News for Grammar Nerds

For all of you CMOS groupies and AP enthusiasts, here is a quick roundup of news and announcements from the American Copy Editors Society conference, held this past week.



AP Endorses the Singular They

The AP Stylebook, used widely by journalists, is updated every year. Although two hundred entries have been updated or revised, only one change is making the news: the use of “they” is now accepted as a gender-neutral singular pronoun. The new entry reads:

They, them, their In most cases, a plural pronoun should agree in number with the antecedent: The children love the books their uncle gave them.They/them/their is acceptable in limited cases as a singular and-or gender-neutral pronoun, when alternative wording is overly awkward or clumsy. However, rewording usually is possible and always is preferable. Clarity is a top priority; gender-neutral use of a singular they is unfamiliar to many readers. We do not use other gender-neutral pronouns such as xe or ze.

Note that it appears the Chicago Manual of Style will not be changing their own recommendation and endorses the singular they only when it is the preferred personal pronoun for an individual.

AP Continues to Eschew the Serial Comma

Lawsuits notwithstanding, the AP continues to advocate that the serial comma be used only when needed for clarity. (To which serial comma enthusiasts will be mentally retorting, “and that is always.”) The wording and presentation of the rule has changed slightly, having been moved to the section on commas. But don’t get excited about that! “It is not a change, not a change, not a change,” declared Paula Froke, lead editor for the Stylebook. “The stylebook doesn’t ban the use of a serial comma,” Froke said. “Whether you put it in at all times is a different debate.” Indeed.


Lowercase Internet Is the Law of the Land

Unlike the singular they, the Chicago Manual of Style has fallen in line behind the AP Stylebook in lowercasing internet and recommending email in place of e-mail. This announcement was reportedly met by cheers by those in attendance, although online editors’ forums have been rumbling with dissent. Personally, I have been following these practices for a few years, particularly in novels where a capped Internet sticks out like a sore thumb.


CMOS 17 Coming in September

The University of Chicago Press also announced that a new edition of CMOS – the seventeenth – will be published in September of this year. This will be the first new edition in seven years; revisions will address the “large shifts in the way we read, write, edit, and do research.”

Look for a longer post here in September once the changes are live.

Remember my blog post about how to define an error? These changes are a case in point: language changes and style guides do too.