Articles about "Grammar and style"


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It’s ‘Bah! Humbug!’ and other holiday style advice from the AP

British actor Albert Finney waves his cane while playing the title role in “Scrooge,” at Shepperton Studios, near London, Jan. 15, 1970. (AP Photo/R. Dear)

British actor Albert Finney waves his cane while playing the title role in “Scrooge,” at Shepperton Studios, near London, Jan. 15, 1970. (AP Photo/R. Dear)

The Associated Press held a style chat Tuesday on holiday terms with lifestyles editor Julie Rubin. Taken in their parts or as a whole, these style chats always feel useful and a bit funny: “Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus would also be known as the Clauses.”

Here are some tweets from the holiday style chat.

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Fusion tracks news orgs that use term ‘illegal immigrant’

Fusion

Despite “all the good reasons not to use” the term illegal immigrant, “it is still very easy to find in the US press, even in headlines,” Felix Salmon writes. He lists news orgs that make a point of not using it (AP, the Los Angeles Times, BuzzFeed), those that have an “It’s complicated” relationship with the term (The New York Times, Newsweek, Bloomberg News) and those that prefer it (The Wall Street Journal, Reuters).

Here are a couple more that eschew it:

When AP stopped using the term, Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll told Poynter it was because “It’s kind of a lazy device that those of use who type for a living can become overly reliant on as a shortcut. It ends up pigeonholing people or creating long descriptive titles where you use some main event in someone’s life to become the modifier before their name.”

“No major publication has started using it again after a period where it was banned,” Salmon writes. Read more

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Fear not the long sentence

A year ago I wrote an essay for the New York Times titled “The Short Sentence as Gospel Truth.” It argued that authors express their most important ideas or dramatic moments in the shortest sentences. This turned out to be a popular piece, the most emailed of the day. Teachers and editors anointed the short sentence as the solution to many writing problems.

trainFrom my shot comes a rebound:  “If the short sentence is the gospel truth, then what is the long sentence?”  My best answer is metaphorical:  “It’s a journey on a westbound train.”

Editors advise, “When it comes to the long sentence, children, be afraid, be very afraid.”  In the common view, the long sentence too often spins off the tracks, a wreck on the road to comprehensibility. It is not an irrational fear. In almost every story I have written comes a moment when I must take that overly ambitious sentence and cut it in two. Read more

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Why AP style doesn’t use ISIL or ISIS anymore

Just two weeks after the Associated Press explained why it referred to the Islamic militant group laying siege to Iraq as “ISIL” rather than “ISIS,” the rebels complicated matters by declaring a new “Islamic caliphate” and changing their name to “the Islamic State.”

The English translation for the group’s former name previously used by the AP was the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL. News organizations like The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times, meanwhile, referred to it as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

Now the question for news organizations is whether to go along with the group’s rebranding efforts and potentially grant it undeserved legitimacy, or to keep using an acronym that’s familiar to readers but is arguably out-of-date. Read more

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AP Style should adopt the Oxford comma

It’s great to see that Nate Silver’s 538 is finally hitting its stride. Stepping aside from the conflicts of politics and sports, the data site has decided to weigh in on a controversy that truly ignites the passion of partisans. Forget Red States versus Blue States, campers. Forget Brazil vs. Argentina in the World Cup. Want to see the fur fly? Debate the Oxford comma.

The Oxford or serial comma (which I prefer) is the one that comes before the “and” in a series such as: “Kelly, Al, Kenny, Ellyn, Jill, Butch, and Roy teach at Poynter.” AP style, which Poynter follows, omits that final comma, leaving “Butch and Roy” attached like “Siegfried and Roy.”

I devote a chapter in my book “The Glamour of Grammar” to my preference for that final comma, and now believe that AP style should now include it. Here is a condensed version of what I had to say. Read more

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Pollard

The ‘cinematic slow-motion effect’ of Laura Hillenbrand’s ‘Seabiscuit’

[What we all need leading up to a Triple Crown horse race is an essay about the rhetoric of punctuation. So here it is, adapted from a chapter in my book The Glamour of Grammar. Don’t worry, there is an actual connection to horse racing. I have chosen to analyze a special passage from a special book, Seabiscuit, by Laura Hillenbrand. A close reading of her prose will reveal how a champion among writers uses every trick in the book to create special literary effects.]

Whenever we concentrate on the rules of grammar and punctuation, we run the risk of veiling the creativity and flexibility available to authors who think of them as tools of meaning and effect.

Let’s take as an example a splendid passage from Laura Hillenbrand’s bestselling book Seabiscuit, a stirring narrative history of one of America’s legendary racehorses. In this scene, Hillenbrand describes the mystical glory of Seabiscuit’s last great stretch run in the 1940 Santa Anita Handicap: Read more

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Journalists react to AP’s state-names change

On Wednesday, the Associated Press announced another style change that seemed to cause more teeth-grinding and head-shaking. Starting May 1, the news co-op said, we’ll spell out state names within the bodies of stories rather than abbreviate them.

In March, Poynter wrote about the news that the AP removed the distinction between over and more than. Here’s how that one went over.

I gathered some reactions across Facebook, Twitter and our comments section on the state names news.

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How did you/will you remember the spellings of state names?

Now that we’ll be spelling state names out in full, perhaps this is merely a way to remember that there was, once, another way.

Do you have any tips or tricks that helped you remember the shortened version of state names? (Before I came to Poynter, most of my reporting happened in Missouri, which was easy with just Mo.) But what about Pennsylvania (Pa.)? Wisconsin (always Wis., never Wisc.)?

And now that things are changing, do you have any tips or tricks that help you remember how to spell those names out correctly? Other than consulting the AP Stylebook, the dictionary or Google?

My editor, Andrew Beaujon, uses this Sammy Kershaw song to help him remember how to spell Tennessee.

And of course, there’s “Oklahoma!”

Tweet your ideas to me @kristenhare or email them to khare@poynter.org. Read more

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AP: Spell out names of states in stories

AP is not done rocking the journalism world with style changes.

The following guidance went out on the AP wire Wednesday: “Effective May 1, the AP will spell out state names in the body of stories.” You will still use abbreviations in datelines, photo captions, lists, etc.

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.)

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AP Stylebook update: A sign of our times

People are freaking out over an update to the AP Stylebook, the equivalent of canon law for journalists. AP Style now tells us that “more than” and “over” are interchangeable. It’s as if Big Brother has just suggested that what was true yesterday, is no longer true today.

Not all people are freaking out, of course. But a lot of people are, especially journalists, and also English majors. The people who love word craft are visibly upset. You can tell by tracking #ACES2014 on Twitter.

For the uninitiated, until this update, “more than” was used when referring to numbers. “Over” was appropriate when talking about the physical relationship of two objects.

On this issue, you could divide the world into three categories of people. There are those who believe that words are tools and that if you are going to craft something substantial you must use the right tool. Read more

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