5 updates in the 2013 AP Stylebook

The journalists’ writing guide weighs in on ‘illegal immigrant,’ various foodstuffs, and an array of social media terms, among other changes as it marks its 60th anniversary.

The 2013 AP Stylebook has been published, packed with more than 90 new or updated entries as the de facto guide to news writing marks its 60th anniversary.

Before you flip through the nearly 500-page guide, which provides fundamentals for spelling, language, punctuation, usage and journalistic style, here are the most important updates to the revised edition:

1. Prohibiting “illegal immigrant.” In April, AP dropped illegal immigrant, creating both applause and controversy from the media, political leaders, and the Internet. “The Stylebook no longer sanctions the term ‘illegal immigrant’ or the use of ‘illegal’ to describe a person,” AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll wrote in a blog post. “Instead, it tells users that ‘illegal’ should describe only an action, such as living in or immigrating to a country illegally.”

Following AP’s move, The New York Times reconsidered its use of illegal immigrant to “provide more nuance and options,” tweeted Public Editor Margaret Sullivan. Journalist-turned-advocate Jose Antonio Vargas has pressured media outlets to drop the term because of its offensive meaning. In Washington, D.C., Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said she didn’t “really get caught up in the vocabulary wars.”

However, not all agreed with the move. “Fox & Friends” co-host Steve Doocy said, “This is just the AP’s little way of doing some cheerleading, trying to push immigration reform in Congress.” Acceptable variations include living in or entering a country illegally or without legal permission.

2. Expanded social media section. As social media continues its ascendance, proper style must be reflected. New terms include circles, flash mob, and Google Hangout. Editors have also broadened information about how to secure, authenticate, attribute, and reference user-generated context for text, photo captions, and video scripts.

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3. New rules for numerals. Numerals are now preferred for all distances and dimensions, and a four-page section provides nearly 200 examples of when to use figures or not. Some examples include: She ran 5 miles; he sank a 4-foot shot; the room is 3 feet wide and 7 feet high.

4. Refined fashion, food, and sports guidelines. New fashion listings include Armani, Versace, chichi, froufrou, paillette and soigne; food items include flat iron steak, Salisbury steak, and upside-down cake; and sports rules include updated breakdowns of college basketball and football conference affiliations and various types of auto racing.

5. Revised and various entries. To ensure clean copy, linguists can study additional terms and definitions such as Advent, Alaska Native, Asperger’s syndrome, athletic trainers in Sports Guidelines, disabled/handicapped, doughnut, dumpster, ethnic cleansing, homicide/murder/manslaughter, moped, populist, rack/wrack, red carpet, swag, underway, wacky, and wildfires.

Writers can order the 2013 AP Stylebook online and can follow @APStylebook for additional updates.

A version of this article first appeared on InkHouse.net.

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