The Associated Press wire service has been shaping writing, grammar and style choices around the world since its founding in 1846. As the leading authority of writing style in journalism, AP publishes the Associated Press Stylebook and updates it yearly to reflect changing style preferences for grammar, politics, culture, and every other topic covered in publications around the world. AP editors track popular usage as well as newsroom trends, expert commentary and classroom questions to determine appropriate changes to the guide.
Gary Pruitt, president and CEO of AP, notes that some of the most interesting changes came about as a result of conversations on Twitter. Follow @APStylebook to participate in shaping the future of AP style. All changes reflect AP’s original goal of being “clear, fair and concise around the globe, no matter what the news is or where it happens.”
Front Edge Publishing uses AP style as the basis for the Front Edge house style. Front Edge editors are trained in a variety of styles and prioritize the author’s intent and preference, but lean on AP due to its emphasis on readability, accessibility and fair treatment of all people.
The 2019 edition of the AP Stylebook has more than 200 updates. Check out the biggest changes below:
The percent sign (%) can now be used immediately after a numeral, with no space. For example, 16% of people voted against the referendum. This is a change from spelling out percent in all instances. Continue to spell out percent in casual use: There is a zero percent chance of that happening. See the 2019 entry for further guidance on plural and singular use, as well as a breakdown between percentage and percentage points.
Entry: Accent Marks
AP now suggests using accent marks and other diacritical marks when printing names of people who either request or widely use them. This extends to quoting languages that use them as well. AP editors note that many computer systems cannot currently process all diacritical marks. This is the first step to widespread use and will lead to correctly printing people’s names and languages around the world.
AP has significantly expanded its entry on suicide. Reporting on suicide is still in its infancy compared to reporting on other topics, as the majority of newspapers used to have a very simple rule when it came to submitting stories related to suicide: don’t. The 2019 entry includes guidelines on phrasing and terminology with regard to terminal illness and providing resources and hotline information in the story itself. AP indicates details should not be published in suicide stories.
Entry: (sic) See: Quotations in the News
AP style no longer supports printing (sic) in quotations to indicate misspellings or incorrect grammar. Instead, paraphrase the quote, print it as it was said if the speaker emphasized the part that does not comply with AP style, or use an ellipses to cut out the part of the sentence in question. Do not rewrite quoted text, even if the quote does not agree with AP style.
Entry: Race-related Coverage
This entry has been significantly expanded in the 2019 edition. It is well worth reviewing in its entirety. Covered topics include when it is appropriate to refer to an individual’s race in a story, specific definitions of racism and what terms to use or avoid. AP notes black and white should not be used as singular nouns. For plurals, use phrasing like “black people, white people, black teachers, white students …” Do not use euphemisms like racially charged when racist is applicable.
As part of the entry, AP has removed the hyphen when referencing dual heritage. That means terms like African American and Asian American are no longer hyphenated. This extends to non-American dual heritages as well. The example AP uses is Turkish German to refer to a German person of Turkish descent.
Entry: Hyphen (-)
The hyphen entry is found in the punctuation chapter. In addition to the dual heritage reference changes detailed above, AP has loosened the rule about hyphens in compound modifiers and other uses. As a general rule, hyphens are to be used to aid reader comprehension. If the inclusion of a hyphen is unnecessary because the reader will understand the sentence regardless, exclude the hyphen. For example, chocolate chip cookie is unlikely to be less understood than chocolate-chip cookie. However, a hyphen would be helpful in the case of French-speaking people, particularly if the story involves people who have taken a vow of silence. This means that hyphenation can now be decided on a case by case basis. If a sentence ends up with too many hyphens despite their use in aiding comprehension, AP recommends rephrasing.
Another notable change to hyphenation include the removal of hyphens involving double-e combinations, like in reelection.
Various New Entries
The 2019 AP Stylebook contains some brand new entries related to new developments in world culture, technology and politics. These include cryptocurrency, deepfake, vaping, “right-to-work” and others. Note that new entries often relate to new concepts or developments in the world, and likely should be explained on first use.
Nations and Borders
In addition to terms and style choices, AP style covers the correct references to nations around the world. As nations and borders change, so does AP style. In the 2019 edition, the following changes have been incorporated:
- Macao (formerly Macau)
- Ecuadorian (formerly Ecuadorean)
- North Macedonia (formerly Macedonia)
Star Trek Grammar Triumphs
To boldly go …
AP now officially supports the use of split infinitives to aid comprehension and ease of reading. A split infinitive is when another word, usually an adverb, appears between ‘to’ and an infinitive form of a verb, as illustrated in the quote above.
New Chapter: Health and Science
The style guide includes additional chapters following the reference section of alphabetized terms, including separate sections on punctuation, business reporting, understanding polls and surveys, interacting with social media, sports, fashion and food reporting, as well as a briefing on media law. The 2019 edition includes a new chapter on health and science to aid reporters in writing on this complicated and often contentious topic.
Health and science reporting must be done especially carefully, as the personal decisions readers may make after reading a story will likely have much greater impact on their quality of life than stories related to other topics. The new section covers how to evaluate potential medical stories, how to read, understand and evaluate studies, scientific journals and when to use colloquialisms like high blood pressure as opposed to hypertension.
Finally, a Ruling on Santa
AP’s new entry on Santa reads:
Santa Claus, Santa: Nice in any reference. Naughty: Using Claus on second reference. Mrs. Claus is acceptable for Santa’s wife. See Kriss Kringle.
The Associated Press Stylebook is available in a variety of bindings, as well as Stylebook Online. Discounts are available for next year via subscription.