Style guide changes address language about addiction, gender

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Photo: Sharyn Morrow via Flickr

The most recent edition of The Associated Press Stylebook – the premier guide for copy editors – has a number of updates that are important for health journalists to be aware of. Many of them are around the subject of drug and alcohol use and misuse, which many of my colleagues find themselves writing about quite a bit these days.

Among the changes, according to an AP press release: “A new entry on addictions and revised drug-related entries, including guidance to avoid words like abuse, problem, addict and abuser in most uses.”

The changes reflect the growing understanding that addiction is a medical issue and takes the judgment out of language used to talk about addiction and drug use. More background can be found under “Addict/addiction” in the Disability Language Style Guide, published by the National Center on Disability and Journalism.

Other changes relevant to health journalists include an entry on gender, “which includes subentries for cisgender, intersex and gender noncomforming, among other terms, and revisions to LGBT/LGBTQ making both terms acceptable.”

Those of you covering health information technology should note that the AP suggests the word “cyberattack” is overused and writers should instead be specific about the damage caused.

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