Writing Styles: The Elements of Style vs AP Stylebook

In the world of journalism, there are sets of standards to provide uniformity in style and formatting of documents, called style guides. In the United States there are more than 15 different style guides, each with its own unique rules. Two of the most widely utilized are the ‘The Elements of Style’ and the ‘Associated Press Stylebook.’

The Elements of Style (1918), aka Strunk & White, by William Strunk, Jr., and E. B. White, is a small and simple guide for writing. The original version was only forty-three pages, but has grown to 105 pages, four editions, and has sold more than 12 million copies. It promotes efficient use of words, with recommendations like “make every word tell”, “vigorous writing is concise” and “omit needless words.” It also suggests to “prefer the standard to the offbeat”, a ‘stick to what works’ approach, ‘if it aint broke, don’t fix it’. The book tells writers to have the proper mind-set, that they write to please themselves, and that they aim for “one moment of felicity.” Criticism of Strunk and White has focused on their misunderstanding of what constitutes the passive voice, and their advocation of popularly established usages, such as the split infinitive and the use of ‘which’ in a restrictive relative clause.

The Associated Press (AP) Stylebook is the gold standard of journalism style guides. From its start in 1953, the publication focused on “where the wire set a specific style” and is referenced for grammar, punctuation and principles and practices of reporting. It is usually updated every year, and is now on its 43rd edition, at 416 pages. It features an alphabetically ordered list of guides to capitalization, abbreviation, spelling, numerals and usage. The stylebook is organized into sections: Business Guidelines, Sports Guidelines and Style, Guide to Punctuation, Briefing on Media Law, Photo Captions and Bibliography.

I find it intriguing that scholars of letters obsess so much on the minutia of journalistic techniques, although I am not a professional writer, so I don’t have the same appreciation as some. In comparing these two style guides, I would say that each has its own particular purpose. The Elements of Style seems more suited for an author of novels, or perhaps someone who just wants some practical, simple writing advice. In contrast, The AP Stylebook is geared towards writers in the businesses of newspapers, magazines, television broadcasting and public relations.

To me (imho), good writing doesn’t need to be 100% grammatically correct, or follow an industry standard. It just needs to come from the heart of a person who wants to create thoughts and ideas that stimulate the senses and imagination of the readers.

Human overpopulation: our biggest environmental problem

There’s a lot of interest in environmental and green issues these days. Much of it is focused on recycling, alternative energy, reducing consumption of natural resources, organic gardening, and many more. It’s great to see so many concerned people getting involved in reducing their impact on our planet’s environment, but it seems as though there’s one issue that does not get much attention: human overpopulation. It’s ironic because this should be our main concern, one that stands out in front of all others. The world human population is now 6.9 million people. According to the United Nations, the global population could be as high as 11 billion in 2050. Countries are becoming more modern and industrialized, and people are consuming more resources and polluting more. Population growth stretches natural resources to their limits. Deforestation, food and water shortages, and climate change are all intensified by the addition of nearly 80 million people a year to the world’s population.

Since 1968, Population Connection (formerly Zero Population Growth or ZPG) has been America’s voice for population stabilization. On their about page:

“We are the largest grassroots population organization in the United States. Population Connection has 130,000 members, supporters, and participating educators. We educate young people about unsustainable population growth through K-12 lesson plans that reach 3 million students a year. We inform constituents across the country about their congressional representatives’ stances on population growth and family planning. And we work directly with Congress and the White House to inform family planning policy.

The global population has grown from 3.5 billion when ZPG was founded, to nearly 7 billion today. Population growth rates have fallen around the world because of the success of voluntary family planning programs. But the global fertility rate is 2.5 – still higher than the “replacement level” of 2.1 children per woman.

Population Connection works to ensure that every woman around the world who wants to limit her childbearing has access to the health services and contraceptive supplies she needs in order to do so. Typically, when woman have access to affordable birth control, they have fewer children, regardless of income or educational levels.”

You might be asking what you can do about it? Well, good question. Just by reading this, you have taken a step in the right direction. Awareness is the foundation of wisdom and understanding. From this we can build a better future. The best way to change the future is to teach the children to become good adults, by being good role models for them. We can make a conscious effort to reproduce less or not at all, and we can encourage others to do the same. We can support organizations like Population Connection, and others. One person’s behaviors may not change the world, but if enough of us become aware and unified, we can make a difference on the future of Planet Earth.

Following are four graphs illustrating some statistics of global population.

This first one shows the rapid explosion of global population in recent centuries.

Human Population History
Human Population History

Human Population Density. Note the high densities of India, Japan and Europe.

Human Population Density
Human Population Density

Fertility rates. Note the high rates in central Africa, south Arabia and Afganistan.

Fertility_rate_world_map
Fertility_rate_world_map

Net migration rate. Orange shows more people leaving (emigration), blue more coming in (immigration).

Net_migration_rate_world
Net_migration_rate_world

Works Cited:Population Connection. “Protecting the Planet.” Aug2011.
http://www.populationconnection.org/site/PageServer?pagename=issues_protectingtheplanet

Population Connection. “About Us.” Aug2011.
http://www.populationconnection.org/site/PageServer?pagename=about_us

Graphs:

Wikipedia. “Overpopulation.” Aug2011.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overpopulation

Wikipedia. “Immigration.” Aug2011.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immigration

Comparison of three Green Environmental Blogs

Comparison of three Green Environmental Blogs:
http://www.green-blog.org/
http://www.environmentgreen.com/
http://hoodooed.blogspot.com/

Similarities

The subject matter is the environment, green sustainable living, alternative energy, organic gardening and other topics relating to Nature, Ecology, Politics, and improving our behaviors on our planet.

Differences

The scope and focus of each blog varies. Green-blog is more worldly political, where Environmentgreen concentrates on articles that teach and advise about many Green issues. Hoodooed is an eclectic collection of Environmental Common Sense and Green News from Florida.

Writing Style

Green-blog uses a journalistic, AP Stylebook method. It makes significant use of quotations from other sources. This website incorporates many different writers. Environmentgreen has a less formal, Chicago Manual of Style approach. It is comprised of contributions from a few writers. Hoodooed is written by mostly one person, also in a more casual style.

Layout

Green-blog’s Homepage uses a neat layout with a big banner ad next to the logo at the top, then a search bar to the right. The main content is divided into two columns. The left column uses about 70% of the width, and contains the newest blog articles. The right column contains advertising, popular topics, latest comments, and navigation. At the bottom of the page, there’s a preview of the next page, quick links to all the pages by number, and suggested links to other similar websites by category. Each area is separated by thin lines. Each Author Page starts with a brief bio. Author and Category Pages feature posts titles and highlights, sorted by newest at top, with page count navigation (if needed) below. Post Pages switch main content to right, with left column displaying Previous Post link, an ad, date of publication, Author name and About, and a tag category list. Below the post story is a social networking like bar, then Other articles from around Green Blog that might be related to this article. Next is a nav bar to previous and next posts. Then is a Comments section, with an Add Comments, and a Sort By list. At the bottom is a Reactions area.

Environmentgreen has the logo on top left, and a banner ad to the right. Below that is the main navigation bar, followed by another smaller navigation bar of site topic categories. Next is a full width section of Google ads. Below that is a Featured posts section, with a slideshow of the five top posts. The remainder of the layout is two columns, the larger left with recent posts. The right column starts with a subscribe form, followed by social networking buttons, an ad, a Google search form, an intricate navigation area, a Facebook Likebox Plugin, then links to other related sites. At the footer is the copy rights tag, and a repeat of the social networking buttons. At the bottom right of every page is a fixed position vertical social networking button bar.

Hoodooed’s layout starts at the top with an introduction paragraph. It features a fairly narrow page (840px), divided in two sub-columns. The left larger column displays the month’s blog posts first, then below are GREEN LINKS, followed by Popular Posts, then a BLOGROLL, then other links to sites the author is associated with. The right column start with FACEBOOK PROFILES AND OTHER SOCIAL NETWORKS, then Blog Archive, then News, Google Translator, Twitter Feeds, and other links. At the footer is an About Me paragraph and a political disclaimer.

Navigation

Green-blog uses 2 main navigation columns on their Homepage, one by Authors, the other by Categories (some have sub-categories). It also shows a tag cloud of Popular Topics (with topic count alt box). There’s also a page number index near the footer. Above each post is a link to its category. When that link is clicked, we navigate to that category, which also has the same two main navigation columns. Post Pages have a link to their categories at the top, a link to previous post at top left, a tag link area, links to Other articles from around Green Blog that might be related to this article, and links to previous and next posts.

Environmentgreen’s navigation features on all pages two horizontal navbars; a main navigation bar, followed by another smaller navigation bar of site topic categories. The main navigation bar has Sitemap, Contact, About Us, and more. The categories navbar has nine titles, some with sub-titles. The Sitemap is ordered by; Site Fields, Pages, Monthly Archives, Categories, and Top 20 Tags. In addition to the main top navbars, each page also has a sidetabs widget, with Popular, Recent, Comments, and Archive. Generous social networking links abound.

Hoodooed uses very simple navigation, with an Archive list by month and number of posts in the right column, below Facebook and similar links. There’s also a Popular Posts section (top five) towards the bottom. Room for improvement here. There are plenty of other links to affiliated sites.

Design and Color

Green-blog and Environmentgreen feature mostly bright white html backgrounds, which I personally dislike. Why? 1. Hard to read. 2. Strain on the eyes. 3. Unhealthy exposure to radiation. 4. Uses more energy. Other than that, I like their website designs.

Green-blog’s site design is neat, well organized, and proper use of hierarchy elements. The Homepage features the 3 latest post previews, the newest on top with a larger image, followed by the next 2 equally dividing the width. The next recent post previews follow below in an orderly grid. Of course, the site makes generous use of the color green, mostly for navigation links. Most of the text is displayed with a neat Sans-Serif font, with quotes highlighted in a larger Serif font.

Environmentgreen’s homepage is esthetically pleasing, with a grey and black double navbar dividing the logo/ad header and the remaining body content. The GoogleAds banner next is a bit imposing, but probaby effective none the less. The Site has some decent illustrtions and visually appealing buttons. Each post page has a subtle pink background everywhere except for the main text area. The footers are a solid black bar that tie in the page with the navbars, and the html background is a nice forrest green.

Hoodooed uses a fixed position photo of flowers for the background, with the body content in a grey transparent overlay, allowing some of the background photo to show through. It’s a nice effect, but makes it a bit hard to read in some places. The Posts (and previews) don’t have this problem, because they have pleasant blue backgrounds. The mainly used font is Lucida Grande/Tahoma, easy to read Sans-Serif type. Links/navigation are a very bright neon green, which really jumps off the page! My biggest recommendation would be to add some categories and a tag cloud, to help with navigation.

Content

Green-blog shines with its content. More than 35 authors from around the globe contribute to the Blog. The stories are well written, thought provoking, and relevant to the mission of the website. The easy navigation by Author, Categories, and Tag Cloud encourages visitors to explore the wide range of ecology themed posts.

Environmentgreen seems like a newer blog, so there are not too many posts. There is a concentration on Alternative Energy. Many of the posts are general good sense wisdom advice for normal concerned people looking to make a difference with our planet. Titles like ԗhat can we do about Global Warming and introducing Children to Living Green contain simple suggestions that we all could benefit from. The site also contains several posts on employment in the Green Sector.

Hoodooed has been posting since December 2008. Its content is mostly about environmental issues and politics in Florida. For the first year, there were only 13 posts, although very compassionate and interesting. Since May 2010, the Blog has focused on the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Between July and October 2010, it averaged over 100 posts per month. These recent posts focus on the politics of the oil spill, the various PR deceptions on the part of BP. Many of them show evidence in photos, videos, and testimonials of damage caused by the oil and the chemical dispersant Corexit 9527A (2-butoxyethanol). I like how this Blog is very thorough in putting together news and useful information from many different sources.

for Roaming Minds

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