Wick Communications

Why consistent style matters

In Associated Press on 3 Oct 2013 at 4:38 pm

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I have a confession to make. I am both an evangelist for the AP Stylebook and a fallen angel. I realize the intrinsic worth of the gold standard and I know I fall short every day. I don’t have a photographic memory for arcane matters of style. Consequently, a day doesn’t go by that I don’t create a new bend in the binding of my AP Stylebook.

I happened upon this YouTube video from the editors of the AP Stylebook and I bowed in appreciation of one of the most stable – yet gently evolving – aspects of life as a journalist. I love that these three look a bit like curmudgeons from the newsrooms or old but also that they acknowledge we live in a changing world. You might not have known AP offered online and mobile editions of the Stylebook. Cool, huh?

But why does it matter? Who really gives a damn if I say a Frisbee is a “disc” or a “disk?” Well, you might be surprised. Consistency is one of those things you know when you see it. And readers are much, much more sophisticated than we sometimes think.

“Consistency is absolutely critical to credibility,” says Stylebook Editor Darrell Christian. “If they can’t trust you to get the style right, they may not trust you to get the story right.” …

I think he’s dead right. I know I’ve said this before, but what makes, say, Tiger Woods, a professional? Is it that he occasionally knocks a drive 300 yards down the fairway or is it that he does it every time? (OK, not every time, but he aspires to consistency and works really hard to achieve it.)

If you aren’t looking at your stylebook every day, you aren’t looking at it enough.

Clay

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