Friday, December 16, 2011

We will not be replaced, AP ...

The offer below arrived in my inbox yesterday. I almost stopped reading at the headline.

Anytime I see something about automated editing of any kind (including spelling and grammar checkers), I bristle. These tools may be helpful to a point, but they will never replace the keen eye and mind of a person experienced in editing. And, no, I'm not saying this because I need a job; I'm saying it because it's true.

Take a look. Would you have confidence in this product? (Red markings and bold mine.)

New AP StyleGuard offers automated style checking in Word

Screenshot of AP StyleGuard
Since 1953, we've brought you AP Stylebook.  Now, we offer you an easier way to stay in style automatically with our new product, AP StyleGuard, powered by Equiom Lingustic Labs.

AP StyleGuard, powered by Equiom Linquistic Labs, is a powerful yet easy solution that integrates with Microsoft Word and provides automatic checking of your documents for AP style.  Using defined structure and rules similar to Word's spelling and grammar checking, AP StyleGuard helps ensure the consistency of your writing style.  It saves the time of manually referring to the AP Stylebook and offers recommendations on items you might not have realized are covered by AP style.

No matter what type of writing you do, you can rest assured that AP StyleGuard helps you stay on top of all the current spelling, grammar, punctuation and usage guidelines from the journalist's bible.

So this "spelling, grammar, punctuation and usage" tool wasn't able to help with spelling Linguistic 
correctly in its own ad. Or enforcing the only-one-space-after-a-period rule. And it doesn't claim to help with things like unnecessary repetition -- because, of course, how could it? -- but this piece needed that kind of help, too. The kind of help you can get only from a human being.

It's always good to be reminded that there is no substitute for a real live copy editor. Thank you, AP.


  1. Apparently I need my own copy editor, although even an automated spell-checker should have caught the SECOND misspelling of Linguistic ("Linquistic" in the second line of the second paragraph above). Thanks to Katey Charles Darpel for pointing it out.

  2. We've sold over 100 copies of PerfectIt (a style and consistency checker) to members of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders. It doesn't think for them (how could it?), and it definitely doesn't replace them. But since human decision-making will never be obsolete when it comes to language, what's the harm in providing them with tools?

  3. You're right, Daniel. There is no harm in providing writers with tools like these. As I said, they're helpful to a point. And I don't really believe that AP thinks its tool will replace human editors (I was saying that tongue in cheek, of course), but I do believe some writers will think an automated review is all they need. I've heard many a writer say, "Well, I spell-checked it, so it's good to go ..."

    Thanks for your comment.