Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Dear Norm: Further suggestions for AP

Norm Goldstein
New York

Dear Norm:

Congratulations on some sensible changes for the AP Stylebook. Now that AP is into its annual style spring cleaning in preparation for a new edition, I have some other suggestions:

-- Now that U.S. is acceptable as a noun, make clear that U.N. also is. I doubt it is so unknown to great masses of people that there would be any confusion.
-- Also, create an entry that outlines when it is and isn't OK to use a state abbreviation as an adjective. The AP traditionally has spelled out all states in text, except when paired with a town or city. But these days, when writers and editors are looking to scavenge any space they can, more are moving to state abbreviations as nouns and adjectives. One issue: standardizing what article to use with S.C., S.D., etc. where the abbrevation might be mentally read as two letters, the first beginning with a vowel sound. There's little consistency now.
-- Now that you've made fundraising and fundraiser one word, do the same for "under way," "good will," "work force" and others where the "style" increasingly is ignored. It's good you've put a hyphen in "best-seller," but why not just make it one word as in the dictionary? Let the dictionary pick up more of the heavy lifting. The AP could weigh in only when there is a clear dispute, as in mini/minuscule.
-- Give in to common practice and go with al Qaeda. You have great reasons for using al-Qaida, except much of the journalism establishment is ignoring you, including those in the AP, judging from a large chunk of stories coming down the wire.
-- Simplify, Simplify, Simplify, and get the Hydra-headed numerals style under control. That includes reconsidering the need to repeat "percent" after every numeral. Is there any murkiness if you say something will rise 5 to 6 percent as opposed to 5 percent to 6 percent?

Your job, keeping peace among thousands of picky journalists and journalism instructors like us is sometimes thankless. Thanks for the improvements, but let's take a vacuum to the book, not just a broom.


At 3/30/05, 1:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the posting on the new stylebook. I always look forward to seeing what changes they make. I went to and was very pleased to see that papers like mine can subscribe and access it online. I've suggested that to my editor. The first thing I'll look up in the 2005 stylebook is "indict." By definition, an indictment is a charge, but according to AP you have to say "indicted on a charge of killing" or "indicted on a bribery charge" which to me reads "charged on a charge of killing" and "charged on a bribery charge." ARGH!

At 4/2/05, 9:23 AM, Blogger Bill said...

But, Anonymous, how else would you phrase the "indicted" language? To many of us, "indicted for a crime" implies a judgment that the indicted person most definitely committed the crime.

At 4/4/05, 8:40 PM, Blogger Doug said...

I suppose one could split the difference and say "indicted on a count of" or "on xx counts of." But there are times that seems forced.


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