This just in: Updates in 2019 AP Stylebook — STEM, data, hyphens, video games, cryptocurrency, infinitives and headlines

By Lauren Edwards

I’m on the early-delivery list, so the 2019 AP Stylebook landed on my doorstep five days ago. Rather than making you wait for my usual post on Thursday, I’m sharing the details with you today.

Here are the revisions that affect tech PR people:

No more quotation marks around video-game titles like World of Warcraft.

Under blog, AP adds a new line: Don’t put quotation marks around the name of the blog. (You knew that — likewise for column names.)

Now it’s data is, not data are. This is a semi-reversal of previous years. AP used to describe different usages of the word. Now it says: “… typically takes singular verbs and pronouns…” when writing for the general public.

But for scientific and academic writing, plural is preferred.

STEM is now acceptable on first reference. But writers are advised to spell out “science, technology, engineering and math” somewhere soon after.

You’ve already heard it’s now 8%, not 8 percent — as of this year. But the book fails to give guidance on what to do when the sentence starts with a numeral. For example, we could write: “Eight percent said no.” But it would look really weird to write: “Eight % said no.”

I’ve been telling people to start the sentence with numerals (not spelled out words) when statistics are shared in bullets in a press release, and to rewrite to avoid the problem within a paragraph.

There’s a long new entry on cryptocurrency and a lengthened entry on bitcoin. (Capitalize Bitcoin when referring to the system, but lowercase it when referring to a form of payment. Example: “The government wants to regulate Bitcoin. He bought a vacuum cleaner online using bitcoins.”)

The new cryptocurrency entry defines terms and explains mechanisms. Terms there include miners, blockchain and other types of digital currency systems.

It’s nicely simplified, and for that reason alone worth a look.

Hyphens got big attention. There aren’t new rules, but guidance is longer and more detailed.

Things like:

  • Rephrase to avoid using a ton of hyphens in compound modifiers
  • No hyphens in double-e combos — reelection, preempt
  • No hyphen anymore for passerby and bestseller

Other guidance:

  • Do split your infinitives

There’s a longer entry on headlines that now includes details that have always been called out in WriteCulture’s AP style class for tech PR.

Examples:

  • Use numerals in headlines even if they normally would be spelled out
  • Single quotes — not double quotes — in headlines
  • Suggestions on how to think up a good headlines

Likewise, there’s a lot more on composition titles, which means things like names of songs, news articles, TV shows and reference books.

It’s still not great. For one thing, the term “composition title” itself is meaningful to exactly no one. We might say names or titles. But in AP, titles means something else — job titles, courtesy titles like Dr., the pope, the president and so forth. That’s covered in detail in WriteCulture’s class.

As I said at the top, game titles no longer take quotation marks. This is something you won’t easily see in the new book unless you read the “What’s new” page at the front.

The term “game titles” is simply gone from the “composition titles” list that still includes books, movies, plays, speeches, lectures …

Here’s my post from April when a few changes were announced in advance of the new book’s release.

At the end of that post, there are links to more posts on AP style.

People ask me if they need a new stylebook. Depending on the year, I say yes or no. This year, I’ll say, “Why not, if you can?” The AP Stylebook’s ever-improving clarity and extra writing advice has made the more recent books increasingly worthwhile.

You don’t *need* it, especially if you already have one of WriteCulture’s workbooks. You can look at my posts to get up to date. But it’s nice to have.

I always advise buying the spiral-bound version, because it’s easier to flip through and leave open on your desk. That’s available from the AP itself.

Obviously, there are online versions as well. Search functions are nice. But the guidance still requires a lot of back-and-forth cross-referencing, which I find easier by hand. You know, you put your fingers or a pen or something to mark your spot, and then another spot, and then perhaps another — and then flip back and forth to compare entries. It’s faster.

Once just for journalists, the AP now makes its stylebook increasingly helpful to everyone, whether journalist, blogger or other creator of content.

Sure, that’s a good business decision — more sales for a wider audience. But I appreciate the inclusive improvements. You gotta love an organization that is trying to really hear people and be of service. Thanks, AP!

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Lauren Edwards is a former reporter for the Associated Press. She has been creating, customizing and delivering workshops for science and technology teams since 2000.

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