My copy of the latest Associated Press Stylebook arrived this month, the same week that Facebook celebrated its 10th anniversary. The coincidence underscored how staggering has been social media’s growth – from nothingness to ubiquity in a decade’s time – but also the AP Stylebook’s central role in bringing order to an increasingly disorganized world.
The newest AP Stylebook (issued in 2013) is more than 100 pages longer than the 2004 edition I had been using. Thirty of those additional pages can be attributed to a section dedicated to social media guidelines that were not necessary a decade ago.
I’ve been a devotee of the AP Stylebook for nearly 30 years, starting in journalism school, continuing through nine years as a newspaper reporter, and the past 15 years in public relations. It informs everything I write, whether it’s a letter, a news release, a newsletter article, a blog post.
Published since 1953, the AP Stylebook has been called the “journalist’s bible” but is an essential tool for anyone who writes or edits. It covers grammar and spelling, punctuation and capitalization, abbreviations and word and numeral usage.
• It’s “hocus-pocus” but “hodgepodge”
• Email is acceptable in all references for electronic mail; but it’s e-book, e-business, e-commerce.
• From the entry for “demolish, destroy”: “Both mean to do away with something completely. Something cannot be partially demolished or destroyed. It is redundant to say totally demolished or totally destroyed.”
Noted in the introduction to the latest edition are the recent additions, including this explanation:
“The weapons section spells out differences between assault rifle and assault weapon, magazine and clip, and pistol and revolver, and adds bolt-action and lever-action rifles.”
Perhaps it’s a sad reflection of our times, but it’s especially important when talking about a polarizing issue such as guns to be clear, accurate, consistent. This is where the AP Stylebook shines.
Darrell Christian, one of three Stylebook editors, notes this in the video at the top of this page:
The forward to the Stylebook used to say that its original concept was to make a story written anywhere understandable everywhere. In the process of doing that you create consistency. Consistency is absolutely critical to credibility.
And credibility is a writer or editor’s best friend.