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Oxford Dictionary, AP Stylebook, I'm More Than Over Your Cray Updates

By Emily Butler / Aug 25, 2014

I’m a word nerd. Proper grammar, spelling and punctuation make me happy. It’s surprising that I didn’t become a copy editor. I have a love for my red pen (and its successor: track changes in Word) that some may find disturbing.

Case in point, a group of PR interns once left a box of green pens on my desk to use when editing their work. Happy green copy markup was easier to swallow than pages dripping blood.

Luckily, I still get to do a wide range of copy editing from white papers and email newsletters to contributed articles and blogs. The state of the media—fewer journalists and fewer original stories—has altered the role of PR. We’re becoming content marketers and publishers. Today, we have the power to post like a journalist and share newsworthy, balanced content. With this power comes responsibility. Consider the contributed article; for editors to use our content, it needs to be factually accurate, well-written and follow AP Stylebook rules.

When the AP releases updates and the Oxford Dictionary adds words, it’s like Christmas to me. I’m excited for it, but there is always that one weird gift that just makes me say “You’re kidding, right?” It’s like the doll’s head tissue box cover that my Grandpa’s wife made me for Christmas when I was a teenager and too old for dolls.

Creepy, Isn't It? Creepy, Isn't It?

Recent updates give me that same unsettling feeling.

The Oxford Dictionary online releases updates every quarter. The online additions generally concede to new words and expressions being used in popular culture. The hard copy Oxford English Dictionary requires words to have much more historical significance for addition. I take solace in the hard copy’s purist approach because a few of the latest additions online are irritating, such as:

  • amazeballs (adj.): Extremely good or impressive; amazing.
  • cray (adj.): Crazy.
  • SMH (abbreviation): Shaking my head (used in electronic communication to express disapproval or frustration).
  • vape (v.): To inhale and exhale the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device.

The AP announced some updates for 2014 in late March at the American Copy Editors Society conference. Major shifts to AP style in past years stopped some of us in our tracks. Remember 2010 when Website became website? Or 2011 when e-mail became email? I do. They felt unnatural and dirty at first, but now I reflect on those shifts as liberating.

The big AP change this year — “over” is now acceptable in all uses to indicate greater numerical value. You can now use “over” as a synonym for “more than.”

I’ve taken changes from years past in stride, but not this one. If I were dead, I would have rolled over in my grave. Six months later and I’m still convinced it will take me more than a decade to come to terms with this update, if ever.

For me, writing “over” simply goes against nature. The members of the green pen intern posse, for whom I drilled into their minds the finality of the more than rule, probably cheered at this AP change. More than a few of them possibly cursed my name under their breath.

Other changes to the Stylebook included recognition of tech words like emoji and selfie. The Oxford Dictionary online also added selfie. I can get on board with these, though these millennial words made my stomach turn when I first heard them.

The AP has joined the ranks of the Oxford Dictionary online and has sent the message that it will concede to common usage, which may be good news for some content marketers. Perhaps these types of changes open the door for their content to be deemed worthy of publishing on some news sites.

For now, I see “over” as settling for bastardized usage that is every bit as weird as the doll’s head tissue box. Then again, we now affectionately refer to that pink hair abomination as Ms. FuFu Head and she travels with our family on vacations for photo opps. Cray as it may be, I guess “over” could always grow on me. Wouldn’t that be amazeballs?