AP Stylebook: the journalist’s bible

Posted by Lizzie Pine
Photo by Billy Frank Alexander


Many journalists swear by the Associated Press Stylebook. They actually self-name it “the journalist’s bible.” This nickname shows how often journalists reference and follow the book. The nickname’s a joke, but does it go too far?

When God is concerned, which do journalists follow: the journalist’s bible or the real Bible?

Under the gods and goddesses entry, the AP Stylebook says a publication should capitalize God when writing about monotheistic religions, but to lowercase any pronoun reference such as he or thou.

I understand that people believe in different things. And I understand that we are supposed to tolerate all religions. But as a Christian, I don’t understand why journalism isn’t showing God proper respect.

In the Bible, any pronouns describing God are capitalized. This shows reverence for the Lord.

The third commandment in the Bible says:

“Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain” (Bible, King James Version, Exodus 20:7).

There’s much more meaning in that sentence than just “don’t swear.”

Taking the Lord’s name in vain is also to use his name casually or irreverently. While “he” is a pronoun and not an actual name, it’s still used to describe Him. Just saying “he” puts God on the same level as a person. God is not a person. He is perfect and holy. To mention him so flippantly lessens the weight of His holy name.

Even though many don’t believe in the Christian God, lots of people do believe in a higher power. I couldn’t imagine them wanting less respect for their gods than I do for mine.

I’m not saying lightning’s going to strike newsstands and burn every publication that follows AP Style on this rule, but doesn’t He deserve more respect?



One response to “AP Stylebook: the journalist’s bible

  1. I absolutely agree with you! That’s why at TheChristianPulse.com, which is considered an online magazine and abides by AP rules, when we wrote our Writers’ Guidelines, we chose to overrule the AP.

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