Talking Tiger
April 22, 2010
#MediaMonday – Cathryn Creno
April 26, 2010

HMA's Scott Hanson with his handy (1977!) Stylebook and a 2001 version

Quite the discussion at OJR: The Online Journalism Review about the relevance of the AP Stylebook compared to SEO writing.

I’ve always thought the stylebook to be like a dictionary – with a new and improved version featuring “approved” new words with each new edition. It is the foundation for our public writing, whether in print or on the Web.

With the stylebook, I tend to notice some of the pre-Internet changes, such as the evolution in datelines. So many cities that once required a state identifier, such as Phoenix, Ariz., are now stand-alone locales. Since we are often asked to be all-knowing by our clients, we don’t have much of a choice other than to “know it all.”

Like others in our industry, as a college student I was tested regularly on the AP Stylebook. I continue to be tested daily with just about everything I write.

There have been many other updates and opinions about the role of the AP Stylebook, like these from our HMA staffers:

“I have a love/hate relationship with the AP Stylebook. I had a journalism professor in college that used to test us on sections of the book. Oh my, that's like saying, ‘Memorize the phone book in case you need to know a number.’ But that commitment to knowing what was in the stylebook has guided me through my professional career. But a lot has changed since my journalism classes - we didn't need to know how to reference the word ‘website’ because we had never heard of websites back then (early-mid 1980s). So I say, teach our j-students all there is to know NOW about how to be a journalist. If that means one style for traditional print and another for online/digital communications, so be it. Just know that the j-students of the future will look back on this blog and wonder what the heck we're talking about -- because something new and different will have come on the scene.”Abbie S. Fink

“You know what trumps AP style and SEO for me? Good writing, creative writing and clever writing. I live by the motto "Write the way you talk" and although I certainly use AP style in news releases and an SEO-style of sorts online and in social media conversations, it is the clever writing BEFORE the news release or post - aka my "pitch" portion - that I feel has helped me succeed in the communications profession. With that said, teach students everything! Why only pick and choose one or the other? I vote all - and then some more.”Alison Bailin

“I don’t think this is an either/or conversation. I think journalism courses should take into account past and present writing practices – not only the tools journalists have used for years (adapting to changes like “website”) but the tools that will keep writing practices current and in the now. I like AP style because it provides a standard of writing that is recognized by journalists nationally. I still have my stylebook in my desk drawer! That said, we need to recognize that SEO is here to stay and start integrating it into teaching plans. Both styles are important and relevant, in my opinion: AP style gives us a benchmark for proper journalistic writing, but SEO helps us write strategically to maximize our impact online. Bring ‘em both on!” -- Beth Wilkinson

What do you think? Room for both? Need for both? A dinosaur or an always evolving work-in-progress?

Oh, and did we get an “A” on this stylebook quiz?

Abbie S. Fink
Abbie S. Fink
Vice President/General Manager Abbie has been doing public relations her whole life…from organizing a picket line in 6th grade to organizing client communications today. She’s passionate about a lot of things, you’ll see. Check out Abbie's full bio

1 Comment

  1. susan hart says:

    I love this post, and I love the AP Stylebook! That book is the basis of my journalism education, and that basis continues to grow on a professional level. To ask me to undo a thinking pattern that is so mentally entrenched in my little head is like asking me to do brain surgery. Not gonna happen!

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