AP Backs Down on “Web Site” and Still Manages to Piss Me Off

Last Friday, representatives from the Associated Press stood in front of those attending the annual meeting of the American Copy Editors Society and made the editorial style equivalent of bringing down the Berlin Wall.

So what’d they do? Without coming out and saying so in so many words, they admitted that they’ve been just a tad out of touch lo these many years, and that “website” is indeed the correct spelling — lowercase “w,” one word — to refer to the virtual place where you are reading this right now.

Of course I am in favor of the decision. I have to admit it will actually take some conscious effort on my part to type “website” and not feel like I’m in the wrong.

But I’m still pissed, and here’s why. Because instead of acknowledging a stubborn streak as far-reaching as the ash cloud of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano, AP actually said (with a straight face? I wasn’t there, so I can’t say) that this change reflects their sensitivity to reader and user feedback. From the Poynter article:

Today’s two style-related announcements show the importance of user feedback, said Colleen Newvine, head of market research for the AP and product manager for the Stylebook.

“Although style listings are not an ‘American Idol’ popularity vote, it is important to us to listen to our readers and our users.”

As someone who has submitted multiple questions to AP’s Ask the Editor forum (no longer viewable without a subscription to the AP Online Stylebook), it’s been my experience that the answers AP gave me were frustratingly obtuse and indicated not just a lack of reading comprehension but the opposite of what I would call “listening to our readers and our users.”

The number of years it took to change their mind about “Web site” only proves my point. Just browse through Ask the Editor (if you can) and you’ll see repeated queries about how website should appear, both from those innocent to the answer and those looking for a fight. But AP’s answers to these questions don’t make pertinent points about why Web site is (to their sensibilities) correct. The standard replies are either “AP uses Web site (two words)” or “AP style is Web site.” Thanks so much for the illumination.

Yes, I’m happy for “website.” But I’d still like more information about AP editors’ thought processes on this and any other hot style topic.