Editing for Grammarphobes 2.0: New Year, More New AP Style Rules


Every Wednesday, Editing for Grammarphobes 2.0 features handy tips to enhance all of our writing, from daily emails to articles to books. After all, everyone needs to write, right?

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus (c. 535 B.C.-475 B.C.) is credited with the much-paraphrased statement that change is the only constant. It’s that way in life, and it most certainly holds true for languages. Words are added to the dictionary every year, and new situations arise that require written explanation.

Published in August, 1977, the first edition of the Associated Press Stylebook (AP Style) attempted to standardize how things would appear in newspapers and magazines across the U.S. The latest stylebook is the 52nd edition.

What’s New?

There are more than 200 new and modified entries. Some are evident in their reasoning, such as the new entry on gender-related terms and issues, while others merely feature a more-correct spelling, as in using kimchi when referring to the Korean side dish made from salted and fermented vegetables with a variety of seasonings, rather than the previous kimchee. Why it was kimchee is beyond me, but what can you do? It’s definitely kimchi.

Here’s a sampling of what’s new in the latest AP Style.

The biggest news is AP now allows use of they as a singular pronoun in limited cases.

“They/them/their is acceptable in limited cases as a singular and/or gender-neutral pronoun, when alternative wording is overly awkward or clumsy….Clarity us a top priority; gender-neutral  use of a singular they is unfamiliar to many readers. We do not use the other gender-neutral pronouns such as xe or ze.”

Along with gender-neutral pronouns, there is a new section on gender-related issues and terms. LGBTQ and LGBT are acceptable in all references, and AP has added cisgender, gender nonconforming (both noun and adjective forms), and intersex.


Gender is not synonymous with sex. Gender refers to a person’s social identity, while sex refers to biological characteristics. This is an essential point as language around gender is evolving, AP states, and it recommends using the term sex reassignment for the medical procedure used for gender transition.

Gender nonconforming

Acceptable both as a noun and as an adjective, “gender nonconforming is a term for people who do not conform to the traditional view of two genders,” AP states. It cautions writers to be specific about how a person identifies or expresses gender identity.


Transgender is the adjective that describes “people whose biology at birth does not match their gender identity.” It should always be used as an adjective and never a noun.

AP provides the following examples.

Bernard is a transgender man.
Christina came out as a transgender woman.

Regarding name changes, AP recommends referring to the previous name only if relevant to the story and provides an example using Caitlyn Jenner.

“Caitlyn Jenner, who won a 1976 Olympic gold medal in decathlon as Bruce Jenner…”


AP added a section on addiction, noting that “addiction to alcohol and other drugs is considered a disease and cautioning against words like abuse or problem.”


In the “Punctuation” section, AP makes a nod to Strunk and White by cautioning writers to avoid cliches, including the very popular baby bump, which I hope entertainment magazines will notice. It’s everywhere, and it’s not good.

Indigenous Peoples Day

I’ve long been a proponent of Indigenous Peoples Day (no apostrophe) and am glad to see AP Style added it. This holiday “celebrates the original inhabitants of North America” and “is observed instead of Columbus Day in some U.S. localities.”

Super Bowl

The AP editors decided not to use Roman numerals anymore in reference to this American football championship game.


Another change is the recommendation to use flyer as “the preferred term for a person flying an aircraft and for handbills.” From now on, the term flier means only to “take a big risk.”

I also noticed new entries for flash mob, autonomous vehicles, and vacation rentals.

It’s so fascinating! Yes, I was that kid who read the dictionary for fun. But really, there’s so much to learn.

I will be sharing my findings throughout 2018. Please join me next week, when we discuss the Chicago Manual of Style’s new entries and changes.

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The Associated Press Stylebook, 2017 edition


A professional writer/editor for almost 30 years, Karen Wojcik Berner's wide and varied experience includes such topics as grammar, blog content, book reviews, corporate communications, the arts, paint and coatings, real estate, the fire service, writing and literature, research, and publishing. An award-winning journalist, her work has appeared in several magazines, newspapers, and blogs, including the Chicago Tribune, Writer Unboxed, Women's Fiction Writers, Naperville Magazine, and Fresh Fiction. She also is the author of three contemporary women's fiction novels and is a member of the Chicago Writers’ Association. For more information on Karen, please visit www.karenberner.com.


Anonymous said…
So... What about the cases when the 'old' term was in use? For example, Stephen King's story "The Night Flier", and the movie made after it?
I would think references to it should keep the old spelling because that’s the title and use the new AP recommendations as “from now on...” for everything else.

I know I used “flier” in one of my books a few years ago. Oh well.
I strictly use Chicago Manual of Style. I can’t handle any others. 😉
Depends what industry you’re in, right, Kelly? We’ll explore CMS next week.

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