Thursday, May 25, 2006

AP changes phone number style

And enters the modern era. Gone are the parentheses around area codes, a practice dropped long ago in many publications. Now, it's just 212-555-1212.

The complete new entry:
Use figures. The form: 212-621-1500. For international numbers use 011 (from the United States), the country code, the city code and the telephone number: 011-44-20-7535-1515.  Use hyphens, not periods.The form for toll-free numbers: 800-111-1000.If extension numbers are needed, use a comma to separate the main number from the extension: 212-621-1500, ext. 2.


At 5/26/06, 2:59 PM, Blogger unclewilly said...

Parentheses are still logical if a number is being presented to an audience of those who may be in or out of the area code. If I'm not in the area, the code is necessary, but if I'm in the area the same information is logically parenthetical because it's unnecessary. Besides, parens look cooler.

At 5/26/06, 5:09 PM, Blogger Doug said...

Actually, of course, in some places it is no longer unnecessary. Some areas of the country have 10-digit dialing because of the necessity of interleaved area codes to accommodate the growth of cell phones, etc.

The trend has been to move away from the parentheses, so AP is just joining that march.

At 1/12/07, 11:20 AM, Blogger Warren Allan Johnson said...

I think eliminating phone number parentheses is going to be a hard style change for journalists, PR practitioners and advertisers to swallow. First, I would want some empirical evidence that there's a shift away from parentheses as you suggest; the modest shift I've seen in the business world is actually toward a period style 800.123.4567. I haven't seen a all dash format since back when the string included "one" to emphasize that the number was toll free: 1-800-123-4567. Secondly, this style is going to be hard for the business world to incorporate since they are entrenched with parentheses, meaning there will be a greater seperation between the style businesses use and what AP style calls for.

I just heard about this change via a newsletter vendor yesterday. Doug, do you have a URL from the AP that discusses this change further?

Warren Allan Johnson
Unsolicited Marketing Advice

At 1/12/07, 12:37 PM, Blogger Doug said...


I have not done an empirical study, but I do pay attention to such things as I travel, and more and more I noted publications dropping the parentheses. I see it more now, of course, that AP has changed. I think AP actually was just reacting to what it was seeing elsewhere. We'll all probably go to the period style eventually to line up with what much of the rest of the world does, but for now it's a bit of an affectation.

Norm Goldstein addressed it a little in his "Ask the editor" section of the AP stylebook online. Unfortunately, you must have an online subscription to access that.

Here was Norm's explanation:
Q-- Why has AP changed its style on phone numbers to use a hyphen instead of parentheses? – from Omaha, NE
A-- AP eliminated the parentheses in phone numbers because they weren't being used in publications anymore and didn't seem to serve any purpose. (Can anyone explain why they were to begin with?)

At 7/14/10, 5:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A little off from the thread since I am interested in web design.

I've been trying to find something to tell me where and why the format was being used by designers. Personally, I dislike it, but as a beginner web designer I wondered if there was some reason for it, some incompatibility with some program language. Otherwise, it seems to be more prominent on highfalutin websites and I'm a down to earth Vermonter.

However, I was delighted to find out that AP was dropping the (). Actually, there's a simple reason for doing so. Space. With dashes you need one less character. It's easier to type. In the US it's obvious when something is xxx-xxx-xxxx that an area code is included.

I also wondered about the 1 in the former 1-800. Has this been dropped too? It does seem unnecessary.

The one comment that I have found so far in my search is that older folks would have usability issues without the (). I presume they mean late 60's and older. I've seen both all my life. But compared to usability issues with those periods, I think they can adapt more readily to the loss of the parentheses.


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