Stylebooks are indispensable tools for writers, from journalists at the New York Times to independent bloggers. And for many writers, “stylebook” means only one: the version put out by The Associated Press.
“The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law,” usually referred to as simply the AP Stylebook, celebrated its 60th anniversary last year crypto tracker app. Describing itself as “the definitive resource for journalists,” the AP Stylebook provides guidance on spelling, usage, punctuation and style. (1) As you might imagine, this task requires flexibility; the current edition does not much resemble the first in content, even if its goals remain the same.
The print edition is updated periodically, most recently in 2013. However, the AP Stylebook is also available online, allowing for up-to-the-moment updates and direct answers to subscriber questions.
With a few exceptions, I use the AP Stylebook as a guide for my professional publications. Our firm’s online Stylebook subscription makes it simple to look up a name or a point of style. As part of that subscription, we receive periodic email updates of major changes. A recent one serves as an interesting sampling of what is on the minds of journalists and those who read their articles.
Curious nonsubscribers can typically see a selection of the major changes through the Stylebook’s social media channels, including Twitter and Facebook. Both accounts suggested followers use the hashtag #ACES2014 (referring to the American Copy Editors Society’s annual conference, where recent AP Stylebook changes were unveiled). Many of them did. When a stylebook is this widely used, any changes are bound to draw reactions ranging from sighs of relief to indignant protests.
The change that seems to have created one of the loudest outcries this year was tucked into the middle of the email we received, and was relatively brief: “more than, over: Acceptable in all uses to indicate greater numerical value. Salaries went up more than $20 a week. Salaries went up over $20 a week.”
For those readers not interested in the intricacies of stylebook grammar, previously “more than” was used with numbers and “over” was designated for the physical relationship of objects. Supporters say the change reflects a shift in the way people actually use language; detractors claim that it is an excuse for sloppiness. Mike Shor, a professor at the University of Connecticut, tweeted of the change, “More than my dead body!” David Ingram, a correspondent for Reuters, replied to him saying simply, “Reuters style is unchanged.” (2)
From the reactions, you might imagine nothing in the latest round of style changes was more important than the over-more than debate. But while the grammatical shift may have been the most controversial, other updates reflect more significant changes in our society and in the shorthand we use when we discuss newsworthy topics.