Percent vs %: What You Need to Know About AP’s 2019 Stylebook Changes

Different types of content writers use the AP Stylebook in somewhat different ways. It guides journalists on how to present stories to readers in the most subjective way possible, and it takes the guesswork out of the nitty gritty details such as formatting numbers and dates, whether to use Oxford commas or not and so forth for copywriters and content writers.

If you’re a CMOS, APA or MLA fan, walk away. There’s nothing to see here. But if you’re a devotee of AP Style, there are some recent changes in the rules you should be aware of.

Percent vs %

Unless you’re a journalist working on mainstream news stories, the change from spelling out percent to using % is probably the most momentous change for the year. Poynter reported the announcement, which was made at the March 2019 ACES: The Society of Editing annual conference.  I’m picturing writers and copy editors around the globe cringing at the news.

Here’s the lowdown:

  • Use the % when pairing it with a numeral. Do not use a space between the number and the %.
  • Spell out percent in casual use: We think she has a zero percent chance of winning the game.
  • Use decimals rather than fractions with percents: Current mortgage rates are only 4.25%.
  • For numbers less than 1%, precede it with a 0: The population grew by 0.7% last year.

If you’re like me and inconsistencies in content make you itch, get out the Benadryl. Your pre-2019 pages are now outdated, and nothing will ever be the same.

Racism and Race

NBC News, which also follows AP Style, reported on Stylebook changes that will affect the way journalists present stories where race is at play. Until now, AP deemed terms such as racially charged and racially motivated as being standard fare, but that’s all changed. It now mandates that if it’s racist, then call it racist.

The Stylebook also states, “The terms racism and racist can be used in broad references or in quotations to describe the hatred of a race, or assertion of the superiority of one race over others.” However, it discourages using the term racist as a noun to describe a person.

Another significant change is in the way we’ll be handling ethnicity going forward. Terms such as Asian Americans and African Americans are now hyphen-free. It also urges reporters to use whatever source a person prefers when talking about their ethnicity – Japanese American instead of Asian American.

Other Bits and Baubles

The AP editors made plenty of changes this year, and it’s well worth the price of a Stylebook Online subscription to find out what they all are. Here’s a sampling:

  • AP Style dictates that when a prefix ends in a vowel and the word it’s attached to begins with the same vowel, then hyphenate. Reelect and reelection have now become exceptions to that rule.
  • Macedonia has now become North Macedonia, and Macao is now Macau.
  • The word top should be capitalized if it’s used in a formal list name or shortened version of said list. Keep it lowercase for informal use:
    • The Crowd Content Top 100, the singer has many Top 10 hits, etc.
    • Bernie’s is known as one of the top five cafes in the city.
  • It’s now acceptable to use accent marks with names.

ALSO 10 Things to Know Before You Start Writing

We’re making sure our writers are aware of the changes, though you can feel free to advise your Crowd Content writers to do it old school. If you’re not a current client, there’s no time like the present. Learn more about our Marketplace and Enterprise services.

Lisa Rohner

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As Director of QA/Enterprise Production, Lisa is in the trenches of content marketing everyday. She manages large-scale projects for some of the web's largest etailers, ensuring they get high-quality results on time.

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