2016 Updates to the AP Stylebook

Mignon Fogarty,
Episode #512

2016 AP Stylebook Update

A couple of weeks ago at the American Copy Editors Society annual meeting in Portland, the Associated Press announced a few major and recent changes to the AP Stylebook

‘Internet’ and ‘Web’ are Lowercase

The one you are most likely to have already heard is that starting June 1, 2016, Associated Press writers will no longer capitalize the words internet and web. The words website, webcam, webcast, and webmaster were already lowercase in AP style, and web will remain capitalized in World Wide Web, but now, when you're following AP style and you use web all by itself, it’s lowercase.

At the meeting, they explained that their rationale for making the change to not capitalizing internet is that the internet is not a person, place, or trademark; and that they found that the big reasons people continued to capitalize it was simply because AP style (or dictionaries) said to. 

But the AP editors also announced some other changes at the meeting that didn’t get quite as much attention as the changes to web and internet

‘Accident’ Versus ‘Crash’

For example, the AP editors say it’s OK to use the words accident or crash to refer to a car wreck or other collision, but they warn writers to use care when “negligence is claimed or proven.” In that case, they say to avoid the word accident because it implies nobody is at fault. If negligence is claimed or proven, it’s better to use crash or collision or some other term. 

‘Claimed’ Versus ‘Said’

Claimed is a word that you should avoid almost all the time. The AP editors note that saying someone “claimed something” implies doubt. (Oh, Squiggly claimed aliens stole the chocolate, but we’re not so sure.) It’s better to simply use said, although if there really is doubt—for example, when two sides really do disagree—then claimed can be OK.

‘Alleged Victim’

The same problem exists with the phrase alleged victim—it implies doubt or skepticism that someone is really a victim, so the AP recommends using just victim or complainant. (Complainant sounds really awkward though; I would try to avoid that one.)


About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of the Quick and Dirty Tips network and creator of Grammar Girl, which has been named one of Writer's Digest's 101 best websites for writers multiple times. The Grammar Girl podcast has also won Best Education Podcast multiple times in the Podcast Awards, and Mignon is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame. Mignon is the author of the New York Times best-seller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing" and six other books on writing. She has appeared as a guest on the "Oprah Winfrey Show" and the "Today Show" and has been featured in the New York Times, Business Week, the Washington Post, USA Today, CNN.com, and more. She was previously the chair of media entrepreneurship in the Reynolds School of Journalism in Reno, NV. She hates the phrase "grammar nazi" and loves the word "kerfuffle." She has a B.A. in English from the University of Washington in Seattle and an M.S. in biology from Stanford University. Mignon believes that learning is fun, and the vast rules of grammar are wonderful fodder for lifelong study. 

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