Written by Writing Assistant Becca Stanton
It’s hard enough to write a college-level paper with so many citation styles and formatting rules to keep track of, but living in a world full of social media can throw another banana peel under the writer’s foot. I’ve had to learn that the hard way. I’m an English major, but I’ve recently started taking Communication classes, and the writing required of a Communication student is a whole different ball game. There’s a writing style that is specific to the world of journalism and online media, called “A.P.” style, or Associated Press. The bones of it are the same as most other writing styles, but there are certain things to keep in mind.
The A.P. style paper isn’t argumentative. It doesn’t necessarily have a thesis, but instead has a lede. The lede follows the headline of the article to draw a reader’s attention into the content. The headline is like a paper’s title, but very matter-of-fact and to the point. A.P. articles are usually news-related, so it would be typical to see an article titled something like, “Woman saves cat from tree branch.” Doesn’t sound very creative, right? Journalism is all about reporting the facts. The lede acts like a thesis in that it encapsulates the main point of the written piece, but it doesn’t present something to be analyzed or challenged. It presents a fact that the journalist has decided represents the feature story the best.
Now, why does this kind of writing matter to a college student? From my perspective, I think that it can be useful to not only know how to analyze work, but to inform people when the need arises. I can see myself having to come up with a report or even an article of some kind at a future job, so having some knowledge of A.P. style under my belt is reassuring. Another reason to be aware of it is to understand press releases. There are times when companies send out press releases about their new products or events, which generally have promotional information. They have to be factual and detailed, but also short and sweet. There also has to be a contact person for the organization listed. In the Communication classes that I have taken, I have learned that it pays to be wary of press releases. An organization always tries to frame their product or event in the best light while presenting things factually, so it is important to look at journalists’ work reporting on press releases to get unbiased and cross-referenced information. Practicing this observation can be helpful for college students who are trying to budget and who are trying to land a job anywhere. Being able to work with a marketing team to give people honest and attractive descriptions of what your company is doing is a great skill.
One of the most important things that I have learned as a writer about A.P. style journalism is the power of being concise. Most journal articles are between three hundred to five hundred words, and all of the really important information is crammed in at the top. This can throw people off, because it is a lot different than the buildup of thesis-driven essays. The A.P. article almost launches the conclusion at you first. I have always struggled with verbosity and wanting to explain things in great detail, so looking at writing from this approach has helped me to think about how to start with the basics and then expand where there is a need and where there is room. Based on the length of this blog post, you can see I’m still working on it!
Being a writing assistant, I’ve seen a lot of different writing styles that work for a lot of different fields of work, but I recommend that you check out A.P. if you don’t have a career choice in mind yet. It’s a great backup for wherever your dreams and talents might take you.