Almost all news publications, both print and online, follow the AP Stylebook. Likewise, most public relations professionals follow – or should follow – the style book. When PR pros follow AP style in press releases and other article submissions, it make’s journalists’ jobs easier and they are more likely to select the content for publication.
Publications and corporate communications departments sometimes intentionally deviate from the crowd and chose to ignore certain AP rules. Some writers, editors and PR professionals disdain certain style rules, especially newer controversial ones, and advocate ignoring them. These are some of the unpopular style guidelines.
State abbreviations. In 2014, the AP said state abbreviations, which were different from postal abbreviations, should be spelled out except when in datelines, tables, lists or photo captions. It said the change would help create consistency and efficiency for international and domestic copy. However, the change only seems to make stories longer, argues Kenna Griffin, assistant professor of mass communications at Oklahoma City University, in an article for Muck Rack. Many publications and PR professionals continue to use standard postal abbreviations for state names.
Hyphens. Hyphens can give editors headaches, but the latest AP guidance does little to ease their pain. “If a word isn’t a compound modifier (which always take hyphens), you pretty much have to look it up or memorize it to know,” Griffin says. “For example, the AP hyphenates best-seller, but doesn’t hyphenate halftime. What? It really is as if the AP makes hyphenation decisions on a case-by-case basis.”
The internet. After years of capitalizing “the internet,” the 2016 AP Stylebook instructs us to lowercase it. AP argued that the change follows common usage. It’s wrong to simply follow the crowd, argues Slate editor Seth Maxon. “If we’re to have standards for capping anything, it makes sense to cap the internet,” he says. “We capitalize nouns when specific ones are absolutely singular.
The split infinitive. The book recommends avoiding awkward constructions of the split infinitive “in general.” It provides examples. For instance:
Awkward: There stood the wagon that we had early last autumn left by the barn.
Preferred: There stood the wagon that we had left by the barn early last autumn.
Yet the AP style book also concedes that a split infinitive is occasionally not awkward and necessary to convey meaning. “In short, the whole entry is contradictory and incoherent,” laments John E. McIntyre at The Baltimore Sun.
The Client is Always Right
There’s another reason for ignoring AP Stylebook rules: When your client says to. PR writers and corporate editors can educate clients about the rules, but the client has final say.
“Whatever the decision, the editors need to make sure deviations from AP style rules are documented (or updated) in the company style guide so that everyone creating content knows and follows the rules,” advises Darcy De Leon, a content editor for Fortune 500 corporations, in her blog. “That ensures that all content is consistent and in keeping with the company’s brand.”
Bottom Line: PR and corporate communications writers and editors typically hear advice about following the AP Stylebook guidance. However, both journalists and corporations sometimes pick which rules to heed. Some PR pros and writing experts advocate ignoring certain stylebook rules.
What AP style rules do you disdain and ignore? Please comment below.
William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, media measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.