“Despite drastic changes in the media landscape, one constant remains: The AP Stylebook is a definitive resource for writers.”—Foreword, “The Associated Press Stylebook, 55th Edition”

I’ve been thinking lately that it might be time to upgrade to a newer edition of “The Associated Press Stylebook.” Don’t get me wrong, the one I currently own is still a very useful book — its entries are clear and concise.

The problem is that it’s getting a little long in the tooth, being the 28th edition from 1993 and all. OK, it’s a sabertooth, being 29 years and 27 editions behind the times. And, as much as I hate to admit it, times have changed and it really is time for a new one.

Why, there are “more than 200 new and revised entries” in the stylebook’s 55th edition alone – just imagine all the cool words I’ve missed over the intervening decades. (But I’m not worried. My hedge against grammatical obsolescence is my trusty 2005 Encarta Dictionary, which contains “many new words derived from high technology.”)

But even we luddites sometimes have to admit that it’s time for a change. Just think of all the fancy writing I could do if I possessed the new stylebook, which for those unfamiliar, is a universally used guide for American English grammar and word usage for newspapers, magazines and those who write for them. I’d know that COVID-19 is all caps and that it’s the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. I’d know high-tech words that are actually current – words like “digital wallet,” “smart devices,” “budtender” and “lidar,” which is like radar, but uses light.

Other current topics covered in the new edition include: homelessness, first responders and PFAS (per- and polyfluorinated substances).

In its introduction the new stylebook cautions its users to avoid terms such as “climate change denier” and “climate change doubters” (but the terms “climate change” and “climate emergency” are OK), and to use terms like older adults” and “older people” instead of “senior citizens” and “the elderly.” (Does that mean I now have to ask for an “older adult discount?”)

On the subject of gender, the handbook says: “Gender neutral or gender inclusive language is evolving, and in some cases is challenging to achieve.” It specifically warns against using “the archaic and sexist term ‘mistress.’”

On a somewhat disappointing note, the latest edition of the stylebook no longer has chapters dedicated to food and fashion, which have been absorbed into its alphabetized text. (When I worried out loud that I would now have trouble keeping up with the latest fashion trends, Mrs. Word Guy laughed so hard that orange juice came out of her nose.)

On the bright side, the book’s editors say it’s now OK to use the + symbol as long as it’s part of a company’s name, such as Apple TV+ or Disney+. And following what surely must have been years of weighty deliberation, they finally concluded, “We now say ‘preheat’ is OK.”

But what may be the best news of all, for me at least, is the fact that “The Associated Press Stylebook” will be published biennially, which means the current 2020 edition will be good through the rest of 2022.

Just think, I could use it for almost a whole year before it goes out of date. (But I’ll probably keep using it just a little longer than that.) So that’s it. I’ve decided to get myself a new AP Stylebook – just as soon as somebody shows me how to order it on Amazon.

Jim Witherell of Lewiston is a writer and lover of words whose work includes “L.L. Bean: The Man and His Company” and “Ed Muskie: Made in Maine.” He can be reached at [email protected]


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