A Few Timely AP Style Reminders for Spring

We know journalists are busy, and it can be difficult to keep up with recent AP Stylebook changes. So we’ve done the work for you, rounding up a few of the recent significant — and just plain interesting — updates to the AP Stylebook.

It’s time for another quarterly AP Stylebook recap and with this edition, we’ll take a look at a few rules and guidelines around terminology related to current events. From spring holidays to election season and earnings, these are great reminders for writers covering these timely topics.

Month abbreviations

At the end of February, it’s time to stop abbreviating months when used with a specific date, including March, April, May, June and July. The other, longer months on the calendar should be abbreviated: Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec.

March Madness

The NCAA Tournament for U.S. college men and women is always capitalized. If you’re covering the basketball tournament, here are a few terminology reminders:

  • Written as one word: backboard, goaltending, layup, tipoff (noun or adjective) postgame and pregame
  • Written as two words: hook shot, free throw, jump ball and tip off (verb)
  • Include a dash: ally-oop, free-throw line, full-court press and man-to-man

Upcoming Holidays

We just celebrated Lunar New Year, Carnival, Mardi Gras (which translates literally to Fat Tuesday, by the way) and Ash Wednesday, but there are plenty more holidays approaching in the next few months. Here are a few helpful reminders:

  • Easter: Holy Week and Good Friday are capitalized, but it’s Easter egg.
  • St. Patrick’s Day: Make sure the ‘Day’ is capitalized but AP Style doesn’t use St. Patty’s or St. Paddy’s as short versions of the holiday.
  • April Fools’ Day: Note the placement of the apostrophe!
  • Cinco de Mayo: On May 5, Cinco de Mayo marks the anniversary of the victory of Mexico over French forces at Puebla in 1862.
  • Mother’s Day: It’s celebrated on the second Sunday in May and it does include an apostrophe.
  • Memorial Day: The federal holiday – meaning federal employees receive the day off or are paid overtime if they must work – falls on the last Monday in May.


The next earnings period isn’t far off and will begin in mid-April. To help you prepare, here are a few finance-related terminology rules:

  • A fiscal year is the 12-month period that a corporation or governmental body uses for bookkeeping purposes (it may or may not begin in January).
  • A dividend is the amount paid per share per year to holders of common stock. Payments generally are made in quarterly installments.
  • The terms profit and earnings are commonly interpreted as meaning the amount left after taxes. The terms net profit and net earnings are acceptable synonyms.
  • For a company’s formal name, consult the New York Stock Exchange, Nasdaq or filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Do not use a comma before or Ltd., even if it is included in the formal name.


Super Tuesday may be over but there are still months of the election news cycle ahead of us. It’s a good idea to get on top of the rules now before you’re truly in the weeds.

  • Always use figures for vote tabulation totals. Spell out below 10 in other phrases related to voting: by a three-vote majority, six votes short of the necessary two-thirds majority, etc.
  • Fewer than 1,000 votes on each side? Use figures and a dash (a 230-205 vote). If there are more than 1,000 votes on a side, replace the dash with “to” to make it easier to read.
  • Don’t capitalize primary in phrases like the New York primary or Republican primary.
  • The term swing states refers to states where voters have vacillated between Republican and Democratic candidates in the last three or four presidential elections. In battleground states, candidates from both major political parties have a reasonable chance for victory.
  • Election Day is capitalized, while election night is lowercase.
  • A majority is more than half the votes cast; a plurality is the largest number of votes, but less than a majority.

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Rocky Parker is the Manager of Audience and Journalist Engagement at Cision PR Newswire. She's been with the company since 2010 and has worked with journalists and bloggers as well as PR and comms professionals. Outside of work, she can be found trying a new recipe, binging a new show, or cuddling with her pitbull, Hudson.

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