How Much Do You Know About AP Style?


By: Erica Sklar

5 Min Quiz

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

Were you the kid in school who was always pushing up your glasses and mumbling, "Well, actually ..." as you corrected your dumb classmates (or teachers)? Well, you might be a mansplainer. But you also might be a grammarian, which is far superior in our book. Even though we know that English is a living language that changes regularly, and that worship of the written word does not actually make us good people in our hearts, our love for the pedantic doesn't do any harm when we aren't dictatorial about it. Right? 

This quiz will test how much you remember AP Style. AP stands for Associated Press, and it's the style book used by journalists across the country. You might not know that this style book was developed when physical space was at a major premium, so saving column inches was of the utmost importance, and shaving off a single space could make a big difference. Keep that in mind as you work your way through these questions about punctuation, capitalization, and usage. 

We're confident that you'll remember the difference between a hyphen and a dash. But do you know the difference between an en-dash and an em-dash? Go on, get a little nerdy.

Oh no! You're writing a quiz and you can't use italics to indicate a title. What should you do instead?

Using quotes offsets the title without being obtrusive with shoutycaps or overly casual with asterisks. Fun fact: unpublished manuscripts do use ALL CAPS to announce themselves.


Is it Doberman Pinscher or doberman pinscher, anyway?

Here's the deal on dog breeds, per Grammar Girl, our personal grammar bff aside from the official AP Stylebook. You should always "capitalize the part of the name derived from a proper noun and lowercase the part of the name derived from a common noun." Is it intuitive? No! Welcome to AP style! In the specific case of Doberman pinscher, The word Doberman comes from a breeder of that name, while it is believed that pinscher comes from the English word "pinch," which refers to the docking of its tails and ears. Makes you wonder: when we outlaw painful alterations to animal bodies, will we have to change the Doberman's name?


How many spaces after a period? One? Two? MORE?

Please absorb this information: you should never put more than one space after a sentence. Ever. For any reason. Start a new paragraph? Sure, go for it. But more than one space after a sentence? Illegal. The two-space issue is a holdover from the days of typewriters, and is obsolete in our modern world.


I was born in the '80s. Or, wait, was it the 80's?

Decades and apostrophes can be catastrophic in the world of grammar. The apostrophe is used similarly to contractions: the "19" is missing, so the apostrophe replaces it: '80s. If you're using 80's, give it up.


Exclamation point after every sentence, right! Like, every single one, right! Because we're excited! Writing is so fun!

Per the AP Stylebook: "Avoid overuse: Use a comma after mild interjections. End mildly exclamatory sentences with a period." However, you should avoid mild writing, unless you want your quiz to be about as entertaining as the AP Stylebook.


How do you use the stinking ellipsis?

Remember the hot tip you got before you started? Column inches were all-important as the AP Stylebook was developed, so always count on the answer that takes up the least amount of space, including a space on either ends.


What is a comma splice, can anybody tell me?

The comma splice is an all-too-common phenomenon. As you can see above, you can easily make two sentences from the question: What is a comma splice? Can anybody tell me? You can choose to separate two independent clauses (read: sentences) with a semi-colon as well: What is a comma splice; can anybody tell me?


All right, all right, all right! Or, is it actually alright alright alright?

Alright is not a word. Here are some other examples of non-words, believe it or not: alot, anyways, irregardless, orientate, snuck, nother, and, yes, impactful. This has been your public service announcement on words that are not words.


How the heck do you know if a generation's name is capitalized?

Believe it or not, the Greatest Generation, Generation X, and Generation Y all have their homes in books, but baby boomers, xenials, and millennials were just made up by some weirdos with too much time on their hands, probably. At least you can remember that if it has the word "generation" it's probably capitalized. One exception is the silent generation, because if it was straightforward, it wouldn't be grammar.


When do you write out the number, and when do you leave it as a figure?

While there are about as many exceptions as there are rules, when you're dealing with numbers, spell out one through nine. Here is a very brief and incomplete list of exceptions: ages, accounting, names of heavy machinery, decimals and percentages, and mathematical or monetary usage should all be represented as figures.


Can you please name these three punctuation marks? %0D- – —

Hyphens are used to form a single idea from two or more words, such as soft-spoken, hard-bodied, or single-handed. En-dashes are IGNORED altogether by the AP Stylebook, but are used by other stylebooks, typically for quotation attribution. Em-dashes appear within sentences, and according to the AP Stylebook are most often used to offset "abrupt change in thought in a sentence or emphatic pause."


How do you attribute Bible verses?

Use a colon to differentiate the chapter from the verse when citing Bible verses. In the correct case here, the Book is "Matthew," the Chapter is 3 and the verse is 16.


When do I put punctuation inside of a quotation mark?

Okay, friends. This is a toughie, so we're quoting the AP Stylebook directly. "The period and the comma always go within the quotation marks. The dash, the semicolon, the colon, the question mark and the exclamation point go within the quotation marks when they apply to the quoted matter only. They go outside when they apply to the whole sentence."


Does AP Style use a serial comma?

Although the serial comma is among the most beloved of all commas, AP Style forbids it. One reason that it is beloved in some circles has to do with our one and only Robert Frost. In his famous poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," Frost writes, "The woods are lovely, dark and deep / But I have promises to keep / And miles to go before I sleep / And miles to go before I sleep." In this quattrain, Frost's is using the word lovely to modify BOTH dark and deep, which is why he does not use the serial comma. He is saying that the darkness and depth are what makes the woods lovely, not listing three qualities of the woods. For this reason, when we fail to use the serial comma as a matter of course, we begin to degrade the choice that Frost makes in this poem. If you're not writing in AP Style, you must always use the serial comma for this reason. Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.


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