A Back-to-School Refresher From the AP Stylebook

September 2021
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The Associated Press recently released a Back-to-School Topical Guide, sharing essential words, phrases and definitions related to the return to classes this fall. Read on for some key terms that PR practitioners may use in their communications ahead. Visit apstylebook.com for more guidance.


But single-letter grades have apostrophes: an A, two B’s and three C’s.

back-to-school, back to school

He bought back-to-school supplies. She went back to school.

College Board

Not-for-profit organization that administers the SAT and Advanced Placement, or AP, exams, which assess college-level high school courses.


Capitalize proper noun elements or numbered courses: American history, English, Algebra 1, world history

curriculum (n.) curricula (plural)

dean’s list

Lowercase in all uses: He is on the dean’s list. She is a dean’s list student.


Acceptable in all references for grade-point average.

graduate (v.)

Graduate is correctly used in the active voice: She graduated from high school. Do not drop the word from: John Adams graduated from Harvard. Not: John Adams graduated Harvard.

half day, half-day

Friday is a half day of school. The half-day tests were challenging.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

The federal law that guarantees a free appropriate public education to eligible children with disabilities. Use the acronym IDEA only in direct quotations.


The years of schooling from kindergarten through 12th-grade graduation.


Acceptable in all references for Parent Teacher Association.


Use only the initials in referring to the previously designated Scholastic Aptitude Test or the Scholastic Assessment Test. The students scored above average on the SAT.

school-age (adj.)

They have three school-age children.

school day, school year

Two words for any day or year school is in session — virtually or in person.


One word


Acceptable on first reference for science, technology, engineering and math, but spell out the full phrase after.

syllabus, syllabuses

three R’s

They include: reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic.

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