Wick Communications

Posts Tagged ‘Style’

Tweeting in style

In Writing on 3 Apr 2014 at 12:56 pm

style art

Unbeknownst to me, the venerable Economist has a style guide and a Twitter handle dedicated to spreading the word. @econstyleguide has more than 12,000 followers and suggests, “our word is final.”

It’s right up my alley and I want to thank Sierra Vista Herald Publisher Phil Vega for sending it my way.

There have been 1,000 style tweets from the editors of the Economist, including:

  • Journalists often speak of someone’s meteoric rise, forgetting, it seems, that meteors are better known for falling to Earth.
  • “Strategic” is usually meaningless except to tell you that the writer is trying to invest something with a seriousness it does not deserve.
  • If something really is interesting, you probably do not need to say so.
  • Short words: Use them. They are easy to spell and easy to understand. Thus prefer about to approximately, after to following, but to however.

Great, right? Incidentally, the Economist isn’t the only style guide on Twitter. The Chicago Manual of Style is @ChicagoManual and the ubiquitous AP Stylebook is @APStylebook.

You should follow all three and also follow the advice offered there. And what if you offered your Twitter followers something similar? They could even be in the form of a question to followers. Ask them questions of local capitalization and the like. You might get some interesting responses. Your feed needn’t only be used for breaking news and pushing links. Have some fun with it.



Why consistent style matters

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

Screen Shot 2013-09-27 at 10.58.54 AM

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.” … Read the rest of this entry »

The new stylebooks are here!

In Associated Press on 12 Sep 2013 at 1:32 pm


I just picked up my copy of the 2013 Associated Press Stylebook and I’m glad I did.

It’s easy to convince yourself that you don’t need another one of these things lying around, but recent updates have had some useful stuff about brand-new digital topics.

The 2013 edition includes 90 revised entries, including important changes about illegal immigration and the college sports conferences, which seem to change with the weather. But more important still, for me, is a lot of good information about using social networks. Make that a ton of good information, from how to use Twipho to search social networks for photos to the meaning of abbreviations like BRB.

Perhaps you are wondering why we should cling to an AP product that was first published 60 years ago when most of us don’t even use the Associated Press anyway. The answer is professionalism.

Even if they can’t quite explain why The New York Times is better than the New Bedford Herald, readers know that the Times employs a consistency of language and usage that can only be the product of great deliberation and careful editing. You want to aspire to that standard. One way to do that is to make sure that every time you write “hashtag” in your copy that you do it the same way, one word, as suggested in the industry bible. … Read the rest of this entry »

Finding your elusive style

In Books on 28 Jun 2013 at 7:34 am


If you are reading this, you know that The Elements of Style is the bible of American journalists. E.B. White (famed as a children’s author) and William Strunk (a long-dead English professor) penned a rational, readable and brief outline for anyone wishing to be a better writer.

If you haven’t read it lately, you should.

I’m particularly fond of the final chapter, called “An Approach to Style.” It begins with the authors’ acknowledgement that they are stepping off of firm grammatical ground and into the squishy turf of subjective sentence structure.

The advice is simple, obvious and ignored by writers everywhere. Place yourself in the background. Write in a way that comes naturally. Work from a suitable design. Use nouns and verbs. Revise and rewrite. Do not overwrite. Do not overstate. Avoid the use of qualifiers. Do not affect a breezy manner. Use orthodox spelling. Do not explain too much. Do not construct awkward adverbs. Make sure the reader knows who is talking. Don’t use fancy words. Do not use dialect unless your ear is good. Be clear. Do not inject opinion. Use figures of speech sparingly. Do not take shortcuts at the expense of clarity. Avoid foreign languages. Prefer the standard to the offbeat.

While we hold these truths to be self-evident, there is ample evidence that we don’t think much of the truth. We ignore clarity and overwrite. We seek to impress with adverbs, of all things. We try to write like our heroes though we know we can no more write like Henry James than dunk a basketball like LeBron James. … Read the rest of this entry »

Writing with style

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

Picture 2

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.


Email me on your cellphone

In journalism on 25 Mar 2011 at 8:30 am

Only in the sometimes-arcane world of newspaper copyediting would this seem like a really big deal. On Friday, the Associated Press issued the following alert to its members:

The Associated Press is changing its style on e-mail to email, cell phone to cellphone and smart phone to smartphone to reflect increasingly common usage. It is also adopting Kolkata as its style for the Indian city formerly known as Calcutta.

The alert said the change would take place at 3 a.m. EDT Saturday, March 19. (God help you, if you started using “email” Friday night!)

The release, issued appropriately enough at the 2011 meeting of the American Copy Editors Society, says the change is already evident in the online version of the stylebook and will be reflected in the next printed book. As if to show how cool the change is, AP editors use the following entry for “smartphone:”

smartphone An advanced cellphone that allows for email, Web browsing and downloadable applications. (Look how they use all three new words in a single sentence!)

Seriously, I think it’s important to follow AP style. If you deviate you should have a reason other than sloth. It’s OK to have your own local style if you are consistent. But following AP style allows you to follow consistent style without having to get your hands dirty with the details of whether it should be “cell phone” or “cellphone.” … Read the rest of this entry »

CA, Calif., California

In Associated Press, Uncategorized on 14 May 2010 at 8:20 am

Whoops! Alert reader Matt Hickman points out that this particular directive has been delayed indefinitely. On its Web site, the AP says plans to do away with state name abbreviations have been delayed due to “technical issues” and complaints from members. I have a call into the Stylebook people in New York and hope to get some further clarification. I’ll keep the post up for purposes of discussion. But please know AP will continue to use the abbreviations for the time being. Sorry for the confusion. Clay

Here’s one I knew nothing about, until alert reader and Williston Herald Managing Editor Jacob Brooks brought it to my attention. It seems the AP is about to rock my world.

A few weeks back, the Associated Press announced it was doing away with those state name abbreviations (Calif., Okla., S.D., etc.) that have become like second nature to editors everywhere. The change is to take effect Saturday, May 15.

From the horse’s mouth:

The Associated Press is changing its style on state abbreviations and Canadian cities to create a consistent and universal style for international and domestic use. Starting May 15, the proper style will be to spell out the names of U.S. states in all stories and datelines where a city is followed by a state name. SACRAMENTO, Calif., for example, will become SACRAMENTO, California. We also will drop the practice of including names of Canadian provinces in datelines. We will instead use Canada. VANCOUVER, British Columbia, for example, will become VANCOUVER, Canada… Read the rest of this entry »