Monday, April 05, 2010

AP Style - Great Recession

I've been behind in noting some AP style changes, and one of the most notable - and controversial - to come up in the interim is the decision to name the recent economic unpleasantness the "Great Recession."

There's already been blowback - at the American Copy Editors Society and from European journalists. The reactions seem to be summed up best by Lisbeth Kirk, editor-in-chief of the EUObserver: "Let the historians, not the sub-editors, categorise major historical turning points."

I'd written earlier on what I thought the AP was trying to do, so I won't get into that again here. I just thought it worth noting the entry as part of my periodic AP style series.

Here are a few of the other more noted of the slew of recent changes:
  • Breathalyzer: AP makes clear every breath test device is not a Breathalyzer.
  • tea party: Lowercase the political "movement."
  • Mike, not mic, as shortened form for microphone. Watch for this to continue to be a subject of debate, as the very subject, before AP, already has provoked some heated prose. "Mic" seems to be gaining ground because it's what you find on most audio boards. A Google search for "open mike night" finds about 75,000 hits and about eight times as many for "open mic night."
  • mixed martial arts, not Ultimate Fighting, which is a trademark.
  • wracked: the preferred spelling when someone is wracked with doubt or pain. (However, the preferred verb is still "racked" when it comes to saying someone racked their brain. That one's already in the stylebook.)
  • Q-and-A format: Use Q-and-A in the body of a story, too, if necessary, not Q & A.
  • waitlist for the noun, wait-list for the verb
  • taser: use "stun gun" if you don't know the brand. Taser is an acronym for a specific brand (and do you know what the acronym stands for?*). The AP advises against verbing it to produce "tasered" unless it's in a quote. I guess you say "use a taser on." My prediction: That skirmish already is lost. Just turn on your local TV news. The alternatives are just too clunky and "un-hip."
A reminder that it's no longer NCAA Division I-A and Division I-AA. Now call the big schools the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and the smaller fry Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). So much for simplification.

Also, a sharp-eyed reader found an error in the stylebook. Federal Air Marshals are now under the Transportation Security Administration, not Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, their former home.

*Thomas A. Swift's Electric Rifle

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