Style, yes, but common sense, too
I admit. I like the idea of style, AP or otherwise. It adds a certain sense of order to things and lets me write instead of having to think about the minutiae.
And I enjoy the various style quizzes that pop up in newsletters and other publications I get. It's always fun to see how much I recall.
My concern, however, is that they can send the message that it's all about style and that style is a rigid thing, when all it should be is a guide. Common sense often must prevail, and sense - the sense of the writer and what he or she is trying to accomplish.
Here are two questions and answers from the quiz I linked to above:
Q1 Arizona officials said the two thousand bushels were sufficient for its November Harvest festival.
Forget for a moment the admonition that when you do one of these things you're probably going to get something wrong - in this case the use of "Black Midnight" for "Black Friday" (which was used in the answer). Let's look at how what seem like a couple of absolutist answers really should be a bit more flexible:
Arizona officials said the two thousand bushels were sufficient for its November Harvest festival.
Is "Walmart" always mandated here? No. If you are talking about your local Walmart store, then that's the correct style. But if the writer's sense is that the company says it will open at midnight, then Wal-Mart is correct.
I hate that part of the stylebook and have only reluctantly given in. It can produce stories where you have both spellings repeatedly interchanged, which is bonkers.
So the next time you see one of these, have fun with it but take some of this style stuff with a grain of salt. Always temper it with what the writer was trying to accomplish, and if you don't know that, then ask or leave it alone.