In 1953, the first AP Stylebook had only 20 entries; of the non-Christian faiths addressed, only two concerned Judaism. The gulf between the religious, racial, and even sports terms in the first AP Stylebook seem worlds away from the ones we use now. The current Stylebook clocks in at more than 500 pages, and finds its uses outside newsrooms or journalism school classrooms. AP style is readily recognizable by most news readers because it provides a framework for writing that focuses on clarity, consistency, and a ferocious reduction of ambiguity. That’s also why you’ll see AP style being used by bloggers, freelance writers, some copy writers, and in a number of corporate offices.
Because AP style is so prevalent, we associate it with a sense of honesty and fairness, and as a style that reflects the most current modes of language. The Stylebook is updated yearly to reflect the most current, widely-used words. That is what makes it such a good resource; our vocabularies change with the times, reflecting how our ideas of acceptable ways of speaking about religion, science, sexuality and economics are constantly evolving.
As the Internet has become more and more a part of our everyday lives, the more we have seen a boom in online news outlets, blogging sites, and other websites geared towards providing information. For many of those, 450-500 words is the average post size, which makes it that much more essential to lean on a clear and consistent style guide such as the AP Stylebook. Some writers may be initially displeased when asked to use a style guide, believing it may stifle their writing. In reality, most find this isn’t the case. When you’re using something like the AP Stylebook, it’s a foundation to write on top of, and it provides guidelines for making your writing as sharp and effective as possible. If you’re afraid of forgetting “the rules” year to year, or prefer not to use hardcopy reference books, the AP Stylebook still has you covered. The Associated Press offers the Stylebook as a spiral bound book or as an online Stylebook that’s updated in real time throughout the year, as software that loads AP style into Microsoft Word and Outlook. It’s also a plugin for your web browser, and as an iOS app.
The proliferation of digital incarnations of the Stylebook makes it easier for those who are reporting for an online audience, or doing live reporting from events. It is helpful for those whose efforts will be published on a screen, and not in a paper. Online or off, however, using AP style means committing to fair, honest, accurate and clear writing, backed up by ethical decision making about the things you write.
There is a world of difference between that first Stylebook and the current edition, and the existence of an entire chapter devoted to religion (much of it non-Christian faiths from around the world) is just one part of the fully-revised edition. The new AP Stylebook does more than reflect the world we live in—it helps us write clearly and ethically, reporting with nuance when speaking about our neighbors, at home and abroad.
by Lillian C.M.