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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

AP compiles US Elections Style Guide

The Associated Press has compiled a list of U.S. political terms, phrases and definitions to assist in coverage of the 2012 national elections. The guidance encompasses the Democratic and Republican conventions to nominate presidential candidates; terminology for presidential races; campaign rhetoric; and elections for the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. Many of the terms are from the AP Stylebook. Others include writing with context and avoiding cliches.
That's how AP describes its new online resource for journalists. But it's also useful for other people, whether they're writing about the coming election or just paying attention to it as they should.

Some examples:
House and Senate
At stake are all 435 House seats from all 50 states, currently with a 240-191 Republican majority. In the 100-seat Senate, 33 seats are being contested. Democrats currently hold a 51-47 majority, plus two independents. In the House, seats held by nonvoting delegates from the District of Columbia and other U.S. territories are also at stake.
close race
Don’t describe a political race as close unless polls show it is and you reference polls.
“fair shot,” “fair share”
Obama’s belief that the government has a role in creating conditions for prosperity, that the income gap is hazardous to the nation. His belief is that a stable middle class gives everyone a fair chance to succeed. The terms are in quotes on first reference.
middle class (n.), middle-class (adj.)
Key voting group encompassing about 42 percent of U.S. households with incomes ranging from $25,000 to $75,000 annually, according to White House Council of Economic Advisers.
PAC, super PAC
Political action committee raises money for candidates or parties from donations by individuals, but not businesses or labor unions. A super PAC may raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, including from corporations and unions, to support candidates for federal office but must operate independently.
populist
Supports the rights and power of the common people; advocates unorthodox solutions; often critical of establishment politicians and political parties.

CLICHES AND ALTERNATIVES
barnstormed - traveled across a state campaigning or campaigned across XYZ.
pressing the flesh - shaking hands is preferred.
rope line - the physical barrier that separates a candidate from the audience. Instead, the candidate shook hands and posed for photographs with the audience.
war lingo - use criticized instead of attacked, or choose a better verb to describe what the candidate is doing, i.e., challenging, doubting, etc. Also avoidable: launch an assault, take aim, open fire, bombard.
war chest - use campaign bank account or stockpile of money.
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This article is featured in today's (Aug. 14) Garbl's Style: Write Choices -- available at the Editorial Style tab above and by free email subscription.
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