Good content is the foundation of good marketing, whether that’s messaging for an advertising campaign or a blog for your website.
Creating content means that most of us in the industry spend a lot of time writing and editing. One of my pet peeves – and tell me if you agree – when editing content is lack of consistency.
I’ve written before about my affinity, as a former newspaper reporter, for AP Style. If your company or organization regularly sends out press releases, adhering to AP Style is a consistent way to communicate your news and make that news match what media outlets need and use regularly.
Not a fan of AP Style? That’s totally fine. I encourage you to do an internal review of the content you produce regularly and develop a Top 10 list of the most common edits you’re making. Take those edits and develop an internal stylebook; at least send out a memo or email with your preferred style on said changes to save your team members and yourself the grief of repeatedly making the same edits.
Not concerned about consistency? I get it. There are many business priorities begging for your attention. Consistency in your marketing materials and communications will give you a more polished look and possibly an edge over your competitors.
Read on for some general AP-based advice on some topics I’ve come across lately.
Days, months and seasons
This particular one came up in a chat today with one of my colleagues. No need to capitalize the seasons – winter, spring, summer and fall – and all months are spelled out when they stand alone, but the months with more letters are abbreviated when used with dates. Example: April 24 vs. Aug. 24. If your event is happening this week, use the day of the week in your news release rather than the date. Media typically won’t run something like “Wednesday, April 24” when your item is published close to the event date, but including the day and date helps avoid confusion – and, sometimes, corrections.
Please, for the love of alphabet soup, spell out unfamiliar acronyms on first reference. Or, if you’re adamant about using them, make sure you understand your audience. Are you writing specifically for people who know what the acronyms mean? Or are you sending out a press release geared toward community members to your local TV station or newspaper? Remember, you’re not the FBI or the CIA. Same advice for abbreviations.
You’ll notice throughout this blog that I didn’t use the serial, or Oxford, comma. That’s a hard-and-fast AP Style rule. The serial comma is only necessary to provide “clarity and accuracy,” according to the AP Stylebook. Yes, I know the Oxford comma has been cited to win legal cases. And I’ve enjoyed spirited debates with coworkers who are as passionate about its use as I am passionate about not using it. Again, pick a style and stick with it. And don’t throw those Oxford comma-is-necessary sample sentences at me because most of them could and should be rewritten.
AP generally recommends spelling out one through nine and using numbers for 10 and above. There are specific rules for addresses, ages, dimensions, temperatures and more.
When in doubt, look it up (advice given to me by many a wise former coworker – likely a copy editor). That’s why having a physical AP Stylebook or an online subscription to it, an internal stylebook and the sort of marketing support we provide at Chartwell Agency can help. And it’s worth mentioning again that you should always read through all content you produce at least once before sending it to someone else to edit. I read this blog aloud to myself and made several changes that I didn’t catch after my first review.