Icing on the Cake: AP's 2011 Stylebook Adds Food Writing Section

By: J.M. Hirsch
ap stylebook 2011
Pop quiz time!
How do you make “petit four” plural?
When making pesto, do you add “pine nuts” or “pinenuts”?
And which is correct: bok choy, bok choi, pak choi or pak choy?

These are the questions I tend to spend too much time geeking out over. But then, as food editor for the world’s largest news organization, that’s part of the job. Especially recently, as we geared up for the release of the 2011 edition of “ The Associated Press Stylebook.”

Unless you’ve done time in the news trenches, you may not be too familiar with the book. It’s basically an all-purpose spelling, grammar and formatting guide for journalists. We’ve been producing regularly updated editions of the book since 1953.

But the cool part is that this year we created our first standalone section of the book dedicated to food writing. In it, we cover the basics of recipe writing, as well as the proper spelling, capitalization and use of more than 400 common (and sometimes complicated) food terms.

It’s your go-to source on how to spell baba ghanoush and huitlacoche, when to hyphenate cast iron (as an adjective, but not as a noun) and why you shouldn’t use the term Crock-Pot when you really mean slow cooker.

After nearly 60 years without food writing guidelines, why now? Because food media has never been so hot. Or populated by so many voices. And why should you care?

Because whether it’s for a blog, a magazine, a cookbook or an “old media” newspaper, if you write about food you are judged by the clarity and accuracy of your writing. That’s something I take seriously in my job at AP. That’s why for years I kept my own cheat sheets of food style. This year we decided to share them.

And for the record -- it’s petits fours, pine nuts and bok choy.

To purchase, visit apstylebook.com.

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