Guest post by Amber Krosel, director of community content at GateHouse Media’s Center for News & Design in Austin, Texas

 

It’s been all over the internet (a-ha! early use) this week: The folks over at the AP Stylebook decided this year’s big style change would be lowercasing “internet” and “web” in all instances.

However, that change won’t go into effect until June 1, when the new 2016 print version of the AP Stylebook is released. During the recent American Copy Editors Society conference in Portland, Oregon — ACES is where AP Stylebook changes are announced every year — one of the Stylebook editors said when addressing the crowd that the delay was to “give you some time to think about it.”

What do I need to think about? While the simple new lowercase rule did draw some gasps, I’m all for it. Why wait?

If any of you word-nerds remember back to 2010, that’s when AP changed “Web site” to one word, lowercase: website. Cleaner, no doubt, yet some stuck to the old rule for a while (and I still see it lingering in copy in papers across the country). Six years later, we’re finally getting around to lowercasing web page, the web and web browser. Why so long?

If you feel that AP can sometimes be a little behind the times — or, some would argue, make style changes just to stir things up (remember when you had to forget all those state abbreviations you’d memorized in 2014?) — think of the improved or clarified terms a new Stylebook brings each year that are useful to our jobs as journalists and not just copyediting gripes. For instance, in 2015, AP Stylebook editors provided significant guidance on properly covering suicide.

This year, some of those most helpful changes to impress upon reporters young and old include the terms “claim” — generally, “said” is a better term (e.g., Smith claimed) because this verb implies doubt, or that the reporter himself does not believe something — and “spree,” which is a term often applied for shopping or revelry but should not be used when referring to killing. Additionally, the use of “accident” vs. “crash” was clarified: Either term is generally acceptable for automobile and other collisions or wrecks, but when negligence is claimed or proven, avoid “accident,” which can be read by some as a term exonerating the person responsible.

For those who still think “internet” and “web” are some terms already in use with proper case (lower, people!), based on them being in existence since Al Gore invented them, AP added a few revised entries for terms most people don’t see often anymore, including:

IM’ing — Verb forms for instant messaging are IM’ing, IM’d. (Changes from IMing, IMed for consistency with OK’d and similar terms.)
voicemail — The Stylebook has been using as two words, but it’s one.

Thanks, AP.

For a fun rabbit hole — and not on the (lowercase) deep web, either — check out 30 years of AP Style changes come and gone in this “Language Evolves” timeline from the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas. It unfortunately ends at 2013, but, we can pretend the last three years didn’t exist, can’t we? Including that time “over” and “more than” could be used interchangeably.

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