Great content in the B2B realm can do big things—inform, persuade, elicit emotion, drive loyalty and brand preference and most importantly, compel action. But to do all this, it absolutely must be based on a foundation of consistency—a common language. After all, why should we capitalize internet in one blog, and not capitalize it in another? Should state abbreviations (e.g., Mass., Tenn.) be used in body copy for one website, while postal codes (e.g., MA, TN) be used for another?
On the surface, this may seem trivial. But to content developers like myself, a baseline system of grammar and style usage allows us to deliver consistent quality for all clients in everything we create. Substance certainly matters. But so does style.
That’s where the AP Stylebook comes in. Short for Associated Press and Briefing on Media Law, the AP Stylebook (or even shorter, AP Style) is an English grammar style and usage guide created by American journalists working for or connected with the AP over the last century to standardize mass communications. Today, it’s arguably the most widely used content style platform in the U.S.
At Skoda Minotti Strategic Marketing, we refer to AP Style every day as we create blogs, e-books, website content and a host of targeted digital communications.
Yet, as the world changes, so too does language. Words take on new meanings, new words and terms emerge, the use of words in different contexts evolves and so on. Likewise, AP Style isn’t chiseled in stone; it’s a living, breathing entity, and yearly updates are the norm.
So what’s new in the 2018 edition? Lots. In fact, the latest edition contains about 200 new and modified entries. We won’t bore you with each one; but we did want to highlight a few of interest.
- Internet and digital terms are ever-changing, and some notable ones got a refresh this year. Home page is now homepage, while smart watch is also one word—smartwatch. Incidentally, internet (as referenced earlier) is lowercase (it used to be capitalized back in the Dark Ages) unless of course it begins a sentence (snaps to my first-grade teacher for cluing me in on that rule).
- By now, we all should know what an emoji is. But do you know whether the word is singular or plural? According to 2018 AP Style, it’s now both. Convenient examples for your use at cocktail parties or other swank occasions: Hey—that’s a neat emoji/Well now—those emoji are quite expressive. (Confession: Word nerds like us ♥ this stuff…☺)
- The AP Style gods dropped their curious rule that two objects must be in motion before they can collide. For example, under the prior definition, a moving train could not collide with a stopped train—and so the term collide wasn’t applicable in this instance. Now that collision can occur, which, while accurate from a literary standpoint, offers little comfort to the ill-fated passengers on board.
- Everyone eats, so let’s talk food. Naan, that delicious, fluffy, sometimes-flaky-at-the-slightly-burnt-edges Indian flatbread,now assumes the mantra of official AP Style spelling (formerly it was nan). Onward and upward, naan! AP Style also revised its sage guidance to clarify the difference between chile and chili. Chile refers to “Any of a variety of spicy peppers or the sauces or gravies derived from them.” Chili, meanwhile, refers to “…the meat- and/or bean-based dish.” (And yes, Chile is a South American country ripe with furry spitting llamas, plump empanadas and unheralded black diamond skiing.) New edible additions to the AP Style menu for 2018 include:
- Ahi (the Hawaiian term for several varieties of tuna). According to AP Style, the terms ahi, ahi tuna, yellowfin tuna and bigeye tuna are acceptable. Know thy tuna, and thou shall find happiness.
- Amaro (an Italian herbal liqueur usually drunk as an after-dinner drink to aid digestion. As AP Style states, “Amari (the plural) include Campari, Fernet-Branca and Aperol and other liqueurs.”
- Chorizo (spicy or sweet pork sausage)
- Churros (fried pastries covered in cinnamon sugar and sometimes dipped in chocolate sauce)
- Dressing/stuffing (apparently no accepted style in the AP-verse existed until now. Thank you, AP, for stepping up on this one.)
- Matcha (a Japanese-style powder of specially grown and processed green tea leaves). While AP Style doesn’t explicitly state this, one could reasonably surmise that male purveyors of this powder are matcha men.
- Soba (thin noodles made from buckwheat flour or buckwheat and wheat flours). Apparently, the term soba noodles is redundant, so just don’t go down that road, okay?
- Turducken (a genius assemblage of a deboned chicken stuffed inside a deboned duck stuffed inside a deboned turkey, made famous by one-time NFL analyst John Madden as the heralded prize to the winner of a Thanksgiving Day football game). Truly a cult classic and gluttonous favorite at Thanksgiving tables everywhere.
- Udon (thick noodles made from wheat flour). Similar to soba, the term udon noodles is redundant.
- On a more serious note, a survivor, victimentry was added, which advises using those terms with care “…because they can be imprecise and politically and legally fraught.” To wit, according to 2018 AP Style: “Survivor can denote someone who has lived through an injury or disease, but also can apply to someone who endured a threat but escaped injury altogether. Example: a mass shooting survivor. Likewise, victim can create confusion because it can variously mean someone killed, injured or subjected to mistreatment such as sexual misconduct.”
What Does All This Mean?
As we said earlier, there are nearly 200 new and modified entries this year, and we’d be happy to give you a rundown on each of them. Hopefully, though, this blog offers two important takeaways:
- Correct spelling, and adherence to widely accepted usage of words and terms, helps to ensure that your organization presents itself professionally—that you care about the details. If someone hires a CPA firm to perform precise accounting or auditing work, and that firm spells accounting incorrectly on its website homepage, that’s a bright red flag.
- That said, there’s much more value to correct style than merely how words are spelled. Which words and terms are used in which context matters—a lot. Survivor victim is one example. Sexual harassment and sexual misconduct is another. Each refers to different behaviors, and while the differences are nuanced to most observers, their technical definitions are unique, and potential consequences of misuse are not trivial, so care must be taken when using them.
AP Style helps content developers like me ensure that our clients’ content always stays on point and in line with the highest accepted standards. Here at Skoda Minotti Strategic Marketing, we love talking content – it’s like Frosted Flakes in the morning to us – so if you have questions about certain words or terms, if you want to try to “stump the word nerd” (aka, yours truly) with a seemingly impossible or highly obscure style or grammar question, or if you seek help with your content development efforts in any way, please reach out. We’re always happy to answer questions and help you brainstorm creative and results-oriented content programs for your organization.