Style Still Matters

June 23, 2009

by Kim Stangle

The age of citizen journalism and user-generated content has surely shifted the focus away from proper grammar and style in many publications. But to coin a phrase my mom often used growing up … “just because your friends do it, doesn’t mean you should.”

We still proofread every document produced in our office (with the exception of conversational e-mail) paying special attention to grammar, punctuation and AP Style … the time-honored rules developed as the standard for journalists by The Associated Press.

In honor of the newly released 2009 AP Stylebook, here are 25 helpful style tips:

toward not towards; afterward not afterwards

Use figures for people and animals (My dog is 3 years old.), but not for inanimates (The building is fifteen years old.).
Hyphenate ages expressed as adjectives before a noun (the 2-year-old girl).

all right not alright

When in doubt, lowercase is probably your best bet. Avoid the tendency to overcapitalize!
Capitalize: proper nouns, proper names and formal titles (but only when immediately before a name).

It’s only necessary to capitalize city when it’s part of an official city’s name (New York City).
Lowercase ALL ‘city of’ phrases. However, we typically capitalize ‘City of’ phrases when referring to the city’s government office as an organization.

When used, do not set off with commas (OrLANtech Inc. not OrLANtech, Inc.)

daylight saving time not daylight savings time (no plural ‘s’)

website not Web site (AP Style made the groundbreaking change to the lowercase, one-word option April 2010.)

Internet but intranet

ensure vs. insure (only use insure for references to insurance)

flier (an aviator or handbill) vs. flyer (Flyer is the proper name of some trains and buses.)

historic it was a historic event not an historic

it’s (contraction of it is or it has) vs. its (possessive form of the pronoun it)

media (when referring to mass communication) is plural (the news media are not is)

millions, billions (use figures except in casual uses)

9/11 Sept. 11 is preferred when describing the terrorist attacks in the U.S.

There are many rules to learn when expressing a number, but the best rule of thumb is: Spell out whole numbers below 10, use figures for 10 and above.

It’s not necessary to use ‘on’ before a date or day of the week when its absence would not lead to confusion, except at the beginning of a sentence.
(We plan to meet Tuesday. On July 3, the commission will meet to review the plan.)

over (use with spatial relationships) vs. more than (use when referring to numbers)
(The plane flew over the city. We have been in business more than 24 years.)

pique (to excite or arouse an emotion) vs. peak (the pointed top of something; a time of day, year, etc., when demand is greatest)

stationary (to stand still) vs. stationery (writing paper)

state names:
The following states should not be abbreviated in text or datelines: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah.
Only use two-letter abbreviations (e.g., FL) with full addresses, including ZIP code.

T-shirt not t-shirt

Figures: Add an s (1970s)
Single Letters: Use ’s (mind your p’s and q’s)

quotation mark punctuation:
The period and comma ALWAYS go within the quotation marks.
The dash, semicolon, question mark and exclamation point go within the quotation marks when they apply to the quoted matter only; they go outside when they apply to the whole sentence.

Holiday Style

December 4, 2013

ktaylorby Kim Taylor

I’m an AP Style nerd and I love the holidays, so naturally yesterday’s holiday-inspired AP Style chat (#APStyleChat) on Twitter is right in my wheelhouse.

If you’re not on Twitter (gasp!) or don’t have time to peruse the chat yourself, here are a few fun takeaways.  According to AP Style:

  1. It’s Hanukkah, not Chanukah (they’re cool with challah bread, however)
  2. Unless at the start of a sentence, lowercase happy holidays and merry Christmas (mind-blowing stuff right there)
  3. Kriss Kringle, not Kris or Chris Kringle (the Kardashians would be so proud)
  4. Santa says, Ho! Ho! Ho! (alas, it’s acceptable to use multiple exclamation points!!!)
  5. Contrary to what you may’ve seen (or heard) on “A Christmas Story,” it’s fa la la la la la la la la  … each note is lowercase and individual

Go forth, and write your holiday cards with confidence.  

(For more AP Style tips, check out this post from 2009.)

Why Today’s News Matters

October 21, 2010

by Dan Ward

While attending a dinner with several area communications professionals, I struck up a conversation with a senior executive for a newspaper group’s interactive division.

I mentioned that, as a dinosaur, I still enjoy reading the hard copy of my local newspaper each day, and I expressed that I often find the online version confusing because I can’t tell which content is “today’s news” vs. news from a week ago or longer.

Her response:  “why does that matter?”

It matters because understanding current affairs … what is right now impacting our community, our businesses, our families, our country’s global interests … is important.  It’s why I subscribe to a newspaper, why I turn to the network news in the evening, and yes, why I click to a news website.

It matters because “online newspapers” should still serve as sources of news (defined as “a report of a recent event,” or “the presentation of a report on recent or new events”), rather than aggregators of content that generates revenue-creating click-throughs.

CSR … What’s That?

February 5, 2014

by Carli Saldsman

Now, more than ever, corporate social responsibility (CSR) has become a hot topic for scholars and professionals alike.  As a mass communication graduate student at the University of Central Florida, I have the opportunity to take a course on “Communicating Corporate Social Responsibility” – the first of its kind in the graduate program.

If you’re not the average PR nerd (like me) you might not know exactly what CSR is, or why it’s important.  And to make matters more confusing, CSR isn’t always called CSR. Organizations often refer to their CSR efforts as “sustainability,” “social responsibility,”  “corporate responsibility” and so on.

A Google search of corporate social responsibility yields around 9 million results, if not more.  But, the definition I like best is one from Dr. W. Timothy Coombs and Dr. Sherry J. Holladay where they define  CSR in their 2012 book, Managing Corporate Social Responsibility: A Communication Approach, as “The voluntary actions that a corporation implements as it pursues its mission and fulfill its perceived obligations to stakeholders, including employees, communities, the environment, and society as a whole.”

Note that CSR is described as “voluntary actions” meaning an organization is not obliged by law to implement CSR strategies.  Yet, if you ask me, obligations to stakeholders (all of them – not just shareholders) trump any law.

Realistically, as Milton Friedman contested, the sole purpose of an organization is making a profit.  So, should CSR incorporate some component that ensures an increase in bottom-line profits?

To simplify things just a bit, if anyone asks me what CSR is, I describe the concept as encompassing the “3 P’s – People, Planet and Profit” (thanks, Dr. Holladay).  So, if we view the concept of CSR this way, we likely view CSR as benefiting stakeholders (internal and external), the environment and the bottom line. Yet, for organizations worldwide, the question still begs:  Why CSR?  According to The Guardian’s recent article Corporates as agents of social change: the academic view the value of doing “good” isn’t clear. So, if organizations can’t quantify the benefits of CSR, what’s in it for them?

And to the critical observer, CSR enthusiast and maybe even the regular customer or run-of-the-mill employee, the question remains:  Are CSR programs implemented for altruistic reasons … do organizations really care?  What do you think?

Friday Finds | September 7, 2012

September 7, 2012

by Kim Taylor

Here’s a collection of the neat things I found on the Web this week:

Pitch Pinning” – Combines Pinterest with Pitch Engine to give your news release a social layer.

Smore – Smore is to fliers (note the correct spelling) what Weebly is to websites … a great turnkey solution for quick-turnaround projects.

What Bill Clinton wrote vs. what Bill Clinton said” – This is simply fascinating for any speech writer or communicator and a heck of a lot of ad-libbing.

The Wall Street Journal’s WorldStream – Don’t think video is important to journalists?  Think again.

Typography is all around us and now there’s an app for that.  Enter,

Irrive is described as a social scrapbook.  It streamlines all of your check-ins, photos, status updates, etc. into one easily shareable place.  File Under:  Why didn’t I think of that.

And, just for fun … this is a pretty genius solution for separating the egg yolk from the egg white.  Bonus points if you can actually understand her.

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