AP vs. Chicago: Style Battle Royale

No matter the content, author or audience, every piece of writing has some element of style. This is not to say it has pizazz or flair, but rather it follows some set of rules. If the author is well-informed, it will consistently follow one set of rules throughout, thus respecting the audience by promoting readability.

The most prominent of these styles are Chicago and Associated Press (AP). For decades, writers and editors have passionately disputed the merits and shortcomings of each, never truly settling on one inarguably better style.

This ongoing debate has been parodied by the infamous satirical publication The Onion.

Both camps have published lengthy and detailed style guides that outline general best editing practices and specific, though ever-changing, rules on writing elements like word choice, proper punctuation, common mistakes, and clarifications. These style guides act as a bible of sorts for those interested in consistency and clarity in published written material.

Since it was first published in 1906, The Chicago Manual of Style has been constantly updated and reprinted to reflect the latest information and “address the new formats, new procedures, new sources, and new usages that define the academic publishing industry today.” It serves as an editorial canon for those who need not follow the “news” standard put forth by the Associated Press.

Contrastingly, the Associated Press has a long history of providing basic rules on grammar, punctuation, usage and journalistic style to print and media journalists alike. Its standards have developed to include the evolving media platforms.

As an editor, I rely on both of my style guides to provide citations for the changes I make to others’ work, to clarify which punctuation is appropriate in unclear instances, and to double-check my linguistic instincts when something just doesn’t sound quite right.

As a public relations professional, I lean on my style guides to ensure that my content is concise, correct, and most importantly readable. The rules put forth by the Associated Press and the Chicago Manual of Style are in place to ensure that above all else, the audience’s ability to comprehend the message is paramount.




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