The Associated Press Stylebook, billed by the publisher as “The Bible of the Newspaper Industry,” is a book I think no writer should be without. Whether you are interested in writing for the media or just adding clarity and professionalism to your writing, this manual is one book you’ll find yourself reaching for time and again once you discover the amount of solid information it contains.
The book includes an A to Z listing of guides to capitalization, abbreviation, spelling, numerals and usage; in addition specific chapter on style, punctuation, photo captions, graphics and editing.
On May 30, a new spiral-bound print edition of the book was launched. This 2012 edition includes new chapters on fashion and broadcast terms, along with a greatly expanded social media section. Retail price is $20.95 and the ISBN is 978-0-917360-56-5. Find out more about the AP Stylebook 2012 edition.
NUMERALS A numeral is a figure, letter, word or group of words expressing a number.
ROMAN NUMERALS Roman numerals use the letters I,V,X,L,C,D and M. Use Roman numerals for wars and to show personal sequence for animals and people: World War II, Native Dancer II, king George VI, Pope John XXIII.
ARABIC NUMERALS Arabic numerals use the figures, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 0. Use Arabic forms unless Roman numerals are specifically required.
Cardinal Numbers The figures 1, 2, 3, 10, 120, etc. and the corresponding words – one, two, three, ten, one hundred twenty, etc. for spelling cardinal numbers. Spell out whole numbers below 10, use figures for 10 and above. Examples: They had three sons and two daughters. They had a fleet of 10 trucks and two buses.
Ordinal Numbers The numbers 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 10th, 101st, etc. and the corresponding words – first, second, third, one hundred first, etc. Spell out first through ninth when they indicate sequence in time or location: first base, the First Amendment, he was first in line. Starting with 10th, use figures. Use 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. when the sequence has been assigned in forming names in geography, military and political designations such as 1st Ward, 7th Fleet and 1st Sgt.
The following list contains separate entries for many subjects: ages, century, dates, decades, decimal units, formula, fractions, percent, ratios, sizes, telephone, temperatures, times, weights years, etc., that pertain to writing numbers. This not a complete list of the information contained in the AP Stylebook that refers to using numeric units.
GUIDELINES FOR WRITING NUMBERS FROM THE AP STYLEBOOK
ACT NUMBERS Use Arabic figures and capitalize act: Act 1: Act 2, Scene 2. But: the first act, the second act.
AIRCRAFT NAMES Use a hyphen when changing from letters to figures; no hyphen when adding a letter after figures. Some examples: B-1, BAC-111, DC-10, F-15 Eagle, 727-100c, 47 and 747B.
BEGINNING A SENTENCE Spell out a numeral at the beginning of a sentence. If necessary, recast the sentence. One exception: a numeral that identifies a calendar year. Wrong: 993 freshmen entered the college last year. Right: Last year 993 freshmen entered college. Right: 1976 was a very good year.
BETTING ODDS Use figures and a hyphen: the odds were 5-4, he won despite 3-2 odds against him.
CASUAL USES Spell out casual expressions: A thousand times no! Thanks a million. He walked a quarter of a mile.
DATES Capitalize the names of months in all uses. When a month is used with a specific date, abbreviate only Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., and Dec. Spell out when using alone, or with a year alone. When a phrase lists only a month and a year, do not separate the year with commas. When a phrase refers to a month, day and year, set off the year with commas. EXAMPLES: January 1972 was a cold month. Jan. 2 was the coldest day of the month. His birthday was May 8. Feb. 14, 1987, was the target date. She testified that it was Friday, Dec. 3, when the accident occurred.
9/11 Sept. 11 is the preferred term to use in describing the terrorist attacks in the U.S. Sept. 11, 2001.
CENTURY Lowercase, spelling outnumbers less than 10: the first century, the 20th century.
DECADES Use Arabic figures to indicate decades of history. Use an apostrophe to indicate numerals that are left out; show plural by adding the letter “s:” the 1890s, the ‘90s, the Gay ‘90s, the 1920s, the mid-1930s.
DECIMALS Use a period and numerals to indicate decimal amounts. Decimalization should not exceed two places in textual material unless there are special circumstances. For amounts less than 1, use the numeral zero before the decimal point: 0.03.
DIMENSIONS Use figures and spell out inches, feet, yards, etc., to indicate depth, height, length and width. Hyphenate adjectival forms before nouns. EXAMPLES: He is 5 feet 6 inches tall, the 5-foot-6 man, the 5-foot man, the basketball team signed a 7-footer. The car is 17 feet long, 6 feet de and 5 feet high. The rug is 9 feet by 12 feet, the 9-by-12 rug. The storm left 5 inches of snow. Use an apostrophe to indicate feet and quote marks to indicate inches (5’6”) only in very technical contexts.
FRACTIONS Spell out amounts less than 1 in stories, using hyphens between the words: two-thirds, four-fifths, seven-sixteenths, etc. Use figures for precise amounts larger than 1, converting to decimals whenever practical. When using fractional characters, remember that most newspaper type fonts can set only 1/2, 3/8, 3/4, as one unit; for mixed numbers, use 1 1/2, 2 5/8, etc. with a full space between the whole number and the fraction. Other fractions require a hyphen and individual figures, with a space between the whole number and the fraction; 1 3-16, 2 1-3, 5 9-10.
LUMBER Spell out the noun, which refers to any length of building lumber : two-by-four, which is 2 inches thick by 4 inches wide.
PAGE NUMBERS Use figures and capitalize “page” when used with a figure. When a letter is appended to the figure, capitalize it but do not use a hyphen: Page 1. Page 10. Page 20A. One exception: It’s a Page One story.
PROPER NAMES Use words or numerals according to an organization’s practice: 3M, Twentieth Century Fund, Big 10.
RATIOS Use figures and hyphens: the ratio was 2-to-1, a ratio of 2-to-1, a 2-1 ratio. As illustrated, the word “to” should be omitted when the numbers precede the word ratio. Always use the word ratio or a phrase such as 2-1 majority to avoid confusion with actual figures.
ROOM NUMBERS Use figures and capitalize room when used with a figure: Room 2, Room 211.
ROUTE NUMBERS Do not abbreviate route. Use figures and capitalize route when used with a figure: U.S. Route 70, state Route 1A.
SERIES Apply the appropriate guidelines: They had 10 dogs, six cats and 97 hamsters. They had four four-room houses, 10 three-room houses and 12 10-room houses.
TELEPHONE Use figures. The form: 212-621-1500. Use hyphens, not periods. The form for toll-free numbers: 800-111-1000. If extension numbers are needed, use a comma to separate the main number from the extension: 212-855-2701, ext. 2.
TEMPERATURE Use figures for all except “zero.” Use a word, not a minus sign, to indicate temperatures below zero. Right: The day’s low was minus 10. Wrong: The day’s low was -10. Right: The temperature rose to zero by noon. Right: The day’s high was expected to be 9 or 10. Also 5-degree temperatures, temperatures fell 5 degrees, temperatures in the 30s (no apostrophe). Temperatures get higher or lower but they don’t get cooler or warmer. Wrong: Temperatures are expected to warm up in the area soon. Right: Temperatures are expected to rise in by Friday.
Fahrenheit Use the forms: 86 degrees Fahrenheit or 86 F (note the space and no period after the F) if degrees and Fahrenheit are clear from the context.
TIME Use figures except for noon and midnight. Do not put a 12 in front of noon or midnight. Lowercase, with periods; use a colon to separate hours from minutes: 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3:30 p.m. Avoid such redundancies as 10 a.m. this morning, 10 p.m. tonight or 20 p.m. Monday night, etc. The construction 4 o’clock is acceptable, but time listings with a.m. or p.m. are preferred. Lowercase, with periods: 5 a.m., 10:30 p.m. Avoid the redundant 10 a.m. this morning.
A FEW EXAMPLES
A 5-year-old girl
A 5-4 court decision
2nd District Court
The 1980s, the ‘80s
The House voted 230-205 (Fewer than 1,000 votes.)
Jimmy Carter defeated Gerald Ford 40,827,292 to 29,146,157. (More than 1,000 votes.)
Carter defeated Ford 10 votes to 2 votes in Little Junction. (To avoid confusion with ratio.)
No. 3 choice, but Public School 3
0.6 percent, 1 percent, 6.5 percent
A pay increase of 12 percent to 15 percent. Or: a pay increase of between 12 percent and 15 percent. Also: from $12 million to $14 million
A ratio of 2-to-1, a 2-1 ratio
A 4-3 score
Minus 10¸zero, 60 degrees`