Showing posts with label Chicago Manual of Style. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chicago Manual of Style. Show all posts

Friday, February 2

Writing Web Sites: AP Stylebook

Last night, I was caught a bit off guard when one of my students opened up the AP Stylebook to inform me my take on "Website" was wrong, according to the Associated Press. So naturally, today I started doing some homework on this particular rule in what many, myself included, call the writer's bible.

Kudos to Debbie Weil over at Wordbiz Report for doing my homework for me and the rest of us back in 2003. She wrote Norman Goldstein, AP Stylebook editor, after 65 percent of her readers claimed "website" to be correct over "Web site." Goldstein wrote back...

"Style, in the sense we're talking about, really means a preference (in spelling or punctuation or capitalization or usage) when there is a choice to be made. AP made the choice of "Web site" for what we thought were very good, language-based, reasons. Others are free to use their preference - as long as it is clear to a reader and consistent.

However, none of us can claim to create a "new language," for the Internet, or elsewhere. (Every generation of teenagers, for example, comes up with its own "language," but it fades quickly into oblivion.) More creative writers than I have said - wisely - that "usage will push new meanings into currency no matter how many authorities hurl themselves into the path of change."

Weil then goes on to list several solid cases made by her readers, who would prefer AP change its ruling and give us the evidence we need to write Website or website as one word. Add me to the list of miffed writers. Web site needs to be fixed up for the times, giving way to Website or website (I don't care about caps).

I appreciate where Goldstein is coming from in his answer, but for those of us who preach that AP is the style of choice in today's world, using it as a higher authority for clients, students, and others, we need some help here. Too many allowances will undermine the original intent of clear and consistent communication, especially if we teach public relations practitioners to conform to AP Style as it is the style most embraced by newspapers and magazines worldwide (with exception, it seems, to the word Website). Too many allowances will toss more toward the Chicago Style Manual, which is being revised online with new vigor, causing the rest of us to study two sources (ha, I do anyway) as opposed to having one held high.

Sure, I suppose making up some hubub about the word Website seems a bit much, but the time has come for AP Style to revisit its ruling on "Web site" for what was thought to be very good, language-based, reasons. The reason I say this is because it has put us in the awkward position of either violating our trusted Style source or joining what appears to be an ever diminished percentage of readers who agree that "Web site" is right.


Tuesday, September 19

Writing A Style Guide

Sue Khodarahmi means well in her article ''You're stylin' now,'' published in the September-October 2006 edition of Communication World by the International Association of Business Communicators. I really believe she does.

Khodarahmi even gives credit where credit is due, offering up a little on the importance The Associated Press Style Book (AP Style) and/or The Chicago Manual of Style. But then, unfortunately, she suggests that there's really ''no right or wrong as long as you're consistent,'' suggesting companies and organizations can feel free to create their own style guides to cover a myriad of exceptions.

The trouble with this philosophy is two-fold. First and foremost, implementing deviations from AP Style (or other style guides) means your company is really implementing two style guides: one for public relations that follows AP Style and another for a few or all other audiences. In short, her explanation ''as long as you're consistent'' is already in jeopardy.

The second problem is that this negates why AP Style was adopted in the first place. Originally, AP Style was adopted by national and international publications to improve consistently on questions not covered by English grammar rules. In short, they recognized the need to standardize the written language as opposed to having each publication write its own rules. AP Style, which I require in any class I teach, is the foremost guide to newspaper style in the United States and is consistently recognized as such worldwide. It is also updated annually, allowing it to keep up with English as a living language.

Certainly there are some exceptions. The Chicago Manual of Style prescribes a writing style that is widely used in the publishing industry (as opposed to newspapers). The differences between it and AP Style are generally insignificant. However, the Chicago Manual of Style is only updated every decade or so and is considered by some much less relevant than in the past. (We use it to arbitrate any style questions not addressed by the AP.)

So, again, we run into the same problem. Endless exceptions or, worse, a company's self-imposed style guide does the exact opposite of what Khodarahmi means to say. A company-wide style guide would be nothing more than a license to be inconsistent and fall prey to 'because i said so' editors when all everyone else is trying to do is enhance communication with consistency.

Does this mean that there should never be any exceptions? No, but good writers (and hopefully good executives) will continue to minimize those exceptions for those instances when there really is a good reason to break from the AP.

Sure, we're not going to refuse to cap all titles if a company really wants to capitalize job titles that occur after the name in an employee publication. But we will remind our clients that they are showing their ignorance in doing so, and even take our name off a news release if we're instructed to do what the newspapers will promptly correct anyway. You should too, no matter what editors are running around today trying to tell people it's all just 'pot luck' because they're tired of receiving correction letters.

After all, if communication is really about effectively communicating ideas, then it seems to make little sense to make up your own language style guide (that no one else will have) in order to do so. Sorry. We're still too young to be old fashioned and we're not biting on this one.

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