Wick Communications

Writing in style

In journalism on December 2, 2010 at 4:36 pm

Have you noticed that the AP Stylebook is much more than it once was?

For just about as long as I can remember, the Stylebook has referred to a bound, printed book – a dictionary-like thing – to be used as a guide for everything from “AAA” to “zip code.” I have always preferred mine to have the spiral binding so I can flop it open and leave it at a given page while I write. The Stylebook is updated every year, I believe, though the changes are subtle and you don’t really need the update every year.

Well, things have changed – even for that rock of journalism, the AP Stylebook.

You can now buy an online subscription that will allow you to search for entries and give you e-mail alerts as style evolves. And this was news to me: You can buy a license that allows you to add your corporate style stuff right into the online book! I think that is very cool. It may be prohibitively expensive, however. I think you can buy 10 licenses – enough for everyone in most of our newsrooms – for $200 a year…

But why bother with this style stuff? Who really cares if you write the president’s first name after his title or whether you include the country behind “Cairo” and “Rome?” Isn’t worrying about stuff like that so 20th century?

I’ll take a stab at that. Consistency is the hallmark of a good newspaper (or restaurant, or college football team, etc., etc.) Trust is earned over time and readers, perhaps subconsciously, grow to trust a newspaper that consistently gets the little things right. They notice — even if they don’t know they are noticing — when you keep to a consistent style.

It’s hard to explain if you just don’t get it. But I’m happy to expound, if you like. In the meantime, remember that nothing says Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah quite like a new AP Stylebook.

Clay

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