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2018 AP Stylebook Updates to Know

By Joseph Priest, APR

PR pros are now free to collide, use bulleted lists with more complete guidelines, and “cowork.” So says the leading authority whose stylebook most PR pros follow.

In recent years, introducing Associated Press style changes at the annual conference of ACES (American Copy Editors Society, which recently renamed itself The Society for Editing) has become something of a tradition. The AP Stylebook editors announce the newest changes in a session that has become one of the biggest events of the conference and always includes a jam-packed room.


Colleen Newvine (left), Associated Press product manager, and Paula Froke, executive director of Associated Press Media Editors and editor of the AP Stylebook, prepare to announce the latest updates at the ACES national conference. 

In the last several years, some of those changes have been earth-shattering, like taking the hyphen out of “e-mail,” allowing “over” to indicate quantitative relationships as well as spatial, and permitting “they” to refer to a singular subject. This year was far less dramatic, with changes about “collide,” bulleted lists, and “coworking,” which I’ll get to in a moment.

For the last two conferences, at St. Pete and, this year, at Chicago, I’ve had the fortune to be able to attend and, as an ACES member, offer some representation from PR writers at this growing event. Below is a rundown of some of the biggest changes that I think are important for PR pros to know, along with my perspectives. The stylebook entries for these changes will be included in the new paperback version of the AP Stylebook and have already been added to the online version.

I hope they’re a help with your writing. And if you have any questions or thoughts on the changes, I would love to know them. Please write me at joseph.priest@syniverse.com.   

  • collide, collision – Perhaps the biggest change announced was that the AP has removed the “collide/collision” entry from the stylebook. For decades, the AP has distinguished the use of these words by insisting that, as its previous entry said, “Two objects must be in motion before they can collide. A moving train cannot collide with a stopped train.” However, dictionary definitions of “collide” have long had no requirement for the number of objects that must be in motion. The objects merely must come together with force. Regardless of how this AP rule originated, the idea that a moving object can crash into but not collide with a stationary object has been little more than a journalistic tradition, and has been regularly condemned by the language community. And now the AP has accepted that the tradition no longer needs to be observed, and that we are now free to collide with buildings, trees, guardrails, etc.
  • bulleted lists – One update that will be a great help to PR pros is a new entry on lists and bulleted lists. Previously, guidelines for these were spread across separate entries. Among the guidelines, the AP uses dashes instead of bullets to introduce individual sections of a list, but others may choose to use bullets. Also, a space should be put between the dash or bullet and the first word of each item in the list. And the first word following the dash or bullet should be capitalized, and periods should be used, not semicolons, at the end of each section, whether it is a full sentence or a phrase.
  • survivor, victim – The AP updated its entry for these words to advise more caution and discrimination in their use. The terms can be imprecise and freighted with shades of meaning, whereas the condition that affected them should be the determining factor in their use. See the full stylebook entry for further guidance and examples.
  • sexual harassment, sexual misconduct - Responding to increased coverage of #MeToo, the AP revised its guidelines for terminology surrounding the movement, preferring “sexual misconduct” to “sexual harassment.” Specifically, “harassment” has legal but broad definitions, and sometimes “harassment” may be too mild for the behavior being alleged. For this reason, the reporting of an incident should specify the behavior under discussion, and use “sexual misconduct” in more broad-based instances.
  • co-workers, coworking - People who work together for the same task or company are “co-workers,” the AP says. But if those people individually rent shared space in a building, they are “coworking,” without the hyphen. The reason for this distinction? Because the newer usage is “coworking,” and keeping the hyphen in “co-worker” draws the divide between those two types of definitions.
  • homepage – While it’s not surprising that “homepage” has followed the path of “webpage,” whose one-word spelling was sanctioned by the AP a few years ago, it’s not a change I agree with. Other compound words with “page” mostly retain their two-word spellings, like “front-page,” “back-page” and “book page,” because in a one-word spelling, the “page” part is not considered clear when it’s combined with other words. I don’t see the rationale for making an exception to this practice for either “homepage” or “webpage,” but “homepage” is now official.
  • health care - One change the AP did not make that copy editors, PR pros, journalists and writers in general have long wished would be changed is making “health care” into one word. The editors of the AP Stylebook told the ACES conference in Chicago that while industry documents often write it as “healthcare,” most government documents still use two words, and the AP’s Washington editors advised keeping it that way for now. But there is a ray of hope. An editor for Webster’s New World College Dictionary, the official dictionary of the AP, explained at the session, “We follow what people do,” he said. “If everyone decided tomorrow to make ‘healthcare’ a compound . . .” OK, everyone, start using “healthcare” as much as you can so we can finally get this change made!

 


Me at the ACES (American Copy Editors Society) national conference in Chicago, where I was joined by over 700 editors from a wide variety of digital media, print media, corporate communications, book publishing, academia and government.

 

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