Five Updates to the 2017 Associated Press Stylebook

Jun 06, 2017 Rachel Nelson

It’s that time of year again! Launched May 31, the 2017 AP Stylebook includes nearly 200 new and updated entries. The gold standard in publishing guidelines, we eagerly await its release each year.

Anyone tune-in to the #APStyleChat last week? AP Stylebook editor Paula Froke shared useful tips, such as how VR is acceptable on second reference for virtual reality, but don’t use AR for augmented reality.

Without further ado, here are some of the most important updates from this year’s edition:

  1. Cyberattacks: A “routinely overused” word according to the editors, guidance on the definition of cyberattack is one of the new entries in the 2017 edition. Writers should avoid using “cyberattack” in cases where data has been merely stolen or leaked unless the consequences are catastrophic. For help in determining whether to call something a cyberattack, consider an action’s equivalent in the physical world.

  2. An entire food chapter: Foodies rejoice! New food terms in the Stylebook include kimchi, avocado toast, Belgian waffle, bone broth, chimichurri, confit, frittata, paleo, poke, ramen and tiramisu. Additionally, only capitalize the proper name in foods named for people, such as beef Wellington and bananas Foster.

  3. Data journalism: A entirely new chapter in the Stylebook incorporates expanded guidance on data journalism, with tips for all journalists. (We’ve thought a lot about data for PR storytelling as well. Learn more about our point-of-view.) Here are some highlights of the chapter:

    • When exploring the relationship between two variables, be careful to distinguish correlation from causation

    • Data sources, much like human sources, should be evaluated for reliability, currency, scope and bias. 

      Read full AP Style guidelines


  4. Gender: Language around gender is evolving. After much debate, “singular they” as a non-gendered pronoun has been included in the 2017 edition. “Gender refers to a person’s social identity while sex refers to biological characteristics. Not all people fall under one of two categories for sex or gender, according to leading medical organizations, so avoid references to both, either or opposite sexes or genders as a way to encompass all people.” Note that gender neutral pronouns like “ze” and “xe” are not allowed. 

  5. Oxford comma: This one isn’t an update per se, but it’s a clarification lest we forget the class-action lawsuit this year that resulted from the Oxford comma, the most polarizing of punctuation marks. The AP Stylebook still recommends the comma before the final and in a simple series, but the new entry clarifies that there are instances where the Oxford comma is needed for clarity, and when it is, AP writers should use it. Thanks Grammar Girl for your help on this one!

Revisit past AP Stylebook updates ‒ like the historic lowercasing of “internet” and “web” ‒ from 2016, 2015 and 2014 here at the Inklings blog. And be sure to follow @APStylebook to participate in the grammar conversation.

// return to AP style guide updates

Topics: Content, Public Relations, Writing, Journalism
Rachel Nelson

Rachel has a decade of experience across both B2B and B2C technology. She spearheads diverse communications programs for clients ranging from emerging venture-backed startups to post-IPO companies with the same mentality: transparency, teamwork and never backing down from a challenge. She works with some of Inkhouse’s most innovative, fast-growing clients in the Bay Area including Okta, Nutanix, Grammarly, Strava, Neo4j and Databricks.

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