AP Style Degrees

The AP Stylebook provides guidelines for writing about academic degrees.

"The Associated Press Stylebook" dictates the rules of AP style, which is used by writers in many professions. Journalists overwhelmingly use AP formatting, and other professionals, including attorneys and teachers, may opt to use AP style. The Associated Press provides several guidelines for referring to academic and numerical degrees in print.

1 Academic Degree Usage

Writers should note an expert's academic degree only when it is necessary to establish the person's credentials and avoid repeatedly citing a person's degree throughout a piece. For example, if Dr. Dan Smith, Ph.D., has already been introduced to the readers, it is acceptable to refer to him as "Dr. Smith" throughout the rest of the piece.

2 Academic Degree Formatting

Academic titles should always be capitalized when they precede a person's name. For example, write "Chancellor Jan Smith" instead of "chancellor Jan Smith." Academic degrees themselves do not need to be capitalized. For example, write, "Megan Ritz has a doctorate in philosophy." The names of academic departments should be capitalized only when the department name is already a proper noun, so use "the department of English" but "the science department."

3 Academic Degree Abbreviations

AP style normally does not use abbreviations for degree names, particularly in narrative writing. When identifying many individuals at once, however, it is acceptable to use degree abbreviations to prevent writing from becoming unwieldy. When using the abbreviation after someone's name, place a comma and space after the last name and then type the academic abbreviation. The AP Stylebook recommends using the first listing in Webster's New World Dictionary if you are unsure about the correct abbreviation for a degree.

4 Numerical Degrees

Normal AP style requires that numbers under 10 be spelled out. When the numbers indicate a unit of measurement, however, the numbers should be written as numerals. This rule applies to degrees. For example, "two degrees" is incorrect; "2 degrees" is correct. Writers should also denote the degree measuring scale being used if it is not explicitly clear. For example, when writing for an international audience, write "2 degrees Fahrenheit."

  • 1 "The Associated Press Stylebook 2009"; Associated Press; 2009

Brenna Davis is a professional writer who covers parenting, pets, health and legal topics. Her articles have appeared in a variety of newspapers and magazines as well as on websites. She is a court-appointed special advocate and is certified in crisis counseling and child and infant nutrition. She holds degrees in developmental psychology and philosophy from Georgia State University.