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Journalism policies- TPH style guide

(updated Aug 19, 2015 for the 2015-2016 class)

This is a guide designed to standardize and clarify the grammatical and stylistic issues that come up in writing and producing a newspaper. Though based on AP style, it was specifically customized for the Piedmont Highlander. Many of the rules are basic English grammar, but some apply only to American English, others only to AP style and some only to the Piedmont Highlander, both print and online content.

In certain circumstances, a rule may be broken – if the writer or editor has a clear purpose in doing so, and to do so would be effectively improve the content or layout. However, as clichéd as it is, one must know the rules firmly before considering breaking them.


to inform
to entertain
to persuade
to be an outlet
to examine larger issues (outside of Piedmont)
to show news of record

Web (/twitter/facebook)
to inform (web) (facebook)
to show news of record (twitter)
to be an outlet for student expression (facebook)
entertain (web)
to persuade (web)
to examine larger issues (web)


Editors-in-Chief: Miles Kim and Emma Seevak

Web: TBD

News: Ben Fung and Claire Valva

Campus: Teddy Staley

ACL: Courtney Gao

Opinions/Editorial: Lizzie Bjork

Arts: Ashley Gerrity

Sports: Maeve Sullivan

Photography: TBD

Individual page editors must submit their design/format guidelines for their pages.


Assignments and deadlines will be given according to this schedule.

Week 1

First draft of story due by midnight Sat.
Week 2
First drafts returned to writers.
Graphics meeting; assign graphics.
Editor and writer meet (first class of week).
Final draft due at 8 p.m.

Final draft returned by 3:15 p.m.

Polished draft due by midnight Sat.
Photos and graphics due.
Week 3
Final day of layout
Paper submitted.
Beats due. Brainstorm/assign stories.

*Due dates are not strictly based on this schedule. We will create a detailed google calendar that will have all of the individual dates.

Rough and final drafts should be turned in this format:
Times New Roman font, size 12
indented (with tabs, not spaces)
The top-left corner of the first page should have the following information:
name (e.g. John Smith)
page (e.g. Campus)
slug (e.g. Reactions to Assembly)
version of draft (e.g. Rough Draft)

Polished drafts should be in this format:
Times New Roman font, size 10
No indents
The slug is a summary of the article in a few words.

Rough drafts must have a minimum of three sources in the article. This does not include interviews you have set up but not yet done. Rough drafts must be submitted to the proper online folder.
In final drafts, writers must have made corrections given to them, unless otherwise discussed with editors (in the case that the writer feels the corrections are inaccurate or unnecessary, or corrections from different editors conflict). Final drafts must be submitted to the proper online folder.
Like final drafts, polished drafts must be submitted to the proper online folder. Pay attention to the proper format of polished drafts.
Editorial policy
The Piedmont Highlander, a publication conceived, planned and produced by students, is also the product of an academic elective program. Certain guidelines must be put into practice ethically and legally. Journalistic in nature, TPH attempts to inform and entertain its audience in a broad, fair and accurate manner on all subjects that affect the readers in the areas of academics, clubs, sports and all other aspects of student life. The entire student body of Piedmont High School constitutes the target audience of the newspaper with secondary audiences including school personnel, community members and other journalism groups. Content focuses on coverage that will meet the wants and needs of the majority of the student body. The staff not only allows but also encourages constructive criticism of any part of the newspaper before or after distribution, but final decisions will be made by the editorial board and adviser. If deemed necessary, the administration will be consulted concerning questionable material. No material, opinionated or otherwise, that is libelous, irresponsible, advocates an illegal activity, or which the editorial board or adviser deems in poor taste will be printed or posted online.
Equity policy
TPH maintains a policy not to discriminate through printed material against any person or group on the basis of race, gender, nationality, religion, creed, age, profession, sexual orientation, or disability. If you feel TPH has strayed from this policy, please contact Beth Black, TPH faculty adviser.
Parents or others may subscribe for $45 for one full year. The subscription can be combined with the yearbook, Clanolog.
Advertisement policy
The Piedmont Highlander has the right to accept, reject, edit or cancel an advertisement at any time. If the business has paid for the ad, the payment will be refunded in full. Advertising shall be free of statements, illustrations, or implications that are offensive to good taste. Advertisements that are racist, sexist, or offer an illegal product for sale will not be published. Ads that TPH accepts are not an endorsement from the staff, adviser, administration or the PUSD.
Obituary policy

In the event of the death of student currently attending or teacher currently teaching Piedmont High School, the Piedmont Highlander will run an article 450 to 500 words in length. In addition, the family will be contacted to provide permission and a photo.

In the event of the death of a graduate of Piedmont High School or former faculty member, who current students remember, the Piedmont Highlander will run a box commemorating the person. This box, the size of a quarter-page ad, will appear on the bottom of the front page.

Personal pronoun policy
In addition to asking interviewees about their name spelling and title at the beginning of interviews, writers will always ask about preferred gender pronouns. The requested pronoun will be used in the article.

Photo/illustration policies
No images will be flipped.
Mugshots will be standardized.
All questionable images should be shared with the editorial board so that the group and the adviser can decide if the image should run.

Photo credit:
Placed below bottom right corner of picture aligned with the right of the photo.
Staff photographer/artist: photo by first name, last name
Non staff photo/ image: photo courtesy of first name, last name
Font: see “fonts” section of this style-guide

Numbers one through nine are spelled out as words.
Fifty-five percent of students agree.
Numbers 10 and up are written in Arabic numerals, as in this sentence, unless they begin a sentence.
Twelve years ago he taught kindergarten in Berkeley. (spell out)
He taught kindergarten in Berkeley 12 years ago. (don’t spell out)
Fifty-five percent of students agree. (spell out)
In a survey, 55 percent of students agree. (don’t spell out)
Whenever a number is the first word in a sentence, it is always spelled except if it is a year. One million and up should be spelled out, as below:
He donated $1.5 million to charity.
“If I had a million dollars,” she said, “I would buy Piedmont Park.”
The bank processes $2.5 billion every year.
Exceptions to the “spell-it-out” rule:
Sports scores should be written as ratios.
The score was 3-0.
Rank or priority
“Smith is our No. 1 player,” he said.
“Preparing for an earthquake is not my No. 1 priority right now,” she said. “It’s about No. 3 or 4.”
For headlines, write all small numbers, including nine and below, as Arabic numerals, even at the beginning of a sentence.
2 students win at state
For $10, students can buy a ticket to the play.
“In my day you could buy candy for 5 cents,” he said.
The bill came to $145.05.
When age is written as “a 2-year-old”
The 2-year-old threw a tantrum. (don’t spell out)
She is a 9-year-old in Algebra I. (don’t spell out)
She is nine years old. (spell out)
Barely 2 percent of parents agree, according to the latest parent survey.
See “Time.”
The only time these rules can be broken is when numbers are used as part of a graphic.

Remember that the word “percent” should be spelled out as well. Do not use the sign “%” unless part of a graphic.
Almost 75 percent of parents agree, according to the latest parent survey.

Roman numerals are used for names of wars (World War I) and people (King Edward VIII), and for certain laws (Title IX) and pro football Super Bowls. Use Arabic numerals in all other cases.

Abbreviate certain months and do not list the year or day of the week unless absolutely necessary (such as dates in history or in the future). Never mention the year if it is the current year.
The first day of school was Aug. 25.
If the day is in the week the paper will be published, refer to it only as the day of the week, or “yesterday” or “tomorrow” if possible.
The assembly took place yesterday, but more assemblies will continue tomorrow and on Friday.
Abbreviate the following months:
January (Jan.)
February (Feb.)
August (Aug.)
September (Sept.)
October (Oct.)
November (Nov.)
December (Dec.)
Do not abbreviate the following months:

When used in a general sense and not a date, a month should not be abbreviated.
“January is my favorite month,” Brown said.
Every August, students pick up their backpacks and head back to school.
Time should be written in this format:
7:00 a.m.
Do not forget “a.m.” or “p.m.” Use lowercase and remember the periods after each letter.

Note the punctuation:
It began at 3:30 p.m., 25 minutes after school had ended.
“At 2 a.m.?” she asked.

Do not use abbreviations reader will not recognize on first reference. Keep the audience in mind when using abbreviations, and if in doubt, write it out.

Always check the spelling and punctuation of abbreviations in the AP Stylebook, as it is individual to each word. Note the punctuation of these abbreviated words:

HTML (hypertext markup language)
IP address
MHz (megahertz)
Rev. (Reverend)
USS (United States Ship)
Washington, D.C


What: telling the reader exactly where or from whom information was obtained

How: the best word to use is “said” because it is neutral and unobtrusive
The police chief said she will resign.
“It was the best dance of the year,” Jane Brown said.
This year’s team is the best team varsity football coach Joe Jones has ever worked with, he said.

Verbs like “demanded,” “shouted,” “smiled,” and “admitted” have editorial connotations; avoid them in objective writing.


to attribute:
not to attribute:
when information is an opinion or direct quotation
when potentially controversial material is involved
when any fact is not independently verifiable
when information is common knowledge or independently verifiable
when there is no question or controversy about the fact

“The sinking of the Titanic was the worst disaster to ever occur on the open sea,” Smith said. (do attribute)
The 1912 sinking of the Titanic took 1,517 lives, according to Britannica Encyclopedia. (do not attribute)

Where: Attribution works best at the end or middle of a sentence.

Notice how awkward this lead is because of the placement of the most important information at the beginning and the attribution at the end.
Professor Pat Braintower on Thursday told a group of law students that America’s poor need free legal advice or they will lose their rights.

By switching the order, the sentence becomes smoother, easier to read and more to the point:
America’s poor need free legal advice or they will lose their rights, Professor Pat Braintower told a group of law students Thursday.

To inform readers
Attribution, by allowing readers to know the source of the information, allows readers to judge whether the information presented is believable.

To protect newsmakers
If subjective views are presented as fact, newsmakers may be sued for libel.
To protect writers
Attribution makes clear that opinion and controversial material is from the source, not the reporter. Therefore, the writer cannot be sued for libel.
To add credibility to the story
When information is presented as from various sources, including experts or people involved, readers can accept it on more than the reporter’s word alone.

Names and titles
Give the class (freshman, sophomore, junior, senior) of a PHS high school student. Provide the class and school of any student attending a high school or college other than PHS. For elementary and middle school students, use “first grader,” “seventh grader,” etc. This should precede the name.
Eighth grader Jane Smith is one of the few middle school students taking more than one high school class.
Give the additional title if it applies to the context, such as ASB president, class president, club president.
ASB is planning many new activities for this year, ASB president senior John Smith said.
In transitions and indirect quotes, the information usually precedes the name.
Good: However, all eligible eighteen-year-olds should vote, she said.
Not: She said, however, that all eligible 18-year-olds should vote.
Not: However, she believes that all eligible 18-year-olds should vote.
Provide the subject(s) the teacher teaches and any additional title he or she holds if it applies to the article. Compare:
Students do not respect the campus, math teacher John Brown said.
ASB works on weekends to prepare activities, said ASB advisor and math teacher John Brown.
Parents these days are not aware enough of their children’s activities, said math teacher and parent John Brown.
Other adults
The title should be relevant to why this specific person was interviewed. Give the job title and location if they apply to the article. If age or location applies put it in the person’s title. If the adult is interviewed because he or she is a parent, “parent” should be his or her title.

Anonymous Sources

The use of anonymous sources is discouraged. No writer may grant anonymous source privilege without the permission of the editorial board. In the rare circumstance that anonymous sources are used, we attribute using PHS (class designation of senior, junior, sophomore, freshman ) said. Remember all sources must be verified by another member of the editorial board.

No matter the length of the quote, each quote should be in its own paragraph, as in this example.
I wondered if all freshmen believed this to be true. It seemed ridiculous. Spotting a lone student, who appeared young enough to be in ninth grade, in the quad, I asked him, in a simple yes-or-no question.
“Yeah,” he said, and went back to his cookie.
Still not convinced, I decided to investigate the matter more scientifically – I would do a survey.
The “said” rule
“Said” goes before the name if there are four or more words in the person’s title (not the actual name).
“I could have cried when I saw what a wonderful job the students did,” said assistant head of department Mary Jones.
It goes after if there are three or less words.
“Never ever let your parents know when you have a project or they’ll nag you every second,” junior John Brown said.
It goes before the name if an appositive follows the name.
“There is nothing worse than getting your report card,” said freshman John Jones, who has tried many ways to keep his parents from seeing his report card, all of which have failed.
Always use “said” and never “says.”
Use “said” for people and “according to” for non-living sources, such as websites. When quoting a written text use “said in [book title].” Use nothing else; no “exclaimed,” “added” or “replied.” Information from an encyclopedia does not need to be attributed and can be taken as fact.
Direct and indirect quotes
Use direct quotes when you cannot rephrase the quote better. Direct quotes should show personality, emotion or something interesting to the reader. If you must use brackets to get the idea across, the quote is almost always better as an indirect quote.
Use indirect quotes for details, specifics and statements that are “drier.” If something is awkwardly said, paraphrase it to make it an indirect quote. If an idea or fact is brought up for the first time, use an indirect quote or transition – never a direct quote.
Indirect quotes are paraphrased by the writer, do not have quotation marks, but express the idea of the person to whom they are attributed. They are not written in first person.
The use of “you” should always be avoided in objective articles (except in direct quotes) and used infrequently if at all in opinion pieces (depending on the tone of the article). It can be replaced with “one,” “an individual,” “people,” “students,” etc.
The same rule applies for “your” and “yours.”
First-person should not be used in a straight-news piece.

Examples: I, my, mine, myself, we, our, ours, ourselves

Contractions should not be used in straight news articles and used sparingly in feature and opinion pieces, depending on the tone of the article. Contractions convey an informal, light-hearted tone, which is generally not appropriate for news articles.

Examples: It’s, don’t, can’t, won’t, mustn’t, shouldn’t, aren’t, hadn’t, wouldn’t

If a contraction is used by a source in a direct quote, it should not be changed.


Typeface: Georgia (not Big Caslon)
Thickness: Regular
Color: Spot color or black
Size: Varies
Body text:
Typeface: Times (not Times New Roman).
Thickness: Regular
Color: Black
Size: 10 pt
By-lines and attributions for pull-quotes:
Typeface: Helvetica Neue
Thickness: Thin
Name: Black
Position: Spot Color
Name: All caps, 10 pt ( first letter of each word size 12)
Position: All lower-case 10 pt
Typeface: Helvetica Neue
Thickness: Light
Color: Black
Size: 12 pt
Fact Boxes:
Typeface: Helvetica Neue
Thickness: Varies
Color: Spot color or black
Size: Varies
Photo Attributions:
Typeface: Helvetica Neue
Thickness: Regular
Color: Black
Size: 8 pt
Photo Captions:
Typeface: Helvetica Neue
Thickness: Bold
Color: Black
Size: 10 pt
Contact Information (bottom of each story on Opinions):
Typeface: Helvetica Neue italics
Thickness: Regular
Color: Black
Size: 8 pt

Headlines should be SUBJECT VERB OBJECT
Headlines may consist of several parts. Each is called a deck.

Headlines should draw the reader into the story while also providing information about the story and its angle. Do not use misleading headlines to make a story sound like more than it is; this only weakens the newspaper’s credibility.

Rules for headlines differ than copy in the following ways:
a comma, instead of a semicolon, should be used to link complete ideas together
no period ends a sentence in a headline
a comma may be used to replace the word “and” (but do not use an ampersand (&))
numbers are not spelled out and may begin a headline
single quotation marks are used instead of double quotation marks
do not use articles (a, an, the) unless needed to clarify meaning
when referring to book, movie or album titles, a distinguishing key word alone may be used if necessary

A headline should never be wordy. Use short, crisp words as much as possible and be as specific as you can. However, make sure that clarity is not lost. Use only abbreviations that are readily understood by your audience.

Never separate the following from one line to the next:
preposition and its object (e.g. on campus)
parts of the same verb (e.g. would have)
parts of names that belong together (e.g. John Smith)
noun and its adjacent adjective
hyphenated words (e.g. weather-beaten), but remember to never use hyphens to break up words

Since the purpose is to draw the reader in, it should never be duller than the story itself. A verbal-visual connection that unifies the graphics on the page, and use of literary devices (such as alliteration, rhyme, allusion) are ways to make headlines more creative.

Headlines should always flush left with the copy. Exceptions may be made for feature articles and graphical treatment.

Longer stories may have two headlines. In a straight-news article, the primary headline states the facts and the secondary headline adds detail.

In a more creative approach, the primary headline catches readers’ attention. The secondary headline provides information and insight.

In a Wickett pattern, there are one or more lines of a secondary headline with the primary headline below. A hammer pattern is the opposite, with the primary headline above the secondary.

A subheadline is an inset into the story at key information points. A subhead should not have more than three lines. A label is a complementary headline, and a précis is a secondary headline and lead combination.
See appendix A for a list of really bad headlines
Unlike book and movie titles, only the first word and proper nouns in a headline are capitalized.

As a general rule, italics should not be used in copy. Either quotation marks or no formatting replaces italics. The rules are as follows:
Put titles in quotes (see “Titles of books, plays, movies, etc.” for more information)
Leave the names of court cases unformatted
Leave the names of newspapers or magazines unformatted
Leave the names of ships unformatted
Underlines should never be used, unless part of graphical treatment. Instead of underlines or italics, use quotation marks (as in book titles) or leave unformatted (as in court cases). See “Italics” for more information.
Do not underline URLs or e-mail addresses.

Titles of books, plays, movies, etc.
Unlike in English class, titles are not italicized or underlined. Instead, they are placed in quotes.
“The Hunger Games” has been on the bestseller list for weeks.
She starred in the musical “Phantom of the Opera.”
This applies to titles of books, plays, movies, poems, articles, songs and albums. It does not apply to the titles of magazines or newspapers.

Affect vs. effect
The word “affect” is only a verb, whereas “effect” is usually a noun, but can also be a verb with a different meaning than “affect.”
affect (verb) = to influence; to change
The budget cuts affected the district’s spending.
Marijuana use affects a driver’s concentration, perception, coordination and reaction time.
effect (verb) = to cause; to achieve; to make happen
The large donations effected the addition of three new classes.
One does not have to make a large contribution to effect change, said Principal Randall Booker, who suggested students abstain from swearing, spitting and littering on campus to show respect for the school and others around them.
The verb “effect” is frequently followed by “change.”
effect (noun) = the result; the outcome
Despite positive effects such as curing headaches, the drug also has negative side effects, which include increased risk of cancer and death.
Note the spelling of “effective.”

Its vs. it’s
“It’s” is the contraction of “it is.”
“It’s a great thing to do,” Lee said.
“Its” is the possessive pronoun of “it.”
Each class has its own personality, Brown said.

Lie vs. lay
lay (transitive* verb) = to put down; to place
I am laying the pencil down.
I laid it on the table yesterday.
Lay it on the desk!
*“To lay” always has a direct object.
lie (intransitive verb) = to recline; to be positioned
I lie on the floor to do my homework.
I am lying down.
I lay down yesterday.
I had lain on the couch for an hour when the phone rang.
Lie down!
*“To lie” never has a direct object.
The verb “to lie” as in “to tell an untruth” is “lie” and “lies” in the present and “lied” in the past tense. The present and past participles are “lying” and “lied,” respectively.

Me vs. I vs. myself
Never use “I” for a direct object. Use “me.” Never use “me” for a subject. Use “I.”
Give the paper to me.
Give it to Mary and me.
It is between you and me.
It is I.
My friend and I went to the store.
Only use “-self” when the subject refers to him or herself.
I looked at myself.
She did it for her brother and herself.
The problem should resolve itself.
Do not use it as a subject. Use “I” instead.
My mother and myself came up with the idea.
The rules for I/me/myself apply for he/him/himself, she/her/herself, we/us/ourselves and they/them/themselves.

Principal vs. principle
A “principal” is the head of a school. Capitalize “principal” if it precedes the name, like “Principal Brent Daniels.”
Note that “assistant principal” not “vice principal” is the official title at PHS.
A “principle” is a standard, attitude or rule.

They vs. he vs. she
Since “they” is a plural pronoun, it does not mean an individual (unless it is an individual’s preferred gender pronoun). When the subject is singular, any reference to it must be singular as well.
A student should know what he or she wants to do.
Everyone should bring his or her student ID card.
This also applies to “their” and “them.”
Each person got his or her own grade.
For brevity the male pronoun can be used to indicate an indefinite subject that is male or female.
Everyone needs his space.
If the subject is determined to be of a specific gender, use the appropriate pronoun.
Each Girl Scout wore her uniform.
Smith’s friend published his first novel.

Was vs. were
“Was” is used only for the past tense, whereas “were” can be the past tense of “to be” and the subjunctive. Do not use “was” in a sentence like this.
If he were richer, he would buy a new car.
The past tense is “had been.”
If he had been richer, he would have bought a new car.

Who vs. that vs. which
Relative clauses
who = people, named animals
Brown, who will graduate in two months, is nervous about college.
Students who pay attention do not necessarily perform well on tests, he said.
Cookie, who used to bark at strangers, ran away last year.
Do not use “that” or “which” for people.
that = unnamed animals, inanimate objects and groups, ideas
The companies that lost the most money were mostly Internet companies.
In an example such as the above, choose “that” over “which.”
which = unnamed animals, inanimate objects, ideas (used after a comma)
The cat, which has been spotted around the campus, lives off of rats and scraps from lunch.
To make sentences shorter, leave out “that” if the sentence makes sense without it.
He wishes that people would pick up their garbage.
The bill was created so that the school would be safer.
“Whose” should be used for “who” words and “of which” for “that” and “which” words.
Sally Brown, whose car was stolen last year, now walks to school.
The wall, the paint of which is peeling, will receive a new coat next month.
As a question word, “which” is used instead of “what” when there are choices. “What” is used when there are no defined choices.
Which classes should I take?
What does it mean?
You’re vs. your
“You’re” is the contraction of “you are.”
You’re doing well.
“Your” is the possessive pronoun for “you.”
You left your sweater on the sofa.

Past participles
The following irregular past participles are often written incorrectly.
break broken
eat eaten
drink drunk
go gone
grow grown
lie lain
shake shaken
sing sung
swim swum
throw thrown
i.e. vs. e.g.
The abbreviation “e.g.” is from Latin “exempli gratia” and means “for example.” Often mistakenly used for “for example” is “i.e.,” which actually means “that is” (“id est”). The abbreviations have different meanings and should not replace each other.

Latin endings

singular ending
plural ending
Words that are taken straight from Latin usually are not made plural by adding “s.” Instead, they often follow the original Latin declensions.
alumnus = singular (masculine); alumna = singular (feminine)
alumni = plural (masculine); alumnae = plural (feminine)
medium = singular (neuter); media = plural

As “media” is plural word, the correct usage is to make the verb following it plural as well. Write, “The media are,” not “The media is.”
Commonly misspelled words
a lot
Note the case and punctuation of these words:
The AP Stylebook advises avoiding capitals unless absolutely necessary, and suggests checking in “Webster’s New World Dictionary.”

“Use lowercase if the dictionary lists it as an acceptable form for the sense in which the word is being used,” according to the stylebook.

The word “the” preceding a proper noun is generally not capitalized, unless it is the preferred spelling by an organization or company. The Associated Press prefers a capital “The,” but when abbreviated to “AP” the “the” is lowercased.

Note that if they start a sentence or headline, “iPod” and “iMac” are written “IPod” and “IMac.”
Punctuation marks
Ampersand (&)
The ampersand should never replace the word “and.” Only use it when part of a name, such as of a company or newspaper.
Apostrophe (’)
An apostrophe and “s” are added to the end of most words to indicate possession.

The exceptions:
Singular common nouns ending in “s”:
Add an apostrophe and “s” unless the next word begins with “s.”
the hostess’s invitation (includes final “s”)
the hostess’ seat (no final “s”)
the witness’s answer (includes final “s”)
the witness’ story (no final “s)

Singular proper names ending in “s”:
Use only an apostrophe.
Achilles’ heel, Agnes’ book, Dickens’ novel, Kansas’ schools
Special expressions:
When the following words end in an “s” sound and are immediately followed by a “s” they use an apostrophe alone. This rule applies only to the following expressions:
for appearance’ sake but the appearance’s cost
for conscience’ sake but my conscience’s voice
for goodness’ sake
Joint possession:
Use a possessive form after the last word if the ownership is joint (Fred and Sylvia’s books) but after each if the objects are individually owned (Fred’s and Sylvia’s books).
Descriptive phrases:
Do not add an apostrophe to a word ending in “s” when it is used primarily in a descriptive sense. The apostrophe is usually not used if the word “for” or “by” rather than “of” would be appropriate in the longer form.
a teachers college (a college for teachers)
a writers guide (a guide for writers)
a Cincinnati Reds infielder (an infielder for the Cincinnati Reds)
a Teamsters request (a request by the Teamsters)
However, the apostrophe is required when the plural form of the word does not include an “s.”
a children’s hospital
the people’s republic
the Young Men’s Christian Association
Therefore, references to sports teams should include the apostrophe in “men’s” and “women’s,” as the words without the apostrophes (“mens” and “womens”) do not exist.
Inanimate objects
Avoid using the apostrophe-“s” construction for inanimate objects, and give preference to the “of” construction when possible.
the rules of math instead of math’s rules
the effects of the flu instead of the flu’s effects
Omitted letters
The apostrophe represents the omission of one or more letters. (See “Contractions.)
rock ’n’ roll
‘Tis the season to be jolly.
It is also used for omitted figures, such as “the class of ‘06” or “the ’20s.” In decades there is no apostrophe between the last figure and the “s.” Use “the 1950s” instead of “the 1950’s.”
Plurals of a single letter
An apostrophe is used for the plural of a single letter, but not for the plural numerals or multiple-letter combinations.
Use an apostrophe:
Mind your p’s and q’s.
He learned the three R’s and got four A’s and two B’s.
The Oakland A’s won the game.

Do not use an apostrophe:
When in the singular form, single letters are put in quotation marks, as in He got an “A.”

Brackets []
Do not use outside of quotes.
Colon (:)
If the clause following a colon is a full sentence, capitalize it. Otherwise, keep it lowercased.
He promised this: He would get an “A.” (capitalize)
There were three problems: time, money and management. (do not capitalize)
Do not use colon in introducing a list if the sentence would make sense without it. Compare:
There are six main principles of Buddhism: giving, observance of rules, endurance, diligence, concentration and wisdom. (use colon)
The six main principles of Buddhism are giving, observance of rules, endurance, diligence, concentration and wisdom. (do not use colon)
Colons can be used for emphasis.
He had one hobby: eating.
Here are other uses of colons:
time elapsed, such as 1:34:02.01
citations for legal documents or religious scriptures, such as Genesis 6:9 or Missouri Code 3:245-260
Comma (,)
The serial comma (also known as the Oxford comma or Harvard comma) is the comma used immediately before a grammatical conjunction (nearly always and or or) that precedes the last item in a list of three or more items. In AP style this comma is never used unless it is necessary for clarity.
They gave money, toys and food.
This rule can be broken if a part of the list requires a conjunction.
She had orange juice, toast, and ham and eggs for breakfast.
The comma should be added if ambiguity may arise it without it, as in this example from the Times, which did not include the comma:
Highlights of his global tour include encounters with Nelson Mandela, an 800-year-old demigod and a dildo collector.
Use a comma before a conjunction to connect two complete thoughts, but leave out the comma if the subject is not repeated in the second clause.
He went to the store, and she stayed home. (use comma)
We will fly on Monday and return on Thursday. (do not use comma)
Do not use a comma to introduce a partial or indirect quote.
He advised starting homework early.
She said the idea came to her “in a brilliant flash of inspiration.”
Use a comma to set off the names of states and countries when following city names (Richmond, Va., was the capital of the Confederacy.)
Use a comma to set of similar words for clarification.
What the problem is, is not clear.
Use a comma with “yes” or “no” and in direct address.
“Yes, sir, I was there,” he said.
In figures larger than 999 use a comma, with the exception of street addresses, room numbers, telephone numbers and years.
When used with quotation marks, commas always go inside.
Dash (—)
A dash is longer than a hyphen. Do not use two hyphens to indicate a dash. Microsoft Word can be set to automatically convert double-hyphens to dashes (en-dash). They can also be typed using the “Alt” key plus 0151 in the number pad (em-dash). The em-dash (—) is preferable to the en-dash (–), and the hyphen (-) or double hyphen (–) should never be used for a dash.

A dash can be used to represent an abrupt change, emphatic pause, a series within a phrase, attribution and a list.
Smith will graduate in June — if he passes English, that is.
“You did — what?”
“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” — Benjamin Franklin
Detention can be given for the following reasons:
— Causing a disruption in the classroom.
— Breaking school policy.
— Receiving three overdue book slips.
Dashes can also be used to insert complete sentences in other sentences. If the end punctuation of the interpolated sentence is a question or exclamation it maintains its original punctuation. Periods in interpolated sentences are omitted.
“You told me — Did I hear you correctly? — that you started the riot.”
“If I go to France — Mind you, I don’t want to go — my grandmother will pay for the trip.”
Ellipse ( … )
An ellipse indicates omission of original text, as in quotes material. It is three periods with one space on each end. If the omission occurs after a complete sentence, leave the original punctuation.

“I don’t know how we got that law. … Here we say he cannot climb the tall tree but he can tap the short ones standing on the ground.”

In writing a story, do not use an ellipse at the beginning or end of a quote.

An ellipse may also indicate a pause or hesitation, but use a dash instead whenever an ellipse might be thought to indicate omission, as in quotes.
Exclamation point (!)
Use very sparingly. Avoid in straight news pieces.
Hyphen (-)
Hyphens are used to join ideas and avoid ambiguity. Note the difference between “small-business men” and “small businessmen.”

Other uses of hyphens:
Compound modifiers:
She wore a bluish-green dress.
He was a well-known man with a full-time job.
“Don’t be a know-it-all,” Smith said.
The quick-witted woman is better-qualified than the other applicants.
Two-thought compounds:
Compound proper nouns and adjectives, as in dual heritage:
Mexican-American, Italian-American but not French Canadian, Latin American
Suspensive hyphenation:
He received a 10- to 20-year sentence in prison.
fifty-five, twenty-seven, thirty-one
one-quarter, one-third
Parentheses ( )
Use sparingly.

Do not use “(sic)” to indicate spelling or grammatical mistakes in the original text. Instead, in regard to quoting a person with poor grammar, use ethical judgment and depending on the situation choose to correct or leave the material as is.
Period (.)
Periods are used to end declarative statements and indicate abbreviation. There is only one space between a period and the start of the next sentence.
He asked what time it was.
George W. Bush was previously the governor of Texas.
Question mark (?)
Only use question marks at the end of direct questions.
“What time is it?” he asked.
The man on the corner asked what time it was.
Quotation mark (“ ”)
Quotation marks are used for taking information or words from a person or source; titles of written or performed works; expressing doubt; references to slang or casual language in formal writing; and dialogue.

Most fonts distinguish between straight quotes (also called typewriter quotes) and smart quotes (also called typographic quotes). Use smart quotes. This option can be set on Microsoft Word. The program InDesign always types smart quotes.

“This is an example of straight quotes.”
“This is an example of smart quotes.”

Always use “double quotes” instead of ‘single quotes’ unless quoting inside quoted material. Use double quotes inside single quotes, and so on.

“I didn’t like ‘The Da Vinci Code,’” he said.
“This so-called ‘political correctness’ is inaccurate,” Smith said.
“Someone told me ‘“Lord of the Flies” is an amazing movie,’ but I don’t agree,” she said.

At the end of sentences, commas and periods go instead quotation marks; unless part of quoted material, question marks and exclamation marks go outside quotation marks. Semicolons go outside quotation marks, but should be avoided as much as possible in quoted material.

Note the punctuation:
“Where did it go?” he said.
“It’s all very well if you’re not allergic to peanuts,” she said, “but what if you are?”
“I won’t do it,” he said. “I refuse.”
“Have you read ‘Invisible Man’?”
“Why would anyone name a company ‘Yahoo!’?”
“I would go,” she said, “but I have to work.”
Semicolon (;)
A semicolon separate two complete thoughts but indicates less separation than a period. If possible, semicolons should be avoided by using a period instead. Semicolons are also used to separate ideas in a list, when commas are part of the list and might interfere with understanding.

The storm did not do it; it was the crowds of people.
He left two sons, John and Samuel; a daughter, Mary; and his wife, Jane.


If the answer to your question is not here, check the most recent copy of “The Associated Press Stylebook” available. For examples refer to newspapers that follow AP style. Check a dictionary for spelling and punctuation. Of course, ask your editors, and use your common sense. Remember, the point of a standardized style for grammar and formatting is to achieve the most clarity and accuracy, while being as concise as possible.

Just for Fun: Amazing Newspaper Headlines
People employed by real newspapers (well, maybe not any more) actually wrote this stuff …

Something went wrong in jet crash, expert says
Police begin campaign to run down jaywalkers
Safety experts say school bus passengers should be belted
Drunk gets nine months in violin case
Survivor of siamese twins joins parents
Farmer Bill dies in house
Iraqi head seeks arms
Is there a ring of debris around Uranus?
Stud tires out
Prostitutes appeal to Pope
Panda mating fails; Veterinarian takes over
Soviet virgin lands short of goal again
British left waffles on Falkland Islands
Eye drops off shelf
Teacher strikes idle kids
Reagan wins on budget, but more lies ahead
Squad helps dog bite victim
Shot off woman’s leg helps Nicklaus to 66
Enraged cow injures farmer with ax
Plane too close to ground, crash probe told
Miners refuse to work after death
Juvenile court to try shooting defendant
Stolen painting found by tree
Two soviet ships collide, one dies
2 sisters reunited after 18 years in checkout counter
Killer sentenced to die for second time in 10 years