Write like people, not like newspapers

One of the recurring annoyances in Associated Press style is its comfort with non-conversational English. Why the AP is comfortable with writing that sounds unlike the way any speaker of English (at least any non-journalist speaker of English) speaks or writes continues to baffle me.

One example: Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. I don’t know anyone who would say or write Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Democrat, Maryland, said … or worse, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, dee, em-dee, said… . Most people would write Sen. Barbara Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat.

The abbreviations are handy and perfectly acceptable in charts, but charts are not sentences. Written sentences follow the patterns, conventions, and rhythms of spoken language.* That the Associated Press, and the publications that slavishly follow its style, continue to embrace a newspaperese that is increasingly alien to the speech of readers, and unlike the kind of writing they prefer to read, may help to explain why readers have turned elsewhere.


*I will stipulate that there are documents, medical, scientific, technical, and legal, that are not intended to sound like the productions of human beings.



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