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2019 AP Stylebook Updates That You Should Know

by Emily Rosenberg


The Associated Press Stylebook is a revered writing guide for journalists, PR professionals and members of the media. Every year, AP releases an updated edition with new words, phrases, formats, and grammar – pushing the writing world to dig a little deeper. The 2019 AP Stylebook includes over 200 new or revised entries, and PR pros know the importance of keeping tabs on the biggest updates. Now that we’re halfway through the year(!), it’s a good time to brush up on some of the most crucial changes. 

Race-Related Coverage

In 2019, the AP Stylebook added this important “umbrella entry” that compiles scattered or similar entries into one section, highlighting the importance of the topic. Some of the additions include: 

  • General guidelines remind readers to “consider carefully when deciding whether to identify people by race. Often, it is an irrelevant factor and drawing unnecessary attention to someone’s race or ethnicity can be interpreted as bigotry.”
  • Avoid euphemisms like “racially charged, racially divisive, racially tinged” when the words “racism and or racist are truly applicable.”
  • Avoid hyphens for dual heritage, for example, “Filipino-American” should be just “Filipino American.”

An online PDF is available with the full umbrella entry, with yellow highlight revisions and additions. 


Augmented Reality vs. Virtual Reality

Consumer Electronics Show (CES) preparations are already underway at BIGfish, and with all the new innovation to write, talk, and tweet about, it’s crucial to understand the difference between these two increasingly important technologies. 

  • VR and AR are now acceptable after the first reference.
  • AP Stylebook definition of VR: “a computer-generated simulation of an interactive, three-dimensional environment, that allows interaction through the use of headsets, hand-held controllers and other electronic equipment.” 
  • AR: this technology projects computer-generated images into a person’s actual surroundings (think: Snapchat).


Another new change in 2019 involves the percentage sign. The word “percent” can be used in a more casual sense, as in “I have a 0 percent chance of winning.” However, the % sign should be used with a numeral in most cases.


Hyphen Update

  • In addition to removing hyphens from dual heritage descriptions, AP also requests the removal of hyphens from double-e combination words. So “re-election” should be “reelection.”
  • Hyphens are generally used to aid reader comprehension, and AP has loosened the rules about hyphens in compound modifiers and other uses. Now you can decide when to use them in a case-by-case basis, as long as they are helping the reader! 


An appearance from Santa

And just in time for Holiday Gift Guide Season, the new 2019 AP Stylebook notes that when referencing a certain holiday gift-giver, the use of Santa Claus and Santa are “Nice in any reference. Naughty: Using Claus on second reference.” And of course, the use of Mrs. Claus “is acceptable for Santa’s wife.” 


Are there any other important updates you think we should highlight? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter

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