AP unveils 2014 Stylebook with new chapter on religion

The 2014 edition of the Associated Press Stylebook comes out Wednesday, with about 200 changes and additions, including a new chapter devoted to religion, updates to social media terms, weather terms and the chapter on food.

Some of those additions include (sic), MERS and Buffalo wings, “B is capitalized in Buffalo,” said Sally Jacobsen, AP Stylebook editor, in a phone interview with Poynter. (AP puts the word “selfie” on the edition’s cover.)

“The key thing is the new chapter on religion,” she said. “We have 208 entries in that chapter.”

AP Religion Writer Rachel Zoll reported those entries out for the Stylebook editors, speaking with religious scholars, communication specialists within denominations and AP reporters in different regions, including Jerusalem and Haiti. The goal is to be respectful to the groups themselves, to listen to them, Zoll told Poynter in a phone interview, but ultimately to be clear for the journalists for whom the book is made.

The Stylebook changes and grows with both language and culture, and this year, the new religion chapter includes an entry on Coptic Christians, for instance, and a more detailed entry on Easter, which acknowledges that not everyone using the Stylebook may be familiar with the holiday.

This is the seventh edition Jacobsen has worked on, and when the AP makes changes, whether it’s throughout the year or in time for the latest edition, they usually expect some reaction, but not as strong as the over/more than change announced earlier this year.

“I think we were surprised at how strong some of the reactions are,” Jacobsen said, “not that people react to them, but that people are very passionate about language. That’s great, that’s a wonderful thing, but sometimes it does catch us by surprise.”

The changes this year that have already caused uproar, some in protest and confusion and some in agreement, include:

The over/more than change:

AP Stylebook editors said at a session Thursday that “Over” is fine when referring to a quantity; you don’t have to change it to “more than.”

The news elicited a gasp, [Poynter's Vicki] Krueger reports.

The spell-out-the-names change:

The change “also applies to newspapers cited in a story,” the guidance says. “For example, a story datelined Providence, R.I., would reference the Providence Journal, not the Providence (R.I.) Journal.” (For what it’s worth, you don’t have to call that jurisdiction the “State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.” Rhode Island works fine.)

We also had some fun tracking journalists’ reactions to the over/more than change and the state name change. And we made some GIFs.

Last year, for the Stylebook’s 60th anniversary, Mallary Tenore wrote about updates with a look back at some old covers. This one was from 1960.

In 2012, Andrew Beaujon wrote about that year’s new Stylebook, which also got a new cover and a price raise of $1, for a total of $20.95. That’s still the price of the latest edition.

According to the AP, Stylebook editors David Minthorn, Sally Jacobsen and Paula Froke will answer questions today at 2:30 p.m. ET in a Twitter chat. Follow along with the hashtag #APStyleChat.

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