How Golf and Associated Press Style Compare

Even if I had the time, resources and desire to dedicate myself to the game wholeheartedly starting tomorrow, I could never become competent at golf between now and the day I die.

I do, however, have a fighting chance of mastering Associated Press Style, the writing standards created and maintained by the Associated Press. This is a good thing, because correct usage of AP Style is a requirement at my freelance position. There’s a much higher chance of me remembering to hyphenate the word sell-off than there is of me letting my left shoulder turn under my chin while keeping my left arm straight and my hands passive until my club reaches hip height, just the first stage of an effective takeaway in golf.

Why Try To Compare Golf and #APStyle?

I finally decided to pay attention to Quora after approximately two years of getting emails saying “[name of someone] is following you on Quora!” The site has come up several times on Spin Sucks, a blog I read faithfully (and contribute to occasionally).

I kept hesitating to engage on Quora. I have so many social media balls up in the air as it is. Eventually, I decided I either needed to figure out what it was all about or somehow stop the daily emails about being followed there.

If you know me, you can imagine what happened next.

I’m in!

In response to the recent question “What do you love when you read a personal blog?,” I said it’s important to have a personal connection to the topics you blog about and an enthusiasm for them. I said, ” I could write (maybe competently) about golf, for example (with some research) but it’s not a passion of mine so it would just be facts.” (Read the whole answer here.)

In the Spin Sucks Slack group (it’s awesome and free – check it out!), Mike Connell, who had picked up on the Quora thread, said something like “coming up soon, Paula’s blog post about golf.” I am not sure how that ended up merging with my desire to blog about #APStyle, but I rarely shy away from a blogging challenge, so here we are.

Comparing Golf with #APStyle

You may think golf and #APStyle have nothing in common, but I don’t think that’s true.

Both require precision

Golf holes have been 4.25 inches in diameter since 1891. Just ask the professional golfer whose putt lands a millimeter away from the hole and loses a lucrative payout if precision is important.

Similarly, precision matters for a writer or editor adhering to AP Style. I suppose things are a little different these days because pieces that have been published digitally can be revised real-time, as opposed to publishing on paper only, which immortalizes errors forever. But sticking with AP Style keeps publications consistent and hopefully makes it easier for readers to read. Assuming the publication using AP Style wants to generate revenue from paid subscriptions or advertising, it is important that readers make it a habit to come back, as The Lenfest Institute discovered in its analysis of The Seattle Times’ newsletter. Consistency hopefully helps reinforce the habit.

Despite the precision, both have arbitrary aspects

I know golf has a rulebook (for the purposes of this blog, we’ll go with USGA rules). Even as a golf bystander who has never played a single hole and attended only one major tour event, I know (because my husband is a golfer) that even the most black and white rules can be subject to interpretation. Graeme McDowell, for example, won less money in a 2012 championship when he voluntarily took a two-stroke penalty and ended up finishing in 3rd place rather than 2nd because he “didn’t give the branch enough respect” while addressing his ball in a bunker.

Associated Press Style

At the TPC Players Championship at Sawgrass – May 2017

With AP Style, even though there is an official style book (online and hard copy), some decisions are flexible. Individual publications may decide to stray a bit. For abbreviations and acronyms, as an example, the AP Stylebook encourages “avoiding ‘alphabet soup'” and thinking about the context before deciding to use an abbreviation or acronym.

You can’t learn golf in a pinch

As I said at the beginning of this piece, even if I dropped all my other obligations and took golf lessons frequently, had an open-ended membership to a golf club, was gifted with the best equipment, and cared enough to try, I couldn’t become an excellent golfer with the time that’s left in my life (hopefully we’re talking decades here). Golf involves mechanics, muscle memory, discipline, an understanding of the game, endurance, and the ability to strategize. Some of those things (especially muscle memory and good fundamental mechanics) are much easier to develop for a young person.

AP Style, on the other hand, is something even a woman over 50 can grasp. It would certainly have been easier for me to apply AP Style to my current gig if I had accumulated experience using it as a journalist, but it’s not impossible. (The AP Style quizzes are helpful; they are quick to complete and help you become aware of your deficits (and strengths!).

The scenery is different

I have to hand it to golf on the scenery. The gorgeous courses, the ability to commune with nature, the fresh air.

Following AP Style, on the other hand, is somewhat limited to me at my desk typing away. I suppose I don’t run the risk of getting hit in the head with a golf ball or having to fish a ball out of the water, so there’s that!

Visiting the #APStyle Golf Course

I have been thinking a lot about golf hole names since learning that Sergio Garcia named his daughter (Azalea) after a hole at the Augusta National course.

In that spirit, here is a “course” I designed based on the things I’ve learned about AP Style since starting to use it in January 2017, some big and some little. (I do think, though, that an AP Style course would be more along the lines of miniature golf than regular golf — AP Style writers are always trying for a hole in one — we don’t have the luxury of taking several strokes to get to the destination.) I made it a nine-hole. Feel free to create your own nine to fill out 18.

One: Fla. First (State Abbreviations)

AP Style dictates abbreviations for states. Florida, for example, is Fla. In addition, 30 cities can be identified independently, without identifying their state alongside. Writing Explained says, “The norms that influenced the selection [of the 30 cities] were the population of the city, the population of its metropolitan region, the frequency of the city’s appearance in the news, the uniqueness of its name, and experience that has shown the name to be almost synonymous with the state of nation where it is located.” I still don’t get why Milwaukee is there but Orlando isn’t (nothing against Milwaukee), but no one asked me.

Two: Numerically Speaking

With AP Style, the numbers smaller than 10 are spelled out, unless they are ages or percentages.

Three: Article-free Islamic State

This may seem like a weird one to focus on after big things like states and numbers, but I got it wrong recently and am still annoyed with myself. The Islamic militant organization is “Islamic State” rather than “the Islamic State” and it is abbreviated “IS.”

Four: The Walmart Wonder

This is a fairly recent change. For AP Style purposes, the brand ditched its hyphen and changed to “Walmart” this year.

Five: fall for autumn

Seasons are lowercase unless the name of the season is part of a formal event (Summer Olympics, for example).

Six: Dazzling gold rush

I don’t foresee needing this term, but for what it’s worth, “gold rush” is lower case. I suppose a golfer who wins a tournament may encounter his or her own gold rush, right?

Seven: Fly High, Frequent Flyer

Someone who flies often is a frequent flyer, not a frequent flier. AP says “flyer” also applies to handbills distributed to advertise an event, but I have read other opinions on this.

Eight: An Apostrophe’s Place

The AP Stylebook dedicates almost two pages to apostrophes, so I can’t summarize those two pages easily. One important point: It would be easy to trip up on the rule that possessives of proper names ending in S get only an apostrophe (Dickens’ books, for example).

Nine: The Oxford Comma Memorial

This has been the hardest habit for me to break. I was an Oxford Comma fan. My rationale was “I love punctuation, so more is better.” I have to admit, though, that having eliminated the Oxford Comma as required by AP  Style, I am getting used to the cleaner look of an Oxford Comma-free sentence. This is probably how all slippery slopes begin….

The Nineteenth Hole

Many golf courses have a Nineteenth Hole facility, a place where golfers can relax after a tough day on the links.

I’m not sure what the equivalent of the Nineteenth Hole is for someone required to use AP Style. Rebelling by spelling out Mississippi? Throwing in a serial comma? Typing “walkin” closet instead of “walk-in”? For me it means keeping the informal to places like Facebook comments and Twitter.

Ultimately, I remind myself that I am using words professionally (and therefore required to use AP Style if that is the requirement of the employer) to accomplish what words do best: build a bridge between people through information and building community.

Creating links, if you will.

 

**NOTE: If you are an AP Style pro and I got something wrong, please let me know. I’m still learning.

Raindrops on Roses and Music from Elders

Is it possible to discuss “favorite things” without having visions of raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens?

It’s a challenge but I’m going to try to branch out from those whiskers on kittens, thanks to a Mama’s Losin’ It writing prompt: list your five most recent favorite things.

Favorite Things

Here are mine:

Music Therapy

Specifically, the music therapist from Big Bend Hospice who has visited my father-in-law twice. Although I am grateful for the many services provided by Big Bend Hospice, I have jokingly referred to this process as “the revolving door of people who are ‘here to help you,'” inferring that it is an additional chore for me to coordinate them all.

I had put the music therapist pretty far down the “necessary” list, under the nurse (definitely, for health reasons), shower aide (definitely, because Wayne and I can’t do it at this point), social worker ( sanity, please), and incredible volunteer Jim who told him, “yeah, I have a DNR (do not resuscitate) form too,” a perfect response to divert my FIL’s attention from the always-present reminder that this is a very final process.

I had definitely put our music therapist, Marisa (sp?) into the “nice but not necessary” bucket …….. until I heard my FIL, always a man of few words and subdued emotions, SINGING ALONG WITH HER. It really is true about music … it can unlock a person’s heart in a way nothing else can. (Music therapy is especially effective because it doesn’t demand cognitive functioning to succeed. More here via the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.)

Side note: the music therapist uses a little tripod stool like hunters use in the woods (sample here) … and says she can only find ones with camo designs. Anyone know someone who makes little stool covers with music notes (or other non-camo designs)? There has to be a way.

My New Part-Time Job

When I wrote about trying to sharpen my memory recently by using Lumosity, I didn’t know that something else was going to come along that would challenge my brain and shape up my life in other ways.

While I love my contractor work for Weaving Influence, I am also happy to have taken on additional work that adds to our family bottom line, provides needed structure to my days, and challenges me every single time (even though I have had to part ways with my beloved Oxford comma in the process).

In my independent contractor work for a digital B2B company, my duties so far include searching for news items related to certain terms, summarizing news stories into concise (yet informative!) two-sentence summaries, and contributing to the curation of industry-specific newsletters.

Observations along the way:

  • It’s humbling for an editor to be edited
  • Having to be “on duty” at a specific time (7 am) is the best thing in the world to keep me from a slow, easily-distracted slide into the work of the day. Having to report in to someone, and knowing others down the line are waiting on me, is BIG
  • I should have gone to AP Style boot camp at some point in the past; I definitely feel l like I’m doing catch-up on that front
  • It’s humbling to be at square one with a job again. ALL THE QUESTIONS
  • This arrangement was the kick in the butt I needed to file for my LLC
  • It’s so funny to me to be full-circle back at supporting myself by summarizing the news (one of the ways I supported myself during my New York years was by working at a place where we typed summaries of the news FROM VHS TAPES (yes, I’m that old))
  • I’ve been sufficiently a part of the gig economy long enough now that this doesn’t surprise me anymore, but it’s still so interesting to be working for and with people who you aren’t going to run into at the water cooler or trade funny quips with (yet)

All that said, I’m so fortunate to have the challenge of being an independent contractor for Smartbrief. Check out their website and choose a newsletter that fits for you — here has to be something among all the options, ranging from leadership (my fave!) to supply chain. For career opportunities, click here (but leave your oxford comma at the door.)

Writing

Maybe writing isn’t a “thing” like a smartphone, key chain, or cronut, but it’s a perennial favorite with me. Since I’m not running (for now), it has taken on even more of a role as my outlet.

When I write for myself, I process my thoughts. When I write to try to convey a message to others, I am forced to see multiple sides of the issue, and that is not a bad thing.

People Who Give Me Tools to Advocate Effectively

When I wrote my #One20Today-inspired post in advance of Inauguration Day, I committed to various acts of advocacy in the face of an administration headed by someone who did not receive my vote, and whose administration’s choices threaten the rights and peace of mind of many of my fellow Americans (and me).

The challenge is: the craziness, threats, and insults to the integrity of our democracy are coming so fast and furious, it’s easy to be overwhelmed and get paralyzed by indecision (and, frankly, fear of speaking out).

One incredibly bright and insightful friend I met via Shot at Life has created a periodic (at least weekly, sometimes more) list of 4 action items (something to read, a concept to understand, an action to do, a donation to consider) that can help us break out of the paralysis and do something.

As she said, “We don’t get to reimagine history to make ourselves better. We get to be loud right now or we’re not better.”

Here are four of my favorite examples, taken from the action emails:

Read every executive order President Trump has signed so far

Understand why the United States’ signature on the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Refugee Protocol impacted (prior to the stay of the Executive Order) choices by government entities to try to revoke peoples’ ability to board planes and to keep them from setting foot in the US

Do pick something you care deeply about and write a letter to the editor (LTE) of your local newspaper. Here’s a guide and here’s an example. Side note: it’s always a good idea to be aware of your newspaper’s guidelines for an LTE. Increase your chances of getting published by adhering to those rules to the extent possible (i.e., if the limit is 200 words, don’t send 325 and make it harder for them to use your piece). Also, it is a good idea to have civil and friendly relationships with your local journalists. No one likes always being asked for something — it’s totally acceptable to chat with them about the weather or praise their cute puppy pictures if you happen to be involved in their social media streams. AND — not everything you submit will get accepted. Don’t take it personally. (Sometimes if I don’t get something accepted, I run it on my blog. Medium is another choice. Your thoughts/opinions still matter.)

Donate to the International Refugee Assistance Project

If you would like to be on the list, let me know and I’ll put you in touch with my friend!

Naps

When our incredible hospice volunteer, Jim, arrived recently,  I said, “I’ll be working on something in the bedroom.” Do you think every hospice volunteer knows “working on something in the bedroom” means “napping”?

One of the huge benefits of working from home is that it is so much easier to customize my life around my energy needs and fit in a 15-minute power nap around 3 pm. As this article states, power naps are beneficial for alertness and motor learning skills. I am not sure if “and making Paula a lot less irritable” is documented anywhere but I tell you, it’s a thing.

If/when I ever return to the traditional office-based workforce, I can only hope I find someplace with nap pods.Google says “no workplace is complete without a nap pod.” That’s what I’m talking about! Maybe Google will open a Tallahassee branch in the future!

FOR FUN

I asked my Facebook friends what they thought I would say. Although they didn’t hit on the five things I listed above, they were all spot-on (good job, friends!). Here are their answers:

  • Green pens (yes!)
  • Audiobooks (oh yes yes yes)
  • Hidden Figures (yes!)
  • Global vaccinations (for sure)
  • Exchanging pleasant conversation over a good meal (the best thing ever)
  • Disney
  • Wine (for sure)

Good job, friends — you get me, you really get me.

Several people also shared THEIR favorite things, which was fun to see! Also a great segue to the end of this post.

What are your current faves?

Favorite Things

8 New Words In an Evolving Language

(This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive compensation.)

I love language. I can’t remember a time when I was not an avid reader, and I’ve always enjoyed wordplay.

I can be a stickler about many things English-language related (hello, beloved Oxford comma), but I recognize that the English language is a living, breathing entity, not a static one. Social media has, to me, put the evolution of English on hyperdrive.

I think of all of the words consigned to word graveyard because a hashtag takes their place. For example, in this tweet…

…an “I” and an “am” and a “so” all remained home in the word farm stable, unused, because a hashtag did all the heavy lifting for a passage which would have otherwise read “After an intense homework session, finally going to bed. I am so tired.” (I do this frequently too, I just couldn’t find an example when writing this post, so thanks @stinger444 for the perfect example.)

New Words in an Evolving Language

The way our language usage has changed due to Twitter and other forms of social media is a topic for a whole post of its own. What I want to talk about today is new words which I have come across in the last year that made me go, “HUH….”

In some cases, they are words that are a bit ingenious in representing a particular concept. In others, they (to me) signal either a new humanitarian sensitivity or, in some cases, a walking on eggshells nod to political correctness.

Prior to writing this post, I looked up “how a word gets into the dictionary” which has a great infographic detailing the routes words take to being “official.” For each word, I’ll let you know if it’s in the dictionary yet and I’ll share a few thoughts on the word. They’re not presented in any particular order. I just added them to a draft post as I ran across them.

Previvor

In the Merriam-Webster dictionary? NO

I don’t recall where I first read this word, but I think it may have been in reference to Angelina Jolie in an article like this one from the Washington Post.

previvor is the survivor of a predisposition to cancer who has not had the disease, such as a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation or other genes related to Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer (HBOC).

This is one of those words I want to be aware of. If someone uses it in a face-to-face conversation, I will be more prepared to understand the fears/emotions/challenges inherent in the fact that they are a previvor. Likewise, if someone uses it on social media, I won’t have to ask “what’s that?” and can respond in an informed and empathetic way.

If you are a previvor, this site, FORCE (Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered), may be of support.

Latinx

In the Merriam-Webster dictionary? NO

I don’t recall where I first read this word either, but for quite some time I thought it was an unusual typo and I could NOT figure out how to pronounce it. It’s not a typo. (Thanks, Complex, for cluing me in.)

According to Complex (linked above), Latinx is pronounced “La-TEEN-ex” and is a “gender-inclusive way of referring to people of Latin American descent.” In addition, “used by activists and some academics, the term is gaining traction among the general public, after having been featured in publications such as NPR to Latina.”

(By the way, the author of the Complex piece on Latinx, @yesipadilla, refers to herself as “Xicanx” so I think I see a trend!).

I’m glad I now know that Latinx is not a typo. I know that if someone uses it, they are explaining something important to them about their identity and how they want to be seen in the world. It’s one of those words that reminds us not to make assumptions.

It’s not like I have any authority to recommend a great site for the Latinx community, but since my work related to the CDC’s efforts around HIV Awareness is so important to me, I’ll highlight one of the first places I heard about the term Latinx: National Latinx AIDS Awareness Day (October 15). If you can recommend a general resource for those who identify as Latinx, I’d love to know about it.

Cisgender

In the Merriam-Webster dictionary? YES

The first place I really recall hearing this word frequently was at the We Won’t Wait 2016 conference in September, which had several sessions related to issues facing the transgender and LGBTQIA+ communities. Then I read Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, a book which used this term, and decided I really needed to figure out what the reference meant.

According to Merriam-Webster, cisgender means of, relating to, or being a person whose gender identity corresponds with the sex the person had or was identified as having at birth. For examples of how it is used, read the full definition here.

I have to be honest. The word “cisgender” sits funny on my ears. BUT I can see why it is useful, as part of the current dialogue about gender identity. There was a teen highlighted in Beyond Magenta who was a boy transitioning to a girl who went to an all-boys school. It sort of made me wonder about the world I’ve always known, which so tidily segregated boys from girls. Boys’ schools, girls’ schools, boys’ teams, girls’ teams. Things are changing. People who find themselves somewhere in the middle ground between “I 100% identify as male” and “I 100% identify as female” have a language to more accurately reflect the fact that they are on a journey whose terminology does not provide definition at times. Another area where I can converse in a more informed way now that I know.

To learn more about how to have a dialogue about gender identity, this is a helpful resource. It’s directed at teens but if you’re like me, your knowledge about gender issues may NOT correlate with your chronological age. We all need to start somewhere.

Cultural Appropriation

In the Merriam-Webster dictionary? NO

The first place I recall hearing this phrase was in a post about a Disney-themed costume. I believe it was an article like this one about a Moana costume. The term “cultural appropriation” has continued to assert itself in the content I read. I don’t recall if the exact term was used, but if not the concept itself was covered in Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving.

In About News, Susan Scafidi defines Cultural Appropriation as “Taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else’s culture without permission. This can include unauthorized use of another culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc. It’s most likely to be harmful when the source community is a minority group that has been oppressed or exploited in other ways or when the object of appropriation is particularly sensitive, e.g. sacred objects.”

I struggle with this one (but I do, for starters, understand it and believe awareness is key). If you know me at all, you know I am a proud double alum of Florida State University. Since I became a freshman in 1982 through now, I have seen changes: Lady Scalphunters are now Lady Spirithunters, for example. I realize it was disingenuous to parrot back what I was always told: “well the Seminole nation is okay with it.” But rightly or wrongly I still embrace Seminole fan paraphernalia and …… well, it’s a work in progress.

This resource I found about cultural appropriation was the best kind of resource: it involves your mind while engaging you in an activity beyond reading. I present: Cultural Appropriation Bingo from Dr. Sheila Addison.

Phygital

In the Merriam-Webster dictionary? NO

I learned the term Phygital from a Spin Sucks blog post, Four Phygital Marketing Ideas to Grow Your Business, by @openagentoz.

Phygital customer expects a brand to combine the physical and the digital for a best-of-both-worlds experience

Honestly, after Cultural Appropriation, I’m just happy to have a word that isn’t laden with challenge to discuss (but hold on to your physical hats and enjoy this section because Othering is coming up next).

Knowing the word Phygital makes me feel up to date on marketing trends. I personally *love* being a consumer contributor of Social Snaps, such as this Fitbit/Giant Microbes/Shot at Life Instagram post.

Evolving Language

For more about all things “phygital,” transport yourself way back to 2012 and read this.

Othering

In the Merriam-Webster dictionary? NO

There are No Others defines Othering as “any action by which an individual or group becomes mentally classified in somebody’s mind as “not one of us.” Rather than always remembering that every person is a complex bundle of emotions, ideas, motivations, reflexes, priorities, and many other subtle aspects, it’s sometimes easier to dismiss them as being in some way less human, and less worthy of respect and dignity, than we are.”

This is another term that is new to me. I think it was in Waking Up White (linked above), but I read the audio and can’t easily look it back up. Regardless, I’m hearing it often and my consciousness is raised. This is somewhat tied into the compulsion to “help” that I grew up with. I *think* my support of Unbound is sensitive to “othering” but how many times have I written about “those in poverty” and really done so in a way that respects each individual’s worth?

There are some good resources for learning about “othering” here.

Carefrontation

In the Merriam-Webster dictionary? NO

I first heard this term used by Dan Negroni, author of Chasing Relevance. Although I can’t find that reference anymore (why on earth didn’t I  hang on to the link then?!, a twitter search turns up lots of instances).

As defined on Oprah.comCarefrontation is “putting our heads together to reach a common goal.” Read the complete post here.

I know I avoid confrontation, and by doing so lose out on opportunities to have peace of mind and to actually get things I want. Maybe there’s something to be said for, as the Oprah.com article recommends, implementing a three-point plan of preparing with care, offering an invitation to talk, and practicing no-blame talking and listening.

Where to find more about Carefrontations? I could link to this but then I would have to add “choice points” to my list and I feel like I’m at capacity right now. 😉 Here’s a post about it from Great Leadership that’s a good read.

Fungineering 

In the Merriam-Webster dictionary? NO

I first heard this term used in this New York Times book review of Why Are Americans So Anxious? related to Zappo’s.

Fungineering at Zappo’s is defined in this article as “a kind of events-planning pep squad.”

I just like “fungineering” because it’s a neat word mashup and portrays some of the out-of-the-box ways organizations can bring humor and joy to the workplace. However, I was alarmed at the reference in the book review to how the author seeks input from Zappo’s happiness evangelist Tony Hsieh: “Whippman has a weird email exchange with Hsieh in which he uses lots of exclamation points and refers to the ‘holacracy’ and ‘brand aura’ (she doesn’t know and neither do I). But he declines to meet with her because he doesn’t prioritize people he feels ‘drained by after I interact with them,’ he writes.”

Where to find more about fungineering? I’m guessing you might not want to contact Tony Hsieh directly but if you’re in College Station, TX, this may be an option to explore.

WHAT NEW WORD WOULD YOU ADD TO THIS LIST? 

Evolving Language