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What if the AP was Wrong About Style Changes?
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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So, it was just another glorious day in Dallas / Fort Worth when I read something that made me choke violently on some fresh Gummi Bears — the Associated Press did it again. This time, the persnickety purveyors of journalistic writing style decided that after decades of enforcement, that pesky difference between "more than" and "over"? Meh!

Wait, what?! 

Ever since I have been a copy editor and a writer, this has been one of my most friendly peeves named "Pet." Of course, "more than" represents amount and "over" represents "height." It is simple. Why can't the rest of the world see this great writing kerfuffle for what it is? The rest of these schmucks need to fall in line. Here’s the explanation from AP Stylebook Editor Darrell Christian, via Erin Madigan White, AP senior media relations manager:
“We decided on the change because it has become common usage. We’re not dictating that people use ‘over’ — only that they may use it as well as ‘more than’ to indicate greater numerical value.”
Since when do people and their lazy use of language dictate what journalistic style will become? Is it possible that AP is wrong? Last year, AP incurred a skosh bit of wrath when its austere board determined that "illegal immigrant" was no longer acceptable based on the grounds that "illegal" should only refer to action, and that the term was "dehumanizing." Of course, you would think the critics of communication told the truth on the Easter Bunny and that fat dude from up north (yes, your grandfather, kids). 

Over the years, the Associated Press have made changes to the human vernacular that have been resisted, and some even think are offensive. For instance, DYK that according to AP style, "black" is acceptable to use to discuss the individuals that LA Clippers' Owner Donald Sterling is currently trying to prevent from pimp-slapping him to death? Yet, ask around. If you don't say "African-American," you're offensive and possibly a bigot. It wasn't until 1994 that "gay" became acceptable for "homosexual," even though it had been used as such since the late '70s. And what about when they removed the hyphen from email?! I know, right? 

Does anyone question if they are wrong? Not really. They just protest by using whatever word they want. That is, until your editor and his or her nasty red pen takes hold of your article. The AP can change its collective mind, flacks. Look at the word "website." People rose a stink, so they made it lowercase because the AP Style Guide figured it wasn't worth the debate. Case in point: No longer abbreviating states. The hell is that anyway? This is making some reporters and PR professionals furious because there doesn't seem to be any reason for this change. What? Some states in the Ivy League get a little offended because people screw them up so badly? Associated Press reporters in Connecticut and Massachusetts decide the folks in Ohio have it too damn easy?

Just what if the AP was wrong? And just what if some people made an intellectual appeal about it? Think they would change?

Eh, "more than" their dead body. 

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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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