How Associated Press Copy Editors Keep Fusty Old Journalists Honest

They're the best in the game - period.

Considerably less fusty than their peers over at the Modern Language Association, the editors of the AP Stylebook keep an impressively solid bead on culture, holding a red ink mirror up to our world one persnickety rule at a time (not how mirrors work, but you get it). The most recent updates feel especially relevant and indicative of the sort of issues mainstream publications now have to reckon with. After all, our scare quotes tell us more about ourselves than our real quotes. Right? Sure.

These are the big changes keeping your copy editor in ballpoints.

“Global Warming”

GW is now interchangeable with CC. Want to know why? They’re the same idea. Essentially, AP is decoupling actual rising temperatures from the theory of anthropocentric environmental effects. Makes sense: They were already separate in the public discourse.

“Final Four”

The AP is moving to get major events out of quotes and that move makes sense even if it gets a bit arbitrary - Elite Eight is also standalone but Round of 32 isn’t. Want to know why this is happening now? SEO, baby. Outlets spend March sending key term-rich prayers to the many-faced Google god. The result is a bunch of Yahoo beat writers ignoring the old rule. 

Sometimes the AP leads by following.


The phrase isn’t banned outright, but it’s actively discouraged. This makes sense not only because it seems a bit John Woo-y for responsible reporting, but also because it’s shitty writing. Did they execute them or not? Either they did or they didn’t.

“Craft Brewery”

The AP loves an IPA, but prefers a farmhouse ale. To that end, the Stylebook now prefers Craft to Micro because it accurately reflects just how precious the beer industry has become. Big beer makers can be pretentious now too! First round says they got some pressure from New Belgium to make this switch.

“Killed Himself”

The AP actually deserves a lot of respect for going to war against the legalistic phrase “committed suicide,” which contextualizes intense personal tragedy within regional laws. It’s worth noting that suicides in Oregon, Vermont, and Washington can now be assisted but not committed. This change is especially important as medical technology makes extreme longevity possible and death more of a decision than a looming inevitability. The line between “Do Not Resuscitate” order and suicide is getting very blurry very fast. The word “suicide” may itself fall from favor as it becomes too ambiguous for practical use.


The term coined (or re-coined from Greek) by Richard Dawkins to describe a discreet unit of shareable culture - roughly equivalent to a single gene - can finally roam free of it’s apostrophic constraints. This feels like a belated call by the AP, but the delay actually makes sense. Mainstream outlets, the Press’s core clientele and constituency, have only recently and awkwardly started to engage with Reddit and Imgur. The AP remains silent on how to incorporate Yao Ming’s Bitch Please face into a sentence, but this is a first step.


Facebook pretty much owns the media at this point so it’s no small wonder that Facebook’s lexicon is getting adopted by the powers that AP. Zuckerberg may be the most powerful man in American copyediting at this point, which is the sort of fact that might bother you if you dwell on it so don’t.