How Not to Use AP Style in Relationships

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.

Sometimes having such a keen interest in and know-how of AP Style can get you into trouble.

When writers versed in AP Style guidelines hear a mistake, they must immediately decide whether or not to point it out. But pointing it out may not always be the smartest course of action. Take this example, for instance:

SPOUSE: Oh, I adore this sweater. It’s very unique.

INCORRECT RESPONSE: Well, darling, your use of the word “very” indicates you think there’s a sliding scale of uniqueness, that perhaps some sweaters aren’t very unique at all, while others are only sort of unique. In actuality, there is no sliding scale. Something is either unique or it isn’t.  As AP Style points out, unique means “one of a kind.” Period. It does not mean “attractive and unusual.”

In the interest of relationship harmony, sometimes it’s best to just keep quiet. Trust me.

SPOUSE: Let’s walk a little further into the woods.

INCORRECT RESPONSE: Well, darling, since you’re referring to physical distance, we’ll be walking “farther” into the woods. According to AP Style, please save the word “further” to indicate an extension of time or degree. For instance, you’d be looking “further” into the mystery.

Still not convinced? Consider a scenario like this:

SPOUSE: I’ve had it with you. I’m calling an attorney.

INCORRECT RESPONSE: Well, be careful that you make sure the attorney is an actual lawyer, darling. You might not know this, but AP Style says an “attorney” is simply somebody who is empowered to act on behalf of somebody else, while a “lawyer” is somebody who passed the bar.

SPOUSE: I’m going to murder you.

FINAL INCORRECT RESPONSE: Now, “murder” is something that can only be determined by a judge. It would be more precise to say you’re going to kill me.

AP Style Quick Bites

Here are a few additional AP Style reminders to keep in your back pocket. They can be helpful whether or not they come up in relationship conversations.

  • Remember, the comma goes INSIDE the quote marks. “I don’t like pumpkin spice,” she said.
  • CYBER: Use it sparingly. In general, internet, digital, or a similar term is preferred, as in internet shopping or online security. When necessary to use, follow the general rule for prefixes, which calls for no hyphen in most cases. For example: cyberattack, cyberbullying, cybercafe, cybersecurity, cyberspace. But include a space in Cyber Monday and cyber shopping. AP Style’s decisions on when to use one word or two words are made on a case-by-case basis, based largely on prevailing usage if the term isn’t in Webster’s New World College Dictionary.
  • YEARS: When a phrase refers to a month and day within the current year, do not include the year: The hearing is scheduled for June 26. If the reference is to a past or future year, include the year and set it off with commas: Feb. 14, 2025, is the target date. Use an s without an apostrophe to indicate spans of decades or centuries: the 1890s, the 1800s. Years are an exception to the general rule that a figure is not used to start a sentence: 2013 was a very good year.
  • GENERATIVE AI: It’s a term for AI systems capable of creating text, images, video, audio, code, and other media in response to queries. Generative AI systems often are powered by large language models. Humans can interact with generative AI models in a seemingly natural way but the models aren’t reliably capable of distinguishing between facts and falsehoods or fantasy. They sometimes generate inaccurate or fabricated responses to queries, an effect AI scientists call “hallucination.” If using the term, describe it as an issue associated with the technology that produces falsehoods or inaccurate or illogical information. Some in the field prefer the term “confabulation” or simpler terms to describe the inaccuracies that don’t draw comparisons with mental illness.
  • B.C.: Either B.C. or B.C.E. (Before the Common Era) is acceptable in all references to a calendar year in the period before Christ. The abbreviation B.C. or B.C.E. is placed after the figure for the year: 43 B.C. or 43 B.C.E. Either A.D. or C.E. (Common Era) is acceptable in all references for anno Domini: in the year of the Lord. Because the full phrase would read in the year of the Lord 96, the abbreviation A.D. goes before the figure for the year: A.D. 96. But it would be 96 C.E. Instead of referring to “the fourth century A.D,” it’s sufficient to write just “the fourth century.” If A.D. is not specified with a year, the year is presumed to be A.D. For any of these abbreviations, if quoting a specific person or group, use the form preferred by that person or group.

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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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