AP state name style change makes sense in a global news ecology

I audibly gasped.

I went into denial.

I started questioning everything I knew.

But, it was there in the digital black and white of a tweet.

The Associated Press changed it’s rules about state names, and now requires them to be spelled out in the body of a story – even when paired with a city name.

People had a collective moment:

In my first journalism classes, we learned the AP Stylebook was a media writer’s bible (with a small “b”). We learned in the past few years just how much this “bible” is open for interpretation.

For example, it used to disambiguate between “over” and “more than.” But, that all changed. When it did, language conservatives were traumatized. As hard as it to let go of “a truth” you’ve learned, language is always changing, adapting and making progress. Just as scientific discoveries change how scientists think about the world, communicators need to change how they think about the world.

Because the world is increasingly global. And, international style requires state names to be spelled out for the benefit of foreign nationals, who may not be as intimate with American geography in the way Americans are global geography experts.

For news available on the Internet from anywhere in the world, news shared from one international friend to another on Facebook, news tweeted from a news service account to a worldwide audience, it makes sense to have one consistent style.

News is global – and we shouldn’t panic if we have to type a few more letters.

I’m off now to learn how to spell Massachusetts.

Photo of former NYC Associated Press building.
Photo by Alterego.

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