ACES supports research on whether journalistic writing norms matter to readers

February 23, 2015 By ACES Staff Resources

Fred Vultee, ACES Director of Research, 313-577-6302,
Teresa Schmedding, ACES National President, 847-427-4574,
Taylor Carlier, ACES Communications Coordinator, 317-920-4785,

The American Copy Editors Society is proud of its support for recent editing research that unearthed the age-old question: Do journalistic writing conventions matter to readers?

Alyssa Appelman, a fourth-year Ph.D. student at The Pennsylvania State University, successfully defended her dissertation last week titled “No Points for Style? Analysis of the Psychological Effects of Journalistic Writing Conventions.” Appelman’s dissertation explored the following questions: Do grammar, AP style, and inverted pyramid structure matter to readers? If so, why? Is it because mistakes impede readers’ comprehension of the text? Or is it because mistakes signal a lack of professionalism or credibility?

“My goal is to test some of the assumptions that we have as journalists,” Appelman said. “A lot of my research involves finding empirical support for journalistic norms.”

ACES provided funding for Appelman’s dissertation, which allowed her to pay participants to complete her study. This meant she could use a generalizable sample for her study, instead of conducting it with undergraduate students.

Participants in the experimental study read news articles and responded to questions. Appelman added errors to these articles — including errors of grammar, AP style, and inverted pyramid structure — to see if they affected reader cognition and processing.

“In this study, mistakes did not affect readers in the way we expected,” she said. “This could mean that errors don’t matter to readers, or it could be the result of other unmeasured factors.”

Appelman will discuss these factors, as well as other details about her research, during the 2015 ACES national conference in Pittsburgh, Pa., March 26, in “The Latest Research on Editing” session.

Appelman earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism from the University of Missouri – Columbia. She had copy editing internships at The Washington Times and The Washington Post while in college, and she worked as a professional copy editor for two years before attending The Pennsylvania State University. She has been a member of ACES since 2009, and this will be her third year presenting research at the ACES national conference. In the fall, she will join the faculty of Northern Kentucky University as an assistant professor of journalism in the College of Informatics. Find out more about Appelman on her website.

“ACES has definitely given me a great platform for sharing and brainstorming my research,” Appelman said. “I very much appreciate their ongoing support.”

ACES, the American Copy Editors Society, is a non-profit 501(c)(3) education and membership organization working toward the advancement of copy editors. Our aim is to provide solutions to editing problems, training and a place to discuss common issues. ACES is an international members’ alliance of editors working at newspapers, magazines, online news sites, public relations and marketing agencies and corporations. ACES was started in 1997 by Pam Robinson of Long Island, N.Y., and Hank Glamann of Houston. For more information, visit

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