Thursday, April 04, 2013

AP Style: 'Underway" and numerals

I'm going to take a bow here - AP FINALLY is making two changes I have urged for years. Revealed today at the ACES convention in St. Louis:

underway - Now one word in all uses. Editor-at-Large Darrell Christian says it's to conform to the dictionary. Frankly, AP was being outflanked by even common usage in newspapers. This follows last year's change of "work force" to "workforce."

Numerals - The entry will now be consolidated and expanded in an attempt, as Christian said, to bring things all together and simplify while not sending people hither and yon through the stylebook looking for variations. It will be about four pages long. (David Minthorn noted there were several hundred related possible entries.)

One wrinkle on this - all distances will now be figures. So you no longer need to distinguish between dimensions and distances. The pipe was 3 feet long (dimension) and now he ran 4 miles or the town was 6 square miles.

In a way, however, the AP is complicating things a bit here - why not also take on the duration versus age dichotomy and use all figures there? He is 5 years old -- as it is now -- but why not also he was sentenced to 5 years' probation?

I've urged for some time that the AP simplify its arcane numeral entries. My suggestion was to spell out everything between one and nine unless a dollar sign or something similar preceded it. It works fine for the Wall Street Journal, for instance.

But if the digital -- and especially the mobile -- age requires shortening and figures, I'm fine with that too -- just do it across the board.

And here's another:
Moped: Now one word, not that awkward "mo-ped" that so many ignored anyhow. Did anyone really think that in context people would think it meant wandering around listlessly?

AP's David Minthorn repeatedly says the stylebook is "coming into compliance with the dictionary." So, AP, maybe it's also time to consider changing dictionaries. Webster's New World College 4th (when will we get a 5th - it was supposed to be this spring) is the more conservative -- and, frankly, the most out of step, of the three majors. Merriam-Webster still has its haters as too liberal. So why not American Heritage 5? It has the benefit of much better explanations than Webster's of the reasoning behind lots of its entries.

So will AP also change "gantlet/gauntlet" to favor gauntlet (run the gauntlet) as M-W and AH do?

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