AP Style Rules for ChatGPT, “Woke” and 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.

It’s time for another quarterly AP Stylebook recap and with this edition, we’ll be reviewing some recent changes to the Stylebook. I know many of us might prefer these rules to remain constant, but in reality, style, grammar, and even common spellings are fluid, changing with the times and common usage.

Here are a few interesting tidbits, and as always, if there are any topics you’d like to see covered in a future recap, let us know!

🤖 ChatGPT

This new entry explains something we’ve been hearing about a lot but might not yet know much about.

ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence (AI) text chatbot made by the company OpenAI that was released as a free web-based tool in late 2022. It relies on technology known as a large language model, which is trained to mimic how people write by processing a large database of digitized books and online writings and analyzing how words are sequenced together.

People can ask ChatGPT to answer a question or generate new passages of text, including songs, poems, letters, and essays. It responds by making predictions about what words would answer the prompt it was given.

Tools such as ChatGPT show a strong command of human language, grammar, and writing styles but are often factually incorrect (a topic we’ve covered in recent media news roundups). Avoid language that attributes human characteristics to these tools, since they do not have thoughts or feelings but can sometimes respond in ways that give the impression that they do.

✏️ Woke

Speaking of recent items in the news, there seems to be a new definition of an old word.

Use quotes around the slang term “woke,” which originally described enlightenment or awakening about issues of racial and other forms of social justice.

Some people and groups, especially conservatives, now use it in a derogatory sense implying what they see as overreactions.

🌎 Climate Terminology

While climate change might not be considered new news, how we describe different aspects of the ongoing event is still evolving:

  • Climate budget: The amount of carbon dioxide that can be emitted globally before the world will exceed the goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius or 2 degrees Celsius.
  • Carbon footprint: Just about every business, government entity, product, and mode of transportation has a carbon footprint, or an amount of greenhouse gases (mostly carbon dioxide, but others as well) put into the atmosphere. These greenhouse gases, of course, mostly come from the consumption of fossil fuels.
  • Desertification: The process in which land becomes increasingly dry, with the amount and lushness of vegetation decreasing and eventually disappearing. Explain the term if you use it or quote someone using it.
  • Greenwashing: Advertising or claims by companies, countries, or other organizations that aim to deceive the public to believe a certain product, policy, or organization is environmentally friendly. The term can be used independently or in direct quotations if one organization is accusing another of greenwashing. Explain the term when used.

💵 Nonprofit vs. Not-for-Profit

Did you know there’s a difference between “nonprofit” and “not-for-profit”? Here’s the Stylebook entry:

In the U.S., a nonprofit organization is one that has tax-exempt status from the IRS and has a stated mission to provide a public benefit and often can receive a tax-deductible donation. Examples include a charity, church, or other social welfare group. That’s in contrast to a for-profit organization, which operates in order to generate revenue for its owners, like most businesses.

A not-for-profit organization is not required to operate for the public good and donations to the organization are not tax-deductible, even if it has IRS tax-exempt status.

Nonprofits are categorized based on what section of the Internal Revenue Code governs their type of organization. There are 29 types, but the most common are:

  • 501(c)(3): Organizations created for what the U.S. tax code defines as “social welfare,” these are generally seen as charitable, educational, or religious groups. They have tax-exempt status and donations to them are tax-deductible. To maintain that status, their work cannot primarily focus on lobbying for a single political candidate or party.
  • 501(c)(4): These organizations are also created for “social welfare,” but they are allowed to donate to specific political candidates or parties and lobby for them. Donations to these groups are not tax-deductible.

Generally, refer to nonprofits based on their stated missions: “The charity is dedicated to supporting earthquake victims,” or “The homeless shelter has seen an increased demand for its services.”

Use the tax code designation in stories questioning whether the group is using its funding properly or to differentiate nonprofits working in the same sector.

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Randall McCoach
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Randall McCoach is a senior editor in the Albuquerque Bureau at Cision PR Newswire. He's been with the company since 2007. Before that, he worked on the copy/design desks of the Albuquerque Journal, Albuquerque Tribune, and San Angelo (Texas) Standard-Times. Outside of work, he's a fan of baseball and funny cat videos.

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