Updates to AP Stylebook include 'over,' hyphenation of Wal-Mart

March 24, 2014 By Mike Cirelli Conferences

At the beginning of Thursday morning’s “Ask the AP Stylebook Editors” session, Associated Press editor David Minthorn told the audience not to expect any bombshell changes this year. But that didn’t stop the audience from gasping at a few of the updates that were announced.

The audience seemed especially surprised when Minthorn and another AP editor, Darrell Christian, announced that “over” is acceptable in all uses to indicate greater numerical value. They clarified that there will certainly still be cases in which “over” could cause ambiguity and that “more than” should be used in these cases. But in general, either phrasing works.

“The language evolves, the usage evolves, and we’re trying to be sensitive to it,” Minthorn said.

Another announcement came as a surprise to the audience, but it had nothing to do with grammar or usage.

“It seems especially appropriate today to thank ACES for all of your support and patience over the years,” Christian said. “I say that because this is my last one,” he said, indicating his retirement from the AP.

Other changes announced this year:

Wal-Mart will be hyphenated in all uses. The editors made this decision because it wasn’t always clear whether copy was referring to the store or the company — and even Walmart itself has been inconsistent with its use of the hyphen.

An update to the attribution entry directs users to specify whether information in a news release came from a representative or another named official.

A new entry on bitcoin indicates that the term should be lowercase.

When referring to Washington, D.C., the District should be capitalized on second reference. An AP staff member in Washington proposed the change because the term was commonly capitalized in the area.

A new entry shows the spellings of dis, dissing and dissed.

Compound nouns using the suffix -goer are one word, no hyphen.

LGBT is acceptable on first reference, but spell it out in the body of the story. An audience member asked why the acronym didn’t include a “Q” at the end, and Minthorn responded that, to his knowledge, the “Q” can mean two things: questioning or queer. Even in advocacy groups, he said, the letter has not been clarified.

Sic can now be used in quotes to point out an error. The term should be used in parentheses.

The editors announced several medical and science updates based on advice from AP medical writers:
bird flu
first aid (noun) and first-aid (adjective)
HPV (acceptable on first reference for human papillomavirus)
in vitro fertilization (IVF acceptable on second reference)
Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS acceptable on second reference)

Several weather entries were also announced:
polar vortex
storm surge

Entries on selfie, Snapchat and Vine were added to the stylebook. An audience member stumped the editors when he asked if the verb “to snap” should be lowercase in the same way that “tweet” is.

An entry for vegan and vegetarian was added.

AP Stylebook editors Darrel Christian and David Minthorn speak at the 2014 ACES conference.

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