Five AP stylebook rules media writers should ignore
Professional media writers and PR professionals are attached to our Associated Press Stylebooks.
If we’re writing, chances are that our trusty AP Stylebooks are nearby, providing answers to our questions and leading us to the writing consistency our readers have come to expect, whether they realize it or not.
The Associated Press, the world’s oldest news service, began creating the formal version of its Stylebook in 1953. It did so in the name of consistency and creating professional media writing standards although, prior to that, many AP Style rules served the more practical purpose of helping copy move across the news wire.
The Stylebook was created so all media writers would follow the same rules, all editors would edit according to those rules, and the public would get a familiar format, regardless of what publication they chose to read. It provides guidelines for spelling, language, punctuation, usage, and journalistic style.
The AP Stylebook is updated annually now, which means, just when writers think we know the style well, it changes. The 2016 edition of the AP Stylebook was released in June.
Despite what some may think, not all changes or rules are good. In fact, there are some AP Style rules that writers choose to shun.
Here are five Stylebook rules professional writers should ignore on purpose.
The Associated Press announced with the 2014 edition of the Stylebook that over, as well as more than, is acceptable to indicate greater numerical value. Writers gave a collective groan and many, including myself, refused to adopt the change.
Over and under are states of being. More than and less than should be used when writing about values. That’s the end of the discussion for me.
2. State names
The Associated Press announced the same year that state abbreviations, which were different from postal abbreviations, essentially would disappear. State names now are spelled out unless they are used in datelines, tables, lists, or photo captions.
The AP said the change would help create consistency and efficiency for international and domestic copy, but it seems the change just makes our stories longer.
AP Style requires writers to use the spelling adviser instead of the preferred spelling advisor. I’m pretty sure most people just think we’re spelling it incorrectly. I do it, but I don’t have to like it.
It’s difficult to understand the method to the AP’s decisions about hyphens. If a word isn’t a compound modifier (which always take hyphens), you pretty much have to look it up or memorize it to know.
For example, the AP hyphenates best-seller, but doesn’t hyphenate halftime. What? It really is as if the AP makes hyphenation decisions on a case-by-case basis.
The Stylebook also includes rules on when someone goes from a boy to a man or from a girl to a woman. This transition occurs at 18 years old, which makes sense. However, the Stylebook also tells us we can call the person a “young man” or “young woman” after his or her 18th birthday.
Who decides when that stops? Young seems like an arbitrary descriptor that professional media writers should avoid.
My guess is that other professional writers have their own lists of AP Style rules that make them crazy or that they simply ignore. These are the ones I know for certain that I ignore. Regardless, we all can rejoice in no longer capitalizing internet or web.
Thank you, 2016 edition!
Dr. Kenna Griffin (@profkrg) is an assistant professor of mass communications and director of student publications at Oklahoma City University. She is the author of the Prof KRG blog, which serves as a practical resource for student journalists and the host of the weekly #EditorTherapy Twitter chat for student media editors. She is a journalist, reader, shoe lover, wife, mother of two, and the spoiler of a couple of adorable dogs.
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