The New York Times style guide, one of the trendsetters of proper journalistic form, is finally beginning to move into the 21st century. The Times made a series of updates to its stylebook to allow the verb to "tweet" and eliminated the hyphen from "email," but it remains wary of commonly-spoken verbs like "googling" and "friending."
As the Times' controversial ruling on the pronunciation of "gif" on Tuesday showed, people really do still care about how the "newspaper of record" treats the English language. In making the changes, several editors went through the stylebook "more systematically" than it had since 1999, Times standards editor Philip Corbett explained in an email to The Atlantic Wire. "They are mostly modest updates and tweaks; nothing earth-shattering," he wrote of the updates, which will go into effect next week. The idea behind them, he explained, is to eventually release the stylebook to the public: "That's still under discussion, but I hope it will happen."
Here are all the changes of import made in the stylebook update:
e-mail is now email. "By popular demand, we're going to remove the hyphen from e-mail," wrote Times editor Patrick LaForge in a post on the newsroom's internal blog, he confirmed in an email. The Times had been one of the last holdouts still using the hyphenated "e-mail," a vestige of the "information superhighway" era of the Internet. The AP stylebook removed the hyphen in email in 2011. But the e- prefix is not completely dead at The Times; e-book will maintain its hyphenated status.
Tech words as verbs: The Times loosened its allowance of the verb "to tweet" in their writing, Times national political writer Amy Chozik tweeted. Still, Corbett explained that the style guide continues to discourage using "tweet," "google," or "friend" as verbs too often, because their use is too informal.
Capitalization changes: It's the end of the line for "Web site," which can now be written as "website," without the capital W. "Internet" will continue to be capitalized.
Adjusting for inflation: In a fairly important shift, The Times will no longer describe a monetary number as a "record" or as the "largest" unless the figures are adjusted for inflation. That's a fairly significant change, as the stylebook update explains: "This is not statistical quibbling. It is simply not accurate to describe $1,000 in 2013 dollars as 'more' money than, say, $900 in 1960..." Times public editor Margaret Sullivan wrote last Friday about the paper's need to contextualize large numbers, such as the federal deficit or budget allocations, in order to better explain their relevance and importance (or lack thereof). "They might take the form of new entries to the stylebook," she noted then. And so they have.
Despite these changes, there remain plenty of rulings where The Times lags behind. Sadly, as Times reporter John Schwartz tweets, "We STILL can't say 'opened a can of whup-ass.'" But, thanks to the Times updates, he at least can 'tweet' it on a "website."
(Top image by Michael Mandiberg of his work "Old News" via Flickr.)