Write how the writers write

It’s important to think like a journalist when writing media material or press releases. We’ve already covered the “Five W’s” in How to write a press release, So, let’s get down to the nitty gritty of how writers write.

There’s a little thing in the newspaper/media world called AP style, or Associated Press style. AP style can unnerve media and non-media people alike. Why? Because some of the guidelines are forgettable and others just don’t make sense. (It took until last year for them to change “Web site” to “website” and some news media orgs still haven’t recognized the switch.)

Here are some tips on how journalists like to read:

1. Time — Days of the week are not abbreviated when accompanied by the exact date, but months are. For instance, today is Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012.

2. Exact time — Happy hour begins at 5 p.m. Neither ” 5:00 pm” nor PM is correct. In fact, beware of any capitalization or the much detested exclamation point.

3. Think of quotation marks as bookends. “They keep all punctuation marks and sentences and things together.”

4. Names — Use a person’s first and last name on first reference only. Thereafter, use only their last name, not their first. Additionally, do not use courtesy titles such as Mr. or Mrs.

5. State abbreviations do not match their postal abbreviations. For example, California is written not as Laguna Beach, CA, but Laguna Beach, Calif. Other slightly strange state abbreivations include West Virginia’s W.Va., Pennsylvania’s Pa., Tennessee’s Tenn., South Dakota’s S.D., and Kentucky’s K.Y.

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