LA VALLEUR COMMUNICATES: Musings By Barbara La Valleur — The Associated Press Stylebook

Good grief, it’s no wonder the world is in such a state! When I started out as a cub reporter at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead in the early 1960s, I recall The Associated Press Stylebook was little more than a pamphlet of a few pages, 30 at most.

I recently had cause to buy the latest copy, a 612-page tome, the 56th Edition, 2022. As touted on the cover, it is “The industry’s bestselling reference for more than 30 years. Essential for journalists, students, editors and writers in all professions.”

The 2-inch thick volume boasts more than 300 new and revised entries. Note I used “more than” in referencing the number 300 and not “over,” which is a reference to height.

While I’m no longer a working photojournalist, I do have occasion to write articles for a wider audience that must conform to style. Also, I serve on a proofreading team on the Journal for Landmark Worldwide’s Conference for Global Transformation. Thus, the need for copy that reflects journalistic accuracy.

The $24.99 cost of the stylebook seems a steal considering the consequences of assured embarrassment on my part if I missed a simple style error. For example, using the abbreviation MN vs. MINN, the difference between postal and newspaper styles. Horrors!

I’ve often credited my love of the English language to my Battle Lake (Minn.) High School English teacher, Miss Vivian Ramberg, God rest her soul and sharp mind!

I recently read Gary Gilson’s weekly Star Tribune column on the craft of clear writing in which he wrote about some of his pet peeves in language and writing. He invited readers to send him some of theirs.

These are some of mine:

  • Using accept vs. except.
  • Then vs. than.
  • Whom vs. who.
  • Completely destroyed A building or car is either destroyed or it isn’t. It cannot be partially or completely destroyed. It can only be partially damaged. Miss Ramberg said so.

I still remember some of her pet peeves, not the least of which was the use of coupled in a sentence in which, more often than not, writers “couple” the offending word with only one thing.  If you have a couple of options, that would indicated you choose between an A and a B. How can you couple of something with one thing?

These are mostly journalism faux pas I notice when reading the Star Tribune, which, I must say, seems to have increased the number of typos and misused words over the 28 years I’ve been reading the paper.

Rest assured, I have no plans to read The Associated Press Style Book cover to cover like my friend, Julia, who had to read it for a college course. However, it will have a special place on my desk and I will pick it up often to (re-)learn the “proper rules” of journalistic style.

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