Tuesday, June 4, 2013

TOWARDS THE PODIUM:  Twelve pain-in-the-ass rules from the AP Style Guide.


  1. Full confession--I love the AP Style Guide, even with its inconsistencies. I drive my colleagues in marketing crazy with my insistence of more than (quantity) vs. over (location)! I can't stand when those are used improperly, and way too many people in my little world want to brag about "Over 40,000 Products!" I try to change it to "more than," and the designers get pissy because they have to make space for two words instead of one. A grammar nerd can't win.

  2. Meghan1:13 PM

    In re: hyphenating worn out, wouldn't that depend on usage, adjective vs verb? "Robbie handed Baby a worn-out copy of _The Fountainhead_," vs "Robbie had worn out his copy of _The Fountainhead_ by rereading it frequently."

  3. bill.2:32 PM

    They're guidelines, not rules. This applies to all style guides.

  4. MidwestAndrew5:34 PM

    I'm a working newspaper editor. They're rules so long as my professors and high school teachers are concerned. I can't remember how many times I was told "The AP Stylebook is your Bible" during classes.

    Meghan's mostly right re: hyphenation. I'm with Jen on more than/over. It bothers me when broadcast journalists use "over." I could maybe understand a little bit if they were saving syllables (since time is a factor in broadcast), but it's no fewer syllables to be correct. Toward/towards were ingrained in me by a boisterous high school teacher.

    The state names are something I'm constantly battling with non-journalists in press releases, etc. The major differences around here are Kan. instead of KS and Okla. instead of OK. Another AP thing is that people aren't chairs. They can be chairmen or chairwomen, but not chairs.

    To a journalist, these are the basics. To literally every non-journalist I've ever met (my wife especially), it drives them up the wall when I pick these nits.

  5. isaac_spaceman6:53 PM

    In defense of these rules:

    1. Manny Real will yell at you if you get this wrong.
    2. Of course it's a proper noun. It's a real place where I spend most of my time.
    3. Don't worry about remembering these - abbreviations are for texts, not AP stories.
    4. Easy to remember - just check your texts.
    5. Because there is inherent ambiguity in this sentence: "As Phyllis comforted John after his amputation, all ten couples upstairs began dancing, and over twenty feet were over eight feet over three feet.
    6. The "s" stands for "illiterate."
    7. What's wrong with conforming to EU law?
    8. This is to save the "%" symbol for future use, like the pound in hashtag.
    9. The hyphen has been missing from "email" for over ten years; get used to it.
    10. In other words, don't use the wrong words? Learn how to wright/right/rite?
    11. "Don't stun-gun me, bro." Also, these days, it's Field Turf.
    12. Or just go with "handbill," "circular," "pamphlet," or "table-tent."

  6. Joseph Finn10:00 PM

    What an odd spelling of e-mail. Do they also say "internet" and "world wide web?"

    Say, does the AP believe in basic decent writing or do they advocate using the Oxford comma as a crutch for badly written sentences?

  7. To be fair on the first point? Manny Real is not exactly the model of stable judging (even if he ruled in my clients' favor on the one case I had before him, which was rapidly reversed by the Ninth Circuit).

  8. bill.6:52 AM

    Sure, they can be rules that an organization enforces for consistent writing, but that doesn't necessarily make them THE RULES outside of that group. I work with an internal department style guide that borrows from 4 or 5 other style guides that aren't always in agreement. The issue the "style guide = bible" people tend to forget is that many of the issues in lists like this have little to do with actual grammar and are mostly about personal preference. It's OK to pick what you like as long as you realize other options are equally valid for other people in other situations.

    Take the case of "more than vs over." Referring to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage, "Disapproval of over "more than" is a hoary American Newspaper tradition. It began with William Cullen Bryant [in 1877]; he gave no reason. From Bryant the dictum passed to Bierce. From Bierce over passed into almost all the newspaper handbooks.

    Neither Bryant nor Bierce deigned to give any reason for disapproval, but later commentators have devised a few.[...]

    All of this rationalization seems tortured. Over in the sense of "more than" has been used in English since the 14th century. [skipping long list of examples]

    There is no reason why you need to avoid this usage"

    Go ahead and keep bullying the marketing people and making their job harder than it needs to be.

  9. jbreddick10:08 AM

    I can't believe they didn't pair "fewer vs. less" with "more vs. over" in this debate, as in "Bobby was given fewer pairs of socks than Sally because he was less likely to have cold feet." On an unrelated note, I wonder if an online AP Stylebook Bee would take off. There is some OBSCURE stuff in there. Most of us can give you the correct datelines, state abbreviations or a couple of trademark names (Dumpster is my favorite) but who has brushed up on the proper usage of Portuguese names recently?

  10. Marsha11:45 AM

    Fewer/less makes me crazy - everyone seems to get that one wrong.

    But for the life of me, I still can't get lay/lie right (nor that/which) so who am I to talk?

  11. Marsha11:47 AM

    I recently went three rounds with an editor over the proper capitalization of my workplace - despite my requested capitalization of my workplace being THE EXAMPLE GIVEN IN THE CMS for the point I was making. I have no problem with conforming to style guides, but persnickety editors had better be right if they're going to quibble.