Associated Press Updates Rules on Apostrophes

grammar punctuation

The Associated Press recently provided updates to its official writing rules relating to the use of apostrophes in news writing.

For a long time, I’ve written about the grammatical horror apostrophes can bring to our language.

The Associated Press, which publishes its AP Styleguide for journalists to keep consistency among members, just made minor changes to its rules about the troubling punctuation mark.

Words ending with ‘-s’

The first change involves singular words that end with the letter s.

Officially, if you’re using a word that is itself a singular noun that ends in an s, you make it a possessive by adding ’s.

For example:

The class’s schedule changed because of inclement weather.

Previous guidance from the AP suggested that if the next word began with an s, you’d only have the apostrophe. The newest guidance changes that so that all singular nouns that become possessives should have the ’s, not just the apostrophe.

This is definitely a good thing because it makes rules for Associated Press writing more in line with grammar rules.

For words that are already plural, you can add only an apostrophe:

The groom felt it was definitely time for a guys’ night out.

Making individual letters plural

Here’s one in which the AP Styleguide steps slightly outside traditional grammar rules.

When you’re making individual letters of the alphabet plural, the normal rules are that you only use apostrophes when you’re dealing with lower case letters, as in the famous phrase:

Mind your p’s and q’s.

But the new guidance from AP now states you should use apostrophes for capital letters, too:

Mary surprised her parents by bringing home straight A’s.

Reading, writing and ‘rithmatic can, according to the update from AP, be referred to colloquially as “the three R’s” instead of “the three Rs.”

But AP remains consistent on multiple letters in a line: It’s still correct to type, “Know your ABCs.”

This one bothers me just a bit, but that’s probably more because I tend to dislike using apostrophes in any form that makes something plural since so many people find so many ways to incorrectly do so. An ’s, except in this unique case, is the only time you use an apostrophe in making something plural.

Then again, the people who get this wrong clearly aren’t looking up rules, anyway, are they?

1 Comment

  1. So why are smartphones so very many times defaulted to adding ‘s when making a word plural? It’s driving me nuts!! I even saw on a EP cover written …the new age maestro’s… a collection of new age musicians. And it’s EVERYWHERE! So I have spent nearly an hour this morning looking up “who changed the rules?” Seriously and SMH

    THANK YOU for this little update Patrick

Leave a Response

We'd love to hear from you, but remember all comments must be respectful. We reserve the right to remove comments that do not follow our comment guidelines. Click here to review our comment policy.

Your name, as provided, will display on the website with any comment you leave. Your email address and your browser’s IP address does not display publicly and we do not share or sell your email address or IP address to anyone.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Patrick is a Christian with more than 27 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.