Associated Press (AP) is the standard writing style among journalists and public relations professionals. Outlining rules for spelling, language and punctuation, the Associated Press Stylebook functions as a writing guide to standardize mass communication and news writing.
In order to present information that is easily understood by the general public, writing must be clear and consistent. AP style also creates a sense of credibility and professionalism for journalists. Proper spelling and grammar fosters trust between a news organization and an audience.
As society consistently changes, so does AP style writing. Recent events such as the Black Lives Matter protests spurred conversations regarding how the media covers and discusses race.
One of these crucial conversations occurred on June 24, 2020 during the recent Twitter chat hosted by the Associated Press Stylebook. Participants following the hashtag #APStyleChat participated in thoughtful discussions regarding race-related coverage and important changes taking place in newsrooms across the country.
Here are the AP’s recent changes and updates discussed during June’s Twitter chat:
AVOID USING THE TERM RACIST AS A NOUN
When used as a noun, the term racist is not appropriate because it is more difficult to match the complexity of a person to a definition or label than it is a statement or action, according to the AP Stylebook. If appropriate to the context of the story, journalists can use alternative adjectives to describe a person’s behavior or actions such as xenophobic, bigoted, biased, nativist or racially divisive.
It is also important to consider whether or not people should be identified by race in news coverage. According to the AP Stylebook, it is often an irrelevant factor. Drawing unnecessary attention to someone’s race or ethnicity can be interpreted as bigotry. Occurrences where identifying a person by race is appropriate can be found here.
BLACK IS NOW A CAPITALIZED TERM IN A RACIAL, ETHNIC AND CULTURAL SENSE
The change in capitalization can be attributed to our language evolving, along with the common understanding that especially in the United States, the term reflects a shared identity and culture rather than a skin color alone. Examples of when to use proper capitalization include: Black people, Black culture, Black literature, Black studies and Black colleges. African American is also acceptable for those in the U.S. but the two terms are not necessarily interchangeable. When in doubt, writers should follow an individual’s preference, if known.
INDIGENOUS IS NOW A CAPITALIZED TERM
When referring to original inhabitants of a place, the term Indigenous should be capitalized. American Indians and Native Americans are also both acceptable terms for those in the U.S. when referring to two or more people of different tribal affiliations. For individuals, the name of the tribe should also be used if the information is available e.g.: He is a Navajo commissioner.
FOR PEOPLE FROM SPANISH-SPEAKING LANDS, USE THEIR PREFERENCE
Latino is often the preferred noun or adjective for a person from, or whose ancestors were from, a Spanish-speaking land or culture or from Latin America. Latina is the feminine form. Latinx, the recently coined gender-neutral form, should only be used in quotations, names of organizations or descriptions of individuals who request it and should be accompanied by a short explanation. Hispanics is also generally acceptable for those in the U.S. If possible, use a more specific identification such as Cuban, Puerto Rican, Brazilian or Mexican American.
For more information on race-related coverage, click here.
For the latest updates to AP style and to participate in the next #APStyleChat, click here.
By Sun Young Yoo