Another grief to a one-time and forever copy editor

OK, I know this only enhances my reputation as a grumbler, but one grows weary of a culture that is constantly accommodating sloppiness … adopting the lowest common denominator … abandoning consistency … devaluing craft … grumble, grumble, grumble.

It comes as yet another grief to a one-time and forever copy editor that the Associated Press announced March 18 that it was changing its rule regarding ‘e-mail.’ ‘Email’ is now the AP style preference. Lose the hyphen.

But they intend to keep the hyphen in other e- terms!

Here’s the official entry: “email Acceptable in all references for electronic mail. … Use a hyphen with other e- terms: e-book, e-business, e-commerce.”

The AP Style Guru explained the change in a March 21 “Ask the editor” entry: “The Stylebook’s change to email reflects the reality of usage. Other e- terms are clearer with the hyphen.”

“Reflects the reality of usage.” Now there’s a principle for making good decisions. Read that: “Everybody and their dog is writing it without the hyphen and we’re tired of changing it.”

And further demonstrating the intellectual horsepower driving the AP these days: They are keeping the hyphen for all other e- terms because they are “clearer with the hyphen.” Read that: “We don’t have to change them as often because those words aren’t used as much as ’email.'”

I’m not a legalist about grammar. When I’m editing, I just try to be consistent and make things easier for the reader. It’s about understandability, not what some arbiter of justice determined is true and correct.

So make the shift to ’email’ if you’re tired of changing it. But at least be consistent and change the other e- terms too.

And drop all pretense that the AP Stylebook’s guidelines have anything to do with best practices. These days, we are far more interested in what’s easy than what’s best.

Now that we admit our primary value is accommodating common usage, get ready for a veritable tsunami of other changes from the brain trust at the AP. Po-pomo culture is going to take us in some very interesting directions.

They can start with a pronouncement that “ur” and “plz” are both acceptable. From what English and journalism professors tell me, those are most definitely the common usage among the next generation of reporters.

I wish I could rise above such trivialities with the grace and aplomb of the Baltimore Sun’s John McIntyre.


About Mark Kelly

Jesus follower, Bible reader, husband/father/son/brother/uncle, rider, hiker, snapshooter
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