Friday, December 11, 2009

A.P. Story Screws Up A.P. Style

Midwest correspondent Stan Kost e-mailed the Proofreader earlier this week inquiring about a usage of the abbreviation "vs." in an A.P. article he'd read on The New York Post's Web site. "In paragraph five, is it appropriate to abbreviate 'versus' when quoting someone?" asked Kost in the message. "It looked a bit awkward when I saw that," he added.

It looks awkward because abbreviating the word versus in the body of an article is a deviation from ordinary A.P. Style. For writing purposes, the Proofreader typically adheres to New York Times style and, therefore, doesn't own an A.P. Stylebook. So, the Proofreader consulted journalist Carly Baldwin, a writer for Metro New York newspaper, for enlightening on A.P. Style.

In an e-mail message, Baldwin wrote the Proofreader and noted what an odd favor he was asking of her. Then, she quoted the following directly from her 2003 A.P. Stylebook:
Versus should be spelled out in ordinary style and writing. "The proposal to revamp Medicare, versus cuts to Medicare ...."

In short expressions, however, vs. is permitted: "The issue of guns vs. butter has long been with us."

For court cases, use v. "Marbury v. Madison."
Given that the abbreviation appeared in a 29-word quote, it's probably safe to say that the word should've been spelled out, a minor mistake to be sure, but a mistake nonetheless.

The Proofreader thanks Stan Kost for submitting the mistake and Carly Baldwin.


stan said...

When you quoted me, you used double quotes around "versus" when they should have been single quotes.

Sometimes, the Proofreader needs to be proofread. :)

J. Alfred Proofreader said...

Indeed he does need proofreading, as he freely admits in his profile. Thanks for pointing it out. The change will be made momentarily.