Thursday, June 10, 2004

Truth, Justice and the AP Way blog.

No blogging tomorrow, which is my first summertime vacation day. If I have the energy, I’ll be back on Saturday.

The oddity of the Chicago Tribune using U.S. and UN in the same headline came up yesterday. Further investigation -- I looked in my AP Stylebook this morning -- reveals the following entries:

U.S. Used as an adjective, but not as a noun, for United States.

United Nations Spell out when used as a noun. Use U.N. (no space) only as an adjective. The periods in U.N., for consistency with U.S., are an exception to the first listing in Webster’s New World Dictionary.

Which only tells me that the Tribune isn’t following AP style precisely. I wouldn’t expect that, actually, since Great Metropolitan Newspapers typically have their own stylebooks that are similar, but not the same, as the AP. At one time or another I’ve seen published versions of some of these, such as the New York Times and Los Angeles Times stylebooks. I’d like to see the Daily Planet’s stylebook, so I can look up the entry on Superman: Capitalize when referring to the strange visitor from another planet with powers and abilities beyond those of mortal men; lower case when referring to Nietzschean superior men who are beyond good and evil. Use “Man of Steel” only in quoted material.

About this business of not using U.S. (and U.N., for that matter) as nouns, I say to the AP: phooey. It’s one of the AP prohibitions that seem arbitrary. In terms of clarity, nothing is lost by using U.S. as a noun, and it seems like the most natural thing to write a sentence like this: “Ambassador Duke fled the U.S. in great haste, stopping only to collect a rouleau of Krugerrands from his wall safe.”

In other words, popular usage has long established U.S. as a noun. Maybe my opinion in this seemingly minor matter was colored by an editor I knew early in my career. Fortunately, she wasn’t my boss, since she was something of an ass (a person whose membership in Phi Beta Kappa, among other things, seemed to have gone to her head). But she did have a better title than I did at that point, and dressed me down one day on exactly that point, using U.S. as a noun. Since then, I’ve considered that little point of style as another example of that consistency that obsesses small minds.


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