Mental Floss

The Quick 10: 10 Things I Learned from the AP Stylebook

Sydney Beveridge

Last year, I started using the AP Stylebook for proper news writing. First published in 1953, the volume contains rules and explanations for grammar, capitalizations, abbreviations, official titles, and much more.

According to the Elements of Journalism, Thomas Cahill said that one could tell "the worldview of a people... the invisible fears and desires... in a culture's stories." You can tell something about a culture from its grammar and style rules too, though there is no entry for "love," "fears" or "desires" in the AP Stylebook.

The latest edition added entries for terms such as the iPhone and WMD. Here are a few other things I learned while flipping through its pages:

10 Things I Learned from the AP Stylebook

1. I've been living a lie--Avenue is abbreviated "Ave." not simply "Ave" (I have to tell Mom.)

2. Finally, I have a definition for milquetoast at my beck and call, "Not milk toast when referring to a shrinking apologetic person. Derived from Caspar Milquetoast, a character in a comic strip by Harold T. Webster."

3. Apparently "diarrhea" is worthy of an entry, but not a definition. (It should be lower case, by the way.)

4. According to the grammar rules, the famous movie title should be "Lawrence (comma) of Arabia."

5. You should capitalize "Army" when referring to US forces (with or without the US specification), but use lowercase when referring to other countries. Supposedly this is because other countries don't use the term "army," but the rule seems a little US military-centric (at least to someone who went to a Quaker college).

6. "Do not use deaf and dumb."

7. The names of monotheistic gods are capitalized while polytheistic deities are not. (Is this a group discount?)

8. On a related note, "devil" is lowercase, but you should capitalize "Satan."

9. No entry for "nerd," sadly.

10. Under the definition of "web," the book cautioned that, "The Internet is a sprawling databank that's about one-quarter wheat and three-quarters chaff." Since it must be capitalized, Internet seems to be more important than the devil but on par with God and Satan.
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