AP Style: Updates to the Writer’s Bible

03.08.2018 | Hattie Schafhausen

Where do even the most experienced writers turn to when they are stumped? 

The Associated Press (AP) Stylebook. Sometimes referred to as the gold standard for journalistic writing, the AP Stylebook is updated every year as language used in media, food, sports, business, and more changes to better reflect our dynamic society.

As we patiently await the release of the 2018 AP Stylebook in May, I want to highlight three important changes made to the Stylebook in 2017 and also present an easy way to stay in the loop with AP Stylebook rules.

  1. Gender. A hugely important update to the 2017 stylebook was changes to rules regarding gender. As society’s perceptions around gender evolve, the language used to describe gender needs to reflect these perceptions. Now, they can be used as a singular pronoun, “Gender refers to a person’s social identity while sex refers to biological characteristics. Not all people fall under one of two categories for sex or gender, according to leading medical organizations, so avoid references to both, either or opposite sexes or genders as a way to encompass all people.”
  2. Oxford comma. Although not a new addition to the Stylebook, the 2017 version includes a clarification of the Oxford comma rule. After a class-action lawsuit was filed because of a misunderstanding of overtime pay due to the Oxford comma, an update to the most polarizing punctuation mark rule was absolutely necessary. AP Style still recommends not to use the Oxford comma in simple series, however, writers need to use their best judgement to decide if the Oxford comma is necessary for clarity.
  3. Data journalism. The 2017 Stylebook includes an entirely new chapter on data journalism, or journalism that tells stories with data and statistics. Because data analysis is no longer reserved for specialists, AP saw a need for journalists to have a set of rules for consistency in reporting data and statistics. Some of the most notable rules surrounding data journalism include: best practices for handling leaked data, the ethics of web scraping and standards for accurately representing data findings in text and visuals.

As you can see, AP Style rules can not only be incredibly complex, but they are constantly changing to reflect changes in society. Lucky for us, AP Stylebook has an easily understood, occasionally humorous and most importantly, free resource to keep up to date with style rules: @APStylebook.

The AP Stylebook Twitter account tweets tips that may be completely random, in relation to a specific event happening, or most commonly to explain a little known rule. There is even a hashtag, #APStyleChat, that engages users and creates a platform where users can ask specific AP style questions and even suggest additions to be made to the next version of the stylebook. Below are some examples of my favorite tweets by @APStylebook.

As PR professionals, an understanding of AP style is absolutely crucial to be successful in the industry. Be sure to purchase a new version of the stylebook every year and follow the @APStylebook Twitter account for daily reminders of rules you may have not known existed.

For more articles from Communiqué PR on AP rules, please see the following:



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