Topical Guides

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

2016 Election Guide


Congress, congressional Capitalize when referring to the U.S. Senate and House together. The adjective is lowercase unless part of a formal name.
congressman, congresswoman Used only for members of the U.S. House,
conservative Lowercase in referring to a political philosophy.
convention lowercase unless used in a formal name: Republican National Convention (July 18–21 in Cleveland), Democratic National Convention (July 25-28 in Philadelphia).
Democrat, Democratic Party Both terms are capitalized. Do not use Democrat Party unless quoting someone.
democratic socialism Sen. Bernie Sanders' self-described political leaning, akin to European democratic socialism.
district Spell it out, use an ordinal number and capitalize district in a proper name: the 2nd District.
Election Day, election night The first term is capitalized, the second is lowercase for the Nov. 8 national elections.
first lady Not an official title, always lowercase.
fundraiser, fundraising Single words in all uses.
Iowa caucus Took place Feb. 1
leftist, ultra-leftist Avoid these terms in favor of more precise descriptions of political leanings and goals.
liberal, liberalism Lowercase in reference to a political philosophy.
majority leader, minority leader Capitalize as formal legislative title before a name.
majority, plurality A majority is more than half the votes cast; a plurality is the largest number of votes, but less than a majority.
New Hampshire primary
"Obamacare" Informal term for the Affordable Care Act. May be used in quotation marks on second reference.
PAC, super PAC A political action committee raises money for candidates or parties from individuals, but not -- at the federal level -- from businesses or labor unions. A super PAC may raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, including from corporations and unions, to support candidates for federal office but must operate independently.
party affiliation A candidate’s political party is essential information in any election, campaign or issue story.
policymaker, policymaking One word for each.
polls and surveys Consult the detailed entry in the AP Stylebook on how to use results of public opinion surveys and avoid exaggerating the meaning.
president, vice president Capitalize these titles before names; lowercase in other uses.
presidential, presidency The first term is lowercase except as part of a formal name; presidency is always lowercase.
presidential election
press secretary Seldom a formal title and thus lowercase.
primary, primary day Both are lowercase, including when used with a state: New Hampshire primary.
progressive Political proposals or actions characterized by liberal viewpoints.
re-elect, re-election Both are hyphenated.
Republican, Republican Party Both terms are capitalized. GOP, standing for Grand Old Party, may be used on second reference.
rightist, ultra-rightist Avoid these terms in favor of more precise descriptions of political leanings.
representative, Rep. Use Rep., Reps. as formal titles of House members before one or more names. Spell out and lowercase representative in other uses.
Super Tuesday March 1, contests in 13 states to choose convention delegations, the busiest day of the run-up.
tea party Lowercase the populist movement that opposes the Washington political establishment. Adherents are tea partyers. Formally named groups in the movement are capitalized: Tea Party Express.


battleground states Hotly contested states where one or both campaigns are spending money and polls show the electorate is split.
close race Avoid the term to describe a political contest unless backed up by voter surveys.
dark horse Someone who emerges from the political shadows to seek a nomination.
front-runner Candidate who leads a political race; the term is hyphenated.
horse race Closely contested political contest is preferred.
kingmaker Politically powerful person who boosts candidates into office.
populist Someone who espouses the interests of common people.
rank and file (n.), rank-and-file (adj.)Ordinary members of a political party.
stalking horse Someone who enters a political race to lure voters away from rivals, then drops out and endorses another candidate.
surrogate A prominent person who campaigns on behalf of a candidate.
swing states States where voters have vacillated between Republican and Democrat candidates in the last three or four presidential elections.
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