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Do Associated Press Style Guidelines Ever Change?

For reporters and copy editors taking linguistic guidance from the Associated Press Stylebook, a cultural conundrum has been adjudicated. If an individual quoted in an article does not identify as male or female, the singular pronoun “they” can be used. Paula Froke, lead editor of the AP Stylebook, announced the change in March 2017, but urged members at the annual conference of the American Copy Editors Society to use the singular pronoun "they" sparingly. Many LGBTQ advocates view the change as a step in the right direction. “Because of this change, transgender and gender-nonconforming people will gain greater respect and dignity in the media,” said LGBTQ advocate Jacob Tobia.

Coming to a newspaper near you:

  • In another change for 2017, the AP Stylebook has decided that LGBT and LGBTQ can be used interchangeably.

  • Although the AP Stylebook says that "they" can be used as a singular gender-neutral pronoun, the Stylebook does not accept alternative gender-neutral pronouns such as "ze" or "xe."

  • The AP Stylebook also clarified that gender is “not synonymous with sex,” adding that gender “refers to a person's social identity while sex refers to biological characteristics.”

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