Reminders for Strong Journalistic Writing

As journalists, you’ll be under constant pressure to write at the highest level. AP style is constantly changing and can sometimes be tricky to remember.  Before you begin writing your first formal news story, review some of these helpful guidelines for writing using proper AP Style.

Here’s one of my favorite go-to “cheat sheets” for quick references about correct AP style.

See helpful reminders from Textbroker here. 

Struggling with run-on sentences? When to use that pesky comma? Here are some helpful reminders for the rules about commas from Business Insider.


Also, below are some commonly made grammar and word usage errors that will drive your instructor crazy. Please enjoy these helpful reminders (using burritos for your amusement.)

Microsoft Word - basic grammar rules.docx

“a” vs. an”

“A” precedes a noun/verb/adjective that begins with a consonant.

“A ferocious storm swept over the Florida Keyes, abolishing everything in its path.”

“An” precedes a noun/verb/adjective that begins with a vowel(A, E, I, O, U).

“An unruly storm swept over the Florida Keyes, abolishing everything in its path.”

“lose” vs. “loose” 

Lose; a verb that means “to fail to win, to misplace, or to free oneself from something or someone. 

“The Cowboys hope to make it through the season without losing a single game.”

Loose; and adjective indicating “not tight.”

“The referee had to stop the play because the player’s helmet had come loose.”

Remember, most of these are writing errors that won’t be caught by basic spelling/grammar checkers. Proofread everything you write in this class.

Commonly misused words

“infamous” vs “famous”

Infamous: adjective

  1. having an extremely bad reputation:an infamous city.
  2. deserving of or causing an evil reputation; shamefully malign; detestable:an infamous deed.

Many people mistakenly use “infamous” as though it is interchangeable with “famous,” it is not.

“Nauseous” vs. “Nauseated”

“As you say, the distinction that has been taught is thatnauseous means “causing nausea” but nauseatedmeans “feeling or suffering from nausea”. So if a person says “I am nauseous”, a purist might reply “Yes, you are; misusing words like that makes your listeners feel sick” –World Wide Words. 

Check Grammarly’s take on mastering the use of these words.


What other common writing mistakes come to mind?

'I'll never date another apostrophe... the last one was too possessive.'

Additional tips for strong journalistic writing.

Eliminate lazy words such as “very” or “really” from your writing vocabulary.  In any instance where you are looking to use these words to emphasize another word, there is always a better word choice that can communicate the same meaning more efficiently. See this reference page for a list of words to choose from other than “very”.



When writing for journalistic purposes, avoid getting carried away with punctuation. Exclamation points (especially more than one consecutively) are not generally recommended for journalistic style.





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