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Posted on 06.14.2012

The Style Bible Evolves

Despite the unrelenting contraction of the newspaper industry, the Associated Press continues to evolve its style manual. The recently released 2012 AP Stylebook shows the news agency is committed to remaining relevant. The nearly 500-page tome contains new glossaries of fashion terms and broadcast terminology, updated entries on age and race, and an expanded chapter on social media use, practices and tools for reporting.

Beyond the new entries - and an interesting debate the Stylebook has ignited by endorsing use of the word hopefully as something other than an adverb (insert audible disgust here) - the manual remains a rather rigid rulebook on the do's and don'ts of news writing and grammar. But in an age when anyone with a blog and an axe to grind is a "citizen journalist" and our language is swirling its way down a text-filled toilet (:-0), does it really matter if we abbreviate state names in accordance with norms established by the Associated Press? In this writer's opinion, yes. And here are a few reasons why.

  1. We ask a lot of reporters. It's only fair we play by their rules. Let's be honest: a significant portion of news release material is, well, not really all that news-worthy. While a new job is exciting news for friends and family of recent college grads, is not often market moving information for the general public. Expecting reporters to re-format our "news" to meet their employers' requirements is a bit boorish. 
  2. Entry level PR professionals need rigor. Rookie ball players are often required to shoot 100 foul shots a day. Are coaches expecting the young players to take 100 shots in a game? No - they're striving to build stamina and enhance skills. To evolve as a PR professional, a novice writer needs to perfect the basic "blocking and tackling" techniques of understanding when to capitalize a job title and how to differentiate between "over" and "more than."
  3. Because the Associated Press says so. The world needs order. The AP long ago proved itself a worthy authority and "last word" on the language of our country's news. Impressively, they've maintained that authority across almost three generations - despite the death rattles coming out of the daily news industry from which the AP was born.

The new Stylebook is available in print and online, and a new iPad compatible app is expected later this month. What are your favorite tips, quirks, annoyances regarding AP Style?

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