AP Style Rules for Holiday Lingo, Time Zones, and Supreme Court Terms

December 10, 2020 Rocky Parker

See the original post on Beyond Bylines.

As we near the end of the year (finally, right?), take a few minutes to brush up on a few AP Styleguide rules and reminders.

This quarter's roundup covers a few timely topics like the holidays (is it stuffing or dressing?), education (in-person or distance learning?), and sports (playoff or play off?).

Holiday Terms

Here are a few holiday-related reminders:

  • Include a hyphen in e-commerce. Cyber Monday, typically the busiest day of online shopping in the U.S., is the Monday after Thanksgiving.
  • Capitalize Champagne, the sparkling wine from that French region. If made elsewhere, call it sparkling wine.
  • Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve, and New Year's Day should be capitalized.
  • Write cornbread, eggnog, fruitcake, gingerbread, and sugarplums as one word.
  • Although use can differ based on the region, generally dressing is cooked outside of the bird; stuffing is cooked inside. And frosting and icing are both acceptable, though use also differs regionally.

Time Zones

We are currently in standard time. It switched when daylight saving time (not savings, no hyphens) ended.

Capitalize Eastern Standard Time, Mountain Daylight Time, etc.

Have a hard time with time zone conversions? Here’s a handy time zone converter.

Presidential Style

Oval Office and Cabinet should be capitalized

When used alone, presidency is lowercase. Capitalize president and vice president when used immediately before a name: President Trump and President-elect Biden. Lowercase both when used as a standalone or after a name.

Presidents Day (no apostrophe) is on the third Monday in February.

Need more election-related reminders? Check out our recap from September 2020.

Photo of the White House from a distance

Defund the Police

The term defund the police is sometimes misrepresented as abolishing the police. It actually often refers to using funds typically given to police departments on other services like mental health services and social services.

Per AP Style, the term defund the police should generally be avoided unless it’s part of a direct quote. And if it is used in a quote, explain it.

Police car driving down a city street


Blended learning describes a combination of in-person and online schooling in K-12 and college classrooms.

An alternative to in-person learning, distance learning is when the student and teacher are physically separated and students complete much of their work online.

Distance learning does not need a hyphen, but include it in home-schooler, home-school, and home-schooled.

Photo of two children working on schoolwork

Internet of Things

The phrase Internet of Things (abbreviated as IoT) describes “devices, appliances, sensors and anything else with an internet connection, apart from traditional gadgets such as PCs and phones.”

The technical term can generally be avoided when writing for a general audience.

And a few other tech-related rules:

  • Opt in and opt out are verbs. Opt-in and opt-out are adjectives. They are options for how a service obtains permission for collecting and sharing data. While the opt-out option assumes permission, an opt-in option requires explicit permission.
  • It's OK to use the term fintech on first reference, but explain it if the context doesn't make it clear.

Supreme Court

Capitalize U.S. Supreme Court and also the Supreme Court.

The chief justice is properly the chief justice of the United States, not of the Supreme Court. Capitalize it when it comes before a name: Chief Justice John Roberts.

The proper title for the eight other members of the court is associate justice. When used as a formal title before a name, it should be shortened to justice.

US Supreme Court building


Misinformation is false information that could be mistaken as truth and includes honest mistakes, exaggerations, misunderstandings, as well as disinformation, which is spread intentionally to mislead or confuse.

Misinformation can be spread via any medium: social media, print, video, audio, etc.

It should not be confused with opinions, satire, or parody.

The term “fake news” should generally be avoided, unless part of a direct quote. If part of a quote, ask for specifics.

A pile of Scrabble tiles laid out to spell Fake News


No hyphen is needed in preseason and postseason.

Playoff is a noun, play off is a verb.


No hyphen is needed in the term “preexisting condition.”

An incubation period is the time between infection and the appearance of signs or symptoms of an illness. The coronavirus has an incubation period up to about two weeks.

We covered other COVID-19 terminology in our post from June: AP Style: Rules for Black Culture, COVID-19, Climate Change, & More.

Person typing on a laptop with a picture of a woman wearing a facemask on the screen

About the Author

Rocky Parker

Rocky Parker has been with Cision PR Newswire since 2010. She is an audience relations manager and 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.

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