The Associated Press Stylebook is basically my Bible.
Now, however, I feel as if I’m led astray.
Last week, the folks at the AP made a drastic change. I don’t use the term “drastic” loosely when I talk about style.
The AP has decided that “over” is an acceptable substitute for “more than” when talking about numbers.
I had to read about the change more than 10 times before the magnitude of such a change sunk in. (See what I did there?)
Such a concept has been a core of the AP Stylebook for decades, one that I learned as a journalism student and one that I implemented as a college newspaper editor. And it’s a rule I’ve continued to – and will continue to – use professionally (and personally – whom am I kidding?).
Sure, I may have allowed the misspelling of the word “commitment” on the front page of some 10,000 copies of The Temple News. But I swear you never saw an “over” where a “more than” should have been.
We all make mistakes.
Really – it only happened once. Some 10,000 times, but just once.
And the AP has made a mistake here, by de-stylizing its style. The point of style is to promote consistency. Now they’ve done gone and changed the meaning of a preposition, and readers could be reading a slew of interchangeable “overs” and “more thans” in just one story.
I take the AP as seriously as I take my grammar. I had a panic attack that nearly required therapy when the AP changed “Web site” to “website.” I maintain my loyalty to “Wal-Mart” (not the retailer, just the style), despite my firm belief it should be “Walmart.”
But “more than” will always be the preferred term for “over.” As one fellow journo wrote: “Whenever a change is made to the AP Stylebook, I curl up in the shape of a comma and emit loud cries.”
The lone reprieve here is that “more than” is not and cannot be eliminated. Both terms are acceptable to say one number is greater than another. Therefore, I can continue to use what I believe to be true, and I will judge others when they choose to use “over.”
OK. Am I exaggerating a bit? Of course. But so is every other grammarphile journalist, and rightfully so. The institution we all strive to make happy through our writing, style and grammar is now conforming to societal standards of speech. We, frankly, should be above that as writers.
Instead, it appears the AP is over it.