Play by the Rules When Writing a Press Release

play by the rules when writing a press release
There’s more to writing a press release than following a format. AP or Associated Press style isn’t just for the media but should be followed if you want to increse your chances of catching a reporter or editor’s attention and interest in your story.

AP style is a set of rules of usage and accepted writing style that PR pros and news organizations follow. AP has set standards for press releases as well.

Here are six important style rules you should follow when writing a press release:

1. Set objective in the intro– Set your objective in the first few sentences of your release. Reporters and editors receive a boat load of press releases and media pitches, so place your objective in the first couple sentences. It will be easier for the reporter to find.

2. Cover the five W’s in the body– Once you capture the reporter’s attention in the introduction, you need to deliver the “good stuff.” The body should contain the five W’s: who, what, when, where and why. This is where you give all the information so the reporter can write a full story about it. They have deadlines to meet so they can’t spend time digging to find information that you didn’t provide, or placed at the bottom of your press release.

3. Check your spacing– Make sure to only use one space after punctuation and none before. Some people are accustomed to adding two spaces after punctuation. I know that is how I learned in typing class many years ago! AP style says just one space.

4. Drop extra commas– When you are listing items in a series, you have the option to use a comma before the last “and.” AP style rules say, “drop it!” When following AP Style drop the last comma. For example: “I like to eat apples, oranges, and bananas” should be written as, “I like to eat apples, oranges and bananas.”

5. Use full names and titles only when you introduce someone– When you first introduce someone in your release, you should provide his/her full name and title. After the first introduction, simply just refer to them using their last name.

6. Get your numbers right– A lot of people get confused when it comes to numbers in writing. Do you spell it out or use numerals? Here’s your answer: You should spell out numbers one through nine. After that, you use numerals such as “10.” You should also use numbers for dates and abbreviate months with more than five letters.

You may think that these rules are petty. Who cares if you miss a few small details? I know firsthand that reporters and editors care, and some of my clients are extremely particular about using AP style in all of their press materials. So if you would like members of the media to consider your stories, you should play by their rules.

About the AP Stylebook:

The AP Stylebook is an essential tool for writers, editors, students and PR specialists. It’s a comprehensive guide to usage and accepted style, with special sections on a number of different industries.The Stylebook is updated yearly with new listings and important AP style revisions.

AP Stylebook is available in three formats: print, web and in a mobile app for iPhone and BlackBerry. Visit to learn more.