An advertising student’s perspective on AP style

The style guide published by the Associated Press is a beautiful thing. It’s practical, concise and usually well organized. It keeps us writers on our toes. It ensures that everyone is using proper grammar.

I, however, have a problem with the relationship many people seem have to the AP style guide. In its very name, the word “guide” is used. It’s just that – a guide designed for Associated Press content. While this is incredibly useful for newspapers, press releases and news items (keeping everyone honest and on the same page), it really shouldn’t be used as the measure by which everything is determined proper or not. There are many other, often more comprehensive, style guides – Chicago Manual of Style, Modern Language Association, American Psychological Association, among others. Each differ on one point or another, and each was designed for a specific usage context.

I have taken two classes where AP style was required. One was a media writing course where I learned the very basic tenants of this legalistic religion. The other was a design course where we focused on the use of InDesign to create flyers, posters, brochures, letterhead and business cards. While I understand that AP style is important, if it’s so deathly important as to be used on a business card, why have I only had one course on it? Why are students of graphic design not required to learn AP style?

Even in the College of Mass Communications, would we actually require our songwriting students to use AP style in everything they write? Really now, that would just be absurd and I really hope no one would argue with me on that.

Now, you might get the idea that I hate AP style. I do – but I also wish I had been taught to use it more effectively. I’ve only had one course on it, and only two of my professors have ever cared whether I use it or not. If AP style is as important as some people claim, why haven’t I learned it and why is a design class the only place that it actually matters?

I feel like advertising students are left out in the cold when it comes to AP style. We aren’t taught it, but we’re required to know it. Though only sometimes. As much as I dislike AP style ( I grew up on Chicago and classical prose), I think it is unfair that I’m expected to know it without it having been taught. Why is Chicago not considered a valid style guide why it comes to design. Chicago words are so beautiful and free. My designs don’t follow the AP rules every time, why should the words in them?

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One thought on “An advertising student’s perspective on AP style

  1. I usually wrote using the MLA guidielnes…until about college. Once I was in college AP style was more in demand. It’s crazy to learn one style and then get tossed onto another.

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