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When the word went out today that the editors of The Associated Press Stylebook would announce changes in AP style at the national conference of the American Copy Editors Society, the nation ground to a halt.

Factories suspended production. Police and fire departments called in employees on overtime. Members of the Cabinet were summoned to the White House. Knots of anxious civilians gathered in the streets to speculate worriedly on the decisions about to be handed down. Some ducked into bars for fortification.

And then the tweets began scattering across the Twitterverse:

E-mail will become email as of 3 a.m. EDT on March 19, 2011.

The sensation that this announcement sparked cannot be described.

But there was more.

Cell phone and smart phone fuse into single words.

Gasps go up from the crowd in Times Square.

And in Britain, where they are apparently able to take these things with less commotion, @guardianstyle comments: “Early reaction to that #apstyle about-turn on email: ‘I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth.’ "

No doubt other earth-shattering changes will appear this spring when the 2011 edition of the stylebook comes out. Until then, brown paper bags will be distributed to those hyperventilating over the initial announcement.

Hopefully, the next post here will be able to return to issues that matter.



Posted by John McIntyre at 2:37 PM | | Comments (24)


Sing it, John!

I'm proud to confirm that we at The (London) Times still persist with "e-mail". Proud, I tell you!

They can fiddle with the small stuff, as long as we know that when the sun comes up the next morning prices will still skyrocket, hitting us in the pocketbook. Rifles (always high-powered) will still be brandished, and shots will ring out. That's the true core of journalism.

The emotional impact this "email" announcement is having on me makes me realize I need to re-evaluate my entire perspective. We're talking about a /word/, for crying out loud, now officially -- AP-wise, at least -- without a hyphen. News regarding "-" changed my life instantly. It's been the highlight of my day. Something is not right.

Meanwhile, the AP retains the hyphen in e-reader and e-book. And for the next 18 months, every reference to "Kolkata" will have to be accompanied by "previously known as ..."

Paper bag, please! And not for hyperventilation.

I've been using "email" for years now, and have been leaning toward "ebook" (rather than e-book) for some time now. Anything else you'd like me to settle?

Yes, please, Dahlink ... A-bomb, C-section, D-Day, e-coli, g-string, H-bomb, K-rations, O-level, Q-car, S-bend, T-Rex, U-bend, V-sign, X-ray, what's so special about e-mail?

Oh, Picky--that list gave me vertigo! I will state emphatically, however, that it should be T. (full stop, no hyphen) Rex.

I think you're right.

I'm with Dahlink on T. Rex. That's how I'm teaching it to the GrandBoys!

Y-fronts, then.

I think "briefs" is AP style for "Y-fronts."

T. rex, E.coli - they're both genus/species names.

And email began that way and acquired a spurious hyphen later in life. Glad to see it's gone; I never used it.

Nothing spurious about it. G-spot.

L-driver on the M-way, not the A-road.

G-whiz, Picky.

I'm still curious where they got e-mail. I've been on the Internet, professionally, since 1989 and have never seen anyone use a hyphen other than noobs.

F-word, B-test, J-cloth, T-shirt, U-boat.   Where they got it from is simple, Mr Saunders. The most common ways to form this sort of expression are E noun, E-noun and e-noun.  If you prefer enoun, well fine, but there's really no need to get in a tizzy about the perfectly regular form e-mail.

I suggest you say three times before breakfast: "The Associated Press is just a news agency. There are hundreds of them. AP style is just a news agency stylebook." Stop moaning about it. If you don't like it, don't use it.

There's something rather cheapskate about using someone else's stylebook secondhand, anyway.

D-ring. (You prefer dring? No? There's a reason for that.) C-clamp. F-clamp. G-clamp. n-gram. Is a pattern beginning to form? Are you in favour of fclamp? And you pronounce it ... ? And ngram? Bantu, is it? Oh heck, I give up.

You know, I'd kind of like to see "dring" acquire a definition; I rather like the sound of it. Not as a substitute for D-ring, certainly, but perhaps some enterprising individual will adopt the word and give it a semantic home.

Oh, Kolkata!

Most of my students here at UNC like the change to email. A few like the hyphen, and several have no preference.

Consistency overrules "correctness." How many readers will now have to re-read "ecommerce" before they recognize it as the more understandable "e-commerce"?

When AP comes to its senses and decides to join the civilized world by using the serial comma, please call me.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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