Donald W. Reynolds National Center For Business Journalism

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AP Style never goes out of fashion in business reporting

April 14, 2022

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Financial terms, business words, and language frequently applied in workplace stories are fairly stable compared to the capricious changes we see in entertainment and fashion. But business fads also come and go. Anyone remember Google Glass?

Exactly. 

“The English language is fluid and changes incessantly,” according to the AP Stylebook, which is why it is frequently updated, most recently this month – April 2022.

AP Stylebook Editor Paula Froke says technology drives the most changes in business language. Now throw in a pandemic. A seemingly whole new vocabulary was created to go with the lifestyle upheaval these past two years. Blursday, spendemic, covidiot, quaranbaking, and infit (your lockdown outfit) may not be recognized by the stylebook, but plenty of others are.

So, let’s check your stylebook chops on some hot topics in the business world.  

Artificial Intelligence: AI is acceptable in headlines and on second references in text.

Autonomous vehicles: These vehicles can also be called self-driving. The term driverless should not be used unless there is no human backup driver. Trade names such as Tesla’s Autopilot should be capitalized.

Coworking: Sharing workspace and amenities when people don’t actually work for the same company but instead are self-employed or remote workers. But use co-worker for a colleague within the same company.

Cryptocurrency: The shorthand crypto is acceptable in headlines and direct quotations. Cryptocurrency is not the same as virtual currency, which is used in online games and virtual worlds.

Electric vehicles: EV is acceptable on second-reference when referring to vehicles that run only on electricity and have no internal combustion engine. Do not call hybrid vehicles or plug-in hybrid vehicles electric vehicles.

Face recognition: This changes from the previous style of ‘facial recognition.’

FaceTime: FaceTime is used informally as a verb, but talked via FaceTime or used FaceTime is preferred.

Fintech: Short for financial technology. Can be used on first reference but should be defined in the story if it isn’t clear from context.

Gender: This is a huge and expanding category in the AP Stylebook. Since not all people fall under one of two categories for sex or gender, avoid references to both sexes, either sex, opposite sexes or opposite genders. 

Many terms are discussed in this category, including deadnaming. This is a transgender individual’s previous name, which is to be used very rarely and only if required to understand the story or if requested by the person.

Great resignation: This can be used with a quote and an explanation of the droves of people who left the workforce during the pandemic.    

LISTSERV: A trademark for a software program for setting up and maintaining discussion groups through email. Do not use for generic list management software.

Metaverse: A term used by the science fiction writer Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel Snow Crash now used to describe a proposed immersive version of the internet accessed via virtual-reality headsets, augmented reality glasses, phone apps or other devices.

Mobile payment: Digital wallet and mobile wallet can also be used. Proper names of these types of services –such as Apple Pay—should be capitalized.

People of color: Acceptable in broad references to multiple races other than white. Many people object to the term, however, because it lumps everyone together into one monolithic group. Be specific whenever possible. Do not use the shorthand POC unless necessary in a direct quotation. When used, explain it.

Superspreader: This can be used as a noun or an adjective.

TSA PreCheck: TSA is acceptable on first reference in this usage but spell out the Transportation Security Administration later.

Vaccine passports: The term is acceptable if enclosed in quotation marks. But proof of vaccination is better.

Web3: Do not use the term Web3 without explanation. It is a catchall term for the prospect of a new stage of the internet driven by the cryptocurrency-related technology blockchain.

Zoom bomb: Zoom is a proper noun and therefore capitalized if you are talking about the actual Zoom platform. 

Remember, many news organizations have their own approach to certain terms and expressions – and that language is constantly evolving. The best advice: consult with both the AP Stylebook and your editors before hitting the send button.

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