April 27, 2018

The Associated Press announced a handful of stylebook changes, additions and some guidance on Friday, as it does every year at the annual conference of ACES, a copy editors’ organization. 

Some changes:

Today and tonight OK in some instances:  "Use the day of the week, not today or tonight, in news stories. In news stories, use today or tonight only in direct quotations, and in phrases that do not refer to a specific day: Customs today are different from those of a century ago. In other types of writing, today, this morning, this afternoon and tonight are acceptable if using the day of the week would be awkward. For example, in an internal note Wednesday to company staff: Xin Chen took over as vice president for human resources today. In an external announcement: Xin Chen took over as vice president for human resources Wednesday.”

Two objects now don’t have to be in motion to collide: The previous entry stated “two objects must be in motion before they can collide. A moving train cannot collide with a stopped train.” Now, “We dropped the previous rule that two objects must be in motion before they can collide. The entry has been deleted.”

It’s now just 3D. No hyphen.

It’s now just homepage. One word.

It’s now Walmart Inc. No hyphen. “It changed its legal name from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in 2018. Headquarters is in Bentonville, Arkansas.”

AR is now OK on second reference for augmented reality.

Some additions:

Use survivor and victim with care: "Survivor can denote someone who has lived through an injury or disease, but also can apply to someone who endured a threat but escaped injury altogether. Example: a mass shooting survivor. Likewise, victim can create confusion because it can variously mean someone killed, injured or subjected to mistreatment such as sexual misconduct."

Storms generally get names. Fires don’t. “Major storm names provided by government weather agencies, the European Union or the World Meteorological Organization are acceptable. Do not use names created by private weather agencies or other organizations.”

“Use descriptors to identify a fire. For example: the deadly fire burning near San Diego. While local media may choose to use the names of fires given by local agencies, the AP generally does not use those names because they are not widely known to a global audience. On some occasions, when a fire is particularly significant, the AP may use the name of the fire lower in the story.”

Some guidance:

Don’t use progressive: “… Which can imply improvement, as a political descriptor except in quotes or the names of organizations or political parties.”

Avoid the term "chain migration": “A term applied by immigration hardliners to what the U.S. government calls family-based immigration, a longstanding program granting preference to people with relatives who already have legal residency or U.S. citizenship. Avoid the term except when used in a quotation, and explain it.”

And be specific with the terms sexual harassment and sexual misconduct: "These are broad terms that can cover a wide variety of actions or behavior. In stories, be as specific as possible in describing the kinds of behavior that is being alleged or admitted – such as groping, unwanted kissing, disrobing, or verbal or physical abuse or assault."

You can read more about this year’s changes here.

Correction: An earlier version of this story noted it's now not OK to use "today" or "tonight." Actually, it's never been OK and still isn't in news stories, but it's now acceptable in other kinds of writing.

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Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

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