Changes to the Associated Press style guide

Accent marks: Accent marks can now be used with people’s names when they ask for it, are known to use them or if quoting from a language that uses them.

Casualties: Avoid the word because it is vague and can refer to either injuries or deaths. Instead, be specific.

Cocktail: Don’t use in reference to a mixture of drugs. Instead, use "drug combination" or simply drugs or medications.

Data: Now takes a singular verb and pronoun except in academic and scientific papers. In data journalism contexts: The data is sound. However, in scientific and academic writing, plural verbs and pronouns are preferred.

Hyphens: No longer use hyphens for African American, Filipino American, and compounds as “third-grade teacher” and “chocolate-chip cookie.” When using compound adjectives formed with “well” (suspensive hyphenation) such as well known, well fed, well dressed, hyphenate before the noun but not after. Do not use a hyphen with double-“E” combinations such as “preelection,” “preeminent,” “preempt,” “reenter,” etc.  

Latinx: The use of gender-neutral Latinx “should be confined to quotations, names of organizations or descriptions of individuals who request it and should be accompanied by a short explanation.

Marijuana: Pot or cannabis is OK on the second reference.  Dispensary employees are budtenders.  

Percentage: The percentage sign is OK to use with a numeral (no space between) instead of writing out “percent” or “percentage.” Example: “His mortgage rate is 4.75%.” For amounts less than 1%, precede the decimal with a zero: Example: “The cost of living rose 0.6%.” 

In the early part of the 20th century, a common rendering was “per cent.,” two words with a period after the “cent,” possibly because it was abbreviating the Italian “per cento.” The first formal AP stylebook, in 1953, called for “per cent,” and that stuck at least through the 1970 stylebook. By 1977, though, it had come together as “percent.” That’s common in the United States, though British English leans towards “per cent.”

            Merrill Perlman writing in the Columbia Journalism Review 

Race: Whether a subject is black or white need not be reported unless it’s pertinent to the story. Avoid calling someone “a black” or “a white.” Limit the use of the terms “blacks” and “whites” as plurals. Black and white are acceptable as adjectives when relevant.

Racism: OK to use “racist” or “racism” instead of euphemisms like "racially charged."

(sic): Do not use (sic) to show that quoted material or person’s words include a misspelling, incorrect grammar or peculiar usage. If it has to be explained, explain it outside the quotation, or just paraphrase the quotation.

Split infinitives: OK to use. Avoid awkward constructions (to leave, to help, etc.) or compound forms (had left, are found out, etc.).

Suspect: Avoid when talking about a person of unknown identity who committed a crime. Correct: Police said the robber stole 14 diamond rings; the thief ran away. Incorrect: Police said the suspect stole 14 diamond rings; the suspect ran away. Correct: Police arrested the suspect the next day. Incorrect: Police arrested the robber the next day.

More info:

A full list of the changes here.

AP Stylebook adds new umbrella entry for race-related coverage, issues new hyphen guidance and other changes ACES

Previewing a new edition of the AP Stylebook

Dropped Hyphens, Split Infinitives, and Other Thrilling Developments from the 2019 American Copy Editors Society Conference New Yorker

AP Stylebook update: It’s OK to call something racist when it’s racist Poynter

AP says the percentage sign now OK when used with a numeral (that’s shift+5) Poynter

Tuesday Tools: Various Writing Helps

We all could use a little help with writing and editing text. Here are some wonderful tools (apps and online) that will help in unexpected ways. You'll more writing tools at the tech tools site. If you have other suggestions, feel free to send them my way.

Associated Press Stylebook*
The most used reference guide to writing news stories, the AP stylebook is available both in print and online for a small fee.  It can improve general writing as well, especially for its alphabetically organized guide to the use of common and proper nouns.

Diversity Style Guide
Resource to help media writers nagivate through a "multicultural world with accuracy, authority and sensitivity."

Cliche Finder
Just what the title suggests. Free.

Check for online plagiarism.

Corpus of Contemporary American English
This BYU site includes transcripts of spoken language from radio and television programs and comprises academic writing from a range of disciplines allowing comparison of styles--spoken language vs.written academic language.

Coschedule Headline Analyzer
Analyze your headlines for SEO and share value. Free. 

Dragon Anywhere*
Voice to text app for iOS. Have to finish dictation before seeing the text. Free.

Flip Text
Flip text upside-down.  Use it on Facebook or Twitter. Free.

Gender Guesser
Cut and paste some of your writing into the the Gender Guesser and it will tell you whether you are male or female based on the writing tendencies of each.

the Grading Game*
App for practicing your editing skills and win points. Avail at the App Store.

Grammar Girl
Writing Tips from a grammarian.

Edit, organize and share documents. Merged with Dropbox in 2014.

HubSpot's Blog Topic Generator
Just write three nouns related to the topic that you'd like to blog about and this site will offer ideas.  

Lexicon Valley
Slate's grammar podcasts.

Limpert's About Editing and Writing Blog
A blog about how editors and writers do their work by Jack Limert was editor of the The Washingtonian for more than 40 years.

Created by Twitter co-founders to support good writing. Clean design and easy-to-use interface. For those who want to write but don’t want to maintain a blog or website. Intended to be a place where smart people plant their thoughts.  Share a draft of a post with friends who can make comments as marginal notes (rather than at the end of a post). Free, but Twitter account is required. No custom domains or customization.

Online Etymology Dictionary
Gives you the history and derivation of any word. Free.

Developed at the Associated Press, Overview analyzes the complete text of every document, extracting keywords and sorting documents into categories and sub-categories.

Power Thesaurus 
Crowdsourced thesaurus. 

Free rhyming dictionary.

SEO writing tips.

Writing platform. Minimalist interface. Encourages reader response.
Collaborative writing tool. 

Mac typing shortcut. Takes snippets of text and turns them into longer ones. Ideas for how to use it here. $44.95.

Extracts text from a variety of printed sources (PDF, books, etc.) by using the iPhone camera. Can translate text from many languages. $4.99.

Tone Analyzer
Linguistic analysis detects the emotional tone of your writing. Detect the levels of particular emotions it triggers and language style. Free.

 Yoast SEO
A WordPress plugin to work SEO into your writing.

Tuesday Tools: Writing Scripts

Here are some tools (apps and online) that will help you get your TV or movie script in shape. There are more writing tools at the tech tools site. If you have other suggestions, feel free to send them my way.

Fade In
Script-writing software with similar features toFinal Draft without the price tag. Not as many of the extras that come withFinal Draft but only $50. Windows, Mac, Linux.

Final Draft*
Industry standard for writing screenplays on both Windows and Mac. Notes section for keeping track of characters, special scene view to get an overview, index card system for summaries, etc. $170.

Free script-writing alternative to Final Draft and Fade In. Enough features to get you started.

TV Tropes
Fiction writing help through examination of storytelling devices in creative works.


Tuesday Tools: Writing Organizers 

750 Words
Tracks your progress toward writing 750 words each day. Keeps up with your writing speed, and how often you get distracted. Free.

Daily Page
Start a daily writing routine with daily writing prompts. $5 a month or $4 annually.

Day One
Great journaling app for IOS and Mac.  Clean look, syncing, photo imports, passcode, reminders, public publish option. Very organized and easy to navigate.  $4.99.  

Content management system for WordPress providing a snapshot of content with a calendar feature. Advanced draft and pending review feature. User groups to keep writing teams organized. Useful for multi-author websites.

Powerful writing program for iPad and iPhone. High learning curves but valuable once you find workflows that suit your purposes. Beautiful inline preview. $4.99.

Access notes on any computer, tablet or phone. Search function lets you find a note in either text or audio format. Free for iOS and Android.

App for distraction-free writing. A blank canvas to write on--and nothing else. Includes timers, stats, alarms, goals setting, etc. Free.

Journaling app. Simple, quick to start. Easily search through old journals. Calendar navigation, customizable templates, export functionality. Free. 

App that gives you a single place to dump all your ideas. Especially helpful for creating and managing complex writing projects: writing a novel, play, TV show, magazine feature, etc. Write in fragments and then shuffle scenes/chapters in a "bulletin board" mode.. throw in research notes, multimedia files, and character sketches.  Allows you to slowly "grow” books, scripts, and articles. Easy to convert the document to an e-book, web page, a PDF, or Word doc. Works with Mac and Windows.  Free 30-use trial. $45 for the latest version. Many writers swear it's worth it. Doesn't work on iPads though.

Writing app for Mac. Uses plain text or Markdown for writing, but also includes notes, exporting, organization and more. $44.99.


Tuesday Tools: Writing Academic Papers

If you are one of the many students getting your school start this month, here are some tools (apps and online) that will help you edit your writing (or the writing of others) especially when it comes to figuring out how to make citations. There are more writing tools at the tech tools site. If you have other suggestions, feel free to send them my way.

Citation Machine
Auto-formatting for citations of research papers

Auto-formatting of citations for research papers.

Resources for editing professors, students and working professionals to help strengthen the craft of editing and support the work of editors.

Purdue Writing Lab
Writing and formatting help.

SuperSummary Academic Citation Resources 
Links to style guides, FAQs, tutorials, quizzes, sample papers, and tools to help students' citation and research processes.

Tuesday Tools: Editing Text

Looking for some tools (apps and online) that will help you with editing your writing (or the writing of others)? Here are some useful options. The tech tools site also has a list of links to writing helps for better organization, academic papers, and putting together scripts. If you have other suggestions, feel free to send them my way.

Mac app that checks your grammar and spelling. Free.

After the Deadline*
Checks your story for grammar, spelling and style. Works as a plugin for WordPress blogs, an add-on for the Firefox browser, etc.

Scans your writing and highlights flaws such as repetitive words, overuse of adverbs and use of passive voice. $30 a month.

An app that analyzes your writing, breaking down everything from which words you are using frequently to the number of times parts of speech come up in your writing. See what percentage of sentences are extra-long and which words are filler and which verbs are weak. Free.

Writing tool that works as grammar checker, sentence rephraser, translator, dictionary and text reader. Free.

Automated proofreader and personal grammar coach.

Hemingway App*
The Hemingway app is designed to make you a better writer by highlighting problems in your writing. Goal is to make more direct and active--more Hemingway-ey, as the Washington Post proclaims. Just paste your text into the app and it will highlight hard to read sentences, adverbs, complex phrases, and passive voice.  Color coordinated highlighting. Click on these words to see the suggested alternatives.  Word count, readability grade, etc.  $6.99.

Marked 2
Tools for writers including word counts, document stats, highlights repeated words.  Mac only.  $9.99.

Hire an experienced proofreader based on an hourly rate (typically one hour for every 5000 words).

Grammar, plagiarism, and spell checker. Mostly free but $7.50 per month for all features.

Proofread Bot
Shows your mistakes and what areas of your writing that could be strengthened. The more words reviewed, the greater the cost starting at $5 for 20,000 words.  

Readability Score
Cut and paste your text into a dialogue box to see the writing's grade level. Free, but for any contribution you get access to more advanced tools like readability alerts, PDF and Word doc processing and bulk uploads. TextEvaluator offers more feedback on the text.

Writing app that checks grammar along with flow, structure, word frequency, and overused phrases.

Like Readability Score, it will tell you what grade level a piece of text is written on, the average length of sentences, etc.  But TextEvaluator goes further, including grammatical complexity, insights on vocabulary, etc.

Word Counter*
Cut and paste your document (or just type) to see how many words, characters, and sentences you are using. It shows what words are overused, the average number of words in your sentences, and the reading level you are writing at. Free.

Word Frequency Counter
See how often you use (and overuse) words and phrases in your writing.

Checks your text against a huge database of correct language. Use it to find language you might not have considered. A desktop app that works with emails, Word docs, etc. Free. 

Writing for the Scholarly Elite or Spreading Ideas to the Masses?

In college and graduate school, I studied cognitive science, philosophy, and politics. I formed a conviction that I wanted to try to change the world for the better. Initially, my plan was to be an academic and public intellectual. At the time, I got bored easily (still do), which made me distractible and not great at making the trains run on time. Academia seemed like an environment that would keep me perpetually stimulated as I would think and write on the value of compassion, self-development, and the pursuit of wisdom. I would hopefully inspire others to implement these ideas to form a nobler society.

But graduate school, while stimulating, turned out to be grounded in a culture and incentive scheme that promoted hyperspecialization; I discovered that academics end up writing for a scholarly elite of typically about fifty people. It turned out there was not much support for academics who would attempt to spread ideas to the masses. So my aspiration to have a broad impact on potentially millions of people clashed with the market realities of academia.

I adopted my career orientation. My new aim was to try to promote the workings of a good society via entrepreneurship and technology.

Reid Hoffman (co-founder of LinkedIn) and Ben Casnocha, The Start-up of You

Don't Be a Hack

A hack, Robert McKee says, is a writer who second-guesses his audience. When the hack sits down to work, he doesn’t ask himself what’s in his own heart. He asks what the market is looking for. The hack condescends to his audience. He thinks he’s superior to them.

The truth is, he’s scared to death of them or, more accurately, scared of being authentic in front of them, scared of writing what he really feels or believes, what he himself thinks is interesting. He’s afraid it won’t sell. So he tries to anticipate what the market (a telling word) wants, then gives it to them.

In other words, the hack writes hierarchically. He writes what he imagines will play well in the eyes of others. He does not ask himself, What do I myself want to write? What do I think is important? Instead he asks, What’s hot, what can I make a deal for?

The hack is like the politician who consults the polls before he takes a position. He’s a demagogue. He panders.

It can pay off, being a hack. Given the depraved state of American culture, a slick dude can make millions being a hack. But even if you succeed, you lose, because you’ve sold out your Muse, and your Muse is you, the best part of yourself, where your finest and only true work comes from.

Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

Managing Your “Mental Tabs”

Have you ever had too many Internet tabs open at once? It is a madhouse of distraction. When I feel like my brain has too many tabs open at once, it’s often the result of trying to mentally juggle too many thoughts at the same time.

Writing gives form to your ideas and gets them out of your head, freeing up bandwidth and preventing you from crashing your browser like a late night downward spiral on Wikipedia.

Gregory Ciotti writing in HelpScout

a personal notebook

Successful people track their progress, set goals, reflect, and learn from their mistakes. And they often use some kind notebook to accomplish this. If you want to get somewhere in life, you need a map, and this notebook is that map. You can write down what you did today, what you tried to accomplish, where you made mistakes, and so forth. It’s a place to reflect. It’s a place to capture important thoughts. It’s a place to be able to track where you’ve been and where you intend to go. It’s one of the most underused, yet incredibly effective tools available to the masses.

Angel Chernoff