AP Stylebook’s 2019 edition includes guidance on “suicide,” “deepfakes,” bitcoin” and more

The resource isn’t just for journalists: Communicators of all stripes should refer to the style guide to sharpen their writing. Here are several new and edited entries.

It’s time for spring cleaning, but you can spruce up your writing, as well as your office, with updated AP style rules.

On Wednesday, AP Stylebook launched its 2019 edition:

Following its launch, AP Stylebook editor Paula Froke shared several revisions and new entries in the resource publication’s Twitter chat, #APStyleChat.

Here are several you should know:

Science, health and environmental studies

Along with a sports betting section, the new edition has a new health and science chapter, which gives guidelines on selecting stories, citing expert sources, using scientific journals and reporting the type of scientific study conducted. These guidelines can help when writing about environmental issues as well.

Here are a few tips from the chapter:

Reporting details from suicides

AP Stylebook already had an entry on “suicide,” but added additional guidance:

The expanded entry includes guidance from suicide prevention experts, such as including the number for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline and leaving out details of the suicide.

This guidance follows efforts by suicide prevention organizations to stop the reporting of celebrities’ suicide details, including the deaths of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade. In June 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that suicide rates have risen nearly 30% since 1999. More than half (54%) of the 45,000 deaths by suicide in the United States in 2016 were people not known to have mental health issues.


You should still avoid writing “committed suicide.” Here are several alternatives:

Race-related coverage

During the 2019 ACES conference, a national gathering of editors, AP Stylebook announced entries on “race-related coverage,” which include not using the terms “racially charged,” “racially motivated” or “racially tinged” as replacements for “racist” or “racism.”

Froke tweeted several excerpts from the entries, which include:

Removing hyphens

Addressing race-related coverage, AP style no longer requires a hyphen in the term “African American.”

Several other terms have lost hyphens, including “bestseller,” “passerby,” and “babysit”:

AP Stylebook has also removed the hyphen in double-e combinations using “pre-“ and “re-“, including “reelection” and “preempt.” However, words such as “de-emphasize” and “de-escalate” still requite hyphens.

New technology terms

In its latest edition, AP Stylebook added entries for several technological advancements.

The terms “e-cigarette” and “vaping device” are included, but when referring to electronic smoking technology, “vape device” is incorrect:

Both “Deepfake” and “deepfake video,” are now accepted terms used to describe the digital content created by artificial intelligence that superimposes and manipulates people’s images and videos. This process can be used to create fake news, hoaxes and fake pornographic videos.

Explain what the terms mean when you first introduce them:

“Cryptocurrency” now has an entry, along with “Bitcoin” and “Ethereum,” two types of cryptocurrencies:

The “cryptocurrency” entry reads, in part:

Unlike traditional currencies, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies don’t have a country backing them, a central bank, interest rates, or a long history of exchange rates against other currencies. That makes it extremely difficult to assess their value.

… Bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies do not exist as physical bills or coins. Rather, they exist as lines of computer code that are digitally signed each time they travel from one owner to the next. Cryptocurrencies are typically stored in virtual wallets, including online services that resemble bank accounts.

The entries include style guidelines on when to capitalize the terms:

When writing about cryptocurrency, you might also use the term “blockchain,” which is the ledger of cybercurrency transactions. The AP Stylebook entry reads, in part:

… It works like a chain of digital “blocks” that contain records of transactions. Each such block is connected to those before and behind it, making it difficult to tamper with because a hacker would need to change the block containing that record and all those linked to it to avoid detection.

Blockchains are kept in “peer-to-peer” networks that are continually updated and kept in synchronization. It would require huge amounts of computing power to access every instance of a certain blockchain and alter all its blocks at the same time. A network of tech-savvy users known as miners pour their computing power into maintaining the blockchain and verifying its transactions, ensuring that someone cannot spend the same coin again after paying for something with it.

Quotations with grammatical and spelling errors

When quoting someone who has incorrectly spelled a term or used incorrect grammar, do not add “(sic)” after the error(s). Instead, quote the person as originally stated or written. AP Stylebook suggests paraphrasing instead of using a quotation, when possible.

A media researcher pointed out that using “(sic)” can also seem ostentatious:

Percentages and numbers

In April, AP Stylebook caused a stir on Twitter when it announced that you should now use the “%” sign, instead of writing out “percent”:

However, you should still spell out both the number and “percent” when it’s a casual reference:

Here’s additional guidance:

You can purchase the AP Stylebook 2019 edition here.

You can also learn more about what’s new in the AP Stylebook and gain additional insights from Froke by registering for our webinar on June 19 at 1-2:30 p.m. Central time.


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