Book Reviews


Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law

Author: Associated Press, Norm Goldstein (Editor)
Publisher Basic Books
Publication Date: June 2004

Reviewer:Joel Klebanoff
Joel Klebanoff, is a copywriter and marketing communications consultant specializing in the information technology industry. He is president of Klebanoff Associates, Inc.

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While directed primarily at journalists, if your job includes any formal writing this should be on your bookshelf.

Sloppy writing reflects poorly on you and your organization. The Associated Press Stylebook can help you avoid many common mistakes. For example:

  • Should you capitalize job titles, military ranks, and honorific titles?
  • Should you spell numbers or use numerals?
  • What abbreviations are acceptable for well-known organizations?
The book also eliminates confusion about commonly misused words such as: palate, palette, and pallet; that, which, who, and whom; or engine and motor.

Finding what you need is easy. The book is organized alphabetically by topic. If you want to know when to capitalize a job title, look up "capitalization." To find out the proper use of "who" and "whom," look up "who." The hard part is knowing what you don't know. Often we don't have any idea that our lifelong writing habits are wrong.

Outside of the main body there are additional sections that can be very helpful:

  • sports style guide
  • business style guide
  • punctuation guide
  • libel manual
  • copyright guidelines
There are just a couple of warnings about the book. First, if you are not writing in the role of a journalist, be aware that it defines a journalistic style. This should not, however, be a major concern. The rules of proper writing apply in most situations, but there may be times in advertising copy, for example, when you might want to break some of the rules.

The only other caveat is that it is intended for an American audience. If you are writing for another English-speaking audience, there are a few -- a very few -- instances when The Associated Press Stylebook spelling and usage guidelines are incorrect.