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Get Real with the Fake AP Stylebook Guys

Posted November 17, 2009 - By Moye Ishimoto

Real Time with the Fake AP Stylebook Guys

Twitter may bring friends, celebrities and news headlines together, but sometimes there are those that take themselves way too seriously--like the the AP Stylebook tweets by the Associated Press. The Twitter feed provides an ongoing online guide to a proper stylistic tips for journalists. (Example: "Lowercase arthritis, leukemia, etc. Capitalize a name associated with a disease such as Alzheimer’s disease.") 

Yeah, little known fact: professional journalists don't really know how to write. That's where the AP Stylebook comes in to tell us the correct way to spell things out and when to capitalize certain words.

So it was only a matter time before a group made a parody version. Meet the Fake AP Stylebook Twitter which always manages to bring a hilarious twist to seemingly serious notes on American journalism. (Example: Do not write that someone "sported a mad boner" unless you have sourced documentation of the madness of said boner.)

Attack of the Blog! recently caught up with the two founders of the Fake AP Stylebook, Mark Hale and Ken Lowery, to get the lowdown on their comedy project and their personal pet peeves.

(Our latest favorite Tweet: When writing front-page headlines, make sure they are clear, can be read while spinning and move the movie's plot forward.)

How did the Fake AP Style Book Twitter get started?

Mark: Ken showed me the real AP Stylebook's Twitter feed, since he knew I had a bit of a journalism background, and I checked it out and replied "I'm not sure if I'm sad or relieved that this isn't a joke feed," And off we went.  He wrote a fake entry, I wrote a fake entry, he started a feed for it, and here we are, three weeks and 48,000 followers later.

Ken:  We've done joke feeds like this before (@zombiehorde, @thisreallyhurts, @forevercon, and others), and mostly they were exercises in comedy, not unlike improv prompts. "Tell this kind of joke in this style. Now do a new one every day." For whatever reason, this is the one that blew up. Quite by accident, I'd like to add.

You can be honest. I'm guessing you were also inspired by the de-evolution of the English language, thanks to the Internet and people who don't kNoW hOw 2 tYp3. Wait, no?

Mark: A bit. I'll often joke that there should be at least a high-school level spelling test you have to pass before being granted internet access, but I'm only mostly joking.  OK, partly.  Like 1/8 joking.

Ken: I'm not too much of a formalist. If something "sounds" right, I let it slide-personally if not professionally. But there's a lot of basic illiteracy out there that just makes me scratch my head.

Ever See Those People Who Capitalize Every Word In Every Sentence? Doesn't that take longer to type than just, you know, doing it right?

Have you heard from the official AP people themselves?

Mark: We have fans on Twitter from the AP and were approached by a writer, but nothing came of it.

Ken: Here's hoping we don't, at least in an official capacity. We're having fun, we're clearly satirical, and we're not really aiming our jokes AT them.

It's really common for companies, organizations, and celebrities to have a companion twitter to keep fans updated on the latest news and information. Do you think the real AP Style twitter takes it a little too far? I mean, what journalist would look on Twitter to answer questions about style?

Mark: Lazy ones?

Ken: There's quite a lot of questions they answer that are in the actual Stylebook, but I can see why they've got the account set up. The book is damn near obsolete the second it leaves the printing press, and having a constant updating online presence is wise on their part.

I understand that you work with a group of contributors. How does the submission and selection process work?

Mark: A bit of it is done over IM but mostly we stick to an email list.  Someone will throw an idea out and we'll all work to tweak it, revise it, or reject it outright. At the end of the day the bureau chiefs who have worked any material up will send it along to Ken and me for inclusion in the Twitter rotation.

Any future plans for the Fake AP Style Book Twitter?

Mark: Just keep doin' how we do.

What's the best grammar joke you've heard so far?

Mark: Probably anything any of our contributors come up with. Those dudes are wicked.

Ken: It's hard to pick JUST one, but today, at least, this one is tops: "To show that words have been removed from a quote, use ellipses. If ellipses are removed from a quote, we got nothin'."

What's your favorite AP style rule?

Mark: Probably the one that started this nonsense for me, the "Dr Pepper" rule. Or maybe the one where you put a comma after the state name when writing about a city, such as "Hale lives in Louisville, KY, with his fiancee and some cats."

Ken: That "Web site" must be two words, and "Web" capitalized. I get the why of it, but that's one of those cases where no one BUT the AP is saying to write it that way. It's so old-fashioned there's probably sepia-toned photos of the thing at your grandma's.

What's your favorite personal style? For example, we here at G4tv.com enjoy jeans and nerdy t-shirts with witty Star Wars references.

Mark: Jeans, t-shirts, and the same style of black leather Reeboks that I've worn for about 15 years now.  The only shirts I wear that have anything on them are either from Homestar Runner or my Dr. Blasphemy shirt based on a character from Rick Veitch's Bratpack.

Ken: I am lately rocking the jeans and flip-flops and pithy shirt, but have been known to go a little more formal with the button-up shirts. To help smarten up the look, I am incredibly handsome.

Should I have italicized Star Wars in that previous question?

Mark: Italics cannot be sent over the AP's--you know what?  You do whatever the hell you want with Star Wars.  I'm pretty much over it.

Why does the AP get to make all the style rules? Who made them the boss?

Mark: You ever see how they pick the pope?  It's like that but all the wacky hats have PRESS cards in them.

Ken: Incidentally, we're sorry about you losing your Catholic readership.

Sony PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360?

Mark: I received the gift of an Xbox 360 about a year ago, and I use it every day for one thing or another, usually Netflix.  Sometimes Ken runs me over in GTAIV.

Ken: 360. I mostly stick to the story-heavy RPG stuff, but whenever I want to run over Mark or the other FAPS contributors, it's GTAIV time. We have had some pretty epic battles.

Tags: Comedy

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