Topical Guides

Topical Guides are provided by the AP Stylebook editors for timely events. Here is the most recent topical guide:

2014 Midterm Elections

The Associated Press has compiled a list of U.S. political terms, phrases and definitions to assist in coverage of the 2014 midterm elections. Election terminology, writing with context and cliches to avoid are included. Terms and definitions are from the AP Stylebook or based on common usage in AP news reports.
battleground states
States where candidates from both major political parties have a reasonable chance for victory in a statewide race or presidential vote.
blue state
At stake are all 435 House of Representatives seats from 50 states, currently with a 234-201 Republican majority. [more...]
Congress, congressional
Capitalize when referring the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives together. The adjective is lowercase unless part of a formal name.
congressman, congresswoman
Not formal titles and spelled lowercase, except as a term of address in a direct quotation. [more...]
Lowercase for a political philosophy, capitalize in a formal name: the Conservative Party.
Democrat, Democratic Party
Both are capitalized. Don't use Democrat Party.
Election Day, election night
The first is capitalized, the second is lowercase for voting Tuesday, Nov. 4.
fall-off voters
Those who sit home in nonpresidential years.
Candidate who leads a political race; the term is hyphenated.
fundraiser, fundraising
Single words in all uses.
Among 36 races for governor, Republicans are defending governorships in Florida, Iowa, Wisconsin and Ohio and trying to defeat a Democratic incumbent in Colorado. [more...]
horse race
A closely contested political contest.
leftist, ultra-leftist
Avoid these terms in favor of more precise descriptions of political leanings.
liberal, liberalism
Lowercase for a political philosophy, capitalize in a formal name: the Liberal Party.
Lowercase for a political philosophy, capitalize in a formal name: the Libertarian Party.
majority leader, minority leader
Capitalize as formal legislative title before a name: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Standing alone or following the name, it's lowercase.
majority, plurality
A majority is more than half the votes cast; a plurality is the largest number of votes, but less than a majority.
The candidate's pitch to voters.
middle class
(n.), middle-class (adj.)
opinion polls and surveys
Consult the detailed entry in the AP Stylebook – print and online – on how to use results of public opinion surveys and avoid exaggerating the meaning.
PAC, super PAC
Political action committees raise money for candidates or parties from donations by individuals, but not businesses or labor unions. [more...]
policymaker, policymaking
Both are compounds.
political affiliation
The party of a candidate or officeholder is essential in any election or issue story, along with the state: Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina; Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C.
Supports the rights and power of the common people; advocates unorthodox solutions; often critical of establishment politicians and political parties.
re-elect, re-election
Both are hyphenated.
red state
Republican, Republican Party
Both terms are capitalized. GOP (Grand Old Party) may also be used.
rightist, ultra-rightist
Avoid these terms in favor of more precise descriptions of political leanings.
war chest, coffers
Use campaign bank account or stockpile of money.
war lingo
Use criticized instead of attacked, or choose a better verb to describe what the candidate is doing, i.e., challenging, doubting, etc. [more...]
white paper
A document of policy positions distributed by a campaign.
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