over the last 50 years, the AP Stylebook has become a leading style for non-journalistic publishers such as corporate marketing and public relations departments. Its simplified grammar, such as dropping the Oxford comma and using figures for all numbers above nine, saves scarce print and web space.
The stylebook is organized into sections:Business Guidelines
A reference section for reporters covering business and financial news including general knowledge of accounting, bankruptcy, mergers and international bureaus. For instance, it includes explanations of five different chapters of bankruptcy.Sports Guidelines and Style
Includes terminology, statistics, organization rules and guidelines commonly referenced by sports reporters. Example: The correct way to spell and use basketball terminology e.g. half-court pass, field goal and goaltending.Guide to Punctuation
A specific guide on how to use punctuation in journalistic materials, this section includes rules regarding hyphens, commas, parentheses and quotations. Example: In a series use commas to separate items but no comma before a conjunction e.g. We bought eggs, milk and cheese at the store.Briefing on Media Law
An overview of legal issues and ethical expectations for those working in the journalism industry. Example: The difference between slander and libel. Slander is spoken; libel is written, to start with.Photo Captions
The simple formula of what to include when writing a photo outline.Editing Marks
A key with editing symbols to assist the journalist with the proofreading process. Example: When a word is circled it means that the word should be abbreviated, or that an abbreviation should be unabbreviated.Bibliography
This provides second reference materials for information not included in the book. Example: Use Webster's New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition, Wiley, Hoboken, N.J. as first reference after the AP Stylebook for spelling, style, usage and foreign geographic names.
For many years the AP Stylebook was titled The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual. In 2000, the guide was renamed The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law. Some editions, such as the 2004 copy, used the shorter title The Associated Press Stylebook on their covers.
The Associated Press organization was first created in 1846. Throughout much of its history, the AP maintained a style book for member reporters. By the early 1950s the publication was formalized into the AP Stylebook and became the leading professional English grammar reference by most member and non-member news bureaus throughout the world. Due to growing demand by both journalistic and non-journalistic editors, the AP published their style book for the general public in 1953. The first publication focused on "where the wire set a specific style"; for nearly a quarter century it assumed its reader had a "solid grounding in language and a good reference library" and thus omitted any guidelines in those broader areas. In 1977, prompted by AP Executive News Editor Louis Boccardi's request for "more of a reference work", the organization started expanding the book. That year's book was produced jointly with competitor United Press International. In 1989, Norm Goldstein became the AP Stylebook editor, a job he held until the 2007 edition. After publishing the final edition under his editorship, Goldstein commented on the future of the AP Stylebook's section on name references:
I think the difference...now is that there is more information available on the Internet, and I'm not sure, and at least our executive editor is not sure, how much of a reference book we ought to be anymore. I think some of our historical background material like on previous hurricanes and earthquakes, that kind of encyclopedic material that's so easily available on the Internet now, might be cut back.
AP Stylebook editors Paula Froke, Sally Jacobsen and David Minthorn now lead the Stylebook. In 2009 the Stylebook was released as an app for the iPhone which included regular updates and customized features. The most recent print edition is the 2015 AP Stylebook, available spiral-bound directly from AP, and as a perfect-bound paperback sold by Basic Books.
While nearly two million copies of the AP Stylebook have been distributed since 1977, today the AP Stylebook is developing an online presence with profiles on social media platforms like Twitter (@APStylebook) and Facebook, and is available through an online subscription model as well as an iOS mobile app.
The stylebook is updated annually by Associated Press editors, usually in June, and at this time edits and new entries may be added. In 2008, 200 new entries were added, including words and phrases like “podcast”, “text messaging”, “social networking” and “high-definition”. The 2009 edition added the entries “Twitter” and “texting”. This is done to keep the stylebook up to date with technological and cultural changes.