5 AP style changes PR pros should know

The resource that has become many communicators’ bible is changing the rules by presenting a new image with new terms, fewer capitals and a search-friendly redesign.

For many PR pros, the AP Stylebook is an oft-referenced (and revered) staple for press releases and other copy.

On June 1, the reference added or revised roughly 250 entries to its 2016 edition, and AP Stylebook’s editors are continually considering new terms:

Though many additions and revisions are more apt to be used by journalists reporting current events and breaking news, PR pros should be aware of several changes and features to this year’s edition:

1. The terms “internet” and “web” are no longer capitalized.

One of the biggest—and most debated—changes to AP Stylebook’s 2016 edition is that the once-capitalized “Internet” is now lowercase:

“Web” also lost its capitalization. For tech-savvy PR pros, the change also applies if you’re writing about the “internet of things”:

“Yes, that means the grammatical tyranny of the internet as a proper noun is nearly dead,” The Verge ‘s Dante D’Orazio wrote.

Though The Verge used the lowercase “internet” before the change on June 1, The New York Times and The Washington Post were among publications that changed to reflect the new rule. (PR Daily editors grudgingly made the change as well.)

AP Stylebook also added “emoji” to 2016’s edition, with the following definition:

A symbol, such as a cartoon face, hand gesture, animal or other object, that might be used instead of a word or as an illustration in text messages or on social media. Plural: emojis.

2. Mason jars are out; Dagwoods and PB&Js are in.

Though far less controversial than “internet,” the change from “Mason jar” to “canning jar” spurred discussion among communicators.

AP’s entry now reads:

Glass jar used to preserve food. Named for John Mason, who patented a system of jars and self-sealing zinc lids in 1858. Canning jar is preferred.

The entry is one of a bevvy of food-related terms that have been added to this year’s edition. Colleen Newvine, AP Stylebook’s product manager, further explains:

We added numerous food entries, many of them international dishes to help with spelling. The one that’s been getting the most chatter is the direction to use canning jar instead of Mason jar, because not all canning jars are Mason jars.

Other additions include “Dagwood” (an “oversized sandwich named for comic strip character Dagwood Bumstead”), “kombucha” (“a fermented, slightly effervescent tea beverage” that “can contain trace amounts of alcohol”), “gochujang” (“fermented Korean chili paste”) and “shawarma” (a “Middle Eastern sandwich of slow-roasted meat topped with hummus and served in flatbread”).

PB&J is also now an accepted abbreviation for a “peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”

3. Go ahead—use “spokesperson.”

When referring to an organization’s spokesman or spokeswoman, AP style now allows use of the gender-neutral term “spokesperson.”

AP Stylebook editors also added an entry for “media”:

Generally takes a plural verb, especially when the reference is to individual outlets: Media are lining up for and against the proposal. The word is often preceded by “the.” Sometimes used with a singular verb when referring to media as a monolithic group: The media plays a major role in political campaigns.

PR pros should note that “media” is often used as a catchall term for words such as “journalists,” “editors,” “news outlets” and “media coverage.” We at Ragan Communications suggest using specific terms, whenever possible.

[FREE DOWNLOAD: 10 punctuation essentials]

AP Stylebook has not yet ruled on the use of singular “they”:

Several publications, including The Washington Post, use the singular “they.”

4. Are Chanel, Betsey Johnson and Marc Jacobs turning to “normcore?”

If you’re a PR pro that frequently writes press releases, articles and pitches about fashion, this year’s AP Stylebook edition added several designers—including Marc Jacobs, Uniqlo, Tommy Hilfiger, Karl Lagerfeld, Chanel and Betsey Johnson.

“Normcore”—which AP Stylebook defines as “A fashion trend that combines “normal” and “hardcore” and is characterized by unpretentious, unisex, average dressing”— has also been added.

The entries can serve as a resource for pitches and blog posts, but the resource’s editors make no ruling on whether a piece of clothing is considered “normcore.”

5. Easily find answers to your burning AP-style questions.

Additional entries and changes to commonly used terms aren’t the only differences in this year’s edition.

“We redesigned the pages of the book, so we hope the book is easier to use,” Newvine says. “A redesign of the website is in the works.”

A press release further states:

The interior page redesign features new typography to make entries easier to find and read and the addition of navigational tabs on the sides of pages.

PR pros can order a new version online (you’ll save if you sign up for annual delivery) or subscribe to the AP Stylebook online, which updates entries throughout the year:

Learn more on Tuesday, June 21, starting at 3 p.m. Eastern time in our Twitter #RaganChat. Newvine and AP Stylebook editor Paula Froke will be our special guests.

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