Friday, December 26, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Bob Dunning: Our writing style reaches a state of confusion

BobDunning2W

By
From page A2 | April 24, 2014 |

When you work for a daily newspaper of general circulation in the Most Relevant City in North America, consistency and uniformity are a must.

You can’t call it “UC Davis” on the front page, “Cal-Davis” on the editorial page and “Aggie State” on the sports page.

The Holy Bible for this sort of thing is the esteemed AP Stylebook, which is a thorn in the side to some journalists, but a steady and reliable friend to many others.

In keeping up with the times — or The Times — the Associated Press will occasionally, like every hundred years or so, make changes to its stylebook as usage of the language evolves.

The edict on the use of state names came down yesterday, addressed to busy editors all over the globe.

“Effective May 1,” it began, “the AP will spell out state names in the body of stories. Datelines will continue to use abbreviations.”

A dateline commonly tells you from where the story originated, even if the name suggests it’s about when the story was written.

“Currently, most state names are abbreviated in stories. The change is being made to be consistent in our style for domestic and international stories. State abbreviations will continue to be used in lists, agate, tabular material, nonpublishable editor’s notes and credit lines. They will also be used in short-form identification of political party affiliation. Photo captions will continue to use abbreviations, too.”

As luck would have it, after 45 years of pounding the same keyboard, I have finally memorized the abbreviations of all 42 states and no longer need a handy stylebook at my side.

And if you were taught to believe there are actually 50 states in this great country of ours, think again.

According to the AP: “The names of eight states are never abbreviated in datelines or text: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah.”

Sounds a bit like a question for Trivia Night at the local pub: “Name the eight states that are never abbreviated, even in times of earthquakes, floods or the Super Bowl.”

If you have trouble remembering the rule, the AP provides working journalists with a handy “Memory Aid” that states: “Spell out the names of the two states that are not part of the contiguous United States and of the continental states that are five letters or fewer.”

That assumes, of course, that all journalists know what “contiguous” means, and that even those who do know the definition also know which two states aren’t contiguous.

For me, these new rules mean I will finally have to learn how to spell “Massachusetts,” instead of the very convenient “Mass.,” which, as a Catholic, was always easy to remember because of the large concentration of Catholics in and around Boston.

Even more confusing for the average journalist (see photo above), the postal code abbreviations are often different from those dictated by the AP Stylebook.

For instance, the above-referenced “Mass.” is “MA” if you’re addressing a letter, just as the AP’s “Ore.” is “OR” for the post office and “Calif.” is “CA.”

Plus, the post office doesn’t seem to care which states are contiguous and which ones aren’t. Abbreviate them all, even those with five letters or fewer.

If that’s not enough, the AP adds a “miscellaneous” category that begins “Use New York state when necessary to distinguish the state from New York City.”

Frank Sinatra, apparently, still holds the copyright on “New York, New York.”

Adds the AP: “Use state of Washington or Washington state when necessary to distinguish the state from the District of Columbia.”

And then, just to be absolutely certain everyone is on the same page here, the AP notes: “Washington State is the name of a university in the state of Washington.”

Go Cougs.

— Reach Bob Dunning at bdunning@davisenterprise.net

Comments

comments

.

News

Transit survey: 47 percent ride bikes to UCD campus

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Exchange students bring the world to Davis

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Pastor has many plans for CA House

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Playing Santa

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2 | Gallery

 
Goats help recycle Christmas trees

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

 
Special holiday gifts

By Sue Cockrell | From Page: A3

Woodland-Davis commute bus service expands

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Learn fruit tree tips at free class

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Davis Bike Club hears about British cycling tour

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Pick up a Davis map at Chamber office

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Sierra Club calendars on sale Saturday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Explorit: Get a rise out of science

By Lisa Justice | From Page: A4

NAMI meeting offers family support

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

 
Yoga, chanting intro offered

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8

.

Forum

Blamed for her sister’s rage

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

 
How much for the calling birds?

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

Steve Sack cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

 
Many ensured a successful parade

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

 
Thanks for putting food on the table

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

 
.

Sports

Two more for the road for 9-1 Aggie men

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Patterson is college football’s top coach

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Clippers get a win over Golden State

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
NBA roundup: Heat beat Cavs in LeBron’s return to Miami

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10 | Gallery

.

Features

.

Arts

‘Unbroken': A bit underwhelming

By Derrick Bang | From Page: A11 | Gallery

 
Folk musicians will jam on Jan. 2

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

.

Business

Passat: Roomy, affordable sedan with German engineering

By Ann M. Job | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
.

Obituaries

James J. Dunning Jr.

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
Floyd W. Fenocchio

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Comics: Friday, December 26, 2014 (set 2)

By Creator | From Page: B7

 
Comics: Thursday, December 26, 2014 (set 1)

By Creator | From Page: A9