Saturday, August 19, 2006

Some AP Stylebook Rules Deserve to be Broken

PRSA’s Strategist magazine recently discussed an issue regarding diversity and the AP Stylebook. At issue was use of the lowercase black rather than Black when referring to the racial group. Some readers criticized the magazine for doing so just because the AP Stylebook says to. Interestingly, the folks over at AP say the rule is lowercase because that’s what newspapers do. And the cycle continues.

In my editing, I’ve always used uppercase for racial and ethnic terms, like Black and White. It’s both respectful and logical.

After reading the discussion, I got to thinking about other AP rules that deserve to be broken. Here are a few from the styleguide I created for my organization. Interestingly, two are kind-of gender-related.

1. Chairman, Chairwoman: I agree with AP about not using chairperson. It says to use chairman or chairwoman. I prefer chair (“The chair of the board said…”). It’s clear and brief.

2. His, Her: These AP guys actually state that “the pronoun his when an indefinite antecedent may be male or female.” (They also approve of the use of mankind.) Excuse me! The better choice is to either use his or her, use he or she, or revise the sentence from singular to plural. Though I am icked-out by combination forms like he/she and (s)he.

3. Abbreviations and Acronyms: This is the one I struggle with the most. AP says not to follow an organization’s name with an abbreviation or acronym in parentheses. Every time I try to follow this rule, I hear about readers getting confused – even coworkers who know what the acronym stands for. Ed Tijerina, columnist for the San Antonio Express-News has repeatedly expressed dismay that most PR folks break this rule. It is by far his pet peeve. The conflict though is that acronyms are jargon, and the more jargon you have, the less likely the piece will be read. But taking out the first-reference acronyms causes confusion and slows reading, which means the piece is less likely to be read.

What do you think? What AP Stylebook rules do you break (on purpose)?

1 comment:

Vince Czyz said...

I guess you are a white guy--lower case. the NAACP some decades ago voted for black, lower case, to coincide with the common usage of white, also lower case.