Tuesday, June 17, 2008

AP style questioned

A new version of the AP Stylebook is out, and one of the most popular spectator sports of this -- or any other season -- it seems is finding some style point the writer doesn't like and taking a whack at it.

Here are a couple of recent ones worth your attention:
  • Robert Niles is running a poll on his site about whether it's better to use AP style for state abbreviations (Calif., Minn., etc) or the postal codes (CA, MN, etc.). As of this writing, with 85 votes, it's 54% for the postal abbreviations and 45% for AP (does not add to 100 because of rounding). I voted for AP, but from a visual perspective; I find the pairs of double letters jumping off the page every so often to be bumpy, especially if there is a cluster. But admittedly, people are more used to using the postal codes. I just wish AP would reconsider the odd abbreviations like Calif. Why not just Cal., which -- based on my class tests -- is what many students naturally think it should be.
  • Over at Poynter, Roy Peter Clark finds the AP's style on plurals to be jarring, specifically its guidance that when a proper noun ends in "s," an apostrophe will suffice instead of apostrophe-s. As Clark writes: In a recent edition of my hometown newspaper, I read a story that contained these two important sentences: "In Wes' last act, he fed a stranger and gave him a place to rest. It cost him his life." As I read this powerful story, I stopped every time I encountered the possessive "Wes'." The disconnect between my eye and ear made the absence of another s stand out like a missing trunk on an elephant. No one I know would say "Wes' last act"; they would say "Wes's." The stylebook justifies the missing s upon the values of "consistency and ease in remembering a rule." To which I ask: "What about the needs of the reader?" (I ask the same thing every time I look at the AP's insistence on abbreviations in quotes. Wonder how Clark feels about those?)
You can reach your own conclusions. Full disclosure: I'll have my annual list of things that may no longer be worth being in the stylebook coming out in my column next month.



At 6/19/08, 3:50 PM, Blogger Gina Vasselli said...

I must admit that I actually got excited when I heard that the new stylebook was out. That darn thing got under my skin thanks to your class.
Random note- I wrote a story on mo-peds which made me very annoyed at the fact that I had to put the hyphen in there everytime. Because people are often going to confused the motor scooter with the past tense of mope, I'm sure.


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