Wick Communications

Posts Tagged ‘AP’

Is it N.D.? Or North Dakota?

In Writing techniques on 23 Jun 2016 at 1:55 pm

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This week, I was surprised to learn something I should have known for two years. Thanks, Ken Harty!

The Wick group publisher was kind enough to ask me to edit his bio for the company website and then had to tell me that I screwed up by abbreviating North Carolina, Minnesota and all the other states where he has worked. Wait, what? You can’t abbreviate state names any more?

Ken was right, of course. AP changed its guidance on state names in body copy on May 1, 2014. Two years ago! Where have I been?

The reason for the change wasn’t immediately apparent to me. It seems like Fla. Is shorter than Florida and brevity is the soul of wit, is it not? Well, it turns out AP was bowing to people who just don’t know that Wis. is Wisconsin and so forth. That is particularly true now that people all across the world have access to our journalism. AP is still recommending abbreviating state names in datelines, lists and agate and so forth.

Oh. That makes sense… Or does it?

Look, nothing the AP says is written in stone. As Gerri Berendzen reminded us way back when the change took place, we are all free to continue with our antiquated abbreviations.

In fact, that is the suggestion of Half Moon Bay’s copy editor, Julie Gerth. She notes that the readers we care about – local readers who patronize our advertisers — know that Ariz. means Arizona and so on. And it’s just too much to spell out South Carolina and South Dakota in obits and elsewhere. Furthermore, many news agencies are ignoring the AP guidance as far as we can tell. The New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle, to name just two, are continuing to use abbreviated state names.

So, for the time being, we at the Half Moon Bay Review are, too. I think you can go either way. All I ask is that you be consistent. In the vast majority of cases, I bow to AP. This may be one of the outliers.



Covering suicide in 2015

In journalism on 3 Apr 2015 at 9:01 am

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When it comes out in May, the new AP Stylebook will feature a new entry pertaining to the coverage of suicides. This is a very serious and touchy subject that comes up again and again in our business.

Here’s the new AP rule relating to suicide:

Generally, AP does not cover suicides or suicide attempts, unless the person involved is a well-known figure or the circumstances are particularly unusual or publicly disruptive. Suicide stories, when written, should not go into detail on methods used.

Avoid using “committed suicide” except in direct quotations from authorities. Alternate phrases include killed himself, took her own life or died by suicide. The verb commit with suicide can imply a criminal act. Laws against suicide have been repealed in the United States and many other places.

Do not refer to an unsuccessful suicide attempt. Refer instead to an attempted suicide. …
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10 things to know today

In Ideas on 12 Dec 2013 at 3:12 pm

10 things

The Ontario Argus-Observer has started doing something that has caught the attention of many of us around the company. It’s running a package of Associated Press stories branded as “10 Things to Know Today.”

Editor Scott McIntosh said it was partly a response to shrinking newshole for wire national and international news. Scott wanted readers to have some idea of the day’s talking points, even if he couldn’t provide the full story.

“Even if it is just one sentence, our readers will at least know what someone is talking about when a friend tweets, ‘I’m praying for Oklahoma today,’” Scott said in an email to me.

Scott says AP sends out “10 Things to Know” twice a day, including once at 7 a.m. That is perfect for his cycle. Sometimes the AP sends only a headline and a sentence and he has to find the appropriate story to fill in a couple graphs. It just depends on how much space he has. … Read the rest of this entry »

Writing with style

In Associated Press on 1 Feb 2013 at 9:16 am

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My AP Stylebook is 427 pages long and has thousands of style suggestions. I have been in newspapers long enough to know the basics and, over time, have drummed much of the usual style things into my head. If you are reading this, you are probably similarly schooled in the style.

Which is not to say I don’t make mistakes every day.

I am lucky to have Julie Gerth to lean on. She is our copy editor here at the Review. She reads most of the newspaper and magazine copy before it gets in print and catches dozens of spelling and style errors every week. You have to wonder why I don’t catch some of this stuff before it gets to her.

Anyway, she periodically sends me reminders of style mistakes that reach her. She sent me one such list this week. So here, direct from Julie, are a few style things to correct in your own writing. They are somewhat random but also things that you deal with every week too.

(Oh, and remember to click the “Style Tips” tab above for more of the same.)

  • Cafe – Webster’s first spelling is without an accent, so let’s stop putting on the accent unless the business is particular about it. … Read the rest of this entry »

The back of the stylebook

In Books on 20 Sep 2012 at 10:49 am

When I was in journalism school, sometime between the Paleolithic Era and the iPod, the Associated Press Stylebook was the bible. It was emphasized in any writing course and open on every desk at the college paper. I’m not sure that’s true any more and it makes me sad.

Everyone reading these words knows it is the place to go for fairly arcane style questions – whether you need the president’s first name on first reference, how to handle military titles, etc. You know it even if you ignore it. But the more up-to-date versions of the stylebook also have sections for particular subjects and if you haven’t cracked the book in a while you might not know they are there.

Weather terminology. My 2011 version has five pages on weather style. You should take a look as we head into winter. For instance, there are specific definitions for “heavy snow.” “Severe blizzard” requires winds of 45 mph, visibility near zero and a temperature of 10 degrees or lower.

Web, Internet and Social Media Guidelines. Under “Web,” the stylebook lists five tips for reporters who use the worldwide web in their reporting. It’s basically a plea to remain skeptical. The “Internet” entry discusses domain names. And the Social Media Guidelines at the back of the book join Business Guidelines and Sports Guidelines and everyone should be familiar with that back section of the book.

By the way, you can now subscribe to web-based versions of the stylebook and there is even an app for your phone, if that’s easier. There are also AP-led chats over particular subjects. (There is a Twitter chat over football style set for 2 p.m. ET, Sept. 27.)

I’ve mentioned this before, but I want to take another stab at explaining why using the stylebook is important. Professionalism is hard to quantify. You know it when you see it. And one of the things you look for – whether you’re talking about a professional quarterback or a professional truck driver – is consistency. Good newspapers are consistent and being on the same page with respect to the stylebook is a part of that consistency.


Shot seen round the world

In Photography on 16 Dec 2010 at 5:42 pm

Let’s hear it for Matt Dunham of the Associated Press.

You have probably already seen the photo at the top of this post. It was shot at dusk one day last week, as an angry mob moved through the streets of London. (Students and others upset with the British government’s plan to raise tuition had been involved in a day of protest that turned riotous as night fell.)

As Dunham tells the Guardian newspaper, he stumbled onto a royal limo in the midst of the mayhem.

Actually, Dunham was being humble. He put himself in position to get the shot seen round the world – it was on the front page of both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal the next day – through hard work, intuition and his own savvy… Read the rest of this entry »