Editing for AP (and Your News Publications’) Style

Susan Fergueson
Mount Si High School
Snoqualmie, Washington

Long-term objective
Students will become proficient editors of others’ work, correcting errors in style, tear, spelling, age and organization.

Short-term objective
Students will practice editing for AP style (and your individual paper’s style if you have one), as well as for grammar, spelling, punctuation and usage. Students will also revise and edit to improve clarity and story flow.

Materials Needed:

  • Photocopies of a story from an exchange publication or your local news publication, one for each student. Please note: This story must either contain errors in style/usage or follow a different style than your paper for this assignment to work. (The more errors, the better!)
  • AP Stylebook
  • Your news publication’s stylebook, if applicable
  • Worksheet with copyediting symbols (optional)

Step One: Introduction/Style Review

Students often have problems remembering specific AP style entries that are frequently used in high school news publications. Before starting this assignment, look over the most recent issues of your paper and find what style errors pop up most frequently. Give a quick review of these entries, in whatever manner you choose. (You may want to think about the ones below for inspiration.)

Months Courtesy Titles Time and Dates
Sports Numbers/Numerals Course Titles
States Academic Degrees Acronyms/Abbreviations

Your paper may have its own style. In addition to reviewing common AP style errors, review the common errors in your publication’s style. Some areas/entries to think about reviewing:

Mascot School name (Do you use nicknames or abbreviations? Which ones?)
Locations in the school Identification (students, faculty, staff, parents, community members)

Step Two: Edit for style

Pass out a copy of the story you have selected from an exchange publication or your local professional news publication. Give the following instructions to the students:

  • Work individually
  • Using proper proofreading/copyediting symbols, correct any style, grammar., punctuation, spelling or usage errors.
  • The final story (after your edit) should be error free and follow AP style and your own news publication’s style.
  • You may need to “make up” information to make this story conform to AP/your publication’s style. It’s okay to make up first names for teachers, class rankings for students, course titles, job descriptions and so forth for the purposes of this assignment.
  • If you find the story has lots of corrections, or that your corrections are hard to read, please retype or rewrite the story so it is neat and legible. Both the rewritten copy and the photocopy must be turned in.

Depending on your students and the story you have selected, this process might take anywhere between 10 and 30 minutes.

Note: It is critical that the story you pass out NOT be from your news publication. Students are frequently emotional and/or hesitant when it comes to editing and changing the work of classmates and friends. This hesitation is almost always removed when they are asked to critique work from another publication.

Step Three: Revise for Content

Sometimes, a simple edit for grammar and style isn’t enough to make a story printable. In some cases, a major rewrite is called for. After students have completed their edit for style and conventions, they revise for organization and content. The directions for this activity are as follows:

  • Identify the key information from this story?List the 5Ws and H.
  • Rewrite the lead. It might need to include different information. It might need to be more attention grabbing. Decide what needs to be different and make the change.
  • Examine the story’s organization. Does the order in which information is presented need to be changed? Should quotations be moved around? Do paragraphs need to be restructured? Figure it out and do it.
  • Is the content sufficient? Is there too much content? Delete any extraneous and/or redundant information, and add any information you might need. If you need to make up something because it’s not in the story, that’s fine for the purposes of this assignment only.
  • Is information presented clearly? If you need to rewrite for clarity or conciseness, please do.
  • Make the story as interesting as possible.

Again, this activity varies in length depending on the students and the amount of errors in the story selected.

Assessment: A two-part process

Edit: The editing phase of this activity is graded like a quiz. Before teaching the lesson, read through the article and proofread it yourself. Make a key that includes the errors and the corrections you would make.

Each student receives one point for each error they correctly identify and one point for each “correct correction” they make. The number of points possible will vary depending on the article you select.

Revise: The revision phase of this activity is graded with a scoring guide, reproduced below


  • The lead grabs the reader’s attention.
  • The lead is concise.
  • The lead is clear.
  • The lead provides enough information to tell the reader what the story is going to be about

__________/5 points possible


  • The story contains a nut graf which provides the story’s key information.
  • The nut graf appears early in the story.
  • The story flows smoothly from graf to graf.
  • The story follows a clear structure that fits the story type (inverted pyramid, LT-QT-QT, New York Times Feature formula, chronological, other).

__________/5 points possible


  • All facts and information are true and accurate.
  • All needed information is given to the reader/all questions are answered.
  • All quotations used are meaningful.
  • Multiple points of view are represented.
  • When needed, proper attribution is given.

__________/5 points possible


  • Story contains no AP Style errors.
  • Story contains no Cat Tales (or your news publication) style errors.
  • Story contains no grammar/spelling/punctuation/usage errors.

__________/5 points possible