Magazine article Information Today

Ready Reference

Magazine article Information Today

Ready Reference

Article excerpt

The first Associated Press Stylebook was 60 pages, bound together with staples, a basic guide for newswriting. It has evolved into a comprehensive reference manual that fills more than 600 pages and is published in Spanish as well as English across an array of digital platforms, encompassing the collective wisdom of the AP staff and Stylebook readers.

-Introduction, The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law 2017

When I first sat behind a public library reference desk many years ago (shortly after cuneiform tablets went out of vogue), I had at my fingertips an array of dead-tree tomes from which fast answers could be mined. You know, the kind of stuff everyone looks up instantly online now. As one of my sons says- whenever I ask questions such as, "Which team did he play for before going to the Twins?" or "How many years has she been in the Senate?"-"We need not wonder." And he whips out his smartphone and enlightens me in a nanosecond. (His manual dexterity is much better than mine.)

But there is one dead-tree reference book that has accompanied me through decades of employment in all sorts of library and non-library jobs. And that would be The Associated Press (AP) Stylebook: "The industry's best-selling reference for more than 30 years, essential for journalists, students, editors and writers in all professions."

Beyond Grammar and Punctuation

No matter where you work, if you do any writing at all, it's important to sweat the small stuff. Grammar and punctuation matter a great deal in terms of the impression you make. And it's not all that easy to keep track of the plethora of rules, although much of this effort ends up as the cognitive equivalent of muscle memory over time-especially if you frequently edit documents created by other people.

But not all of it sticks. For so many of us-as with the spelling of certain words-we often end up having to consult some sort of reference source each time a particular issue arises. There are so many rules regarding punctuation, capitalization, abbreviations, formatting (e.g., italics), usage (e.g., ensure/insure/assure), numerals, and gender/pronouns. And conventions change over time (e.g., gender/ pronouns).

There are many good online resources to help with this kind of stuff, but I remain wedded to the dead-tree version of The AP Stylebook. Organized alphabetically, with an extensive punctuation guide and a thorough index (90-plus pages), it's so easy to just pick the thing up and flip right to what you need. If you prefer digital (or perhaps you need it as a resource in a library or another multi-user environment), you can get the searchable AP Stylebook Online. It's also available as a mobile app.

The AP Stylebook was created by journalists affiliated with the Associated Press, which is "an independent, not-for-profit news cooperative" owned by its U.S. newspaper and broadcast members. Although originally intended for reporters, it has become the standard reference for non-academic communication, notably in corporate marketing and public relations.

The first publicly available edition of The AP Stylebook was published in 1953. It has morphed over time into much more than a reference for grammar and punctuation. The 2017 edition includes specialized Guidelines sections for broadcast, business, data journalism, fashion, food, religion, and sports, which address issues specific to these subject areas. …

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