Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Why I recommend a 2012-or-later-edition AP Stylebook

Here's a page from my workbook on AP style for tech PR. It describes why I like stylebooks that are 2012 or later (I used to say, "Earlier editions are fine.") There's good information here for citizen journalists, as well as PR types.


What’s new, if you’re old   ;-)  

In 2009, the AP began making noteworthy stylebook changes that reflect the digital age. For the West Coast and Silicon Valley in particular, that felt like nine years too late.

Internally, members of the AP’s worldwide nonprofit co-op (newspapers, radio and TV stations) were getting updates via the AP’s own satellite-based wire services, but outsiders – including PR agencies – were still seeing the ink-on-paper stylebook.

The 2012 edition brought the entire citizenry up to date and went beyond the usual nitty-gritty. New sections include explicit advice on how to vet information, which is especially meaningful for citizen journalists (bloggers, Facebookers) who are filling in gaps as professional news outlets reduce the depth and breadth of their coverage.

Previously, I advised writers that, as long as they used this handout, it would be no problem if their stylebook was a few years old. Not anymore. It’s time to buy a new one. The 2012 version represented the most complete and thoughtful overhaul in my professional lifetime.

If you’ve been a student of AP style for more than 10 years, the following entries may be among those that are different from what you originally learned:

  • Now OK on first reference: CEO, MBA and U.S. as a noun (not just as an adjective)
  • Lowercase, one word, no hyphen: website (2010 revision) and email (2011)
  • The apostrophe was moved to a more intuitive place in do’s and don’ts
  • Yahoo doesn’t get a punctuation mark in its name, even though it wants one
  • Hopefully is acceptable for “it’s hoped” or “we hope” (Whew! We all talk that way, right?!)

Notice that’s not a lot of differences. One of the dynamics that makes the AP Stylebook a reliable and enduring resource is its editors’ refusal to flip-flop with the times.

The 2012 edition doesn’t flip-flop, either. But it better explains exceptions, simplifies controversial guidance and includes a lot of really helpful new information. This edition coincides with a branding overhaul, complete with a new logo unveiled in February 2012.

Amazingly, while newspapers reduced staff or folded, annual sales of AP stylebooks doubled between 2004 and 2008, from 30,000 to 60,000 (Poynter Institute, 2009).  

And since then, the AP has continued to modernize its delivery mechanisms and continue its ubiquity. You probably know about the new auto-correct software for Microsoft Word (2011), mobile apps (2008), online stylebook and Ask the Editor blog.

You can find AP style on Twitter at @apstylebook and on Facebook at