The reactions aren’t surprising, given how many people have asked the AP to change the style from two words to one word, arguing that “Web site” is an antiquated way of writing it.
The change, which was formally announced at the American Copy Editors Society conference Friday afternoon, is effective Saturday and will appear in the 2010 Stylebook, which is slated to come out next month.
“We decided to make the change because ‘website’ is increasingly common,” said Sally Jacobsen, deputy managing editor for projects at the AP and one of three Stylebook editors. “We also had invited readers and users of the Stylebook to offer us some suggestions for a new social media guide that we’re including in the 2010 Stylebook, and we got a very good response and a large number of people who favored ‘website’ as one word.”
Tech-related sites such as Mashable applauded the change, which was a trending topic on Twitter. But not everyone is cheering about it. Some say they actually prefer “Web site” and “the Web,” including New York Times technology columnist David Pogue.
In many ways, changes like this are a journalistic sign of the times and a reminder of the evolving nature of language.
“The trend in tech terminology is ALWAYS toward lowercase and no spaces or hyphens. ‘E-mail’ is rapidly giving way to ‘email.’ ‘Inter-office memo’ became ‘interoffice memo.’ (Actually, that’s the trend in all English: ‘extra-marital’ becomes ‘extramarital,’ ‘pigeon-hole’ became ‘pigeonhole,’ etc.),” Pogue said via e-mail. “On the other hand, if enough publications all start using the lower case and the no-hyphen (sorry, ‘nohyphen’) term exclusively, then eventually, the public will stop tripping over them, and we can all move ahead in sync!”
Thomas Kaplan, former editor of the Yale Daily News and a senior at the university, was among those who spoke out on Twitter about the change. He said he thinks style changes like this can cause confusion and be disruptive to the newsroom workflow.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve changed ‘website’ to ‘Web site’ in stories — not to mention how many times I’ve said to reporters, ‘Trust me, it’s “Web site.” ‘ They would ask why, and I would say, ‘Because the AP says so,’ ” Kaplan said via e-mail. “As for me, I think I’m just going to keep writing it ‘Web site’ until some editor eventually yells at me.”
Along with announcing the new style for website (yes, Poynter uses AP style), AP Stylebook editors Darrell Christian and David Minthorn said they are also reconsidering their proposed change on the style for state names. Last week, the AP announced that it was considering dropping state abbreviations, meaning all state names would need to be spelled out.
It had also considered dropping the practice of using the names of Canadian provinces in datelines. Vancouver, British Columbia, for instance, would become Vancouver, Canada. Using the hashtag #apstate, some Twitterers argued against this change, saying “AP contributes to American ignorance of Canada with new style.” Other people were concerned about the practical repercussions of such a change.
“Some people were expressing technical concerns about the size of their news holes and their column widths,” Jacobsen said by phone. “There were some other questions about whether they would adopt the style.”
The reason for the proposed change was to create a universal and consistent style for domestic and international use of state names and provinces. Based on people’s reactions, though, Jacobsen said she, Minthorn and Christian have decided to re-evaluate it.
Style changes like these aren’t as arbitrary as some may think. The Stylebook editors get questions and suggestions throughout the year via Twitter, e-mail and the “Ask the Editor” feature on the Stylebook Online. They meet a couple times a month as they begin to finalize content for the print edition, and exchange frequent, even daily, messages about one issue or another.
Today’s two style-related announcements show the importance of user feedback, said Colleen Newvine, head of market research for the AP and product manager for the Stylebook.
“Although style listings are not an ‘American Idol’ popularity vote, it is important to us to listen to our readers and our users. If there’s concern, then the editors will go back and seriously discuss and debate the merits of these suggestions,” Newvine said by phone while at the ACES conference. “I don’t mean they’d go with a bad decision just because it was a commonly requested change, but if something comes up frequently enough they’ll at least take a real serious look at why we’re doing what were doing and whether it’s right.”