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The thoughts of a young journalist in southeastern Michigan

Web site to website: An industry rocked by grammar

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It’s amazing how much an industry can get rocked by a simple memo sent out by the boss.

On April 16, the Associated Press announced a major change in its coveted AP style: “Web site” would now become “website.”

This is a style issue that has become highly misunderstood in recent years. The AP used “Web site” with a capital “W” in the beginning because of the official title – the World Wide Web. But the Internet has become so ordinary and common in society, many writers I’ve worked with never knew there was a difference.

The decision was announced at the American Copy Editors Society conference, and was then announced through the Stylebook’s Twitter account. This prompted the Twittersphere to go crazy, taking “Web site” all the way to the trending topics list.

Overall, the decision is a good one for several reasons. First, only the AP calls it “Web site.” There are very few organizations that separate the two words. Especially with the technological shift in recent years, it’s important to keep up with the tech world, especially for those young journalists that are just so used to “website.” This is also a good move because this can cut down on space with the elimination of the space between “Web” and “site.” The change – along with a new social media guide – will be published in the 2010 Stylebook, which is due out next month.

Another possible change the Stylebook is considering is the elimination of state abbreviations and require journalists to spell out the full state name. For example: Crescent City, Calif., would become Crescent City, California. The other change includes eliminating province names from naming cities in Canada. For example: Vancouver, British Columbia, would become Vancouver, Canada.

The AP was going to change this May 15, but has decided to hold off and look at the feasibility of moving that direction. Some are arguing that in this day where printed space is precious and decreasing, abbreviations are appropriate. But the AP’s argument is that international readers will be more likely to recognize full state names and not abbreviations when searching online.

For me, there is an easy compromise out there, but would face utmost resistance from editors and reporters that have been in the field for so long: Spell out state names online, and continue to use abbreviations in print.

This approach would help both major mediums journalists continue to use: print and online. While it could be difficult to merge this practice into a newsroom, it would allow the best of both worlds. Print publications could still use abbreviations and save space, and online publications could use the full spelling for SEO purposes.

In the grand scheme of things, the current changes are tiny and shouldn’t affect journalism as a whole. While it may seem like the industry shifted a little bit when the decision was announced, journalism has a lot more important things to worry about. But it does help when the governing body begins to show signs of moving forward with its thinking.

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Written by David Veselenak

April 17, 2010 at 3:31 pm

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