Huzzah! New AP Stylebook Sets New Standards for Common Tech Terms

Maybe you have to be a writer or editor to get excited about the latest release of the AP Stylebook. The AP Stylebook is the bible for professional writers, providing standardized usage and definitions for common terms. It provides a standard for things like comma usage, hyphenation, capitalization, datelines for cities, and other commonly used terms. It also helps me settle a lot of arguments with clients about how to write press releases and where to put the punctuation marks.

ap-320piI am particularly excited about the 2011 release of the AP Stylebook because, for the first time, they have provided standardized usage for a variety of technical terms. Now I now no longer have to argue with clients about the proper spelling of email versus e-mail or Web site versus website. According to Mashable, there are at least 42 new terms that have been included to define common technological terms, social media terms, and TLAs (three-letter acronyms).

Now we know that, according to the Associated Press, proper usage is email and website as one word, smart phone is two words, and e-reader is hyphenated. And now we can use “fan,” “friend,” and “follow” as both nouns and verbs. (I can’t wait to see if they have decided that other changes are acceptable, like using “grow” as an active verb – “to grow a business” – which is one of my pet peeves.) They have also added unfollow, unfriend, and retweet to the lexicon. According to a preview offered by MarketingProfs, some of the terms that are now standardized include:

    • check in (v.), check-in (n. and adj.)
    • download
    • end user (n.), end-user (adj.)
    • Foursquare
    • geolocation
    • Gowalla
    • Internet-connected TV
    • iPad
    • Link shortener
    • social media optimization
    • stream
    • tag
    • tablet computer
    • Tumblr
    • WAP

AP has also tackled the alphabet soup of technology acronyms, including those used in texting (another new verb) and instant messages. They define ROFL, BRB, G2G, and even POS, which I thought meant point-of-sale but apparently means “parent over shoulder”; a term younger IMers and texters use to indicate that parents are approaching.

I have already pre-ordered my print copy of the 2011 AP Stylebook, and I am sure it will be more comprehensive than its forebears. For some time I was using Wired Style published by Wired magazine a number of years ago as my guide, but I found it to be extremely poorly organized and incomplete. Like most writers, I suspect I searched publications like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal looking for common usage – their editors are very diligent about maintaining consistent editorial usage and standards. AP needs to get their guidance from somewhere.

E.B. White (co-author of Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style, which is still the “must have” book for any writer who cares about his or her craft) noted that English is an evolving language, “The language is perpetually in flux; it is a living stream, shifting, changing, receiving new strength from a thousand tributaries, losing old forms in the backwaters of time.” As the language evolves and technology changes usage and brings new terms into use, someone needs to find a way to codify these terms so the rest of us can make sense of them. Like the OED, the AP Stylebook provides a lifeline for the rest of us who are trying to maintain standards of usage in the face of change. Everyone needs standards. Just as the IETF relies on standards like TCP/IP, SMTP, and HTML to form the common language of the Internet, we need similar standards for English usage to promote clearer understanding.

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