'Email' Sans Hyphen Takes Another Leap Forward
Posted by June on July 15, 2019

The hyphen has been steadily fading from “e-mail” for years. The Associated Press Stylebook, which since the technology’s earliest days explicitly called for “e-mail,” abandoned the hyphen about a decade ago.

Everyday users, in my anecdotal experience, ditched the hyphen even earlier.

AP’s counterpart in the book-publishing world, the Chicago Manual of Style, has been the holdout.

As the rest of the world slid toward “email,” this influential guide stood firm. It’s e-mail, Chicago insisted. Hyphen included.

Those days are over. In its most recent edition, Chicago finally changed its position. “Email” is now its official recommendation.

You don’t have to follow their rule or AP’s. Many dictionaries, including Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate and Webster’s New World, allow “e-mail” as an alternative to “email.” So you can write “e-mail” if you want to. But you won’t. Together, AP and Chicago govern the vast majority of your reading material, with AP style observed by most news media and Chicago style by most book and magazine publishers.

But anyone who holds firm on “e-mail” will be swimming against the tide. Here’s my recent column explaining why.



Serial commas can cause confusion, too
Posted by June on July 8, 2019
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“It was a typical Friday night at Costco in Corona. Customers, including an off-duty Los Angeles police officer, 32-year-old Kenneth French and his parents, waited in line for food samples.”

How many people are mentioned in this excerpt from a real Instagram post about a Los Angeles Times story? And, more interesting, could commas help answer that question?

Don’t ask a serial comma fan. You won’t get an unbiased answer. Instead, you’ll hear, “There should absolutely be a serial comma after the name Kenneth French. That’s why serial commas are great. They eliminate confusion.”

But I, a serial comma agnostic, see it a little differently. In some cases, serial commas eliminate confusion. In other cases, they cause it. I explain in this recent column.

What's old in the AP Stylebook's 'What's new" section
Posted by June on July 1, 2019

I got my 2019 Associated Press Stylebook in the mail the other day and, as I suspect most editors do, I turned immediately to the “What’s new?” section up front.

This handy reference tells you at a glance what’s changed since the last AP guide. Some changes deal with broad language issues, like an entry in this year’s guide for “Medicare for All,” with a capital M and a capital A.

Other changes don’t hold much interest to anyone but editors, like a 2019 change that says we should stop spelling out “percent” when it comes after a number and just use the symbol: 20%.

Still other changes are downright adorable, like how, this year, AP decided to warn editors that “Santa Claus” and “Santa” are both “nice,” but using “Claus” on second reference is “naughty.”

However, this year, “What’s new?” got me thinking in reverse. I wondered: What’s old in “What’s new?” That is, what was new in previous editions of AP’s style guide and have those changes stood the test of time?

To find out, I headed to my bookshelf, where I have an incomplete collection of AP Stylebooks past. Here’s some of what was new in newspaper editing when these guides came out.

Time to talk y'all
Posted by June on June 24, 2019


Mike in Newport Beach writes: “Recently, while my wife was watching Chip and Johanna’s show, ‘Fixer Upper,’ on HGTV, I noticed on the closed captions a translation of Chip’s speech. He’s from Waco, Texas, and commonly uses the contraction ‘y’all.’ My Southern friends say that the word ‘y’all’ is totally acceptable if you live south of Virginia and east of El Paso, Texas. I was fascinated when Chip used the contraction ‘y’all’s’ and it appeared on the closed caption, with two apostrophes right in print. Questions: 1. Is y’all acceptable English? 2. Is y’all’s a word?”

Here's how I answered.