I have an AP Stylebook on my desk for a reason. From time to time, I need to use it. I don’t profess to be the biggest grammar nerd on the planet, but some rules are sacred.
When I first started working in public relations I quickly learned that “more than” was the only acceptable way to indicate greater numerical value. “Over” was for indicating direction, as in “He stood over there,” or “The cow jumped over the moon.” Whenever an “over” sneaked its way incorrectly into my writing, the red pen marks from my manager were enough to convince me otherwise. Game over. I stopped using the word to indicate value and changed my way of thinking. But that didn’t stop the rest of the world from using “over” however it pleased.
Last week, the Associated Press announced that “over” is now acceptable for numerical value. When a few of my fellow practitioners first shared this news on Facebook, I thought it was an early April Fools’ joke. AP Style devotees rallied against it. I was shocked and upset, more so than I ever thought I would be, ahem, “over” a word.
During the weekend I had more time to think about the updated rule, and the more I thought about it, the more I understood it. You can poke all the holes you want into “common usage” (the reason behind most AP Style changes), but let’s think about language for a minute. Language is fickle and ever-changing. The English we speak today is not the same it was 100 years ago, nor will it be the same 100 years from now. You can lament anytime there is change, but the world will move on.
Due to habit, I probably won’t start using “over” in place of “more than” anytime soon. But if “over” starts to sneak its way into my copy once more, red pen won’t follow.