Time in AP Style: The exact time is rarely important.

Journalism > AP Style

If you need to use the exact time in a news story, AP has a specific way to do it. However, according to the AP Stylebook, the exact time of an event is rarely important in a news story.

How you use the time in an AP Style story.

  • 8 a.m. (not 8am, eight in the morning, 8 o’clock, 8AM, or 8:00 a.m.)
  • 10:25 p.m. (not 10:25 at night, or 10:25PM)
  • noon or midnight (not 12 a.m.  or 12 p.m. — too confusing)

A time like 7 p.m. is enough. Don’t add “at night” or “:00”.

Why your story probably doesn’t need the exact time:

Who did what is usually much more important than the exact time and room number and the full name of the organization sponsoring the event.

Knowing how AP Style formats time is an important first step. But don’t automatically begin your news story with the date, time, and location of an event.

When is the exact time crucial? When is it just  clutter?

  • a tunnel is closing for repairs (crucial)
  • a big storm is on the way (crucial)
  • feature about a new coach settling into his job (clutter)
  • a poetry slam happened yesterday (clutter)
  • narrating a complex series of partially overlapping events (crucial)
Bad ExampleAt 9 a.m. Tuesday in Room 110 of Founders Hall, over 100 children competed for a slot on the new Disney cooking show for kids, “Mix It Up, Jr.”
Don’t start a news story like this. The event is over. Nobody is reading your story because they need to know where to go and what time to be there.
Iffy ExampleAt a cooking contest Tuesday morning in Founders Hall, Katie Parker won an event where over 100 pint-sized chefs competed for a slot on the new Disney cooking show for kids, “Mix It Up, Jr.
The exact time and room number are no longer cluttering up the lead, but the day of the week and the name of the building is still burying the more important news, which is the name of the winner.
Good Example(GREENSTOWN, Pa.) Fifth grader Katie Parker credits her father’s pancake recipe for charming the pre-season judges for a new Disney cooking show.

The 10-year-old out-baked over 100 pint-sized chefs to win a slot on “Mix It Up, Jr.” The flour flew Tuesday at Elizabeth Mount University.

The revision begins with a newsworthy detail — the winner’s name — and follows up with “When, where and how?” in the second.

Personal details about the winner — her age, what exactly she cooked, and her relationship with her father — humanize the story, and make it much more interesting than the initial bland jumble of dry facts.


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