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What are copy editing style guides?

By Alexandra Sharp

Know the different types of style guides news media outlets use


A person writing with a computer in front of her.Your company just accomplished a major milestone, donated to charity, or expanded its footprint. Congratulations! Now you want to send a news/press release to get the news media’s attention you’ve earned. Before you do that, you’ll first want to make sure your news release is written in the media outlet’s preferred style. Otherwise, the newsroom may not use it.


And what is copy editing style, and how do you find out what the media outlets use?



For starters, copy editing style is the rulebook writers and editors use to make sure all stories follow the same grammar and style rules. Style books can cover everything from comma placement to italics usage to source attribution. It ensures consistency and professionalism, so it’s vital your company follows those same copy editing guidelines.


Most news media outlets use the Associated Press Stylebook. (So do we at Axia Public Relations.) This guide is available online and in printed editions that are updated annually. Some news outlets follow the Chicago Manual of Style, another stylebook with slightly different grammar rules than the AP. Before you submit your press release, double check which style guide the outlet uses by reaching out to its copy desk editors.


In most cases, media outlets don’t solely use one style guide. In addition to the major style books like the AP or Chicago Manual, media outlets tend to have in-house style guides. These in-house guidelines list rules that contradict the main stylebook. They are responsible for giving the media outlet its unique voice. For example, The New York Times refers to all sources by “Mr.” or “Ms.” This is an in-house rule that contradicts the AP’s guidelines, which state that last names should be referenced without courtesy titles. Take note of any in-house copy rules an outlet may have before sending them your news release.


It’s okay if you don’t follow every copy editing style rule at a media outlet before you send in your press release. Journalists expect to edit the releases you send before putting them in print, including editing for style. However, by trying to match the outet’s style guide, your company will stand out for respecting the outlet’s time, audience, and unique style.

Still a little confused about what in-house style is? Many companies have an in-house style guide, including Axia Public Relations. At Axia, we have three copy editors for our agency and our clients. This is a unique feature of our PR firm. We follow AP Style and our own, carefully constructed, constantly updated, in-house style guides for our agency and our clients. If you want to learn more about how we can help you build your storytelling arsenal, contact us at 888-PR-FIRM-8 or download our How to Fire Your PR Agency e-book.


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Topics: PR tips, copy editing

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