5 AP style changes illustrated with GIFs

The spring is fraught for copy editors as the new edition of the AP Stylebook draws nearer. (This year's is due at the end of May.) What sacred cows will meet a captive bolt pistol? What shibboleths will be banished from all but the most stubborn lips?

Posts about changes to AP style have melted Poynter's servers as the journalism world bemoans or celebrates changes to the language guide that animates most newsrooms. Herewith, I revisit a few of those moments, along with GIFs that illustrate the resonance of each change. (Here's a wonderful timeline of changes to style from 1980 on, and here's a gallery of covers going back to 1982.)

CHANGE: There's no longer any distinction between "over" (once used mostly to describe spatial relationships) and "more than" (for numerals).
DATE: March 20, 2014
IMPACT: Like the Chicxulub meteor slamming into the Yucatán peninsula with the force of 300 million nuclear bombs, slaying the dinosaurs and ushering in the Paleogene period. All Stylebook changes will forever be judged in relation to this one.


CHANGE: Spell out the names of states in stories.
DATE: April 23, 2014
IMPACT: Like an Executor-class Imperial Star Dreadnought plunging into the second Death Star, precipitating the downfall of the Galactic Empire.



CHANGE: Don't use "illegal immigrant" to refer to a person.
DATE: April 2, 2013
IMPACT: Like a Michael Bay movie where New York gets destroyed by asteroids.

TYPICAL COMMENT: Comments on this one were all over the place. Managing Editor Jamie Stockwell told Poynter the San Antonio Express-News stopped using the term long before AP's change, because it "just didn’t adequately describe people who didn’t have the proper documentation to live in America."

CHANGE: "Underway," once "Two words in virtually all uses," is now "One word in all uses."
DATE: April 8, 2013
IMPACT: Like a ship full of cement mowing down pleasure boats in a Norwegian marina.



CHANGE: The "modern usage" of "hopefully" is OK. "Correct: 'You’re leaving soon?' she asked hopefully."
DATE: April 17, 2012
IMPACT: Like a table tennis ball smacking a dude in the head.

TYPICAL COMMENT: "At least 'over' isn't yet equivalent to 'more than'. Not all is lost."

Here's my inexcusably outdated 2010 Stylebook getting destroyed by missiles.

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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