Fashioning AP style: You read it here first

AP Stylebook editor Darrell Christian outlines this year’s edition’s additions.

I feel like Steve Martin in The Jerk: “The new phone books are here!” Except for me it’s the new Associated Press Stylebook, aka “the journalist’s bible” — note the lowercase “b” — soon to be hot off the presses (targeted for May 21). Today, I got a sneak peek.

The 2012 edition contains 270 updates and new entries, covering such gems as “underwater” in reference to drowning mortgage holders; “hydraulic fracturing,” the scientific form of the offensive “fracking”; “illegitimate” in reference to offspring, distantly related to the newly inserted “OB-GYN,” as well as STDs vs. VD; plus expanded guidelines for treatment (not in the medical sense) of age and race.

While attending a conference for copy editors this week in New Orleans, I considered the style-guru Q&A a highlight. Would we challenge them about the sexism inherent in not endorsing usage of the singular “they”? Would crash carts be needed after we dissected their decisions?

Hundreds of fellow style mavens and masters — some Ph.D.’s, perhaps, but no “Drs.” – yelped and tweeted when two of AP’s editing triumvirate – David Minthorn and Darrell Christian – announced it had caved to a hopeful appeal from The Baltimore Sun’s John McIntyre to anoint the modern usage of “hopefully.”

McIntyre reacts to the news. Hopefully, he’s happy.

Long a bugaboo of linguists who subscribe only to its relevance as an adverb, “hopefully” is now acceptable to mean “we hope” or “it is hoped.” As in: “Hopefully, this session will break in time for me to get some étouffée.”

Other news:

  • In keeping with the times, the social media compendium has grown from seven to 28 pages.
  •  The new robo-style-cop plug-in StyleGuard does not herald the hemorrhaging of copy editors’ jobs because we remain highly valued for our “human judgment” and those irreplaceable, inimitable fine-tuning-combing skills. Could we get that in writing?
  • An entire section is devoted to fashion, and David Minthorn finally gets what “A-line” means.
  •  Guidelines are included on Olympic sports and broadcast journalism.
  • Minthorn is the one answering your “Ask the Editor” queries.
  • “U.S.S.R.,” which used to be an entry, simply disappeared, unbeknownst to the top editors, “to make new room for new trees, I mean, ‘entries,’ ” Christian teases.
  •  These fellas are not appointed for life like Supreme Court justices, and there is always room for change and new blood at the some-might-say-stodgy AP.

And I’m just playin’ with all those hyphens. Christian, who told me point-blank he is not anywhere near retirement age but does enjoy his golf, said: “If you can avoid a hyphen, I’d advise it.” Not such a thorn in Minthorn’s side. “Common sense” is his guide on hyphenation, and he likely never would hyphenate class action lawsuit.

Too bad the AP female voice was not represented, as Sally Jacobsen could not attend.

Fisher Saller added her fresh, active voice to the discussion.

Instead, chipper Carol Fisher Saller of CMOS (pronounced “seamoss”) – the unwieldy Chicago Manual of Style – rounded out the panel.

I found the most commonality in her common sense summary: “No reason to cleave to a set style. You can tailor your project to your needs” because, in writing, “flexibility is the byword.”

Hopefully, that sticks.