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August 10, 2009


Ed Schoaps

I think you may have opened a can of worms, Dan.

While your headline style is used by many, those of us in the PR world who write for media are most likely required to follow the Associated Press Stylebook. And AP says to capitalize only the first word, proper nouns and proper abbreviations in all headlines. Some PR companies have even gone so far to adopt AP style as the agency standard.

Your thoughts?


Dan Santow

Ed, thanks for your close reading. You are absolutely right. According to the AP Stylebook: “Only the first word and proper nouns are capitalized.” I just looked it up online (at apsylebook.com) so that’s the latest. As an aside, it would be interesting to know when AP added this; my 2002 and 2004 versions have no reference to headlines I can find, while my 2007 edition, the latest I own, includes an entry (right after “H-bomb”). Anyhow, I don’t mean to disagree with AP or with you, and understand following AP style. That said, I prefer the advice I gave, which is based on The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage.

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Why "Word Wise"?

  • When I started to e-mail out a weekly writing tip to my Chicago colleagues at Edelman in 2002, little did I know how quickly how many people outside my office would start to request it. But word spread, as word is wont to do, and in 2006 the e-mail evolved into this blog. The tips, which are about grammar, usage and style, have a dual purpose – to remind my colleagues in PR of the power of the written word and, more generally, to support and perpetuate clear, concise, creative, honest, lively, stylish, compelling writing everywhere. In 2009 I started to add commentary about and links to stories and other blog posts related to the media, marketing, writing and, sometimes, just interesting stuff. For some reason, I also started Twittering (at SantowDan).