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Background: Why a style manual? Why AP style?

Background: Why a style manual? Why AP style?

Why we developed this style manual

King County developed its style manual in 2003 for several reasons:

  • Consistency. It increases consistency in our use of abbreviations, capitalization, numbers, punctuation, words and King County terms.
  • Correctness. It helps ensure that we use capitalization, grammar, numbers, punctuation and words correctly.
  • Clarity. It helps us choose words and write clear sentences and paragraphs that make sense to our readers.
  • Conciseness. It helps us write documents that busy people can read, understand and use easily.
  • Credibility. Ultimately, it helps our readers believe we are presenting information with thought and care to meet their needs.

Having a common style also helps King County employees and consultants to increase their effectiveness and efficiency:

  • We can spend more time on developing the content of our documents and less time on figuring out how to abbreviate, capitalize, choose, punctuate and spell words and numbers.
  • Using the handy online style manual and its condensed printed guide, we have ready references for answers to many writing questions.

The county style manual is updated as needed to add, revise and clarify style guidelines in response to employee questions, suggestions and comments and changes in Associated Press style.

Why Associated Press style?

  • Most Associated Press style guidelines are similar to guidelines in other respected writing guides and commonly accepted writing rules and standards. AP consulted the Chicago Manual of Style, Follett's Modern American Usage, Fowler's Dictionary of Modern English Usage, Strunk and White's Elements of Style, and other references. The online county style manual lists those print and Web resources.
  • The Associated Press Stylebook has an easy-to-use format that's followed in the King County manual. Items are in alphabetical order with many cross-references to related items. For interested employees and work groups, the AP Stylebook is inexpensive and available at most bookstores. It's also available by subscription on the Internet.
  • The AP Stylebook and King County manual succinctly cover the most commonly asked writing questions. For example, the AP Stylebook has less than two pages on using commas, and the county manual covers commas in only one page of a Word document. The comprehensive Gregg Reference Manual covers commas in 30 pages, and the Chicago Manual of Style covers commas in 11 pages. The County's style manual developers consulted both those excellent references for guidelines on less common style matters to include in the county manual.
  • Because most newspapers follow AP style, many readers are familiar with writing that follows AP style.
  • The King County Web Page Specifications (internal link, DOC, 188KB) require use of AP style (and the King County Editorial Style Manual) in producing Web page content, including the date at the bottom of county Web pages.
  • Many King County writers, editors and communications specialists have journalism training and news backgrounds, so they're used to following AP style. The King County Executive's Office, working with the County's public information officers and an Internal Communications Committee, provided the direction to follow AP style.intro
  • Also, the former Metro wastewater treatment and transit functions and the county Department of Transportation have followed AP style productively since the '80s and '90s. Their printed and online documents provided the basis for developing the county style manual. A team of county communications professionals reviewed those resources and adapted them to meet current county needs.
Occasional illustrations by James Callahan,
former Metro and King County graphic illustrator.