AP Style Updates: Cryptocurrency and Emerging Technologies

AP Stylebook

[Editor’s Note: One of the most perennially popular articles on PRNEWS  reviews Associated Press writing style. We took that as a sign and decided to deliver a new series of AP style updates. In addition to cryptocurrency and emerging technologies, we've looked at social media, COVID-19, diversity, equity and inclusion, and more.] 

You can’t escape the terms “crypto,” “non fungible tokens” (NFTs) or “creator” while consuming media today. However, the AP always stays ahead of the curve. It released its rules for cryptocurrency in 2019.

Even more impressive, AP made note of Bitcoin way back in 2014. Its online directory keeps updating terms frequently, but with the pace of changing technology and its infiltration into all areas of society, some assessments can be delayed (see NFT). 

We chatted with PR pros in the tech industry to identify a non-exhaustive list of emerging technology terms. We also created a section for those not-yet included in the AP Stylebook, to provide suggestions for standard use. Here are some common terms to pay attention to in your writing. 


A type of digital money that uses encryption technology to make it secure. Avoid using the shorthand crypto, which can be confused with cryptography. Cryptocurrency is not the same as virtual currency, which is used in virtual worlds, such as online games.


The government wants to regulate Bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies.

Bitcoin, bitcoin

The most popular cryptocurrency system is Bitcoin. As with other cryptocurrencies, bitcoins are not physical bills or coins. Rather, they are lines of computer code that are digitally signed each time they travel from one owner to another. Capitalize when referring to Bitcoin as a system, but lowercase when referring to its use as a form of payment. 


The government wants to regulate Bitcoin. 

He bought a vacuum cleaner online using bitcoins. (Some in the cryptocurrency community believe the plural of bitcoin IS bitcoin, though this is up for debate.)


Blockchain is a digital ledger where cryptocurrencies transactions are recorded. It works like a chain of digital blocks that contain records of transactions. Each block is connected to those before and behind it, making it difficult for hackers to disrupt. To avoid detection, a hacker would need to change the block containing a particular record and all those linked to it.


Businesses can think of blockchain technology as a next-generation business process improvement software.

4G, 5G, LTE

These are types of cellular technology. 4G, 5G and LTE are acceptable on first reference, but should be explained in stories as cellular networks. 5G, or fifth generation, refers to a more robust system that in early 2020 was still emerging. LTE, stands for Long Term Evolution, and often is used interchangeably with 4G, although early versions of LTE didn’t meet all the technical requirements of 4G. Do not confuse these with Wi-Fi, which is a separate wireless technology from cellular and has its own nomenclature.


Some people fell for a conspiracy theory, which claimed that 5G was causing illness.

artificial intelligence

A computer system that emulates aspects of human cognition. AI is acceptable on second reference. 


It’s interesting to see how artificial intelligence works during customer service situations, when no real human is on the other side of an online chat.


Other Notable Terms Not Yet Included in AP Style

Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAO)

A DAO is an organization whose rules are encoded as a computer program. In theory, DAO members control all decisions and the organization is immune from central government influence. A DAO's financial transactions and program rules are maintained on a blockchain. This is intended to make a DAO transparent. The precise legal status of DAOs is unclear. In addition, a DAO can be called a decentralized autonomous corporation (DAC). Spell out on first reference. Abbreviate thereafter.

non fungible token (NFT)

NFTs can be associated with easily-reproducible digital art such as photos, videos, audio and other types of files as unique items. They use blockchain technology to give the item a public proof of ownership. Do not hyphenate non fungible token, according to the AP ‘Letters to the Editor.’ NFT may be used on following references.


The Doge meme remains the highest-selling meme non fungible token to date, going for $4.4 million. 


Also known as Web 3.0, this newest version of the internet revolves around the idea of decentralization. This differs from Web 2.0 (the current system) in which a small group of big technology companies stores a large amount of web data and content. 


The fundamental base ideas of web3 include blockchain technologies, decentralized autonomous organizations in which everyone is equal and decentralized finance. 

decentralized finance (DeFi)

Decentralized finance, or DeFi, is a way of exchanging currency without bank or government involvement. Customers access financial products on a blockchain network without a middle man. Use decentralized finance on first reference. DeFi is acceptable on following references.


Decentralized finance allows the exchange of cryptocurrency, making DeFi very popular now. 


Ethereum is a technology that lets you send cryptocurrency to anyone for a fee. It also powers applications that everyone can use, including the system's cryptocurrency Ether, which, confusingly often is referred to in conversation and the media as Ethereum. The Ethereum platform provides a marketplace of financial services, games and apps that keep data private and cannot censor you.


The Ethereum community includes people from all backgrounds, including artists, cryptocurrency traders and fortune 500 companies.

decentralized applications (dapps)

A decentralized application may feel like a regular app, but it is a program living in the web3 Ethereum network. Dapps can include programs for crowdfunding, cryptocurrency wallets, portfolios, games, portals to acquire NFTs and others. 


The decentralized application, Getcoin Grants, allows users to crowdfund for Ethereum community projects through its dapp.

creator economy

The creator economy is composed of digital artists, videographers, designers, podcasters and other producers who build and monetize content through the support of their social media audiences. Brands are utilizing creators instead of or in-addition to influencers to produce clever, relatable content. 


Velveeta picked up Elizabeth’s YouTube cooking channel for a special TikTok series about grilled cheese. 


For more information on each of these and other emerging tech terms, see the web3 reading list that the communication team at Andreessen Horowitz assembled. 


​​Nicole Schuman is senior editor for PRNEWS. Follow her @buffalogal