Travel Weekly, like any periodical, abides by a set of standards
that dictate when words are capitalized, when commas apply, when
hyphens are called for, when to abbreviate words, etc. Generally,
we rely on the Associated Press style. We amend AP sometimes
because some AP rules seem unclear, outdated or even a little
unreasonable. And AP does not cover things that are unique to the
Our goal is to produce stories, photo captions and headlines
that are easy to read. We regularly reassess to determine if we are
meeting our goal of clarity. That is how, last year, we came to
change our headline style from uppercase/lowercase ("DOJ Sues AA in
Antitrust Case") to lowercase ("DOJ sues AA in antitrust
We also aim to keep up with the times. This is why, last year,
we dropped the http:// in Web addresses, except when there is no
www. To make things more readable, only last year were writers
given approval to use contractions like "don't" and "can't" if they
think a sentence is too stilted otherwise.
The most obscure question can be cause for long newsroom
debates. One discussion followed the fall of the Iron Curtain.
After much chatter -- and heat -- we stopped writing Western and
Eastern Europe. Those were outdated political designations. Now, we
write western and eastern Europe, indicating geography.
We do only one thing that gets readers into this. We decline to
write certain company names or acronyms in all caps. We use
upper/lowercase for names that are not acronyms (as in Xtra
Online); the same applies to acronyms of five letters or more if
the acronym can be said as a word, as in Sabre and Ustar. The rule
comes from AP, but the real basis is readability. It is easier to
read words that are not written all caps.
Writers must not say "preplanned," "prepackaged" or
"all-inclusive" because those words mean the same thing as
"planned," "packaged" and "inclusive." Think about it. Generally,
for simplicity, standard newspaper style calls for the shorter
version of a word or idea. I like this from our style memos:
"Tennis courts are lighted. Only drunks are lit."
The pace of change here, when it comes to style, is close to
glacial and for a reason. News reporting is not literature, and we
do not aim to invent language or unique usages. The best style is
the style you do not notice; good style stays out of your way as
you read this paper for content. Now that I have brought up the
subject, you will notice it for a time. The sooner you forget this
column, the better.