Name That App: AP Stylebook

It’s often said and for the most part it’s true: the AP Stylebook is to journalists what the bible is to Christians. Love it or hate it, there is only one gold standard in news writing style, punctuation, grammar and general best practices – and The Associated Press has a lock on it. Working as a journalist over the past decade, I’ve gone through a few hard copies of the book.

They were lost, left behind at newsrooms or outdated in large part to the rise of the Internet (yes, Google was barely a blip on the radar when I started studying journalism in 2001). Social media and words like “blog” and “tweet” were but a speck on the horizon, and sure enough AP has updated its book of record every year without fail to lay down the law, so to speak, on how journalists should formally refer to all these new things in writing.

At some point, like most journalists I imagine, I stopped buying new copies of the AP Stylebook. Much of what I need to know is generally ingrained in me now, but there’s also plenty of ways to find what you’re after with a quick search online. I still have one or two hard copies of the actual book lying around, but they’ve admittedly seen less light with each year that passes. Then, with the 2010 edition, The Associated Press, made a few changes that affect just about every journalist covering media, entertainment or technology today. I thought about buying a new copy of the book instead of relying on a hodgepodge of Google search results, but quickly thought better of it and somehow convinced myself to spend $25 (the most I’ve ever and hopefully ever will spend on an app) to buy the AP Stylebook app for my iPhone. Despite all the obvious conveniences of an app on a handheld, I’m also hopeful that AP will be kind enough to update this app free of charge when it makes revisions in future editions. We’ll see about that. But in the meantime, I find myself referring to AP Stylebook much more often than I had before and in my mind, that can only lead to good things. The app is pretty straightforward as a reference app, but it has a couple useful features like favorites and recent searches. Everything is there, including the appropriate sections on business, sports, punctuation, and a newer set of social media guidelines. But like reference apps that I’ve reviewed before, my pet peeves come to roost in the search box. When I tried searching “touchscreen,” the app returned no results, but on the other hand when I stopped typing at “touch,” “touch screen” and “touch-screen” appeared right away in the results. Sure, these are just little quirks, but if the goal of mobility is to make our lives easier and more productive then I will always expect more from my apps. This is especially true for apps that cost money – let alone $25 — and promote themselves as a productivity and reference tool.

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