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E-Mail vs. Email – The 2011 Dissociated Press Stylebook

Topics: Editorial & Opinion | Add A CommentBy admin | March 20, 2011

As a Grammarchist, I think it’s time we try the world’s Grammar Nazis for their crimes.

Please do not confuse the parody image
above with the actual Associated Press
Stylebook iPhone app
. Or is that “i-Phone”?

A year ago, I sent The Associated Press an e-mail via their web site. Aside from the fact that the preceding statement is untrue, can you tell me what is wrong with that last sentence? Well, if you had read it a year ago, nothing. But last year – as you may know – the AP stylebook people decided that “web site” should be “website”, and just the other day, they decided “e-mail” will now be “email”. But does it really matter what the AP says these days, if in fact it ever did? I have an ancient copy (1992) of The Associated Press Stylebook (that’s a link to the upcoming edition), which mostly resides on my bookshelf to mislead visitors into believing that I’m moderately literate. I certainly don’t apply its rules to this site, for several reasons. Amongst those reasons are the fact that I never studied journalism or writing, and the fact that this site is not a news source, it’s just a thing I do to amuse myself while forcing myself to write a couple hundred words daily. The fact that a fair percentage of those who visit the site confuse it with something credible is hardly my problem. But even if I did consider myself a journalist, and even if I did consider this site a serious channel for “news”, I don’t know how faithfully I would adhere to any of the more respected style guides anyway, including the AP’s. By the way, do you like the way I ended that last sentence? I do. That’s because – in spite of minding my use of “to”, “two”, and “too”, or “lay” and “lie”, and the fact that me and Suzy never go to the store, and in spite of doing my best to spell things correctly and other basics of decent grammar – I’ve come to consider myself something of a Grammarchist, as opposed to a Grammar Nazi. Which is why I just had a blast with a really run-on sentence. For the record, I’m well aware that much of the writing on this site is an orgy of errors and a never-ending sentence clause catastrophe; I intentionally write in the voice with which I speak. But I’m breaking one of my only rules here, which is writing self-referential content. So back to the point. The AP guide in particular amuses me; as David Schwartz, an instructor at the University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication points out in this piece, the guide has a few problems. He hits on a few of the ones that I’ve always found tedious or absurd, like state abbreviations (Calif. instead of CA, etc.) and the rules for presenting numeric information as words vs. numerals. The latter in particular has always bugged me. There’s (that’s an intentional contraction!) plenty of sense in using numerals for quantities like “millions” and “billions”, since most people would never in 1,000,000,000,000,000 years realize that the number just presented was 1 quadrillion (or a thousand trillion, or a million billion, as a Brit might say). But otherwise, why use words for figures up to ten (or 10) and then suddenly switch to numerals? I personally will continue to trust my judgment on the ability of the reader to grasp the figures being presented. As I’ve pointed out before, it’s difficult for most people to conceptualize large numbers in a useful way in the first place. And words like “e-mail”? Until the AP style guide decides to apply the same rule to “e-commerce” and “e-book”, I’m keeping the hyphen. And if they later decide that other e-words should lose the hyphens? I think I’ll keep them anyway. I’m convinced that the AP is just doing piecemeal releases to sell more print copies, much like software giantsĀ  Microsoft and Adobe ruin perfectly functional software with pointless and costly upgrades. And why buy a copy of the AP stylebook when Reuters serves one up for free?