On Friday morning, people at the American Copy Editors Society conference will get a preview of some of the changes coming to the 2015 edition of The Associated Press Stylebook. I asked David Minthorn, the AP Stylebook’s co-editor, about those changes and what people might freak out about.
“We’re never quite sure what people may be excited about,” Minthorn said. “But for example, we have two amended spellings of datelines that might be of interest.”
One of those datelines is Nepal’s capital.
“Now it’s K-A-T-H-M-A-N-D-U,” Minthorn said. “We felt it was time to conform with local preferences, and I think the dictionary also uses the that spelling.”
OK. That doesn’t seem melt-down worthy. And the AP doesn’t make these changes lightly, Minthorn said.
“We don’t normally make style. We reflect usage, in our view. We’re not trying to get ahead of the game. When we make a change, almost always it reflects the reality of language use and what’s happening in vernacular speech or idiomatic speech or in the case of social media, popular social media terms that are having an impact.”
Updating the stylebook is a year-round project, Minthorn said. This is his eighth edition, and he worked with editors Paula Froke and Sally Jacobsen. This year’s stylebook has 300 new or revised terms, and changes are made from studying usage and an annual survey.
“Some pan out, some are, shall we say, ahead of their time, some don’t make sense at all,” Minthorn said. “We look at them all, though.”
Here’s some of what’s coming in the latest edition, due out in late May:
‘Favorite’ and ‘meme’ have been added:
I asked Minthorn to read these twice: “Favorite: A button that a Twitter user can click to express approval for a tweet, and/or to bookmark that tweet, and any associated links, for later consumption. Also, the act of clicking on this button.”
And “Meme: A piece of information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that’s shared verbally or transmitted widely, often in social media.”
There’s a chapter for social guidelines, but this year, the online lexicon has been moved into the A-Z section.
There are lots of small changes in the sports section:
Elite Eight and Final Four are now capitalized.
Figure skating jumps, moves and spins are all lower case, “even if named after someone.”
The stylebook also standardized some basketball and baseball terms.
An entry on suicide has been added:
AP’s policy on suicide is to only cover suicide and attempted suicide if the person is well-known, the circumstances are unusual or it’s publicly disruptive, Minthorn said.
“We’re specifying this for our staff, although it’s kind of an inner AP guideline,” he said.
With stories about suicide, the AP now recommends not going into details.
“The guidance also says that we avoid using the term committed suicide except in direct quotations from authorities.”
Instead used “killed himself, took her own life or died by suicide.”
“Committed in that context suggests possibly an illegal act, but in fact, laws against suicide have been repealed in the U.S., at least in certain states, and many other places,” Minthorn said, “so we’re going to avoid using that term on our own, although it’s a term that authorities widely use and we will use it while quoting authorities.”
There’s an expanded entry on climate change:
Global warming and climate change can be used interchangeably. This isn’t an addition, but an elaboration on why.
“We say that climate change is more accurate scientifically, but global warming is a widely used term and is understood by the public to encompass climate change.”
Stop writing ‘execution-style’:
“It’s a widely used term in news reporting, and we’re cautioning against using it,” Minthorn said.
The new guidance is to avoid it because the term means different things to different people. If necessary, be specific.
“We’re not banning the term, we’re saying avoid it.”
Wicca and Wiccan are now in the religion section:
They’re capitalized on all uses.
BLT is OK on first reference:
This makes sense. Also in the food chapter is the term craft brewery instead of microbrewery.
“We’re suggesting craft brewery is more precise or a better explanation for what’s happening in the brewing industry.”
These probably won’t cause the ballyhoo that they did last year (when the AP announced that over was acceptable in place of more than. You remember.) If you’re still itching for some good knuckle rapping, here are notes from “20 nagging errors made by the experienced and inexperienced alike,” from The Washington Post’s Bill Walsh. And from last year, “AP’s year of freaking out language geeks.”
Correction: Elite Eight and Final Four had numerals in an earlier version of this story. They should be spelled out.