These guidelines are intended to help editors handle copy easily and efficiently.

Codes in the heading of a story tell the computer where to send it, how quickly it should be moved out, and in what format.



On high-speed circuits the file name consists of a letter of the alphabet and four numbers. The letter is called the Service Level Designator and shows the type of service being used. Usually stories are numbered in sequence. But some stories or fixtures — advances and AP Photo and Graphic Updates, for example — are given predetermined numbers. The PMs Digest, for instance, which opens the PMs cycle is always a9000 or p9000 on the high-speed lines.

These are the letters and types of service most common in nationwide transmissions:


a — Spot news.

b — Advances.

c — Standing features.

f — News designed primarily for financial pages.

s — Sports copy.


Other letters used by the AP include:

h — Special sports report for smaller newspapers.

p — Spot news, special packaging.

r — Race report.

t — Sports, special packaging.

u — Special stock and markets package.

Priority codes are used by the AP to assure that stories are sent in the order of their urgency. At newspapers, the codes can be used by computer systems to determine the order in which stories come to an editor’s attention.

The principal priority codes, in order of urgency, and their use:

f — Flash, highest priority, seldom used.

b — Bulletins, first adds to bulletins, kill notes.

u — Urgent, high-priority copy, including all corrections. It must be used on all items that carry an Urgent slug. It also may be used on items that lack this slug but must move on an urgent basis.

r — Regular priority: stories of a routine nature.

d — Deferred priority: Used on spot copy that can be delayed.

a — For weekday advances designed for use more than 12 hours after transmission. (Hold-for-release material sent for use less than 12 hours after transmission carries a spot news priority.)

s — For Sunday advances designed for use more than 12 hours after transmission.

w — Release at will. Copy that has a publishing value during and after the current transmission cycle.


Category codes help newspapers sort copy into various categories. For example, domestic stories may go in one place in the queue, Washington stories in another, and foreign stories somewhere else.

The principal category codes and their uses:

a — Domestic, non-Washington, general news items.

b — Special events.

d — Food, diet. For use primarily on standing advance features on food, recipes and the like. Frequently used with the c priority.

e — Selected entertainment copy.

f — News copy, regardless of dateline, designed primarily for use on financial pages. When a major story of financial interest moves as part of the general news service it should have a regular category code such as a. If it has also moved on a financial wire, editors should be advised that the same story has been routed to both financial desks and general news desks.

i — International items, including stories from the United Nations, U.S. possessions, and undated roundups keyed to foreign events.

j — Lottery results only. (Stories about lotteries or lottery winners carry standard news category codes.)

k — Commentary. Material designed primarily for editorial and op-ed pages; editorial roundups.

l — Selected “lifestyle” copy.

n — Stories of state or regional interest under domestic datelines. If a regional item has a Washington dateline, use the w category. If a regional item has an international dateline, use the i category. If a regional item is designed primarily for financial pages use the f category and if it is designed primarily for the sports pages, use the s category.

o — Weather tables and forecast fixtures. Do not use on weather stories.

p — National political copy.

q — Use only for result or period score of a single sports event. The code is designed to help newspaper computer systems build a list of scores or ignore individual scores and wait for transmissions that group them.

s — Sports stories, standings, results of more than one event.

v — Advisories about stories that may carry any of the category letters. This code is used primarily for news digests, news advisories, lists of transmitted advances and indexes.

w — Washington-datelined stories. Change to the a or i category code if a subsequent lead shifts to a different city.


Every news item in the AP report has a keyword slug line.

Every keyword slug line must have at least a keyword section. Up to three other sections, as shown in the examples that follow, are used when necessary.

The commas that appear in the example are critical for operations of many AP computers.


The keyword section of the line consists of a cycle designator and a keyword or keywords. A boldface symbol or upper-rail (

Because the keyword section provides the basic identification of a story for automatic linkup routines, it must be repeated in exactly the same form on all subsequent leads, adds, inserts, subs, etc. filed for a story.

There are three cycle designators:

AM — Indicates that morning newspapers have first use of the story.

PM — Indicates that afternoon newspapers have first use of the story.

BC — Indicates that the item is for use by either AMs or PMs — immediately if it is a spot item, or on the publication date if it is an advance.

The BC — designation is used on all Sunday advances.

The keyword clearly indicates the content of the story.

It should not be longer than 21 letters. (Rule of thumb: If you have to count the letters, the keyword is too long.)

Use of easily recognized abbreviations and acronyms, such as Scotus for the Supreme Court of the United States and Xgr for legislature, is encouraged. However, do not put a period in a slug. (Also, the keyword of an item sent on a state service contains the postal code for the state of origin.)

The computer produces a word count at the end of the line.

When writing or editing a story, editors can use the word count key to determine how long a story is.



The version section of the keyword slug line is designed to give editors and computer systems a quick indication of whether to place an item at the top, bottom or middle of previous takes sent under the same keyword.

The terms that follow are the only ones that should appear in the version section of a keyword slug line. When more than one term is necessary, separate them with a hyphen. Use figures as indicated.

The version vocabulary is broken into two lists. Do not use more than one of the items from this first list in a keyword slug line. If a term from the second list is needed, it must follow any term from this list:


1st Ld, 2nd Ld, 10th Ld, etc. CLARIFICATION

Adv 01, Adv 31, etc.


HFR (Hold for Release)





A term from the second list may stand alone in the version section if no term from the first list is needed. Some stories require two terms from the second list. If that is the case, the order in which the terms appear is not critical, but they must be separated by a hyphen. The second list:

2 Takes, 3 Takes, etc.

1st Add, 2nd Add, etc.





Box (Sports only.)



The reference number is the transmission number used on a previous take of a story. List only one in a keyword line.

Follow these norms:

—Cite the number of the most recent lead if you are sending a new lead, sub, insert, correction, advisory, etc.

—If you are filing an add, cite only the transmission number on the immediately preceding take of the story.

—If a story has moved in many pieces and you think editors should have more reference numbers than the one in the keyword line, list on a line below the keyword slug line.









BC-NBA—Celts-Knicks, Box


Two additional letters, called format identifiers, appear after the category code if an item is intended for agate and/or contains tabular material.

Use bt if the item is intended to be set in body type and contains even one tabular line.

Use at if the item is intended to be set in agate type and contains even one tabular line.

Use ax if the item is intended to be set in agate type but contains no tabular lines.

Some terminal screens automatically show bx if the item has not been coded for agate or tabular composition.





The letters at, bt, etc., shown in the examples of format identifiers do not appear on DataStream. However, they help generate non-printing characters that are sent in this location to convey the same information about whether the item is meant to be set in agate or body type and whether it contains tabular material.