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AP Style Rules for LGBTQ+, Royalty, the Economy, and More

We know journalists are busy, and it can be difficult to keep up with recent AP Stylebook changes. So we’ve done the work for you, rounding up a few of the recent significant — and just plain interesting — updates to the AP Stylebook.

The latest roundup includes rules for terminology used during Pride Month as well as words to describe the royal family and individual disabilities.

LGBTQ+ Reminders for Pride Month

  • Gender is not synonymous with sex. Gender refers to a person’s social identity, while sex refers to biological characteristics.
  • Cisgender can be used to describe individuals who are not transgender. The term is not synonymous with heterosexual, which refers to sexual orientation.
  • If a person’s gender identity is not strictly male or female, nonbinary is the appropriate term. This is not the same as transgender.
  • LGBT and LGBTQ are both acceptable as umbrella terms.


In an ACES chat on April 7, @APStylebook explained, “Use of the hyphen is far from standardized. It can be a matter of taste, judgment and style sense.”

Generally, hyphens should be used to improve readers’ comprehension. If it’s just adding clutter or distraction, leave it out.

AP Style calls for a space on either side of a dash when used in things like dates or times.

Use a hyphen in modifiers of three words or more, like know-it-all attitude.

Use hyphens in nearly all e- words, like e-book and e-commerce. The exceptions are email and esports.

The Economy

A new topical guide focuses on terminology related to the pandemic economy. Here are a few of the reminders and rules:

  • Layoff is a noun and lay off is a verb. While these are considered permanent, a furloughed employee is considered to be on a leave of absence. Both are eligible for unemployment benefits.
  • A period of generally rising stock prices over a prolonged period is a bull market. When stock prices decline over a period of time, it’s a bear market.
  • Use Paycheck Protection Program to reference the small business loans provided by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Avoid the shorthand PPP.
  • It’s ok to begin a sentence with 401(k).


You should generally write out numbers below 10 and use figures for 10 or above. Also use figures for units of measure or ages of people, animals, events, or things.

Write out numbers below 10 for units of time, like five seconds.

Spell out numbers at the beginning of a sentence. Exceptions include years or terms like 401(k).

When noting a position or rank, use the abbreviation No. and the figure. For example, the No. 2 team.

Royal Style

After the death of Prince Philip in April, AP Stylebook sent out a few reminders.

  • Capitalize king, queen, prince, and princess when they are used directly before one or more names: Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip.
  • Lowercase when they are standalones: the queen’s late husband.
  • First reference should be Prince Philip, rather than the Duke of Edinburgh.


On May 25, a Twitter chat covered the latest guidance on individual disabilities, conditions, and disorders. Here are a few of the reminders:

  • Refer to a condition only when it’s relevant. Use specifics over generalities.
  • Writing about disabilities requires care and precision. You should consider the impact of specific words. When possible, ask people how they like to be described.
  • Ableism is the belief that typical abilities – those of people who aren’t disabled – are superior. It is a form of discrimination and prejudice.
  • You should not describe someone as having a disability unless it’s clearly relevant to the story.
  • Avoid the words handicap or handicapped.
  • Avoid euphemisms (handi-capable), negative language (Alzheimer’s victim), cliches (brave), and pity (suffers from or overcame).
Rocky Parker

Rocky Parker is the Digital Content Lead at Cision and has been with the company since 2010. In addition to writing content for Beyond Bylines and the Cision blog, she works with journalists, bloggers, and content creators to create their targeted newsfeeds from PR Newswire for Journalists. Rocky also counsels on SEO and content writing best practices.