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Write with Clarity

I’m normally not a fan of burning books, but I think I’d make an exception for The Associated Press Stylebook (“More than 2 million copies sold!”). That so many otherwise serious institutions continue to abide by its arbitrary and specious rules is a continual source of amusement to me; that so many adults are unable to write clearly due to its predominance in public education is an unmitigated disaster.

Consider the possessive. Strunk & White treat it thusly:

Form the possessive of singular nouns by adding ‘s. Follow this rule whatever the final consonant. Thus write,

Charles’s friend
Burns’s poems
the witch’s malice

Simple. Elegant. And easily understood by the reader. Contrast that with the AP’s instructions, which, in my 2004 edition, contain no fewer than five variations for singular nouns alone (out of sixteen total, including “nouns plural in form, singular in meaning,” “quasi possessives,” and “inanimate objects”).

As is the case with the serial comma, the AP is chiefly interested in saving space in newspapers—creating room for more advertising—rather than in its journalists writing something that can actually be read.

Got a light?



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