20 Questions: A Quiz on the AP Stylebook (2015)

In addition to the printed AP Stylebook, the Associated Press offers a number of electronic versions.

This 20-item quiz is based on the 2015 edition of "the journalist's bible"--The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law. Give yourself five minutes to answer all the questions, and then compare your responses with the editors' rulings on page two.

  1. Do you order Girl Scout Cookies or Girl Scout cookies (that is, with or without a capital C)?
  2. Hyphenated or not: "a week-long event" or "a weeklong event"?
  1. Are those emails from Nigerian princes examples of Spam (capitalized) or spam (lower case)?
  2. When conducting research, should Wikipedia be used as a primary source?
  3. Which of the following are trademarks and should be capitalized (if, indeed, they have to be used at all): Velcro, Frisbee, Breathalyzer, Styrofoam, Band-Aid?
  4. When using the "microblogging platform" known as Twitter, does one Twitter or Tweet?
  5. Is it correct to use tidal wave as a synonym for tsunami?
  6. Which of the following may be used in an AP news story: ditto marks [〃], italics, brackets?
  7. Arbitrate and mediate both appear in reports about labor negotiations, but only one of the terms calls for the handing down of a decision. Which one?
  8. Which is correct: associate degree or associate's degree?
  9. In a recipe, two cupfuls or cupsful?
  10. Which of the following social media terms are acceptable to the AP editors: app, mashup, retweet, unfriend, click-thrus?
  1. Do you visit a Web site or a website?
  2. Does writer's guide need that apostrophe?
  3. Which pronoun should be used in reference to a ship, she or it?
  4. Which of the following words and phrases should be avoided "except when in quoted matter": deaf-mute, Canuck, coke (as a slang term for cocaine), handicap (in describing a disability), Scotch (to describe the people of Scotland)?
  1. Is it acceptable to use the term Obamacare anywhere in a news story?
  2. Is there any difference between an epidemic and a pandemic?
  3. What does fulsome mean?
  4. What's the difference (if any) between farther and further?

Time's up. Now turn to page two to compare your answers with the rulings offered by Associated Press editors David Minthorn, Sally Jacobsen, and Paula Froke in the 2015 edition of the AP Stylebook.

Note that there are many other style and documentation guides, including The Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition published in August 2010), The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage (updated in 2015), and the trans-Atlantic Economist Style Guide. You'll also find some helpful aids on the Web, including the The Guardian and Observer Style Guide (UK). Different guides often provide different responses to a number of the questions in this quiz.

Despite its eccentricities, the one indispensable reference work for American journalists and journalism students remains the AP Stylebook, updated annually and available in both print and electronic forms. If you do most of your writing online, you may prefer the Web-based AP Stylebook, which provides "searchable, instant access, with constant updates."

Compare your responses to the 20 questions in the Quiz on the AP Stylebook (2015 edition) with those offered by Associated Press editors David Minthorn, Sally Jacobsen, and Paula Froke.

 

  1. Capital C: Girl Scout Cookies is a trademark.
  2. One word as an adjective, weeklong (an exception to Webster's New World College Dictionary).
  3. In this case, lowercase: "Use spam in all references to unsolicited commercial or bulk email, often advertisements. Use Spam, a trademark, to refer to a canned meat product."
  1. No. "May contain useful links," says the AP Stylebook, "but should not be used as a primary source for stories."
  2. All are trademarks and must be capitalized.
  3. "The verb is to tweet, tweeted."
  4. No.
  5. None of them. Ditto marks "can be made with quotation marks, but their use in newspapers, even in tabular material, is confusing. Don't use them." Brackets and italics "cannot be transmitted over news wires."
  6. Arbitrate. "One who arbitrates hears evidence from all people concerned, then hands down a decision. One who mediates listens to arguments of both parties and tries by the exercise of reason or persuasion to bring them to an agreement."
  7. It's associate degree (no possessive).
  8. Two cupfuls.
  9. All are acceptable.
  10. A "high-profile change" in the 2010 edition: website as one word, lowercase. (But continue to use the Web and Web page.)
  11. No. It's writers guide (without an apostrophe): "Do not add an apostrophe to a word ending in s when it is used primarily in a descriptive sense."
  1. Use it.
  2. Avoid them all.
  3. On second reference, yes, if it's used in quotation marks. "Use President Barack Obama's health care law or the health care law on first reference."
  4. Yes. "An epidemic is the rapid spreading of disease in a certain population or region; pandemic is an epidemic that has spread worldwide."
  1. "It means disgustingly excessive. Do not use it to mean lavish or profuse."
  2. "Farther refers to physical distance: He walked farther into the woods. Further refers to an extension of time or degree: She will look further into the mystery."

Feel free to disagree with any of the AP's answers. These are matters of style and usage, not articles of faith. But if you write for a newspaper, magazine, journal, or website (one word, lowercase), you might not have much choice in the matter. For many of us in the U.S. (but in headlines, US--no periods), the AP Stylebook rules.