Grammar Hierarchy: AP Style v. Dictionary v. Google

With so many grammar rules and style preferences that seem to change by the day, how does a PR consultant keep track and make sure writing stays correct? Many writing sources in print and online solve grammar and style conundrums, but where to look first? At our Chicago PR firm, we suggest following our grammar reference hierarchy:

1. AP Style trumps all.
Always check The Associated Press Stylebook first. Also, make sure you have the most recent version of the treasured manual as its pages are ever-changing.  It is worth it to make sure you knew to adapt when “e-mail” changed to “email.”

2. Check the Dic-tion-ar-y.
It might be old school, but the dictionary is a time-tested tool that you can’t afford to go without. is OK, too.

3. Read a writing handbook, or two.  Some of our picks for great writing resources are:

  • Working with Words, a Handbook for Media Writers and Editors by Brian S. Brooks, James L. Pinson and Jean Gaddy Wilson. This is a valuable resource for when dealing with pesky hyphens, tricky commas and commonly misspelled words.
  • The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White. Though it was written almost 100 years ago, this resource never goes out of fashion. It tackles the “elementary rules of usage” and the “elementary principles of composition,” as well as often misspelled words and common misused phrases.

4. Then take it online. Google is great, but it can be difficult to find a trustworthy online source that has the most correct and timely grammar and style rules.

– Jennifer Koppelman

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