Since its inception in 1940, The Canadian Press Stylebook has changed “cautiously,” as stated on its website, with a motto of “evolution, not revolution.” Nonetheless, if you’ve followed Canadian Press style, you know it isn’t enough to commit to memory the style standards and leave it at that. Language and usage changes — and style guides, however cautiously, do evolve. Last month, The Canadian Press released their 19th edition of The Canadian Press Stylebook (available in print and with a digital subscription) with changes that reflect “one of the most dramatic and tumultuous periods of societal change in recent history,” as editor James McCarten wrote in the introduction.
Newsrooms, classrooms and offices across Canada reference The Canadian Press Stylebook — and likely a few editors who read this blog do as well. In a student affiliate Facebook post earlier this year, Becky Noelle listed The Canadian Press Stylebook among one of Editors Canada award winners’ favourites. I paid to attend a “CP Style Seminar” — a Canadian Press webinar — for an in-depth review of what’s new.
Technical and style changes
McCarten reviewed the Stylebook changes with webinar attendees and touched briefly on the technical updates to The Canadian Press Caps and Spelling. New words have been added that didn’t exist 10 years ago (e.g., Apple TV Plus, the premium streaming service) as well as preferences for certain words over others (e.g., write “collision” or “crash” rather than “accident” in reference to motor vehicles).
The webinar, however, was mainly about significant changes to style for sensitive subjects and the decision-making process that went into those changes. There are new sections for COVID-19, climate change, and sexual misconduct as well as new style guidelines for age and long-term care, mental illness, disabilities, addiction and dependence, race and ethnicity, and gender identity.
In reviewing examples of what to do and what not to do, a common theme prevailed: when writing about a sensitive subject, find out what the individual preference is, find out what the professional perspective is (talk to advocacy groups, for example) and be precise in detail for readers.
“It’s about communication with the people you’re talking to,” McCarten said. “We’re simply trying to build in flexibility and trying at the same time to avoid the other end of the spectrum and [taking] all of the rules and [throwing] them out the window. Because that’s a nightmare for readers. It’s a tightrope, and that’s ultimately the challenge going forward.”
Get certified in CP Style
You don’t need to attend the webinar to get certified in Canadian Press style, but it’s one way to get up to speed on the latest style changes and get answers to any questions you might have. If you follow Canadian Press style in your editing or you would like to show your clients that you are familiar with it, for $29 you can take a test and earn your CP Style Certification for display on your LinkedIn profile.
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