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What Ever Happened to Strunk & White?

Image via Caliper Media

Image via Caliper Media

Upon being handed a copy of The Elements of Style, I stifled a giggle. My well-intentioned former manager firmly believed in the rules of usage and composition as defined by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White some 90 years ago. On the other hand, I did not. Majoring in journalism and history, the Associated Press and University of Chicago Press ruled the bulk of my work throughout undergrad but on the other side of the ivy, it became clear to me that style guides should be categorized with the printing press.

Perhaps I was too harsh. The rise of online media was slow at first. Traditional print and broadcast formats had little to fear until social media firmly took hold in the mid-2000s. Luring more and more members into the audience, online media became interactive and highly shareable, further increasing its appeal. Blogging went from fun hobby to a viable career choice as magazine and newspaper sales slumped. Handheld devices like the PDA made content mobile way before the iPod even existed. Broadcasters also yearned for the opportunity to go viral. In the midst of this upheaval, the English language suffered. Between texting and tweeting, when relegated to 140 characters or less, full-on phrases become acronyms and emotions turn to symbols.

Partners in crime to the journalists they serve, PR pros advocate the regular use of style guides. Choosing which style guide is a matter of preference and some firms even develop their own. Still, to keep content clean and consistent, The AP Stylebook remains the go-to style guide for professional writers, both on- and off-line. Recognizing that the industry’s changed, the AP even offers its employees guidelines for social networking that uphold the organization’s style and account for SEO. Internet giants such as Google offer help to understand how traditional punctuation can impact search and change how copy is crafted. Keeping pace with the Internet, today’s style guides are constantly changing but for writers, those elements of style remain the same.