A few years back, I picked up a job as a copy editor of a local publication. Although I had never done copy editing before, grammar was one of those things that came easily to me — or at least, so I thought. My savior in the first few weeks was my first copy of the Associated Press Stylebook, which up until recently held a permanent spot just to the left of my keyboard as my first area of reference. But now, I have no reason to have the handy reference guide nearby, because I’ll always have my iPhone.
That’s because now the AP has released a 2011 version of their publication, which came out even before the printed edition. It’s called the AP Stylebook 2011, and if you’re a journalist, writer or just someone who really gets excited by learning about grammar, this might just be the perfect app for you. Find out more after the break.
The What and Why
At the average publication, the head of the copy department establishes a universal style for all of their grammar. In the US, this breaks down into two major fields: The Chicago Manual of Style, and the AP Stylebook. There’s no real preferred way to go, it’s just all up to the editor in charge. For me, the AP Stylebook has been the main source for my work, and it’s what I use when I’m editing this site as well.
So why would you, the average man or woman on the street need this app? Well, you wouldn’t. There’s absolutely no reason for you to own this app unless you have anything to do with working with the written word. If you do, then having the app on your iPhone has multiple advantages over the paper version, not the least of which being portability. If you’re like me, you’re usually lugging your laptop and your AP Stylebook with you everywhere you go (or at least between work spaces), and with the Stylebook available on your iPhone, it gives you one less thing to carry.
How it Works
At its core, the app is essentially the 2011 version of the AP Stylebook. It’s got all of the usual things, like briefings on media law, punctuation, editing tips and so on, but it’s the iOS part of it that really makes it shine. Searching for listings is quick and easy, and then saving them once you find them is even better.
Each listing has a little outline of a star in the upper right corner. If you’ve got a sore spot that you need to look up frequently — like state abbreviations and semicolons in my case —then you touch that star outline and it turns gold, making it appear on your Favorites list. Now anytime you need to refer to the listing, just go straight to your favorites and tap on the appropriate entry. It saves lots of time, and is a lot easier than flipping through dog-eared pages like I used to on my physical version.
Although the Favorites feature is one of my, um, favorites, the other is Notes. I’m a bit OCD, so I don’t really like writing in my books if I can avoid it. Each listing in the iOS version of the AP Stylebook includes a little notes section at the bottom, where you can type away any little tips you may need here and there. Maybe it’s how you do something for one specific client, or just variations not listed in the guide. No matter what it is, just put it in the notes and you’ll be good.
Another nice feature is the ability to put in your own entries. Just touch the pencil on the bottom menu bar and then type away. The listings are stored in alphabetical order just like the regular Stylebook, meaning that you could enter your own specialized version in the app if need be.
I found this app accidentally. I went to Barnes & Noble to get the latest version of the AP Stylebook to use with one of my clients, and I discovered that it was going to be another month or so before it was released in stores. I considered signing up for their online subscription service, but that just seemed like more of a pain than a book, plus I had to do that whole subscription thing. Then I remembered something about there being a 2010 version on the App Store, so I gave a peek and there the 2011 version was, ready to go.
Now it’s not perfect, but it’s pretty close. The app did crash on me a few times when I went to one of my favorites, and part of me wishes there were more to do other than use it as a reference guide. But thing is, that’s all you really need. Having the ability to input notes and put in your own entries is very much frosting on the cake, and just makes the app that much more valuable than the printed version. It’s a bit pricey at $24.99, but again, this is one step up from the printed version and it’s with you everywhere you have your iPhone. In comparison, it’s a bit of a bargain.
This app won’t save you money on coffee, and there’s no way it can find the closest gas station to your current location. But if you have anything to do the writing industry, having a copy of the Stylebook on you at all times sure is convenient, and it saves room in your laptop bag too. In my case, this app saves me time and money over the course of a year, and that alone makes it worth the $25.