The Associated Press (AP) Stylebook provide a writing standard used by most journalists in their work. It’s the standard I learned doing student journalism, and it’s a standard I continue to reference in my personal writing.
AP style is built on certain principles that I hold closley in my writing, and it is for this reason that I respect and refer to it. However, this website is not written in Associated Press (AP) style. That’s on purpose.
As much as I try to adhere to journalistic standards, this site doesn’t usually contain original reporting. I hold myself to a high standard, but given the limitations I face without any institutional backing or funding, there are certain requirements I have to loosen to be able to create content.
I also try to give this website a classy but personal touch. This aim at times conflicts with standards set forth by the AP, so I have to balance my interest in personalizing the style and maintaining AP principles.
To match the spirit of what I am writing and how I wish to present it, I’ve modified some of the standards created by the Associated Press. I probably will not comprehensively codify this style anytime soon, but each choice is intentional (even if some prove to be mistakes) and based on a common set of writing principles.
Here is a partial list of stylistic choices I have made for this website and their motivations:
I may use the lower case in header text.
I do not capitalize the first word in an expression just because it is first, and I definitely do not use title case when it is unneccessary. These rules apply mostly to header text; writing isolated sentence fragments in the body of text feels yucky, so I try not to do that.
Generally on this website, a word must be a proper noun or the first word of a complete sentence to be capitalized, otherwise it’s lowercase (with a few standard exceptions, like the word “I”).
This is motivated by my appreciation for the aesthetic of the lower case. There’s a visual balance to allowing a sentence fragment to remain uncapitalized, and (over)use of the lower case feels distinctly modern.
Capitalization in English is quirky, and I think largely that’s okay, so I haven’t thrown out all capitalization standards. Capitalizing the first word of each sentence definitely makes text more readable to me, so that will remain the same.
With other matters, though, capitalization just feels superfluous, the primary example being with sentence fragments in header text.1
I use the Oxford comma.
In my humble opinion, using the Oxford comma gives lists an additional element of readability, generally clarifies syntactical ambiguities (although these should generally be avoided with rewording), and is the right thing to do.
A retributive fire — the subject of which is the Associated Press — burns within my soul because of their choice to require omission of the Oxford comma in their guidelines. However, I must bide my indignation such that I may one day exploit its energy and bring the world closer to justice by attempting to reform the AP’s sins.
For the sake of saving this angry energy, I must not dwell on the subject of commas.
I use footnotes and verbose citations.
AP style is for news writing and short information pieces, where footnotes can add clutter and confusion rather than clarification. However, on this website, and with the style of writing with which I engage, footnotes are a necessity.
Footnotes give me an opportunity to write nonlinearly, and more importantly, they provide me an opportunity to link to or contextualize my sources.
However, in principle, I will also cite my sources in the Associated Press style (for example: “According to the statement from Facebook, the company’s servers double as toaster ovens”), for the sake of clarity and transparency. It’s also good practice.
I make use of rich elements like footnotes, blockquotes, and code blocks for illustrative purposes, as well. While you might never see a full paragraph quotation in a news story (for the sake of brevity) this website contains a longer form of writing that lends itself to longer quotations and other text elements, and I have to properly format them.
I capitalize the racial groups “Black” and “White.”
The AP stylebook says, “Capitalize the proper names of nationalities, peoples, races, tribes, etc.”
The question, therefore, is whether the words “black” and “white” are proper names when referring to people of African and European descent, respectively. The AP apparently believes not; its stylebook advises that each be used in the lower case even when used as racial terms.
I do not have a particularly strong opinion on this because capitalization is not a hill on which I wish to die. However, whereas:
- Classification of a word as a “proper noun” is a somewhat collective choice among English speakers.
- There’s an aire of dignity to capitalization.
- It’s okay to err on the side of respect when it comes to referring to a group of persons.
I therefore vote to capitalize “Black” and “White.”2
I haven’t been writing news stories on this site, but I am hoping to foster a writing style that appeals to the principles of journalism. The primary ways in which I appeal to these principles is in how I plan and research each article, but writing is another essential part of that.
It is for these reasons that I have chosen to generally adhere to AP style guidelines in my writing on this site, and it is primarily for the purposes of personalizing my site and properly formatting my writing that I diverge from them.