When you write, you will likely find yourself struggling with questions. I certainly do, everything from the correct form of abbreviations to placing apostrophes. Ideally, you want to get past those questions quickly, so you can focus on the message, not the writing.
Among the tools that help us answer questions quickly and consistently are style books: those manuals that recommend certain styles or uses. They come in various flavors and you may want to have them all on hand. But more importantly, select one and use its recommendations consistently.
This week we examine the Associated Press Stylebook, a useful and frequently cited reference work for writers.
As the title suggests, it comes from the Associated Press (AP) cable service folks and serves media journalists and writers. In contrast, the Chicago Manual of Style (to cite another important reference book) serves scholars and other formal writers, as well as writers, publishers, and book publishers.
The AP Stylebook emphasizes the use of commonly cited names, events, and language. For example, under the list of murderer, explain the proper use of three similar concepts: ‘murderer’, ‘murderer’ and ‘murderer’ (in case you’re wondering, the AP book defines a murderer as a murderer for political reasons, a murderer as one who kills for any reason, and a murderer as a murderer who has been convicted in a court of law).
As journalists have to deal with deadline pressure, this book is presented as a dictionary, with entries in alphabetical order. Each entry is brief and deals with issues that journalists would face in their everyday writing.
Many entries provide a standard for capitalization, spelling, abbreviations, and other useful information. Grammar rules can be found in titles like “Possessives”.
By the way, many other news organizations, in the US and other countries, have their own style guides. In Canada, for example, there is the Canadian Press style book. So if you’re writing for a particular cable service or news organization, check to see if they have their own style guide.
The Associated Press Stylebook comes in two versions: ‘The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law’ and ‘The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Law’. The latter is as readily available as the former. Consult your bookstore for more details.