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The new social media Bible

Photo courtesy of @mjb via Flickr

When the authors of the Associated Press Style Guide released its first edition in 1953, it was written on 60 pages of stapled-together paper and its originators probably couldn’t imagine a time when the guide would also need to include the acronym for “rolling on the ground laughing” or ROFL.

But almost 60 years later, the emergence of social media in the everyday lives of journalists has necessitated a response from the AP, whose stylebook is the go-to resource for everything from datelines to libel law.

The news service released its new social media guidelines to clarify its style on such common conundrums as “smart phone” (not smartphone), e-reader (not ereader) and giving the thumbs up on using “friend” as a verb.  In all, 42 new entries were added to the style guide.

One big change announced in April was the AP’s stance on the phrase “Web site.” It should now always be “website” but referencing the “Web” should still always be capitalized. While the change might sound simple, it was a bone of contention among the 237 readers who responded to the AP’s solicitation for feedback.

While the stylebook is updated every year, I still have an old copy at my desk and decided to flip through to find some older entries that might now be obsolete. The entry for diskette (“a generic term that means floppy disk”) seems especially irrelevant but the entry for hacker (“In common usage, the term has evolved to mean one who uses computer skills to unlawfully penetrate proprietary computer systems”) almost seems unnecessary.

And the new guidelines will be especially helpful for journalists looking for specific procedures on sites like Facebook and Twitter. As crowdsourcing on social media sites becomes more and more popular, the news service has responded with its strategies for verifying sources.

It also clarified the use of acronyms and I have to admit, I’m having trouble thinking of a news story where BRB (Be Right Back) or G2G (Got to Go) will be used. But other entries such as app, click-throughs, unfriend, trending and widget seem especially helpful.

Five years ago, the acronym POS (Parent Over Shoulder) was confined to the vocabulary of teenagers warning their online friends. But now, it’s used so commonly that even journalists need to know its correct use and meaning.
Flipping through various editions of the style guide gives you an overview of trends throughout the years and its latest edition cements social media’s relevance in journalism today. Will you buy a copy of the style guide?

Disclaimer: Andrea Weinfurt previously worked for the Associated Press’ Minneapolis bureau as an editorial assistant.

Tags : social media

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Cision's research staff makes over 20,000 media updates to Cision's Media Database each day! For more updates and other thought leadership in the industry, follow @Media_Moves.

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