Why AP Style is Still the Benchmark for Writing Professionals


Just as the Ten Commandments stand as the solid mandate for all believers of the Old Testament, the AP Stylebook stands on the shelves of all good journalists and writers across America like a good ole’ faithful Bible – from AAA to Zurich.

It’s been a trusty guide since the e
arly 1950s, when the AP wire set a specific style afire. The Associated Press (AP), after all, is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering for its news members – a not-for-profit founded in 1846 in New York City that operates today out of 280 locations worldwide. In 1977, the Stylebook began beefing up its guidelines across broader areas to become more of an ever-expending reference work. Nearly 2 million copies of the AP Stylebook have been distributed since then. That’s not counting its social media presence.

I’m using AP Style as I write this, in fact. Yep, I knew by memory that I shouldn’t insert quotes around the Stylebook book title because it’s a reference composition. Go ahead call me an AP geek. As journalists, writers, PR associates (and copywriters), we need this blueprint of consistency between the lines beyond mere grammar. While the Internet could soundly tell me that the double negative of irregardless is unacceptable or the abbreviation of the American Medical Association is AMA, the AP Stylebook, for instance, confirms that you can use the abbreviation on the second mention.

Norm Goldstein, longtime Stylebook editor from 1989 to 2007, voiced his concern over the book’s evolution after the 2007 edition (his last) was released: “I think the difference now is that there is more information available on the Internet, and I’m not sure … how much of a reference book we ought to be anymore,” he says. “I think some of our historical background material, like on previous hurricanes and earthquakes, that kind of encyclopedic material that’s so easily available on the Internet now, might be cut back.”

AP Style is a living, breathing spiral-bound beauty – updated by the AP gods each year to grow, change and alter in tandem with today’s culture, language and technology. That’s why it still lives at the core of our principles as writing professionals on grammar, spelling, punctuation and news writing. Website became one word in 2010 because of popular usage. In 2012, the Stylebook amended an entry to accept “hopefully” as a sentence adverb, i.e., “Hopefully, we’ll be home before dark.” And in the 2014 edition, the most controversial update yet: “over” is now acceptable in numerical references along with “more than.” The AP Stylebook guidance is to use whichever phrasing works best in the context.

“The Chicago Manual of Style,” by the way, can’t claim the annual update credential, having published only 16 editions since its first in 1906. Chicago, however, sticks to mostly literary and historical journals, social science publications and the world of academia – more specifically, citation rules.

In a recent interview, AP Stylebook co-editor David Minthorn revealed his thoughts on why AP Style is still relevant and widely followed: “AP news reports are used worldwide, so AP Style is highly visible. Print sales of the annually updated Stylebook and subscriptions to the online edition underline the vast following. … AP Stylebook editors blog, tweet and post daily Facebook tips on AP Style, and these suggestions are reposted and retweeted—more evidence of interest in the social media sphere,” he says. “Our objective remains unchanged: To make news written anywhere understandable everywhere.

AP Stylebook editors, he says, monitor language usage in news reports year-round to see what’s in vogue. Editors meet weekly from September through March to decide on additions or amendments. Terms that have lost relevance in news reporting may be dropped from the printed edition but left in the online Stylebook.

Word usage down to a science, that’s good enough in my AP Stylebook.

Visit www.apstylebook.com to see the latest keeps and cuts.