AP Style: Rules for Writing About Ukraine, Russia & More
We know journalists are busy, and it can be difficult to keep up with recent AP Stylebook changes. So we’ve done the work for you, rounding up a few of the recent significant — and just plain interesting — updates to the AP Stylebook.
Welcome to another edition of our quarterly AP Style roundups. The pandemic continues to make up a large part of the news and we want to make sure reporters are caught up on the latest terminology surrounding it. But in this edition, we’re addressing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine first, as it’s dominating the news.
We’ll also cover writing reminders for electric vehicle terminology, weather and more.
Let’s dig in.
Ukraine & Russia
Russia began attacks in Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, and it’s been at the top of the news cycle ever since. Here are a few rules and reminders for writing about the conflict.
- Volodymyr Zelenskyy (note the -yy ending) is the correct spelling for the Ukrainian President. It’s also the spelling used by governments and organizations including the U.S. and NATO. According to an advisory sent to AP news customers, “Zelenskyy wants to be known using the -yy ending to his name when transliterated into the Latin alphabet from Cyrillic.”
- Kyiv is the capital of Ukraine. The style was changed in 2019 to align with the Ukrainian government’s preferred transliteration to English. It’s pronounced KEE’-yeev.
- Crimea is a Black Sea peninsula seized from Ukraine by Russia and annexed in March 2014.
- Chernobyl is the site of a serious accident at a nuclear power plant in 1986.
- War is an appropriate term to describe what’s happening in Ukraine. Invasion and attack are also acceptable.
It’s been two years since the WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. Since then, we’ve included a number of tips for writing about the coronavirus in our quarterly AP Style roundups. As the world starts to (slowly but surely) move on, here are a few more:
- An epidemic is the rapid spreading of disease in a certain population or region. A pandemic is an epidemic that has spread exponentially and wider, usually to multiple countries or continents, affecting a large number of people. Health experts expect it to eventually become endemic, which is an adjective referring to the constant presence of a disease that spreads at a predictable rate.
- The term “vaccine passports” is acceptable, but “proof of vaccination” is better.
- Lowercase variants like delta and omicron.
- A breakthrough infection occurs in a fully vaccinated person. Since definitions of fully vaccinated can vary, make sure to define what is meant in each case.
- AP Style is to avoid the term asymptomatic, as it’s considered medical jargon. Try using “people without symptoms” or “they had no symptoms” instead.
As we start to transition from winter to spring, we’re ready to get into the garden and review a few weather-related writing rules:
- When writing about the temperature, use figures for everything except zero. And if the temperature is below zero, write out minus rather than using a minus sign. For example, the town experienced a low of minus 5 yesterday, or 5 below zero.
- The first day of spring is Sunday, March 20. Remember that seasons should be lowercase: fall, winter, spring, and summer.
- Forecast should also be used for the past tense – not forecasted. Weather forecaster is the preferred term, but weatherman is also acceptable.
Electric vehicles are powered at least partially by a battery linked to an electric motor. There are three types:
- Hybrid: Uses both an electric motor and gasoline engine and can shift back and forth for efficiency
- Plug-in hybrid: Can run on battery power alone before reverting to hybrid operation
- Battery-electric: Runs solely on batteries
EV is acceptable on second reference for vehicles with no internal combustion engine.
Read more about the EV industry by following these standout EV blogs.
The proposed metaverse combines augmented reality, virtual reality and other tech to create an immersive online world where people can gather to play, work, socialize and shop. It’s also a tech industry buzzword used by companies to describe existing technologies.
Here are a few other recent reminders from the AP Stylebook that you should know about:
- Avoid describing sobriety as “clean” unless it’s part of a direct quote. The term implies a previous state of dirtiness instead of disease.
- Smartphones and smartwatches should be written as one word. Include a space in other “smart” terms like smart TV and smart home.
- The terms film and movie are generally interchangeable. While most movies use digital recording rather than film, film is an acceptable term for a movie.
- Alum or alums are acceptable gender-neutral terms. Alumnus/alumni are used for men, while alumna/alumnae are used for women.