The 19th edition – Understanding style | The Canadian Press

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Understanding Style

The 19th edition of The Canadian Press Stylebook

Updates framed by new world realities

Every two years, The Canadian Press issues a revised edition of their Stylebook, an essential guide for writing and editing for Canadian media and communication professionals alike. But with access to countless other writing resources online and in print, what makes CP’s Stylebook a must-have resource for seasoned editors, corporate communicators and students working in the field?

This edition brings to light specific topics Canadians should pay close attention to, including sensitive subjects, which words to avoid, how to write about vaccines, viruses and variants, and climate change.

GlobeNewswire’s Media Relations team recently coordinated an interview with James McCarten, editor of the new Stylebook, to gain a glimpse into the thought process behind style updates and changes

The Canadian Press Stylebook
a woman engages with the 19th edition stylebook content

Navigating sensitive subjects at the core of new updates

According to Mr. McCarten, much energy was focused on parsing out how to discuss sensitive issues. Many variables played into these changes, including social media, the changing face of journalism, freelancers, and social change/movements such as Indigenous issues and Black Lives Matter. The book deep dives into the following:

  • Age (senior vs. ‘older adult’)
  • Disabilities (‘intellectually disabled’)
  • Race and ethnicity (Black, white)
  • Indigenous Peoples (native, Aboriginal)
  • Sexism (spokesperson vs. spokesman)
  • Sexual orientation and gender identity (they, them)

World events shake up guidelines – method from “learn” to “understand”

The Stylebook highlights why specific changes are needed. The editors involved in the revisions used a holistic approach to cover topics with a strong emphasis on helping their readers understand rather than learn the updates. The book challenges its users to be more aware of their surroundings and to avoid using muscle memory.

“We tried to change how people think about things and focus on the WHY. The book will highlight reasons to capitalize 'Indigenous' and 'Black,' for example. The reasons behind the guidelines are not always easy, but understanding them can change practices.”

stack of stylebooks
The Stylebook near a laptop where someone is working

Social media spurring traditional media to think twice

This change in focus, Mr. McCarten explained, was “jump-started during the 2010 Arab Spring, as a direct consequence of the omnipresence of social media. The importance of quickly adapting and listening to social media chatter helped foster different attitudes and working styles for editors, journalists, and communication professionals alike. Social media has helped stimulate much change regarding how sensitive topics are discussed.”

The Stylebook explains that there is often no single correct answer or rule governing certain situations. “In the past, if there wasn’t a clear answer to a question about nomenclature, for example, none was provided. But now, we provide guidance for these questions,” he continued.

Keeping pace with Canadian standards

The policies and guidelines are informed and forged by working in Canadian newsrooms. Along with highlighting the familiar differences between Canadian, American and British spellings, the Stylebook helps highlight situations where a particular approach has been adopted from the U.S., while the British format has fallen out of favour. The book also highlights when and where certain words and nomenclatures might be acceptable on one side of the border but not the other.

montage of canadian images from teh stylebook cover
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