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AP Stylebook minute: Stylebook drops the capital “I” in internet to mixed reviews

Sunday, May 01, 2016   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Laura Sellers-Earl
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The AP Stylebook made internet a common noun, dropping the capital “I” spelling in the most publicized change in the 2016 printed edition.    

After years of capitalizing Internet as a proper noun over the objections of some readers, the Stylebook editors came to the conclusion that internet isn’t a person, place or trademark and thus should be spelled lowercase.

By the same reasoning, the web becomes lowercase in AP news with the Stylebook’s publication June 1, although World Wide Web remains capitalized as a formal name.  Also, webpage joins website and webcam as lowercase compounds in the Stylebook, but web browser remains two words.

These spelling changes drew largely approving comments in social media when the entries were unveiled April 2 at the American Copy Editors Society convention in Portland, Oregon:
“At last!” “It's time.” “It's a medium, not a deity” were among the tweets hailing the internet spelling.

But others were critical. “What’s next, LC taj mahal, vatican, white house?” said one tweet. “A terrible decision that has no basis in logic, grammar or technology. Thumbs down,” messaged an online Stylebook subscriber.

The internet change affects more than 30 references in the Stylebook, from individual entries like internet TV and voice over internet protocol, to language in the social media and media law guidelines. Each usage now gets the lowercase “i” spelling.

To keep pace with changing terminology and issues in the news, the online AP Stylebook undergoes year-round updates by the AP panel of editors and advisers. Suggestions come from AP staffers, member editors of the AP news cooperative, academics and other followers of AP style. The Stylebook team also consults on proposed changes with an outside advisory board of editors and journalism educators in the U.S., Canada and the U.K.

The 2016 printed book compiles 250 updates, from wholly new entries, to refined definitions and revamped advice on a wide range of topics.

Among other major changes:

• Spokesperson is now acceptable as a job description if preferred by an individual or group, along with spokesman or spokeswoman.  

• Spree shouldn’t be used to describe violent incidents; reserve it for revelry or shopping.

• Claim used in stories — Smith claimed — can imply the reporter does not believe something. Generally, said is a better term. Claim is most appropriate when an assertion is open to question and the story presents an alternative point of view.

•  Accident or crash are generally acceptable for automobile and other collisions and wrecks. However, when negligence is claimed or proven avoid accident, which can be read by some as a term exonerating the person responsible. In such cases, use crash, collision or other terms.

• Mistress describes a woman who has a long-term sexual relationship with, and is financially supported by, a man who is married to someone else. When a relationship is not long-term or does not involve financial support, do not use mistress; terms like companion, friend or lover may apply. Whenever possible, phrasing that acknowledges both people in the relationship is preferred: “The two were romantically (or sexually) involved.”

• Avoid terms like child, underage or teenage prostitute, except in quotations or in referring to criminal charges that may use these terms. The phrasing can suggest that a child is voluntarily trading sex for money. Minors are not able to give consent.

David Minthorn is co-editor of The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law.

Associated Press Media Editors

APME is a professional network, a resource for helping editors and broadcasters improve their news coverage and newsroom operations.

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