Whoa! Religion chapter added to AP Stylebook

Big news for Godbeat style geeks: The Associated Press Stylebook — the journalist’s Bible — has added a religion chapter.

The Poynter Institute reports:

The 2014 edition of the Associated Press Stylebook comes out Wednesday, with about 200 changes and additions, including a new chapter devoted to religion, updates to social media terms, weather terms and the chapter on food.

Some of those additions include (sic)MERS and Buffalo wings, “B is capitalized in Buffalo,” said Sally Jacobsen, AP Stylebook editor, in a phone interview with Poynter. (AP puts the word “selfie” on the edition’s cover.)

“The key thing is the new chapter on religion,” she said. “We have 208 entries in that chapter.”

AP Religion Writer Rachel Zoll reported those entries out for the Stylebook editors, speaking with religious scholars, communication specialists within denominations and AP reporters in different regions, including Jerusalem and Haiti. The goal is to be respectful to the groups themselves, to listen to them, Zoll told Poynter in a phone interview, but ultimately to be clear for the journalists for whom the book is made.

The Stylebook changes and grows with both language and culture, and this year, the new religion chapter includes an entry on Coptic Christians, for instance, and a more detailed entry on Easter, which acknowledges that not everyone using the Stylebook may be familiar with the holiday.

AP itself notes:

At more than 500 pages, the AP Stylebook is widely used as a writing and editing reference in newsrooms, classrooms and corporate offices worldwide.

In case you’re curious, here are those new entries referenced by Poynter:

Coptic Christian 

The Coptic Orthodox Church traces its origins to the Apostle Mark in first century Alexandria. The word Copt is derived from the Greek word for Egypt. Coptic Christians generally share the beliefs of other Orthodox churches, but have some distinct teachings, mainly concerning Christology, or the nature of Christ. There are no definitive statistics for the Coptic Christian population, but they are considered to be the largest Christian community in the Mideast. Scholars estimate that Copts comprise 10 percent of the Egyptian population, or 8.5 million people. Significant diaspora Coptic Christian communities can be found in the United States, Canada and Australia.

Easter

Easter Christian holy day commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christians believe Jesus was raised from the dead three days after his crucifixion.

Western Christian churches and most Orthodox Christian churches follow different calendars and observe Easter on different dates.

If you want to see all 208 religion entries, you’ll need to buy the stylebook. But if you’re interested in whether a specific term is included — or how one is treated — fire away and I’ll check into it.

About Bobby Ross Jr.

Bobby Ross Jr. is an award-winning reporter and editor with a quarter-century of professional experience. A former religion editor for The Oklahoman and religion writer for The Associated Press, Ross serves as chief correspondent for the The Christian Chronicle. He has reported from 47 states and 11 countries and was honored as the Religion Newswriters Association's 2013 Magazine Reporter of the Year.

  • Quest

    Fundamentalism/ist etc.

    • http://getreligion.org/ Bobby Ross Jr.

      fundamentalist

      The word gained usage in an early-20th-century fundamentalist-modernist controversy within Protestantism. In recent years, however, fundamentalist has to a large extent taken on pejorative connotations except when applied to groups that stress strict, literal interpretations of Scripture and separation from other Christians.
      In general, do not use fundamentalist unless a group applies the word to itself.

      • tmatt

        Hurrah. Holy writ remains intact. Someone there still respects history.

        So, I will ask the related question: Define “evangelical.”

        • tmatt

          (crickets)

          ;-)

          • http://getreligion.org/ Bobby Ross Jr.

            Sorry, I guess I’m the cricket. :-) Didn’t see your question earlier.

            Here’s the AP Stylebook entry:

            evangelical

            Historically, evangelical was used as an adjective describing Protestant dedication to conveying the message of Christ. Today it also is used as a noun, referring to a category of doctrinally conservative Protestants. They emphasize the need for a definite, adult commitment or conversion to faith in Christ and the duty of all believers to persuade others to accept Christ.

            Evangelicals make up some conservative denominations and are numerous in broader denominations. Evangelicals stress both doctrinal absolutes and vigorous efforts to win others to belief.

            The National Association of Evangelicals is an interdenominational, cooperative body of relatively small, conservative Protestant denominations.

          • Julia B

            So this is a definition of Evangelical with a capital “E” in the US, right? No indication of what it means with a small “e” to people who are not Protestants? Is there an entry for evangelist or evangelism?

          • http://getreligion.org/ Bobby Ross Jr.

            No, the AP style is “evangelical” lowercase.

            The stylebook treatment of those other words:

            evangelist

            Capitalize only in reference to the men credited with writing the Gospels: The four Evangelists were Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

            In lowercase, it means a preacher who makes a profession of seeking conversions. Often confused with the term evangelical. See evangelical.

            evangelism

            The word refers to activity directed outside the church fold to influence others to commit themselves to faith in Christ, to his work of serving others and to infuse his principles into society’s conduct.

            Styles of evangelism vary from direct preaching appeals at large public meetings to practical deeds of carrying the name of Christ, indirectly conveying the same call to allegiance to him.

            The word evangelism is derived from the Greek evangelion, which means the gospel or good news of Christ’s saving action on behalf of humanity.

          • Julia B

            Thanks for that.

          • Mark_in_MN

            It’s too bad that they aren’t distinguishing the grouping of Christians by using a capital from the more general word. It’s also unfortunate that they don’t explain that others might use the word “evangelical” differently, as in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America who don’t fit the definition of “evangelical” quoted but over which there is all too often confusion because of the different usages of the word.

  • FW Ken

    A bit sloppy to speak of “Coptic Christians”, even if they did begin by speaking of Coptic Orthodoxy. The largest body is non-Calcedonian, but there a are also Coptic Caledonian (“Eastern”) Orthodox, a Coptic Catholic Church, and Coptic Protestants. All Copts, all Christians.

  • MDevlin

    Although this is good to hear, my biggest issue with mainstream religion coverage has been conceptual. Christians get treated more like content fodder than an audience. When I read mainstream religion news, I feel more like I’m being monitored than being informed. I read religion news for the same reason I read my local news – I live here so I want to know what’s going on, I want information I can use. I think that’s a bigger issue, but I don’t expect mindsets in newsrooms to change because the stylebook has been updated.

  • Julia B

    What happened to the Copts who are in Communion with Rome? I know they exist because I’m related to one. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coptic_Catholic_Church

    The term “Coptic Christians” is as bad as “Ukrainian Christians” in news reports. OK What kind of Christian is the reporter reporting on?

    • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

      I thought all copts were in Communion with Rome.

      • Julia B

        No, over 10% of the Egyptian population is Coptic Orthodox , the kind that is not in communion with the Constantinople Patriarch. Wikipedia says there were about 163,000 Coptic Catholics in 2010 with about 161 parishes. There are also some Orthodox who are in communion with Constantinople – don’t know how many.

  • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

    I agree with Simcha Fisher that I have my doubts about secular media reporting on religion at all anymore. But is the section on the Roman Catholic Church as bad as her derived-from-the-pages-of-the-New-York-Times rules?

    http://www.ncregister.com/blog/simcha-fisher/the-ap-stylebook-of-galileo-pedophiles-and-galileo

  • Julia B
  • http://ontheotherfoot.blogspot.com/ Joel

    In fairness, the old AP Stylebook did include a lot of information about various religious groups, just not all combined into a separate section. The problem wasn’t lack of data in the Stylebook; it was that reporters didn’t bother to read it.

    • http://getreligion.org/ Bobby Ross Jr.

      Good point, Joel.

  • http://quijotefelix.blogspot.com/ rick allen

    “Easter Christian holy day commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christians believe Jesus was raised from the dead three days after his crucifixion.”

    Forget that every Sunday is a Christian holy day commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and that Easter is the annual commemoration. Christians do not believe that Jesus was raised from the dead three days after his crucifixion. If He did, we would be getting together on Monday. “On the third day” is the biblical locution; if that’s too ambiguous, how about “Christians believe that Jesus was raised from the dead on the Sunday following his crucifixion on Friday”?

    “Western Christian churches and most Orthodox Christian churches follow different calendars and observe Easter on different dates.”

    From this you would imagine that there are as many days for Easter as churches. Why not “Western Churches tend to follow a different calendar than Eastern Churches”?


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