AP Stylebook updates include guidance on race, percent sign

During a panel Friday at the ACES: The Society for Editing national conference in Providence, R.I., the Associated Press announced several changes to the AP Stylebook, including expanded guidance on race-related terms and a change that allows for use of the percent sign (%) when paired with most numerals.

The entry for race specifies that it’s often “an irrelevant factor” and that journalists should be clear about the role of race in the story before including such identifiers in their coverage.

Consider carefully when deciding whether to identify people by race. Often, it is an irrelevant factor and drawing unnecessary attention to someone’s race or ethnicity can be interpreted as bigotry.

Updates also state that journalists should call an incident racist if it is such, rather than tiptoeing around the word.

Do not use racially charged or similar terms as euphemisms for racist or racism when the latter terms are truly applicable.

The entry goes on to outline examples when race is relevant, including in stories that involve “significant, groundbreaking or historic events,” in cases where suspects or missing persons are sought and the descriptions provided aren’t solely racial, when reporting on a conflict involving race and other situations it’s determined to be relevant to the story.

A rule change that involves using the % sign includes the following:

Use the % sign when paired with a numeral, with no space, in most cases: Average hourly pay rose 3.1% from a year ago; her mortgage rate is 4.75%; about 60% of Americans agreed; he won 56.2% of the vote. Use figures: 1%, 4 percentage points. For amounts less than 1%, precede the decimal with a zero: The cost of living rose 0.6%.

The updates are immediately available to AP Stylebook Online subscribers and will be included in the new print edition of the Stylebook when it is published on May 29.