Karen Lincoln Michel

Michel: Madison Magazine rocks its own style

AP style encourages publications to make changes

Madison Magazine has its own style. I am referring to the editorial style that dictates when we capitalize certain words, how we refer to local landmarks and how we address dozens of tedious details that the average writer rarely stops to ponder. I am geeky when it comes to journalistic rules, so imagine my delight when The Associated Press this spring released updates to its "AP Stylebook." Madison Magazine follows a combination of AP style, Channel3000.com's style guide and our own unique rules when we edit the magazine.

Let me be the first to point out a monumental (in my mind) change that starts with this month's issue. For years we have spelled out the word percent instead of using the symbol. I can't remember how many times I sighed as I typed those seven letters, thinking of how much time I could save by using the percent symbol. Or how much easier I could spot that elusive percentage buried in a 6,000-word cover story if I could use %. When it comes to writing percentages, I no longer need to mutter under my breath, "Curse you, AP style." now that the organization has sanctioned use of the percent sign when it follows a numeral.

Of course not everyone is joyous about this style change. Maija Inveiss, our digital content editor, drew a sad face on the marked-up copy the first time she edited a story containing the percent symbol. She prefers the cleanness of the copy rather than breaking up the flow with symbolic shorthand. Some magazines use "The Chicago Manual of Style" and other literary rules that call for spelling out certain numerals. Maybe it's my newspaper background that colors my view, but I'd rather use numerals than spend the extra seconds to type figures like three hundred thousand. I could probably finish writing my column in the time it takes to spell out a bunch of numbers.

I was also pleased that the AP (which says it's OK to refer to the organization as "the AP" or "AP" on second reference) deleted the hyphen between African American and Asian American. For references to race, Madison Magazine seeks guidance from the journalists of color organizations. For instance, the National Association of Black Journalists uses a lowercase "b" in black when referring to black people, and the Native American Journalists Association capitalizes Native when referring to Native Americans. Although we don't follow AP style in the cases of race, it's good to see that the AP is modifying a couple of its rules in this area.

Most readers probably think these style rules are "inside baseball." But I like them — 100%.


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