I’m a rule follower by nature. Maybe it was being raised by military men. Maybe it’s a general predilection to see things as black and white. Maybe it’s because I’m a Libra. Whatever it is, I like rules. Rules create order. I like order.
When I was a journalist, one of the bodies of order I lived by was the AP Stylebook. You can’t call yourself an editor without regularly consulting that book. (I mean, you can call yourself one, but you’re not really being honest.) It’s the journalist’s bible.
So, what happens when your bible lets you down? For an editor, it means signs of the apocalypse. The End of Days.
For me, that day has come. The AP Stylebook, in a move I will simply refer to as caving, has reversed its stance on the uses of “more than” and “over” to allow over to become interchangeable with more than.
My response to this news was a bloodcurdling, “Noooooooooooo!”
(You’ll note there’s only one exclamation point there. Editors don’t condone acts of superfluous punctuation.)
What’s the problem, you say? After all, the people at McDonald’s have been saying “over a billion served” for years now, right?
Right. They’re wrong. They’ve always been wrong. And they’ll continue to be wrong in my book (but sadly, not my bible.)
What’s the big deal with using over instead of more than? Over is a special relation. More than refers to something “in excess of.” To me, literal being that I am, to say “over a billion served” conjures images of McDonald’s staff members hovering over a billion people tossing Big Macs and Quarter Pounders at them like beads at Mardi Gras.
I already yell at the McDonald’s sign more than is healthy. Now, I’ll be even angrier. Not only is it wrong. But now it’s also grammatically correct. This is unacceptable.
The AP Stylebook has let me down before. When it said till was an acceptable for of the abbreviated until, I cried. Till was a cash register, or a method of preparing soil for planting. It was not shorthand for “until.” Until it was. Goodbye ’til. Hello, acquiescence.
And now this. What’s next? Will up be the new down? Will out be the new in? Where will the madness end? Will we just drop more than altogether? Will we have over enough reasons to muddy our language until it’s indecipherable?
Maybe. I’m not ROTFLMAO about this. I’m not even LOL. I’m #frustrated, #notgoingtotakethis, #stickingmyheadinthesand and #notcomingoutagainuntiltheworldcomestoitssenses.
I’m already feeling less than myself. Wait, should that be under? I’m already feeling under myself? Wait, no, that’s not right. Um…
At least I have over enough things to do to distract myself from this devastating turn of events. Surely some distraction is in order.
It’s possible that I could be wasting a lot of productive work time fighting the inevitable. After all, language laziness has momentum. And momentum, once gained, can be hard to stop.
To that end, maybe it’s time for a refresher course in time management. Good thing we publish a book on that here.
Allyson Longueira is publisher of WMG Publishing. She is an award-winning writer, editor and designer.