How we attempt to wrestle the English language into submission

As communicators, our mission is to tell our customers’ stories as well as our own. Using the marvelously complex, mercurial, magical, and frustrating English language to convey those stories is more often challenging than simple.

Using English, in particular American English, requires study and adaptability. As our culture evolves, our language does as well. Each year, new words are coined, slang slung, and dictionaries expanded. In 2018, Merriam-Webster added several entries into its tome. One of those was the abbreviation TL;DR. Know what it means? Too long; didn’t read.

To prevent any readers of this missive from labeling it TL;DR, I will get to the point.

As complex and evolving as our language is, HMG uses AP Style as a tool for consistency and correctness. This guidance helps our writing convey the intended message without the distraction of variable styles in one piece.

Like annual additions to the dictionary, AP Style undergoes evolution as well. This spring, the long-held practice of spelling out percent after a numerical reference, ie., 2 percent, was changed so the correct usage is now 2%. More recently, AP Style announced a change in hyphenation rules so first-quarter results became more correctly first quarter results. However, due to the hue and cry of the masses, they reversed themselves so first-quarter is once again the preferred style.

I do deviate from AP Style in one regard – the Oxford (or serial) comma. I will defend and extol its virtues with vigor! Why? “I’d like to thank my parents, Jane, and God.” vs “I’d like to thank my parents, Jane and God.”


How do you keep up?!

I follow AP Style in social media, Google frequently, and, very likely, break the rules a lot. In addition to using the internet (note the lower case i for internet – another recent style update), I also read as much as I can. In July, I attended Ann Wylie’s workshops at the Ag Media Summit, master classes in being better writers so readers can be better engaged. Plus, lately, I have also been listening to the Grammar Girl podcast to help fuel my understanding and fascination with language.

In the end, our mission is to creatively but clearly tell our customers’ stories whether in print, online, or – as of this fall – on billboards. Thanks for the opportunity to talk about you!