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Saturday, November 5, 2011

AP Style Book

When you write, you likely find yourself grappling with questions. I for certain do, everything from the suitable form of abbreviations to the placement of apostrophes. Ideally, you would like to get past those questions rapidly, so you'll be able to center on the subject matter, not the writing.

Among the tools that helps us resolve questions speedily and consistently are stylebooks: those manuals that commend certain styles or usage. They come in a number of flavors and you may wish to have all of them on hand. But, more significantly, select one and use its recommendations consistently.

This week we look at the Associated Press Stylebook, a useful and frequently-cited reference work for authors.

As the title indicates, it comes from the people at the Associated Press (AP) news agency, and serves journalists and mass-media writers. By way contrast, the Chicago Manual of Style (to cite another significant reference book) serves academics et al who write formally, as well as book writers, editors, and publishers.

The AP Stylebook accentuates usage of generally referenced names, events, and language. For instance, under the listing for assassin, it explains the suitable employment of three similar concepts: 'assassin,' 'killer,' and 'murderer' (in case you were wondering, the AP book specifies an assassin as a politically motivated killer, a killer as anyone who kills with any motive, and a murderer as a killer who has been convicted in a court of law).

Since journalists must deal with the pressure of deadlines, this book is presented like a dictionary, with the entries in alphabetical order. Each entry is brief and deals with issues that journalists would confront in everyday writing.

Many entries offer a standard for capitalization, spelling, use of abbreviations, and other valuable information. Rules for grammar can be found under headings such as 'Possessives'.

Incidentally, many other news organizations, in the U.S. and other countries, have their own style guides. In Canada, for example, there's the Canadian Press stylebook. So, if you're writing for a particular wire-service or news organization, check to see if they have their own style guide.

The Associated Press Stylebook comes in two flavors: 'The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law,' and 'The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Law.' The latter is as readily available as the former. Check your bookstore for details.

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