What is AP style?

  • AP style is a standardized way of writing everything from dates to job titles. The Associated Press developed and maintains the guide, publishing an updated AP Stylebook each year.
  • When in doubt, the College of the Environment and the University of Washington default to AP style for all materials.

AP style quick tips

These are some of the most misused AP style points on materials coming out of the College and its units. Each point is followed by an example in italics.

Abbreviations and acronyms

Do not use them. Spell out the first mention. If the name is too long to continue writing in full, on subsequent mentions, use generic terms such as the board, the council, the group. Do not put acronyms in parentheses after the first reference. Exception: It is fine to use “UW” after an initial reference to the University of Washington.

The University of Washington Botanic Gardens will teach a class on conifer pests and diseases this Thursday. The gardens’ staff offers free courses to the community on a variety of topics almost every night of the week!

For unit and department names and abbreviations, see unit and department entry in the College-specific grammar and editorial style section.

Academic degrees

Use an apostrophe and spell out academic degrees. Use abbreviations for degrees only when you need to include a list of credentials after a name; set them off with commas. Only capitalize degrees in the rare circumstances that you are using the full, formal degree name.

She has a bachelor’s degree. Peter White, Ph.D., was the keynote speaker. She earned a Master of Science in Earth and Space Sciences.


Ages are always expressed as numerals.

She is 5 years old.

Cities and states

Seattle stands alone in a dateline or sentence. State should be lowercase when referencing Washington state. Eastern and western should be lowercase when referring to eastern and western Washington. Other cities in Washington should include city and state, spelled out.

Seattle is in western Washington. Across the water from Seattle is the Olympic Peninsula, which is located in the northwest corner of Washington state. The Olympic National Resources Center, part of UW Environment, is in Forks, Washington.


In a simple series, do not use a serial comma before the conjunction (usually “and” or “or”). Do use a serial comma before the concluding conjunction in a complex series of phrases or when a comma is necessary for clarity. Not only does this reflect the AP Style standard, but our partners at UW Marketing and Communications and UW News also adhere to this rule.

He’s an ecologist, climate scientist and the author of many books.

The main points to consider are whether the College has the major you’re interested in, whether the faculty teaching within that major are considered experts in their fields, and whether graduates of the program go on to do meaningful work.

The team measured the impacts of processing, preserving, freezing, drying, storing, packing for shipment, or distribution of fish.

Days, dates, months

Abbreviate months with six or more letters if they are used with a specific date. Spell out those with five or fewer letters. Spell out the month when it is used without a specific date. Do not abbreviate days of the week. Do not use apostrophes when referring to a decade or century.

Aug. 13. June 6. Classes start again in September. Classes start again on Monday, Sept. 13, 2016. It’s hard to believe the 2000s started 16 years ago!

Dollar amounts

Dollar amounts are always expressed as numerals and the “$” sign is used. Spell out cents, million, billion and trillion.

5 cents, $5, $15, $150, $15 million, $15.5 billion

Earth vs. earth

Earth, the planet, should always be capitalized. When referring to earthen material, as in the dirt beneath our feet, earth should be lowercase. 

The Earth’s population is 7.4 billion. The earth shifted with tragic consequences in Oso, Washington.

Hyphens, en dashes, em dashes

There are three lengths of dashes: hyphen (-), en dash (–), and em dash (—).  

The hyphen connects two things that are intimately related, usually words that function together as a single concept that modifies a noun. Do not hyphenate adverb-noun constructions when the adverb ends in –ly.

Toll-free call

A nearly complete paper

The en dash connects things that are related to each other by distance. They refer to any kind of range.

The May–September issue of a magazine. Pages 147–155.

The em dash can function similarly to a parenthesis, an additional thought to be added within a sentence by breaking it away from the rest of the sentence. A space should be inserted on either side of an em dash to reflect AP Style, as well as UW Marketing and Communications and UW News editorial standards.

Upon discovering the errors — all 124 of them — the publisher immediately recalled the books.

Job titles

Job titles are generally capitalized when they appear before a person’s name in a sentence, but lowercase after the name. When no person’s name is associated with a title, do not capitalize the title. Do not use the title “Dr.” before the name of an individual who does not hold a medical degree, e.g. most faculty and staff at the College of the Environment. Lastly, title case is acceptable for job titles when listed as part of an address block.

Dean Maya Tolstoy. Maya Tolstoy is the College’s dean. She is a professor studying seafloor earthquakes and volcanoes. We are hiring an associate director of advancement.

Maya Tolstoy



Use a person’s first and last name the first time they are mentioned. On second reference, use only the last name with no title. Do not use courtesy titles such as Mr. or Ms. 

Dean Maya Tolstoy led a discussion about the state of the College. Tolstoy gave updates on our work in research, education and outreach.


Do not hyphenate. Do not refer to an organization as not-for-profit.


One through nine are generally spelled out, while 10 and above are generally written as numerals. Spell out any number found at the beginning of a sentence, unless the number is a year.

He carried five books for 12 blocks. Thirty days to go! 2001 was a good year.


Use the % sign, with no space, when paired with a number. Spell out zero percent.

The price of gas rose 5% this month. They are offering zero percent financing.

Phone numbers

Use hyphens and numbers only, no parentheses or periods.



Lowercase spring, summer, autumn, winter and derivatives like wintertime unless part of a formal name.

The UW campus is beautiful during autumn quarter. The UW campus was especially beautiful during Autumn Quarter 2015. 

Sentence spacing

Use only one space between sentences.

Street addresses

Spell out all generic parts of street names (avenue, north, road) when no specific address is given. When a number is used, abbreviate avenue (Ave.), boulevard (Blvd.), street (St.) and directional parts of street names. Route and Road are never abbreviated.

He lives at 123 University Ave. Their house is on University Avenue. Her house is on 234 Elm Road. They live at 1512 N. Mission St.


Use lowercase a.m. and p.m., with periods. Always use figures, with a space between the time and the a.m. or p.m. If it’s an exact hour, no “:00″ is required. If a time range is entirely in the morning or evening, use a.m. or p.m. only once. If it goes from the morning into the evening (or vice versa), you need both.

By 6:30 a.m. she was long gone.

6:30–10 p.m.

10 a.m.–2 p.m.

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