Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

August 18, 2013

WOLCOTT: Amend the Stylebook for locals

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Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — John Murphy will be the guest speaker at a fundraising breakfast at the Dale Association on Tuesday, Aug. 27, at the Lockport Town and Country Club. I hope that sentence gets by the Associated Press Stylebook police. According to the newspaper bible, reporters are not to put the day and the date in a story. If the event is this week, just put the day. If the event is further in the future just put the date — NOT THE DAY!

When the Dale Association advance picture ran a week ago, I was interested and figured I might attend, on the off-chance I got up at 7:30 a.m. I could afford a free ticket. The caption said, the breakfast is Aug. 27. The day of the week was omitted by AP law so I had to drop my newspaper and find a calendar. Aug. 27 is a Tuesday, according to the calendar, not the newspaper.

I’ve fought, and lost, this battle for about 45 years. I am not alone, but potential allies say, “Forget about it.” Fighting the law and losing happens every few years. Mostly it’s an intramural verbal argument, sometimes I take the pet peeve out of the office — like now.

My position is that local law can trump AP dictum. We can use “Ont.” when the AP advises “Ontario.” Our readers know a bit or two about Canada; maybe not the capital or the prime minister, but the name of the province that is about 20 miles away.

The Stylebook is a good guide and keeps things consistent. The 8:30 a.m. breakfast on Aug. 27 could be 8:30 AM; half past eight in the morning; 8:30 o’clock; 0830 hours; 8:30 A.M.; or variations on the time.

However, the AP Stylebook can be amended. It’s easier than amending the Constitution because the local paper doesn’t have to get all other papers in the multinational news agency to agree. We have home rule, although the local rulers have offices in the three biggest Niagara County cities.

In introduction to journalism courses at Niagara University and Buffalo State, the AP Stylebook was required text. The oft-updated book, which is always handy in most newsrooms, can be as interesting as reading an almanac, with treats of trivial.

The word “Frisbee” must be capitalized because it’s a trademark for the famous plastic disc. “Attorney” sounds more impressive than “lawyer,” but it’s the lawyer to who is admitted to practice in the court system. The words are generally interchangeable but an attorney is someone empowered to act for another, not necessarily at the bar.

We shan’t write Astronaut  Bill Gregory, because “astronaut” is not a formal title. It should be astronaut Bill Gregory, whether we like it or not.

Don’t write “Father Vatter” in second-reference to the pastor of All Saints, although it looks disrespectful to simply write, “Vatter.” The Stylebook says, “On second reference to members of the clergy, use only the last name...”

A style book has its place. Without it, we’d be all over the place. But there’s no such word as “stylebook.” Look it up, if you can find it in a dictionary.

Bill Wolcott is a Union-Sun reporter.