Days of our guiding light

The Baltimore Sun

The 2013 edition of the Associated Press Stylebook arrived in the mail yesterday, the sixtieth consecutive annual publication of the stylebook, and frankly, I am at a loss to understand its appeal. 

The AP Stylebook has outlasted the daytime serial Guiding Light, which was on television for fifty-seven years, despite its lack of compelling characters (no Luke and Laura for the AP) and a plot best described as laughable. 

If Dr. Johnson was correct that a man would hang himself if he went to Richardson's novels for the plot, he would hang, draw, and quarter himself over the AP Stylebook. A reader can go from "a- The rules of prefixes apply" to "Zurich The city in Switzerland stands alone in datelines," only to discover, after that almighty slog, that "A guide to punctuation" looms ahead, followed by media law and social media and food guidelines and fashion guidelines and business and broadcast guidelines and more and more and more, to a total of nearly five hundred pages. 

If, following Dr. Johnson's advice about Richardson, a reader looking instead for the sentiment would almost immediately be groping about for rope again. Oh, last year there was a little flutter when hopefully, scorned for years like a child born on the wrong side of the blanket, was finally admitted to the Big House. But what new, fresh, and exciting characters are introduced this year? "Salisbury steak" and "upside-down cake." Pah, it's a high school cafeteria menu.*

My grandmother set aside time every afternoon for The Brighter Day and The Secret Storm, but I have never been able to discover the appeal of the unending repetition of the soaps, and, perhaps for that reason, the annual excitement over the Associated Press Stylebook leaves me equally tepid. It's like the inexplicable appeal of Abie's Irish Rose or Cats


*You may have perked up at the new entry for decollete, but trust me, nothing could be tamer.


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