What’s New: Accidents and Crashes

Every year, a new version of the AP Stylebook is released containing all kinds of additions, retractions and changes. The 2016 AP Stylebook, for example, contains over 240 changes, highlighted in the “What’s New?” section at the beginning of the book. One of those changes is in regards to car – and other types – of accidents and crashes. The entry for accident, crash reads,

“Generally acceptable for automobile and other collisions and wrecks. However, when negligence is claimed or proven, avoid accident, which can be read by some as a term exonerating the person responsible. In such cases, use crash, collision or other terms.”

So according to this new entry, if you were writing a report on a car accident or crash that had occurred and neither parties claimed negligence, nor was it proven, then you are free to report the incident as an accident. However, if negligence is claimed or proven, meaning that one of the parties involved is being held responsible, you would report the incident as a crash or collision because the word “accident” has an implication that it was not anyone’s fault.

I think this is important to the communication world because the news is one of the largest if not the largest field for communication professionals. On top of that, one of the most reported incidents in the news, especially in local news, is car crashes. This change to AP style adds a differentiation in how these events are reported that has not been there before. I feel that, due to the sheer amount of accidents and crashes being reported every day, that this was a very important change to write about. It may not be the most groundbreaking change in meaning, but in terms of usage I think it is important to be aware of.


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