Bringing some clarity to an event that is often shrouded in confusion as well as loss, the Associated Press has released the Sept. 11 Style and Reference Guide to advise those writing about the 9/11 attacks, the tenth anniversary of which is next month. The material was developed by two AP reporters: Amy Westfeldt, the organization’s 9/11 editor; and Jeff McMillan, its assistant East editor in Philadelphia, using conventions that have developed over the past ten years as well as relevant entries from the existing AP stylebook.
The guide describes, for example, how to spell and pronounce the hijackers’ names, and how to refer to them after an initial mention (Mohamed Atta [Atta], moh-HAM’-ad AT’-ta). And, though some may object to the courtesy, it also offers the correct capitalization for Osama bin Laden’s name, backed up by the fact that It is the family preference. Most valuable to non-editors is the time line of events and the listing of which attacker hijacked which flight, information that can be hard to pin down, especially online, where conspiracy theories and politics-laden commentary can cloud the facts.
Pat Carlin, Managing Editor of Military History and Security Issues at ABC-CLIO, is an editor of the publisher’s 9/11 Encyclopedia, 2nd ed. (Library Journal, 9/1/2011). He explains that he and his fellow editors dealt with some tricky style issues in compiling the Encyclopedia and would have valued this definitive assistance. Particularly helpful, he says, is the AP’s listing of the number of people killed in the attacks and the spellings of the hijacker’s names, both pieces of information that vary depending on the source. The listings released this week should be added to future editions of The Associated Press Stylebook, he says, adding that I’ve never seen such a narrowly focused style guide, but if ever one was needed for a topic, this is it.