2018 AP Stylebook, tech companies that say no, sentence starts & survey tips

By Lauren Edwards

Riding in an elevator at Yahoo, I gave the bad news to my client.

“The new AP Stylebook says no exclamation point after Yahoo,” I said.

Her eyes widened and her mouth formed a little “o.”  Her shoulders dropped. She looked down and slowly shook her head. “Now we’ll never win that battle,” she said.

I can’t quite remember the date of my exchange in the elevator, but I think it might have been 2007 or so. Yahoo itself retains the exclamation point in its name, but newspapers — and the PR industry, unless you’re on Yahoo’s PR team — write “Yahoo,” not “Yahoo!”

I bring this up because it shows the power of the Associate Press stylebook.

Here’s another AP decision that a famous company has rejected: IPhone, not iPhone when it starts a sentence. You can easily guess the reaction when I told an Apple PR team about this. I saw knitted brows that to me suggested disbelief bordering on disgust.

Alicia Silverstone in the movie “Clueless” immortalizes a phrase, “As if!”

It reminds me of the scene in the 1995 movie “Clueless” where Alicia Silverstone’s character violently shoves a boy who puts his arm around her. She says, “Ugh, as if!” She compares high school boys to dogs who “jump and slobber all over you.”

Suffice it to say that Apple firmly rejects the AP decision — understandably so.

As if! (That’s how their reaction plays in my mind.)

Newspapers, meanwhile, will abide by it.

Most likely, journalists will “write around the problem” by rephrasing sentences to avoid starting a sentence with iPhone.

The 2018 edition of the stylebook, officially released this month, adds detail that’s not likely to make waves but reminded me of things you might want to know. And below that, you’ll find info about the new edition’s new section on polls and surveys. This post also references other stuff you probably didn’t know was in the stylebook — like how to write an earnings report, avoid accidental copyright infringement and vet social media sources, among other topics.

At the very end, you’ll learn how WriteCulture’s AP style class differs from what the AP itself offers.

OK, on to the new and old stuff you might find of interest!

The new edition says it’s OK to start a sentence with a numeral if the numeral is combined with a letter: 3D and 401(k), for example.

This clarification along with the Iphone/iphone problem gave me the idea to list for you a few of the rules that relate to starts of sentences.

Yahoo’s logo includes an exclamation point, but AP style guides journalists to leave it off in news stories.

3D printers lend themselves to  …

Three days before Christmas, …

And: It was three days before Christmas …

Three percent said …

But: Only 3 percent said …

1976 was a very good year.

One thousand nine hundred seventy-six years ago, …

But: It happened 1,976 years ago

One hundred Premier League players …

But: More than 100 Premier League players …

Twenty-two years later, …

But: The answer arrived 22 years later …

IPhones flew off the shelves.

But: One million iPhones flew …

But: More than 1 million iPhones …

Speaking of numerals, I’m really happy to see that the AP Stylebook now makes it easier to look up the rules for those. In the past, you had to separately look up Decimals under D, Temperatures under T and so forth. Now, you can find all of those under N for Numerals as well as in the old places.

Oddly, the introductory page describing what’s new in the 2018 edition say it’s OK to say AR on second reference for augmented reality, but when I looked in the A section to see the entry, I couldn’t find it — neither AR nor augmented reality appear there. Did I read it wrong?

The other thing that’s new in a big way is a dedicated section called Polls and Surveys. I was enthusiastic when I heard this was coming because I thought it would help tech PR teams who nowadays write many more survey press releases than before.

But it seems primarily aimed at the problems leading up to the presidential election in 2016, when so many polls turned out to be wrong. So, for PR, here’s my old post with tips on surveys.

And here are a few words from the new AP entry that will be of interest to tech PR teams. Journalists will be asking themselves:

  • “Does the poll come from a source without a stake in the outcome of its results?”

  • “Has the poll sponsor fully disclosed the questions asked, the results of the survey and the method in which it was conducted?”

  • “Does the poll rely on a random sample of a population, in which every member of that population has a known probability of inclusion?”

Another note, from me,  if your company/client is interested in surveys: Consider asking the exact same questions year after year so you can make direct comparisons over time. Surveys are most interesting when they show changes in attitudes and behavior, more so than when they depict a static moment in time.

The 2000 and 2018 editions of the AP Stylebook side by side. They are 423 pages (1 1/4 inches thick) and 628 pages (1 1/2 inches thick), respectively.

I recommend updating your AP Stylebook and suggest you buy the spiral-bound copy directly from The Associated Press.  The AP has really risen to meet societal changes and become more inclusive well beyond professional journalists. Although the rules don’t change a lot, the extra information the AP includes now is well worth reading. There are sections about earnings reports and other business topics, copyright and other legal issues, and how to vet social media sources. There’s a section on punctuation, replete with helpful examples. There’s also an online version and “spellcheck-like” software. (I don’t recommend you buy the quizzes — they’re too broad for PR.)

Just for fun, here are the 2000 and 2018 editions side by side (413 pages and 628 pages, respectively). It’s only a quarter-inch thicker now — I was expecting a bigger size difference since there’s so much more information.

WriteCulture’s AP style course began as two stapled pages that increased to eight as my colleagues kept asking me more questions. That was back in the early 2000s, during the dot-com craze and crash. Since then, in response to demand, I kept creating quizzes specifically for tech PR teams to practice only what’s relevant to their daily work. Gradually, it became a certification program.

WriteCulture’s AP style workbook includes only what’s relevant to tech PR people and answers PR questions that aren’t in the AP Stylebook.

If you’re interested in our half-day class that’s specifically for tech PR, contact us. You get a workbook that all but replaces the AP Stylebook, rearranges information for easier use by tech PR teams, includes guidance on PR questions that aren’t part of the AP Stylebook, and combines knowledge with memory tips.

Our class, given in person (by me) in your own office, is interactive in that you will take a series of tiny quizzes between short presentations. The quizzes filter out what you already know and leave you with new awareness of what you didn’t know you didn’t know, which you then transfer to a personalized cheat sheet that also includes a table of contents for the entire WriteCulture workbook.

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WriteCulture creates, customizes and delivers workshops for technology PR teams on persuasive writing and strategic thinking. Contact us to explore the possibility of a training for your in-house or agency team.