As a student of the “AP Stylebook” (the journalist’s bible) I know that “more than” is preferred to “over” when writing about numbers.
Over … generally refers to spatial relationships: The plane flew over the city. More than is preferred with numerals: Their salaries went up more than $20 a week.
A job title is only capitalized when it appears directly before an individual’s name, and there is no such thing as “first annual.”
An event cannot be described as annual until it has been held in at least two successive years. Do not use the term first annual.
Reporters across the globe use the “AP Stylebook” as a go-to guide for spelling, punctuation and solid reporting principles. There are tips for business and sports writers, and a section about media law explaining the difference between libel and slander. The alphabetical listings include everything from advice for using abbreviations and acronyms to explanations of the Yukon and Zionism. Updated regularly, and with a focus on staying politically correct, skimming through different editions provides a fascinating glimpse into the spirit of the respective times.
The new style-checking plug-in is not free. However, for online PR pros who are wondering what the fuss is about, AP style is as important for public relations as it is for journalism. Reporters mock those whose grasps of the stylebook are weak. Many journalists already harbor aversions to PR “flacks.” Publicists and spokespeople are shifty and deceptive, they say.
You overcome that perception, strengthen your pitch and increase your credibility when you do not mistake further with farther or misspell adviser in your press release. When identifying places, Chicago stands alone. But Portland, Ore. includes a special state abbreviation, one perhaps unique to The Associated Press. It’s all in the stylebook. And more journalists will respond if you use AP style in your writing.
But learning every entry in the book has consumed green eyeshade-wearing copy editors:
“What’s the difference between disinterested and uninterested?”
“Is login one word or two?”
“Does Veterans Day have an apostrophe?”
Some entries seem random, others abstract. Must I really spell OK with two capital letters — not “okay” as the stylebook warns?
Stealing a phrase from my brother, many of the best reporters become “simplicity mongers” in perfecting their craft. There is an order to news writing that readers understand, which lets journalists stay credible and relevant.
Writing copy that is free of style mistakes may get easier with last week’s release of StyleGuard, a program that edits writing according to “AP Stylebook” guidelines. The program initially works only in Microsoft Word. But AP officials may roll out a Mac version in the next few months.
Mashable published this statement from an AP product manager:
“AP StyleGuard speeds up checking AP style on potential problems, since the user does not need to find the relevant listing in the stylebook, and it adds much deeper coverage by pointing out possible corrections the writer didn’t even think to check,” Colleen Newvine said. “AP style is constantly evolving, so if we didn’t have a listing previously or if our guidance has changed, AP StyleGuard helps keep the user up to date.”
But the tool could bring unintended consequences, just as spelling and grammar checkers have created hordes of language dunces.
“Interesting,” veteran journalist Charles Trentelman replied when asked about StyleGuard, “making people lazier and lazier and writing more homogeneous.”
Others lodged cautions on Twitter. According to @ProfNet:
“StyleGuard is a useful tool but it’s not a substitute for the skills you develop as a knowledgeable writer.”
For updates on StyleGuard follow @APStylebook on Twitter. I pointed out a few of my favorites, now let’s hear from you about “AP Stylebook” entries. Which rules do PR professionals commonly break?