Have you noticed?
Did you see that we are no longer spelling out “percent” but rather using the symbol “%” in place of the word? How exciting is that?
It is one of a few slight differences we’ve made in the copy in our newspaper for the past couple of issues. The changes relate to the “style” we use in news language.
That one item is probably my favorite of all the recently announced changes in the rules of the Associated Press Stylebook, the bible of 95% of journalists around the world. (See what I did there?)
There’s a Stylebook on my desk. It falls open to “numbers.”
The Stylebook is updated every year in the spring. Some of the changes were announced in March at the annual conference of the American Copy Editors Society in Providence, R.I.
In an April 2 article in The New Yorker, written by longtime copy editor Mary Norris, she relates that in the session when Paula Froke, lead editor of the AP Stylebook, said the “spell out percent, one word” rule changed, a roar went up. This was one of those “It’s about time!” moments that occurs occasionally.
The updating of the AP rules is something that journalists, particularly copy editors and editors, look forward to with some apprehension. It takes years to learn AP Style – and changes aren’t always welcomed, because they force us to relearn the rules we learned during the last century, when we were in journalism school.
The Stylebook is a book (495 pages in 2013) of guidelines on all manner of word usage, spellings, capitalization, how to treat numbers, titles (of people and of publications, movies and books), and such.
Copy editors – and, in cases of smaller operations like ours, editors – are tasked with enforcing the rules.
But that’s okay, because copy editors are grammar, punctuation and spelling nerds. They also must know lots of other “rules” of the English language.
And we have to just “know” stuff, like current laws, where buildings in your town are located, who the movers and shakers are, when the only bridge to the island was built – seemingly silly details like that. It will help make you look smart when publishing stories and articles that other people read.
For instance, I know that it’s now OK (not “okay”) to write “raffle tickets” instead of “prize drawing tickets” because the laws about nonprofit raffles changed a few years ago.
I keep the Stylebook on my desk because I can’t remember the style for everything, such as “X-ray” and “3-D,” but some things are ingrained in my brain. Commas and periods go inside the ending quote marks, not after; “rock ‘n’ roll” is how AP says we should treat it, noting the contraction marks should point the same direction.
Also, there’s no such thing as the “first annual” anything. Either it’s the first event, the inaugural event or just an event. When the second one is held the NEXT year, it is the “second annual.”
Recent welcomed changes included rules on things that didn’t exist when were in journalism school. As of April 2016, we no longer capitalize “internet.” It’s “website” now, not “web site”; “email” lost its hyphen.
It might seem like an uncommon art, but proud copy editors can be found around the country, always on the lookout for split infinitives and incorrect abbreviations.
There are even some folks who care about the rules in our Lowcountry – which, by the way should always be spelled as one word, capitalized.