Re: back seat vs. backseat

Subject: Re: back seat vs. backseat
From: "Doug, Data Librarian at Ext 4225" <engstromdd -at- PHIBRED -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 27 Jan 1995 10:17:41 -0600

Katie is upset about turning two-word phrases into single words, and wants
to take names:

***************************
(1) Who decides these things? I have seen this usage in every
newspaper, magazine, and book published in the past five or so
years. It was as if a switch was thrown and everyone made this
change overnight. Is there some style guide used by big national
publishers?
****************************

I can't speak for magazines, which tend to be more idiosyncratic, but the
guilty party in the newspaper industry is almost certainly the Associated
Press Style Guide and Libel Manual. [Yes, I've already heard the joke
about "Is it a how-to?"]

The Associated Press (affectionately known as "The AP") is basically a
newspaper co-op that distributes spot news, features, photos and other
goodies to its member newspapers. Member-papers are obligated to provide
spot news to The AP for distribution to other papers, and The AP has
writers of its own, whose work is also distributed to all member papers.

Because AP stories are typically run verbatim, beside the work of a
newspaper's staff writers, it's necessary to reach some sort of agreement
on arguable points of spelling, capitalization, grammar, transliteration
from non-Roman character languages, etc. Otherwise, the newspaper would be
a chaotic mix of styles, with the local stuff done one way and the wire
service stuff done another. The stardardizing tool is the aforementioned
style guide, which addresses these questions. I believe it's composed and
periodically updated by a group of senior AP editors, although when I was
in school there were persistent rumors that it was actually the work of a
secretive cabal related to the Freemasons and Lyndon LaRouche.:)

Anyway, the guide's principles and content are mercilessly beaten into the
heads of journalism students and new reporters, and are often accepted as
immutable principles (sort of like gravity, but more inclusive and
persistent) by people who have been thus trained. This accounts for the
guide having influence well beyond the world of newspapers.

Unfortunately, I can't say *definitively* that it's an AP thing, since my
copy vanished in a move several years ago, and predates the change that's
bugging Katie anyway. Perhaps somebody with a more current copy can look
up "back seat," "backseat" and maybe "two-word nouns," "compound nouns" or
some such and let us know the results.

Skoal,

Doug "We must be ready to overcome our
ENGSTROMDD -at- phibred -dot- com successes."
--Unknown

***********************************************************************
The preceding opinions and positions are mine alone, and are only
coincidentally related to those of Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc.
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