This site uses cookies to provide a streamlined experience. To learn more see our current privacy policy.
We See Things
Differently

Welcome to The Stream: Allison+Partners’ content hub that features the latest news and trends making the biggest waves in media and marketing.

APRIL 5, 2019 //     

New AP Style and grammar changes: Or how I learned to stop worrying and love the change

Credit: TeachingEnglishBy: Jacques Couret

You can’t teach a dog new tricks, and the same often holds true for copy editors.

We’re a critical bunch, naturally adverse to changes to grammar and style rules after decades of upholding them and acting as the last line of defense between creative copy and an audience eager to find an embarrassing error. I believe the young kids call these people “Grammar Nazis”? I digress…

So when the Associated Press Stylebook update and American Copy Editors Society Conference hit every spring, people like me clench their teeth, cross their fingers and hope the higher powers don’t mess with beloved tradition. Inevitably, they do mess with beloved tradition and set off nerdy online and intra-newsroom grammar debates I enjoy as much as a glass of Islay scotch.

For those not as inclined to such fussy academic quarreling, I present some key AP Style and English grammar changes that will make writing in your professional life much easier.

New AP Stylebook Rules

Percent vs. % – It is now acceptable to use “%” instead of having to write out “percent.” There should be no space between the numeral and the symbol. If the percentage is less than one, place a “0” before the decimal. Correct: “A survey shows 99.9% of Allison+Partners employees agree The Beatles are the greatest rock band of all time. Who cares what the 0.1% think?”

Hyphenated race – Race designations, such as African American, Asian American, Italian American and so forth, no longer require hyphens.

Casualty/Casualties – do not use the word “casualty” or “casualties” because AP deems the word “vague and can refer to either injuries or deaths. Instead, be specific about what is meant. If authorities use the term, press for specifics. If specifics aren’t available, say so: Officer Riya Kumar said the crash resulted in casualties, but she did not know whether those were injuries or deaths.”

Cocktail – it is no longer acceptable to use the word “cocktail” to describe a mixture of drugs. It’s now proper to write “drug combination,” “drugs” or “medications.”

Suspect – do not use the word “suspect” to describe “a person of unknown identity who definitely committed a crime. In other words, don’t substitute suspect for robber, killer, rapist, etc., in describing an event, even if authorities phrase it that way. Correct: Police said the robber stole 14 diamond rings; the thief ran away. Incorrect: Police said the suspect stole 14 diamond rings; the suspect ran away. Conversely, don’t substitute robber, killer, rapist, etc., when suspect is indeed the correct word. Correct: Police arrested the suspect the next day. Incorrect: Police arrested the robber the next day.”

Grammar change from the American Copy Editors Society

Split Infinitives – In a nod to the spoken word, it is now OK to split an infinitive in professional writing. For those who took naps in English 101, an infinitive is the “to form” of the verb. To go. To eat. To sleep. The old rule was to always place an adverb after the verb and never between the “to” and the verb. An example from Star Trek: “To boldly go where no man has gone before…” is now correct. Formerly, a copy editor would have corrected that phrase to read “to go boldly.” Split infinitives are now acceptable, meaning the written word will sound better to the ear.

In a related note, most contemporary grammarians now give their blessing to end sentences with prepositions. The great Sir Winston Churchill himself once mocked someone who criticized him for ending a sentence with a preposition by saying: "That is the sort of thing up with which I will not put!"

The “never end a sentence with a preposition” rule is arbitrary. It’s a rule a British essayist popularized centuries ago based on language roots in Latin, where it is not possible to end a  sentence with a preposition. Scholarly English grammarians who wished to apply Latin rules to English (a square peg in a round hole if there ever was one) should not dictate how we write today. If we have to rewrite sentences to avoid putting prepositions at the end, it can read and sound awkward. It’s better to go with what sounds better.

These are all rules you can live easily with.

Jacques Couret is editorial manager for All Told.

The Stream

Articles + Opinions Delivered Directly to your Inbox.

Sign Up today!

NATGEO // Jun 5, 2019 Photo by Michael Yamashita @yamashitaphoto | Once extensively logged, Jiuzhaigou is now China’s most popular national park. The reserve protects 278 square miles of what the UN Environment Programme calls “the most biologically diverse temperate forest in
GOODTYPE // Jun 4, 2019 Love this one by @thatgingergirl88. Words below by Lucy: ・・・ Support Your Local Artist. We're nothing without you. Whether you buy fruit and veg from the market, an art print, music, a cake, clothes, hiring us for a job, promoting our work, or even ju
TMAGAZINE // Jun 4, 2019 #RoomOfTheDay: In the writer and horticulturist #UmbertoPasti's #Moroccan home Rohuna, an entry laid with 19th-century Spanish cement tiles rescued from a now-demolished villa in #Tangier. The light fixture is a cage for transporting pigeons, and on t
ABSTRACTSUNDAY // Jun 4, 2019 Good morning #saopaulo
NATGEO // Jun 4, 2019 Photo by Muhammed Muheisen @mmuheisen | A woman holds balloons while walking along a street in Amsterdam, Netherlands. For more photos and videos from different parts of the world, follow me @mmuheisen and @mmuheisenpublic #muhammedmuheisen #Amsterdam #ne
TMAGAZINE // Jun 3, 2019 A villa built by #PieroPortaluppi during #Milan’s fascist period has reopened as the flagship gallery of contemporary art dealer #MassimoDeCarlo. “I wanted to challenge the idea of the white box,” says De Carlo. “And there is nothing less ‘white box’ than
NATGEO // Jun 3, 2019 Photo by Ami Vitale @amivitale | Students enjoy the ocean in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka, after visiting Koneswaram Kovil. The town has been a Hindu pilgrimage site since 400 BCE. Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, and Muslim students all visit the Hindu temple and
CHRISCONNOLLY // Jun 3, 2019
13THWITNESS // Jun 3, 2019 NEW JACK CITI
TRASHHAND // Jun 3, 2019
NATGEO // Jun 2, 2019 Photo by Pete McBride @pedromcbride | Surf Patterns: As a lifelong surfing junkie, I love the feeling of gliding across glassy water and the texture of the ocean, which can both inspire and humble. According to some historians, early accounts of surfing m
ABSTRACTSUNDAY // Jun 2, 2019 Oops.
MRSEAVES101 // Jun 1, 2019 Out here in Portland for a couple of weeks! Mural designed and painted by @natecorrado and @gascoyne for @nuevodanceparty.
KRISTASCHLUETER // Jun 1, 2019 I have the full party page tomorrow in @nytimes ✨✨✨ swipe for the scene ✨✨✨
DANIELARSHAM // May 31, 2019 @snarkitecture Alice in Wonderland
TMAGAZINE // May 31, 2019 #RoomOfTheDay: As the architect for #Prada’s stores, #RobertoBaciocchi created an elegant, clean-lined aesthetic. But in his own #Tuscan house, idiosyncrasy reigns. In the entry, #GioPonti chairs and chests from the 1950s are surrounded by abstract wall p
JEFFSTAPLE // MAY 28, 2019
My mind is “squats”. My body is saying “everything bagel with nova salmon and cream cheese.”
BRAINPICKER // MAY 28, 2019
“We cannot step outside life’s songs. This music made us; it is our nature.” Biologist David George Haskell on wha… t.co/Ai0CaWgbe8
BUSINESSINSIDER // MAY 28, 2019
Inside The New York Times' unique deal with FX and Hulu for its TV show, 'The Weekly,' which could be a blueprint f… t.co/9GpvSANfN5
JACKMARSHALL // MAY 28, 2019
why do 30% of people seem completely shocked when the subway train they’re standing on begins to move?
MAGGIENYT // MAY 28, 2019
Ex-defense secretary Jim Mattis has book coming this summer t.co/BbB5LLzTH0
SALON // MAY 28, 2019
How Betomania just beat Texas' voter suppression chief: Secretary of state forced to resign t.co/YVQOq9nHHf

When two great agencies come together, the results are better than chocolate.

OneChocolate is now part of Allison+Partners