Friday, August 21, 2009

AP Style Update - Walmart/Wal-Mart

AP has now gone ahead and bifurcated the style on Wal-Mart:

  • It's a Walmart store (trade name)
  • But Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (corporate name)

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At 8/23/09, 2:17 AM, Anonymous Luke Morris said...

This story's been in place for less than a week, and I've already run across a story that makes it a nightmare. I've posted a lovely rant about it on my own site.

At 8/23/09, 2:59 AM, Blogger Doug Fisher said...

Here's the link to Luke's post and story. And I have to agree -- it's uglier than sin.

This is a real time-waster, especially when, as Luke notes, the AP isn't even following its own style in the copy it sends out.

I'm mildly sympathetic to the AP here. Several people have queried me in recent weeks, knowing my background and that I do this blog, why journalists continued to spell it Wal-Mart (this was pre AP style change). All they see is the company's trade dress, which now has it at one word. And while I agree with Luke that there's got to be a line where you don't kow-tow to Corporate America, reality also is that Wally World is a special case in the American psyche and people do notice.

I'd like to propose a further modification of AP that keeps things pure as far as the corporate name but also acknowledges the public: "Walmart is the preferred usage in stories that mix references to the stores and the corporation. Wal-Mart should be used in such stories only as part of the formal corporate name, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., and Walmart should be used on subsequent references, even when referring to the corporation. In other stories that refer strictly to the corporation and not to the stores, Wal-Mart should be used throughout."

Of course, even better would be if AP put together an advisory panel of editors and, maybe, a couple of us who teach editing, and solicited advice on these things that takes into account how it will work on the desks (and in the classroom).

AP's stylebook is too widely used for the company to hide behind the facade that this is only "our" (meaning the company's) style. These kinds of changes can have major ramifications.

At this point, I think I'd ignore the stylebook and just take AP copy in whatever pidgen way it sends it out -- time is too valuable to waste trying to play cleanup in aisle four. As for local style, unless you so believe in absolute fealty to AP, I think I'd leave it hyphenated and say the heck with it.


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