April 5, 2024

Merriam-Webster will be the Associated Press Stylebook’s official dictionary starting May 29, stylebook editor Paula Froke announced Friday.

It is the first change to the stylebook’s primary dictionary in decades. If a term isn’t listed in the stylebook, its entry in Merriam-Webster will be considered AP style. Froke and Merriam-Webster editor at large Peter Sokolowski announced the change at a panel at the annual ACES: The Society for Editing conference.

“Merriam-Webster is updated far more frequently to reflect new terms, evolving usage and other developments. We have long consulted Merriam-Webster to help guide our decisions, even when it wasn’t our official dictionary,” Froke told Poynter in an email. “Overall, we find Merriam-Webster more aligned with the AP Stylebook’s needs and approach.”

To maintain consistency with Merriam-Webster, the stylebook has updated several of its rules regarding hyphenation with prefixes and suffixes. It now advises writers not to use a hyphen with the prefixes out-, post-, pre- and re-. The words semiautomatic and semiautonomous should also be unhyphenated.

The updated stylebook, which publishes its 57th edition this year, will also include expanded guidance on climate change, Froke announced. The topic has recently become a priority for many newsrooms, and the stylebook added several new climate-related terms last year. It continues that trend this year with new entries like community solar, geothermal, lithium ion, energy transition and hydrogen.

“As climate change becomes a larger factor in the daily lives of many people, effective and accurate writing about this far-reaching and sometimes complex topic becomes even more important,” the climate change entry reads.

The stylebook also updated its guidance on the terms Native Americans and Indigenous people(s). Though reporters can use Native Americans to broadly refer to two or more people of different tribal affiliations within the contiguous United States, they should not use it to refer to an individual or to multiple people from the same tribe.

When referring to individuals, reporters should use the proper name of their tribe and specify whether the person is an enrolled citizen of the tribe or a descendant of an enrolled citizen. The stylebook notes that some individuals may prefer using their tribe’s official name: “For example, some members of the Navajo Nation refer to themselves as Diné, the Navajo word for the people.”

Journalists should not use the term American Indians, which is generally considered outdated, unless referring to tribal citizens who use the term in reference to themselves or others. “American Indians” is also acceptable when it appears in a legal context or in an organization’s name.

Reporters should also avoid using possessive language unless they are referring to Native Hawaiians. For example, instead of referring to “Oklahoma’s Native American tribes,” reporters should write, “Native American tribes in Oklahoma.” “Hawaii’s Indigenous people,” is acceptable, however. The stylebook notes that the term Hawaiian should only be used for “members of the ethnic group indigenous to the Hawaiian Islands.”

Indigenous people(s) is acceptable as a broad description of “the original inhabitants of a place globally,” the stylebook notes. But reporters should be specific when possible since the term “does not capture the political relationship or political status of Native American tribes or people.” Examples of appropriate uses of the term include “Indigenous people in the United States and Canada” or “Missing and Murdered Indigenous People.”

The stylebook also updated its guidance on bulleted lists. Journalists should not use a period after items in a list unless the item is a complete sentence.

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Angela Fu is a reporter for Poynter. She can be reached at or on Twitter @angelanfu.
Angela Fu

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