For many journalists, The Associated Press’ stylebook is a key resource, and often the deciding factor in what particular terms, spellings, or approaches to use. Since March 2009, they’ve had an @APStylebook Twitter account that’s discussed particular AP style approaches, often quite helpfully. But not everything posted there receives universal agreement in the journalism community, and a tweet Thursday in particular drew some hilarious responses.
We recommend avoiding general and often dehumanizing “the” labels such as the poor, the mentally ill, the French, the disabled, the college-educated. Instead, use wording such as people with mental illnesses. And use these descriptions only when clearly relevant.
— APStylebook (@APStylebook) January 26, 2023
While the tweet did make it clear that these labels are only “often dehumanizing,” not always dehumanizing, the inclusion of “the French” in the third slot there drew a lot of comment. Here’s some of that:
People experiencing Frenchness.
— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) January 26, 2023
The Poor, The Mentally Ill and The French was my Booker prize winning novel of alienation, transition, and, triumph.
— pourmecoffee (@pourmecoffee) January 26, 2023
“Instead of ‘The French’, the term ‘cheese-eating surrender monkeys’ is preferred.”
— John Edwards (he/Mariner/his) (@Anorak_CA) January 26, 2023
also "the" Suicide Squad. pic.twitter.com/KSWy5PakJq
— Ivan Pereira (@IvanPer4) January 26, 2023
— Casey Johnston (@caseyjohnston) January 26, 2023
It’s “people with Frenchness” Patrick
— ST (∞, ∞) (@seyitaylor) January 26, 2023
won’t somebody think of “the children”
— Gary Cupp (@cuppycup) January 26, 2023
people experiencing the ohio state university, your thoughts
— Holly Anderson ? (@HollyAnderson) January 26, 2023
It is unfortunate for “The French” to wind up in the middle of this list. And this is just adding some insult to injury after their FIFA World Cup loss to Argentina in the final (Kylian Mbappe is seen above during that). But, perhaps “The Associated Press” is itself a “general and often dehumanizing” label…
Update: The initial APStylebook tweet was eventually deleted. After an explanation and then a new tweet from the agency’s overall @AP account.
We recommend avoiding general and often dehumanizing “the” labels such as the poor, the mentally ill, the disabled, the college-educated. Instead, use wording such as people with mental illnesses. And use these descriptions only when clearly relevant.
— The Associated Press (@AP) January 27, 2023
So, at least per that, “the French” is no longer in a list of “general and often dehumanizing ‘the’ labels.” But “the college-educated” is. And the stylebook account itself later offered this:
We deleted an earlier tweet because of an inappropriate reference to French people. We did not intend to offend.
Writing French people, French citizens, etc., is good. But "the" terms for any people can sound dehumanizing and imply a monolith rather than diverse individuals.
— APStylebook (@APStylebook) January 27, 2023
[AP Stylebook on Twitter; photo from Yukihito Taguchi/USA Today Sports]