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  • Angela Tessitore

5 AP Style Recommendations You May Not Know

Updated: Mar 22, 2022

Almost every PR professional knows the AP Stylebook and how difficult it can be to remember all its rules and conditions. It seems like the rules can change as quickly as the news cycle. After scouring tweets within the past year from the AP Stylebook Twitter account and cross referencing with the stylebook that is bookmarked on my laptop, here are five recommendations PR students and professionals may not know.

When to use climate change and global warming

The AP Stylebook says that these two terms are not interchangeable and their use depends on the context. Climate change describes the various effects caused by increases in greenhouse gases, which includes extreme weather, storms and ocean acidification. Global warming is just one aspect of climate change, so it’s important to recognize how and when to use these words.

Avoid the term “committed suicide”

Saying someone committed suicide implies a criminal or sinful act, and topics involving suicide should be written with sensitive language. Instead, say someone “died by suicide” or “took their own life.” This recommendation can also apply to language that should be used during informal conversations in the workplace or in other professional settings.

How to write about illegal immigration

The AP Stylebook recommends only to use the word “illegal” to talk about an action, not a person. Don’t describe a group of people as “illegals” or “aliens.” It is better to say someone entered a country illegally or without legal permission. Using this terminology when writing about illegal immigration helps keep writing neutral while being senstive to individuals.

How to describe someone who cannot walk

According to the AP Stylebook Twitter, do not say someone is confined to a wheelchair or wheelchair-bound. Instead, say someone uses a wheelchair for independent mobility. Only talk about someone’s need for a wheelchair if it's relevant to the story or conversation. AP style has similar recommendations for writing about other types of disabilities as well.

Writing about drug addiction

When writing about individuals who suffer from drug addictions, AP style recommends avoiding the word “clean” unless it’s in direct quotations. This is because the word implies a previous state of dirtiness instead of an actual disease that many people suffer from. Drug addiction has many stigmas attached to it, including that it is not a real disease, and it is important to keep that in mind when writing or talking about substance abuse.

This blog was written by Angela Tessitore, Director of Diversity and Inclusion.

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