AP style quick tips to clean up copy

Melissa Cowan

Proofing and copywriting go together like cats and tacos: One is good. Both are better. Large agencies typically have a team of copywriters and a separate team of proofreaders to look over the writers’ work. But, when you’re part of a small agency, copywriters may also need to serve as proofreaders.

Even if your only copywriting task is emailing, being able to proof your own work is a valuable skill, one you can learn with a little practice. Here are 10 ways to instantly clean up your copy using AP Style:


Spell out one through nine. Use figures for 10 and above. (There are exceptions to this rule, including age. For the complete rule, reference the AP Stylebook.)

Online and technology

Capitalize Web and Internet. Spell email without a hyphen but e-commerce with a hyphen. Website is one word, lowercased.


Use figures and spell out percent.

Dollar amounts

Use figures with the dollar symbol. Do not use .00 (e.g., $5). Spell out million and higher (e.g., $5 million, $5 billion).


Abbreviate Street, Avenue and Boulevard when used with a numbered address. Spell out all others (e.g., Road, Court, Way).


Abbreviate August through February when used with a numbered date. Do not include "st," "nd," "rd" or "th."

Serial commas

In a simple series, do not use a comma before the last item (e.g., red, white and blue).


Use noon and midnight instead of 12 p.m. and 12 a.m. Use a colon to separate hours from minutes but do not use :00 (e.g., 5 p.m., 9:30 a.m.).


Use a hyphen to connect compound modifiers (e.g., high-quality blog). Use an en dash without spaces for ranges (e.g., 6–8 p.m.). Use an em dash with spaces in place of a comma, colon or parenthesis. (e.g., The man — who recently graduated — just joined the team.)

Quotation marks

Put commas and periods inside quotation marks. Other punctuation marks go inside the quotation when they apply to the quoted matter only. They go outside when they apply to the whole sentence. (e.g., Have you read "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People"?)