10 language tips—from the Fake AP Stylebook

One of the 17 Bureau Chiefs behind @FakeAPStylebook on Twitter and the new book Write More Good selects some gems.

About a year-and-a-half ago, two guys I know via the Internet—but have never met in person—came up with an idea for a Twitter account. Ken Lowery and Mark Hale’s idea, @FakeAPStylebook, now has more than 200,000 Twitter followers, and, as of last Tuesday, has fostered a book titled Write More Good.

I had the pleasure of helping to write that book—which, if you were wondering, is 95 percent all-new material you can’t find on the Twitter feed—along with my 16 or so fellow Bureau Chiefs. And I still write some of the Twitter entries.

At some point in the life of the feed, it went beyond being about grammar and usage, and became more of an all-purpose journalism satire mechanism. (A favorite joke of my own, “It is unethical to get involved in a sexual relationship with a source, so after this next time it is seriously over,” isn’t exactly a stylebook joke, for instance.) Still, we’ve done our fair share of jokes about grammar, punctuation, style and usage, and many of them were even pretty good.

So I culled through the Twitter archives (sorry, folks, you gotta pay for the stuff in the book) to find 10 of my favorites:

  • Always remember to close all parentheses. We’re not paying to air condition the entire paragraph.
  • The passive voice should be avoided by you.
  • When referring to Spider-Man, “Web head” can now be written as “webhead.”
  • Affect is verb: “The songs of Liza Minnelli affected the crops.” Effect is noun: “Behold the effect Liza has on the corn!”
  • “Under way” is always two words, except, you know, when people say it.
  • Use the mehxclamation point, ¡, to show how unexciting something is. Example: Eventually, the snail race began¡
  • One group of giant ants is “Them,” multiple groups is “Thems.”
  • When considering whether to write in dialect, please don’t.
  • The antecedent for “she” in “that’s what she said” is generally understood to be “your mom.”
  • Remember, brevity is.

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