Last Updated: March 16, 2022
A PR strategy is crucial to any business’s success, and an important part of that strategy is writing and sending out press releases.
Journalists can be a tough crowd to please. For them, the devil is in the details, which is why a well-written dateline is sure to score you extra points.
This article will look at what a dateline is, different dateline formats, and how to write a dateline press release.
What Is a Dateline?
A dateline is a short piece of text that you can usually find in news articles and press releases. It’s always placed at the beginning of the news article or press release and represents the geographic identifier of the piece.
In other words, it tells the reader (or journalist, in the case of a press release) where the story originates. A dateline often includes the name of the city or town, followed by an abbreviation of the state where it is located.
It can also include information about when the story was written, but that’s often omitted in today’s press release formats. If the news article was reprinted from a wire service, the dateline press release might feature the name of the distributing organization.
What’s important to remember is that the information in the dateline has nothing to do with the place of publication. Rather, it shows where the story takes place or where the journalists were deployed to report and write the story in question.
For example, let’s say that your company is opening offices in Paris, France, and you send out a press release to announce the good news from your office in New York City. The news release dateline always states the targeted location: in this case, Paris, France. The place of publication would be New York, U.S., but that’s not the information that you would put in the dateline.
While news organizations mostly follow their own rules when it comes to what type of information they include in news articles and reports, press releases are still meticulous when it comes to formatting.
|DID YOU KNOW? The dateline is one of the seven basic components of a press release. If you’re trying to learn how to write an event press release, it’s important to pay attention to every detail and not forget anything!|
The rules that dedicated the format of datelines are quite straightforward. There are two main ways in which you can write a dateline, depending on the type of publication where it will appear, or the type that the said publication follows.
The Associated Press (AP) style is the go-to style for writing a dateline. or anything related to public-facing corporation communication in the U.S. The rules for style and usage are laid out in the AP Stylebook and have served as the holy grail of writing in broadcasting, magazine publishing, marketing departments, and public relations firms.
In most cases, the AP-style press release dateline, in a digital format, usually only lists the state where the story occurred.
Before the media world migrated to laptops, desktop computers, and mobile devices, everyone got their news from newspapers.
The newspaper format differs from the press release dateline AP style format in that it usually describes when and where the story happened. The location always comes first, followed by the day.
The New York Times Style
The New York Times style of writing is less known, mostly because the publication has started to work more closely with the Associated Press (AP) in recent years. Nevertheless, it still follows its own rules.
Until 2007, The Times included the date of publication in the dateline as in BAGHDAD, Nov. 29. Since then, its dateline closely resembles the AP style dateline and only features the state/country.
In 2017, The Grey Lady introduced another change related to the dateline. It decided to blend it with the byline, which shows who wrote the article, for example, “By Anne Barnard in Beirut, Lebanon.”
When asked why the publication decided to make the change, the Times said it wanted to highlight that they have reporters around the world.
|DID YOU KNOW? The removal of the date in the New York Times style dateline also led to the elimination of words like “yesterday” and today” in text. Instead, it uses the days of the week, such as Thursday and Friday.|
Whichever style a publication opts for, they usually place the dateline in a press release as the first line of text in the article.
TOKYO – It began with a virus and a longtime pause…
This type of dateline closely resembles the AP style. If it appeared in a press release or story published by the news organization, it would read:
TOKYO (AP) – It began with a virus and a longtime pause…
The location is always followed by an em dash unless the dateline is not in the first line of text. In that case, it’s usually marked as a “dateline” elsewhere, like in the example provided by the University of Illinois.
Modern press releases, however, place the datelines in press releases in the same line as the first sentence of the text.
In all datelines, regardless of the style, the name of the city is in all capital letters. In most cases, it’s followed by the name of the state where the city is located.
TOKYO — It has begun with a virus and a long pause…
However, there are exceptions to this rule in cases where the city’s location is well known, like New York City and Paris, or if the publication is located there and it’s common knowledge that it operates in that area.
Consider the following dateline example:
St. PAUL, Minn. — The Republican National Convention…
A typical newspaper dateline includes the location and the date of publication, for example:
BOSTON, Mass. (April 24, 2021) — The Winter Olympics are slated to…
If you’re reading The New York Times, then you’ll find their dateline-byline looks like this:
By Steven Erlanger in London
The Times also tends to omit the state/country when the city in question is a well-known metropolitan area.
|DID YOU KNOW? Are you wondering what is the best time and day to send a press release? It’s between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. during the week. Editors open about one-third of all emails they receive during these hours.|
|The dateline in a press release is a brief piece of text that tells readers where a story took place.|
|It always features the name of the city and sometimes, the state.|
|The city in a dateline is always in all capitals.|
|In some cases, a dateline can also show the date.|
|The most popular style for writing, including datelines, is the Associated Press (AP) style.|
AP Style Rules for Datelines
As previously mentioned, the AP style dateline is one of the most used writing styles in journalism and public communication.
The AP style seeks to provide accuracy, clarity, consistency, and brevity. This is exactly what editors are looking for in a press release – a precise, get-to-the-point article that leaves no room for confusion.
The AP-style press release dateline always appears at the beginning of the story and includes the name of the city written in capital letters. In most cases, the name of the city is followed by the state or country in which the city is located.
The exceptions are cities that are well known. For example, the Associated Press (AP) stylebook proposes omitting the state when the story comes out of Denver, Colorado.
Here’s an AP style dateline example:
DENVER (AP) – The Democratic National Convention has begun…
Other common places include Boston, Atlanta, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington, San Diego, and New York City.
If the dateline requires a state, make sure that you use the AP style dateline state abbreviation rather than the ZIP Code abbreviation. For example:
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The U.S. governor said Sunday that…
The Associated Press (AP) stylebook lists eight states that are never abbreviated. There are:
- Dates, months, years, days of the week
The Associated Press (AP) rules dictate avoiding the usage of “st”, “nd,” “rd” or “td” with dates and promote using Arabic figures.
Example: July 1.
Always spell out the full name of months unless you’re referring to a specific date. In that case, abbreviate only the following months: Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., and Dec.
The rules also say that writers should set off the year from a specific date, including in datelines, like in the following dateline example:
LOS ANGELES (Aug. 5, 2020).
When it comes to years, the AP says it’s best to use numerals.
The AP stylebook suggests steering clear of words like “yesterday” and “today,” especially if the date of publication is not included in the AP style dateline press release. Instead, it says writers should use the days of the week, which should not be abbreviated.
|DID YOU KNOW? Given that the AP stylebook sets the standards for journalists, it comes as no surprise that it’s quite extensive. It has more than 5,000 entries and is regularly updated, forcing journalists to rewire their grammar brains.|
How to Write a Dateline
It’s undeniable that there are rules to follow when writing a dateline, but there is no one-size-fits-all approach, meaning no single accepted practice. Here are a few things to consider when picking what kind of dateline you would like to see in your press release.
Choose the Geographic Area
The dateline is like a geographic identifier. It tells the reader where the story is taking place, or where you have gathered the information that you are trying to pass on. This is different from the place of publication. You can publish the press release from your office in New York, but if it has to do with your offices in Colorado, then that’s what the datelines in press releases should state.
More Datelines for More Locations
Sometimes, a press release features information from two different locations. In such a case, both locations should be reflected in the dateline. The same rule applies when two city reporters cover a story from different locations.
Pick the Dateline Style
Choosing what style you want to follow is the easy part. Most companies opt for the AP style. If you want to include the date of publication, then a news release dateline style might be a better fit. Whichever you pick, make sure your text matches your chosen style.
Write Like You’re in That Specific Area at the Time of Writing
Since the dateline suggests that the news is coming from the area stated there, it would be confusing if the rest of the press release suggests that the writer behind it is elsewhere.
A dateline is an important part of a press release. It clears any confusion about the location (and sometimes the date) where the story took place. There are two main styles that you can follow to write a dateline: the popular AP style, and the newspaper style.
There’s also the lesser-known New York Times style that nowadays looks almost identical to the AP style, at least when it comes to datelines.
In short, here’s how to write a dateline:
The main takeaway is that datelines always include the name of the city, which is written in all capital letters. They sometimes list the state and/or the date of publication. In such cases, including the year of publication is often optional.
The dateline tells the reader where and when the story occurred. In news stories, it indicates where the journalist was deployed to gather information about a certain story and the date when that story was published.
A dateline does not reflect the place of publication.
Datelines in AP styles have undergone some changes over the years. The most recent format includes the name of the city in all capital letters, followed by the state or country where it is located. The state/country name is dropped in cases where the city is well-known.
There is no “correct” formal when it comes to writing datelines. Publications choose what dateline style fits them best. They usually opt for a format that matches their text. Most use the AP style format.
It depends on where the dateline is needed. If it’s a dateline press release or a dateline news story, the main styles include the AP style and newspaper style. The details included in the dateline may vary depending on what the company needs it for. A dateline for a video, audio, or photo is more likely to feature a date.
No. The Associated Press (AP) stylebook advises against using Oxford commas in most cases, but it does not outright ban it. The publication encourages writers to only use commas when if it could lead to confusion or misinterpretation.