AP Stylebook Turns 60, Releases 2013 Edition

Every year (like a big ole geek) I look forward to the latest updates of the AP Stylebook, the “essential style guide for journalists.”

Mastering journalistic style is an important skill for the communicators who write news releases and other materials for media. Face it – interesting a reporter or editor in covering your organization or client is a special challenge of its own. The least we can do is write in proper journalistic style. Just as a potential employer has little tolerance for typos in your resume, members of the Fourth Estate aren’t real keen on editing our work for us, either.

So now, with the importance of the AP Stylebook affirmed, what do this year’s updates include? More than 90 new or updated entries and broader guidelines on social media. The expanded social media section includes new terms and definitions like circles, flash mob and Google Hangout. It also provides information on how to secure, authenticate, attribute and reference user-generated content for text, photo captions and video scripts.

Other changes of note:

  • The phrase “illegal immigrant” is now prohibited as the word “illegal” appropriately pertains to an action, not a person. Therefore, “illegal immigration” is correct, but not “illegal immigrant.” Acceptable variations include “living in the country illegally” or “without legal permission.”  The one exception? The term “illegal alien” may be used only within a direct quote essential to the story.
  • The numerals entries have been updated with almost 200 examples of when to use figures and when to spell them out.
  • For foodies there are more than a dozen new entries, including Grand Marnier and madeleine.
  • A new entry on mental illness addresses not only the words to use to describe a person’s illness, but when such information is relevant to a story.
  • And in a move likely necessitated by the never-ending coverage of crimes involving gun violence, a section on weapons explains the difference in an assault rifle and an assault weapon, magazine and clip, and pistol and revolver, as examples.

So happy 60th birthday, AP Stylebook! And thanks for helping us all become better – or at least more consistent – writers.

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