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Category Archives: AP Stylebook

Tag Archives: AP Stylebook

Asian Lady Writing Notebook Diary Concept

Five New Updates to the 2016 Associated Press Stylebook

The 2016 AP Stylebook is out and, with this newest edition, comes an array of essential updates. A must-have resource for writers, marketers and journalists, the AP Stylebook is packed with fundamental guidelines for everything from spelling and punctuation to language and journalistic style. After its initial publication in 1953, it has grown to about 600 pages filled with juicy writing tips and tricks. Continuing our annual AP Stylebook blog post tradition, here are five important updates in this year’s edition:   

1. The biggie: Lowercase “internet” and “web” in all instances. Enough said.

2. Along the same lines: Now use “internet of things” (all lowercase).

3. Social media updates: When referring to Twitter posts use “tweet,” when referring to posts on Snapchat use “snap” and use "post" when referring to Facebook or Instagram posts.

4. For food lovers: New entries in the food section include “medjool dates,” “kombucha,” “shawarma,” “mescal,” “microgreens” and “horchata.” And for the bean enthusiasts out there – AP now prefers “chickpea” to “Garbanzo bean.” 

5. Natural disasters: Do not use a hyphen when referring to the strength of earthquakes. For example, one would say “a 3.0 magnitude earthquake.”

This just skims the top of the nearly 250 new or revised entries. Make sure to check out the 2016 AP Stylebook yourself and follow @APStylebook for live updates and answers to grammar and style questions.

Read more from Kaley Carpenter
Halloween cat costume

Avoid Being Haunted by AP Stylebook Mistakes this Halloween

Somehow, summer has officially transitioned into fall and now Halloween is fast approaching this Saturday. Whether you’re still debating if you should dress up as Donald Trump or the classic ghost route, as PR people it is important to always have our writing skills buttoned up. As such, here are some quick AP style guidelines to keep in mind for any Halloween-oriented content this week:

  • Halloweenthe festive eve of All Saints’ Day (both Oct. 31)
  • Day of the Dead (Nov. 1)
  • jack-o’-lantern
  • Popular candy: M&M’s, Reese’s peanut butter cups, York peppermint patties
  • Popular costume accessories: chain saw, eye patch, handgun, shotgun, UFOs
  • Satan (devil is not capitalized)
  • spider web
  • trick-or-treating and trick-or-treater require hyphens; the phrase trick or treat does not
  • It’s fall! Seasons are never capitalized.
  • Daylight saving time ends on Sunday at 2 a.m. It’s saving, not savings.

And, avoid spooking off journalists by adhering to these three key and commonly abused AP rules:

  • Numbers under 10 should be spelled out, unless it is a percentage.
  • Titles should only be capitalized if it precedes an individual’s name. The title should be lower case if it falls after the name.
    • Account Director Christine Lewis
    • Christine Lewis, account director
  • Its/it’s. “It’s” is a contraction for it is. “Its” is possessive.
    • The company announced its quarterly earnings yesterday…
    • The company announced it’s relocating to Boston…

For more tips, check out our blog post on AP style tips for fall and follow @APStylebook on twitter.


Read more from Christine Comey Lewis

Seven Hard-to-remember Associated Press Style Rules

There are many rules that writers must understand and practice to perfectly punctuate their prose.

For news writers and public relations professionals, mastering every single entry in the nearly 500-page Associated Press Stylebook – the say-all of journalistic style – isn’t something achieved overnight. It takes multiple red-ink markings – and perhaps lots of nagging from editors, even at The New York Times – for rules to become common knowledge.

Here are seven hard-to-remember AP style rules that send writers to their guides for a quick refresher:

  1. Affect vs. Effect: As a verb, affect means to influence: The decision will affect my finances. Affect is rarely used a noun. As a verb, effect means to cause: She will effect change immediately. As a noun, effect means result: The effect of the accident was damaging.
  2. On vs. About: As one of my editors said, on refers to spatial objects: He sat on the chair. Use about in non-spatial references: The professor will host a class about history.
  3. It’s vs. Its: While relatively simple, it’s constantly violated. Use it’s as a contraction for it is: It’s days like these that make me happy. Use its as the possessive form of the neuter pronoun: The company will announce its layoffs Friday afternoon.
  4. Imply vs. Infer: Writers or speakers imply in the words they use. A listener or reader infers something from the words.
  5. E.g., vs. i.e.,: e.g., means for example and is always followed by a comma: The food my wife cooks are delicious (e.g., chicken, steak and fish). i.e., is the abbreviation for that is and is always followed by a comma: Wrestling with an alligator isn’t something I’d recommend, i.e., it’s a very bad idea.
  6. Prefixes: Generally do not hyphenate when using a prefix with a word starting with a consonant: The coach will talk with his team pregame. The dinosaurs roamed during prehistoric ages. The preflight briefing will begin in a few minutes. The interstate road is long and dark.
  7. Compound Modifiers: A compound modifier is when two or more words that express a single concept precede a noun. Use a hyphen to link all the words in the compound, except the adverb very and all adverbs ending in –ly. The chart-topping hits were played on the radio all day. The long-term assignment was challenging. The highly regarded author spoke at the conference.

For more clean-writing trips, learn about new stylebook updates, common blunders and grammatical necessities. What are some of your never-can-I-remember tips? Feel free to add to this list.

Read more from Steve Vittorioso

Five Updates to the 2013 Associated Press Stylebook

The 2013 AP Stylebook has been published, packed with more than 90 new or updated entries as the de facto guide to news writing marks its 60th anniversary.

Before flipping through the nearly 500-page guide, which provides fundamentals for spelling, language, punctuation, usage and journalistic style, here are the most important updates to the revised edition:

  1. Prohibiting “illegal immigrant.” In April, AP dropped illegal immigrant, creating both applause and controversy from the media, political leaders and the Internet. “The Stylebook no longer sanctions the term ‘illegal immigrant’ or the use of ‘illegal’ to describe a person,” wrote AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll in a blog post. “Instead, it tells users that ‘illegal’ should describe only an action, such as living in or immigrating to a country illegally.” Following AP’s move, The New York Times reconsidered its use of illegal immigrant to “provide more nuance and options,” tweeted Public Editor Margaret Sullivan. Journalist-turned-advocate Jose Antonio Vargas has pressured media outlets to drop the term because of its offensive meaning. In Washington, D.C., Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said she didn’t “really get caught up in the vocabulary wars.” However, not all journalists agreed with the move. “Fox & Friends” Co-Host Steve Doocy said, “This is just the AP’s little way of doing some cheerleading, trying to push immigration reform in Congress.” Acceptable variations include living in or entering a country illegally or without legal permission.
  2. Expanded social media section. As social media continues its ascendance, proper style must be reflected. New terms include circles, flash mob and Google Hangout. Editors have also broadened information about how to secure, authenticate, attribute and reference user-generated context for text, photo captions and video scripts.
  3. New rules for numerals. Numerals are now preferred for all distances and dimensions, and a four-page section provides nearly 200 examples of when to use figures or not. Some examples include: She ran 5 miles; he sunk a 4-foot shot; the room is 3 feet wide and 7 feet high.
  4. Refined fashion, food and sports guidelines. New fashion listings include Armani, Versace, chichi, froufrou, paillette and soigne; food items include flat iron steak, Salisbury steak and upside-down cake; and sports rules include updated breakdown of college basketball and football conference affiliations and various types of auto racing.
  5. Revised and various entries. To ensure clean copy, linguists can study additional terms and definitions such as Advent, Alaska Native, Asperger’s syndrome, athletic trainers in Sports Guidelines, disabled/handicapped, doughnut, dumpster, ethnic cleansing, homicide/murder/manslaughter, moped, populist, rack/wrack, red carpet, swag, underway, wacky and wildfires.

Writers can order the 2013 AP Stylebook online and can follow @APStylebook for additional updates.

Read more from Steve Vittorioso

Twenty Five Signs of Spring in Associated Press Style

The days are getting warmer, the snow (that never came) may not ever come, graduations and weddings will soon consume our weekends, and the Boston Red Sox are returning to the baseball diamond. Aside from holding a box of tissues tending to allergies, all signs point to spring. Here’s how to write about it in Associated Press style.

Following are some spring-related terms from the AP Stylebook to keep your writing clean:

  1. alma mater
  2. alumnus, alumni, alumna, alumnae: Use alumnus (alumni in the plural) when referring to a man who has attended a school. Use alumna (alumnae) when referring to a woman who has attended a school. Use alumni when referring to a group of men and women.
  3. April Fool’s Day: Correct style of the April 1 event—no joke.
  4. Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science: A bachelor’s degree or a bachelor’s is acceptable in any reference.
  5. bazaar, bizarre: Bazaar is a fair; bizarre means unusual.
  6. bride, bridegroom, bridesmaid: Bride is appropriate in wedding stories, but use wife or spouse in other circumstances.
  7. clean up (verb); cleanup (noun and adjective): We clean up the yard after winter. I hit cleanup in tonight’s game.
  8. daylight saving time: Not savings, and no hyphen.
  9. dean’s list: Lowercase in all uses. He is a dean’s list student. She made the spring dean’s list.
  10. Easter egg: A hidden “surprise” in a program, a website, a DVD or a TV show such as an extra level of a computer game or a message.
  11. ERA: Acceptable in all references for baseball’s earned run average.
  12. Good Friday: The Friday before Easter.
  13. hit and run (verb); hit-and-run (noun; adjective): The coach told him to hit and run. He scored on a hit-and-run.
  14. Holy Week: The week before Easter.
  15. horse races: Capitalize their formal names: Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont Stakes, etc.
  16. knuckleball
  17. Little League, Little League Baseball
  18. May Day; mayday: May Day is May 1; mayday is the international distress signal meaning “help me.”
  19. Memorial Day: The federal legal holiday is the last Monday in May.
  20. seasons: Lowercase in all references. Her favorite season is spring. In spring 2011, the company will launch its new product.
  21. springtime
  22. temperatures: Use figures for all numbers except zero. It’s going to be 60 degrees today. Wednesday will see temperatures in the 70s (no apostrophe).
  23. T-shirt
  24. Twelve Apostles: Not 12 Apostles.
  25. waitlist (noun); wait-list (verb): Providence College put me on the waitlist. She is wait-listed at Harvard University.

For more writing tips, check out common mistakes of AP style, grammatical essentials and news-writing staples.

Read more from Steve Vittorioso

Associated Press Updates: Retweets, Shoutouts, and Illegal Immigrants

While it’s natural to comment on retweets, the Associated Press has issued new social media guidelines dictating that staffers must abstain from sharing or implying opinions via retweets of top headlines.

According to updated procedures, “retweets, like tweets, should not be written in a way that looks like you’re expressing a personal opinion on the issues of the day.” The measure still applies even if staffers have noted in their profiles that retweets are not endorsement equivalents. The guidelines, which were last updated in July, previously said staffersare welcome to retweet and share material posted by official AP-branded accounts on social networking sites (e.g., @AP, @APStylebook, etc).”

I believe these guidelines help put a line in the social sand between objectivity and subjectivity. A former reporter myself, I consider journalists keepers of the written word, who document, analyze and report events and issues that unfold and affect society. Their mission is to remain objective, free from injecting their opinions into reports by citing facts and speaking with sources to explore the roots of the causes. As Twitter is becoming a personal platform for social democracy, more individuals are turning to the micro-blogging soap box to voice their outcries and praises about current events. This creates the perfect storm for objectivity and subjectivity to intertwine into a haze of clutter that makes separating fact, fiction and truth almost impossible.

It isn’t news that journalism is seeing a rapidly altering landscape. Throngs of print publications are facing sharp circulation declines and multitudes of newsrooms are becoming more dynamic. Not to mention breaking news is publishing even faster because of bloggers. For journalists, social media outlets are becoming supplemental to boost on-the-ground reporting because these platforms provide interview subjects and on-the-scene points of view.

While AP updated its staff guidelines, it also made some amendments to its stylebook  (not to be confused with @fakeAPstylebook, one of my favorite handles). The de facto guide to news writing now acknowledges shoutout as a noun and shout out as a verb – I gave my friends a shoutout; I shout out to my friends.

What’s creating a very loud shoutout is the term illegal immigrant. AP recently decided to still dictate journalists to use illegal immigrant, not illegal alien, an illegal, illegal or undocumented. According to the stylebook, the term should be used to describe someone who “resides in a country in criminal or civil violation of immigration law.” It also says that “living in the country without legal permission” is an acceptable alternative for illegal immigrant. Regardless, some journalists and news consumers say the term is dehumanizing and wrong, even if AP is trying to refine its definition for clarity and changing immigration laws.

Both debates are sparking discussions worthy of more than 140 characters.

Read more from Steve Vittorioso

Fifteen Ways to Stay AP Stylish in Fall – iPhone, Quarterback and Veterans Day

The sun is setting faster, back-to-school advertising is at full blitzkrieg and football is back on the gridiron – all signs that the lazy days of summer are transitioning to the busy schedules of fall.

While many of us will head back to the office or classroom, fall is a great time for new beginnings, whether it’s for careers, courses or communications. Before the trees adorn with foliage, and as you slurp your umbrella drink one last time, you can make the Associated Press Stylebook your final beach read and soak up the latest trends in the written word.

Following are some AP-style entries that can keep you writing stylish this fall:

  • academic titles: Capitalize and spell out formal titles such as chancellor, chairman, etc., when they precede names. Chairman Bob Roberts. Lowercase elsewhere, and lowercase modifiers such as department.
  • Columbus Day: Oct. 12; the legal holiday observed the second Monday of October.
  • Eastern Standard Time (EST), Eastern Daylight Time (EDT), daylight saving time: Use EST when observing standard time (winter); use EDT when observing daylight saving time (spring through fall). No s in saving and no hyphen in daylight saving time.
  • Election Day, election night: The first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
  • fall/autumn: Lowercase names of seasons except if used as part of formal names: Winter Olympics.
  • Labor Day: The first Monday in September.
  • iPhone: Proper style for Apple Inc.’s smartphone that’s rumored for a release of its fifth-generation model this fall. Capitalize IPhone when starting sentences or headlines.
  • Play off, playoff, playoffs: Use play off as a verb; playoff and playoffs as nouns and adjectives. We play off next week; The playoffs are next week.
  • postseason, preseason: No hyphens.
  • quarterback: Lowercase as it’s not a formal title. The New England Patriots star is quarterback Tom Brady.
  • school: Capitalize when part of formal names: Central Street School.
  • Sept. 11, 9/11: Acceptable in all references for the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Use 2001 if needed for clarity.
  • syllabus, syllabuses: Proper style for the outline or summary of topics distributed in education courses.
  • Veterans Day: No apostrophe; the federal legal holiday observed Nov. 11.
  • World Series: The Series is acceptable on second reference.

What are some of your favorite terms for fall? For further studying, and to also sharpen your news writing, read common mistakes of AP style, social media guidelines and 2011 AP-style updates.

Read more from Steve Vittorioso