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Watch your language

I like getting packages at work. They're usually free books, and they're always about the media, writing, or both. But the package that arrived today—that was something special:

The 2009 edition of The Associated Press Stylebook.

I've been working with the 2007 edition for the past couple of years. Fortunately, each edition lists the changes and updates from the previous one. I always check this section first. In the new edition, I am surprised to find Julius has been booted from "Caesarean section": It's now "cesarean section" (note both the new spelling and the lowercase C, changes made with no explanation, just a note that "C-section is acceptable on second reference.").

The "new entries" section shows the extent to which our troubled economy has worked its way into the daily vocabulary of newswriters. New entries include "collateralized debt obligation," "credit default swaps," "derivative," "recession-proof," "reverse auction," "securitization," "solvency," "write-down" (the noun and adjective) and "write down" (the verb). Incidentally, my computer's spell-check program doesn't even recognize the words "collateralized" or "securitization."

Over the next few weeks I'll review the 300-plus pages of A-Z entries, as well as the 11 pages of punctuation guidelines, because I'll expect the students in my editing class to do the same this fall. Judging by all those financial-related new entries, this semester might be a good one to add the stylebook's business guidelines to the syllabus.

In a bit of full disclosure: I lifted the title for this post from a book by Theodore M. Bernstein, the late, great wordsmith of The New York Times. His Watch Your Language occupies a permanent spot on my ever-changing bookshelf. In fact, it was another book by Bernstein, The Careful Writer: A Modern Guide to English Usage, that got me hooked on—or rather, obsessed with—the details of the craft of writing.

My use of the word "obsessed" is only mild hyperbole, I should point out. It reminds me of an e-mail I got a few years ago from a former student, who had gone on to a marketing/public relations position after graduating. She said, "I used to think you were crazy with the AP Stylebook, but I use it every day now." My madness has a method to it—but it's a lot more fun if you're a word nerd like me.

Comments

( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
prisonwriter
Jun. 18th, 2009 01:56 am (UTC)
You're probably the only person I know who gets excited about the AP Stylebook.
patrick_vecchio
Jun. 18th, 2009 02:44 am (UTC)
Did you know there are new entries for "coma" and "minimally conscious state"?
vivitalia
Jun. 18th, 2009 02:20 am (UTC)
Make that two of us! I use mine at least weekly, usually more often. I might note, with some self-righteous bristling, the copyeditor on my last Auxiliary Magazine story un-APed most of my edits, but at least I know I was right in the first place. Buffalo.com constantly reminds its correspondents to use AP Style, and I'm proud to say (thanks in large part to your editing class!) I've never gotten caught out of style.
patrick_vecchio
Jun. 18th, 2009 02:47 am (UTC)
That's right: Our only classroom encounter was editing. I'd lost sight of that. Anyway, I'm glad you got something out of it.
thenightfly5150
Jun. 18th, 2009 01:29 pm (UTC)
I was actually thinking about picking up the newest one. I'm still using my old, wrinkled, coffee-stained 2006 edition.

After you review it, let me know if you think it's worth updating.
patrick_vecchio
Jun. 18th, 2009 01:43 pm (UTC)
A couple of things to consider, Al:

1. The foreword points out that a "complete update" was done in 2008.

2. I'd been using the 2007 version, but this past semester, my students were catching me on things that I thought were true but that had been changed since the '07 version was printed.

In skimming the new one, I'm noticing entries that weren't in the editions I've been using but aren't in the "changes and updates/new entries" section of the stylebook, which means they've been in use since at least 2008 now. So, yeah, I'd recommend getting the new one.
vivitalia
Jun. 18th, 2009 01:58 pm (UTC)
Now that you mention it, I'm on the 2006 too. Wow. Time flies.
nodressrehersal
Jun. 18th, 2009 01:40 pm (UTC)
Interesting, educational, AND I can dance to it - two thumbs up!
patrick_vecchio
Jun. 18th, 2009 01:47 pm (UTC)
I'm still trying to figure out where Caesar went, though.
nodressrehersal
Jun. 18th, 2009 01:54 pm (UTC)
Yeah but, (or is it Yeah, but)I'd feel a titch more educated (having had three) if you'd tell me how he got there in the first place.

Yes, I'm that lazy...
patrick_vecchio
Jun. 18th, 2009 02:00 pm (UTC)
This may not answer your question, but: The stylebook is (to put it simply, perhaps simplistically) like an encyclopedia, a grammar/punctuation primer, a dictionary and more rolled into one book. Its intent is to standardize usage so readers aren't distracted when they see "Caesarean section" in one story and "ceserean section" in, say, an adjoining story. The stylebook contains words, phrases, punctuation guidance, etc. that are commonly used by writers, and apparently the editors at some point figured C-section was a term used often enough to merit an entry.
tanadariel
Jun. 18th, 2009 03:16 pm (UTC)
I have to say, I was very excited when I received a free copy of the new LBH for teaching. I can relate to being a "word nerd."
patrick_vecchio
Jun. 18th, 2009 03:46 pm (UTC)
What I like most about Little, Brown is that the more you work with it, the more you discover is in it.
tanadariel
Jun. 18th, 2009 07:38 pm (UTC)
I know! I wish I could impose this sort of excitement on my upcoming students. And my second go-to book is the Media Writers Handbook, which I think tends to get undervalued.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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