I replied that I thought that had always been the rule, which caused Mr. Colford (see how I violated AP style there by calling him “Mr.”? I’m such a rebel) to respond that there was lots of other good stuff there.
I started looking into the subject, and saw that a whole new AP stylebook came out a couple of months ago, and I didn’t even know it. I’m not sure I even would have known it had I still been working at a newspaper. Aside from the fact that as editorial page editor I had long been deviating from AP style intentionally for years, I sensed that it wasn’t as big a deal as it had once been even among the mullahs of style orthodoxy.
(For those who have not spent their adult lives as journalists, perhaps I should explain: The AP stylebook is the guide to proper spelling and usage most widely accepted in print journalism. Newspapers that didn’t have their own full stylebooks — the vast majority — used it as their official bible, only issuing addenda for exceptions, local place names and the like.)
In my long-ago days as a copy editor (which was so long ago that I forget whether it is properly spelled that way or “copyeditor,” a lapse on my part that may be some sort of PTSD symptom), things were different. My colleagues and I who spent our days around the horseshoe-shaped desk at The Jackson Sun were really excited about the 1977 edition. We actually had a party at the managing editor’s house to distribute them. And there was much in this new release to satisfy the socially-challenged pedant. That was when the stylebook went, for the first time, from being a slim paper pamphlet that resembled the tracts that fundamentalists passed out with titles like “The Antichrist in Rome” to the thick, rich, spiral-bound volume that made it seem more like the Ultimate Answer to All Questions.
But that was then. In my last years at the paper, think I had one somewhere around my desk, but I almost never consulted it, and it was probably badly out of date. On the rare occasions when I looked something up to see what the style was so I could decide whether I wanted to follow it or not, I did so electronically. And yet I see one can still order the spiral-bound version.
Which is kind of nice. But it feels like almost as much an artifact of the past as those phone books that once so excited Navin Johnson.