When managers want their people to “learn AP style,” do they want people to thoroughly understand the AP Stylebook, or do they want people to write clearly and economically? Both are important to good writing.

Readers everywhere appreciate the AP style of writing for several reasons, but here are three hallmarks:

  • The essence of the message is in the first paragraph, and solid supporting information is in the second and third paragraphs.
  • The writing is clear to a broad readership (newspapers that subscribe have varied audience).
  • It is concise. The text is rigorously edited to trim needless words and chunks of information that do not contribute anything to the main idea.

These also are the reasons such writing is so valued in business, whether someone is writing an email, an article, or a policy statement. The ability to distill the essence of a message and present that at the top, and the skill to make writing immediately clear, without surplus verbiage, are sought-after talents in today’s world of technology and complex business practices.

Or maybe the manager who wants her people to “learn AP style” is referring to a more thorough knowledge of the AP Stylebook, the most widely used style guide in business and journalism (the Chicago Manual of Style and Usage and the Gregg Reference Manual are two others). Unlike the others, the AP guide is a usage manual, set up in alphabetical order and containing a wealth of information about word definitions and about when certain words are hyphenated, when a term might be two words rather than one, when to capitalize, and how to use numbers.

My years with the AP were an invaluable experience, a total immersion in how to write efficiently and how to make writing come alive for the reader, and those writing and editing skills have helped immensely in business. Additionally, knowing the stylebook cover to cover makes messages and documents more consistent in their grammar and mechanics (punctuation, capitalization, and use of numbers).  And that all leads to easier readability.