12 Persnickety Rules From the Associated Press Stylebook

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Serving as an authority for working journalists on grammar, capitalizations, abbreviations, spelling and so much more, the AP Stylebook can be found in almost every newsroom in the country. Although some publications (such as The New York Times) stray from the guide, it’s become almost like a bible since its beginnings in 1953, setting an industry-wide standard. Updates are officially made every year as each new edition is published, and to stay culturally relevant, new rules are added—and sometimes they’re really, really specific. The committee of editors who set style aren't messing around. Style has determined what makes a boat a boat and a ship a ship, the spelling of "Daylight Saving Time," and that numbers above 10 must use numerals. Here are 12 rules from the AP Stylebook that you’d never know unless you looked them up.

1. Lectern vs. podium

Every college professor has lied to us. They're really standing behind a lectern, not a podium. According to the group of AP editors who decide all of this, a podium is something someone stands on.

2. The Internet

AP finally caved in to peer pressure by lowercasing and making "website" into one word, but they're still adamant that the Internet and the Web always be uppercase.

3. State abbreviations

Luckily, Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah are never abbreviated. That's easy enough to remember. However, the rest of the 50 not only don't get the same treatment, but they don't even use the standard Postal Service abbreviations. Instead of "CA," it's "Calif." and "WY" is "Wyo." Memorizing these may be difficult.

4. OK. OK?

None of this "okay" business. It's OK, OK'd, OK'ing and OKs. (Yeah, it's going to look like you're shouting. It's OK.) This spelling may draw from the origins of the phrase.

5. More than vs. over

There are probably more than the average number of people getting this one wrong. "More than" refers to numbers. For example: "More than 80,000 people showed up to Coachella this year." "Over" refers to spatial relationships like, "Many hipsters flew from the East Coast over the Rockies to get to the music festival in Indio, Calif."

6. Toward

Add an "s" to the end of this word, and prepare for the wrath of every American copy editor's red pen.

7. Champagne

Grab the bottle and check the label. If it's from the Champagne region of France, always capitalize. If made elsewhere, call it "sparkling wine."

8. Percentages

Never use the little symbol for percent and always spell it out. For example, "About 80 percent of AP Stylebook users actually know this rule." (We just made that statistic up.)

9. Hyphens

The Associated Press loves to hyphenate words—sometimes ones that really don't need to be, like "worn-out," "best-seller," and "Wi-Fi." But then they don't hyphenate "halftime" or "businesslike," and even recently took the hyphen away from "email." It's as if there's no hard-and-fast rule or anything.

10. Carat vs. caret vs. karat

This one's tricky. Carat = the weight of precious stones, like diamonds. Caret = a common proofreader's mark. Karat = used to indicate the proportion of gold.

11. Trademarks

It's OK to use brand names if you're actually talking about the brand name. But if you're unsure of whether it's the good stuff or generic, use common terms like "facial tissue" for "Kleenex" and "flying disc" for "Frisbee." There are a lot more: "artificial grass" for "AstroTurf," "stun gun" for "Taser," "fabric fastener" for "Velcro," and "cotton swab" for "Q-tip."

12. Flier vs. flyer

A handbill or a piece of paper with a message on it, like something on 8 1/2-by-11 paper advertising a garage sale, is spelled "flier." A flyer is the proper name for some trains and buses, like the Heartland Flyer.

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June 4, 2013 - 11:00am
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