It started in 1973 when my J-school professor insisted I spell “employe” with just one “e.” AP opted for the conventional spelling a few years later, but I still carry a grudge. Nevertheless, I enforce AP Style in the classroom. Always.
Since most PR professionals target mainstream media from time to time, it’s important they speak the language. On the blog, I still thumb my nose at AP, but only to be obstinate. I don’t spell out numbers under 10 here, and I use the word “website,” not AP’s preferred “Web site.”
Stop the presses! “Web site” WAS the preferred spelling until Friday, April 16, when the grand poohbahs of AP joined the rest of the world. “Website” is one word now, and with a lower-case “w.”
I know what you’re thinking. Who gives a s*@t, right?
In fact, a lot of people do. Some are happy with the change, others are not. But the real writers understand the value of a consistent style.
Yahoo! There’s a new stylebook in town!
It’s fitting that AP’s decision on “website” came 3 days after Yahoo!’s Senior Editorial Director visited Kent State. In at least 3 of his 6 sessions with students, Chris Barr poked fun at AP’s “Web site” affectation.
Chris visited Kent State to introduce the first real first competitor to the AP Stylebook in my professional life — and that’s a loooog time. It goes on sale in June.
The Yahoo! Style Guide tosses aside some of AP’s conventions, but the changes are subtle. For example, e-mail becomes email and the % sign, vs. “percent” is acceptable, so long as you’re consistent. No big deal.
Chris gave me an advance proof, and what I discovered was way more than a reference book. The Yahoo! Style Guide is a fairly comprehensive manual on writing for the Web.
Section I covers the fundamentals of writing for the online audience. The focus in on developing clear, compelling prose for the Web.
Section II shows you how to write inclusive copy that serves a worldwide audience as well as Internet users with disabilities.
Section III helps you with writing effective messages for interactive channels such as e-newsletters, email and mobile devices.
Section IV includes the nuts-and-bolts mechanics that AP does so well, but Yahoo!’s organization makes items easier to find. The book includes the usual sections on punctuation, abbreviations, capitalization and numbers.
Section V presents three chapters on editing and polishing to make copy clear, concise and correct. Those are important considerations for any writer, but are especially so when serving impatient online readers.
Section VI. The book concludes with a “Resource” section that offers lessons on HTML coding, search engine optimization, and U.S. legal issues related to online content.
As an educator, I see see a textbook, not a reference guide. And I can use it in any basic course on writing and editing for the online audience. PR students, I also see a book that can replace the AP Stylebook, even if the mechanics section isn’t quite as comprehensive.
Do we really need a style book?
Dumb question. Of course we do.
With the explosion of blogging over the past 5-6 years, the good old AP Stylebook was scorned by many journalist wannabes. Maybe they viewed it as a tool of mainstream conformity. Who knows?
But the real writers out there know that a style guide, be it AP’s or Yahoo!’s, brings a consistency and a professionalism to our work. Yeah, it’s a pain in the ass sometimes, but a necessary one.
No one who values good writing should argue that last point. But I suspect someone will.