(Elaine Thompson/Associated Press)

The Associated Press, which generally reports the news, made news last week after this internal memo circulated on the Internet:

From: AP Standards
Sent: Mon 2/11/2013 2:45 PM


SAME-SEX COUPLES: We were asked how to report about same-sex couples who call themselves “husband” and “wife.” Our view is that such terms may be used in AP stories with attribution. Generally AP uses couples or partners to describe people in civil unions or same-sex marriages.

Tom Kent
Dave Minthorn

People were mad about that. Robert Kessler in Gawker: “This particular style choice makes a jarring ‘separate but equal’ standard for married couples. As we learned with segregation, a separate standard is inherently unequal.”

AP has responded with a new entry to the organization’s vaunted stylebook, which has far more authority than a skimpy little internal memo. Here’s the full release from AP:

The following entry was added today to the AP Stylebook Online and also will appear in the new print edition and Stylebook Mobile, published in the spring:

husband, wife Regardless of sexual orientation, husband or wife is acceptable in all references to individuals in any legally recognized marriage. Spouse or partner may be used if requested.

“The AP has never had a Stylebook entry on the question of the usage of husband and wife,” said AP Senior Managing Editor for U.S. News Mike Oreskes. “All the previous conversation was in the absence of such a formal entry. This lays down clear and simple usage. After reviewing existing practice, we are formalizing ‘husband, wife’ as an entry.”

AP spokesman Paul Colford clarifies to the Erik Wemple Blog that the entry officially “retires” the AP’s previous and rather controversial formulation. “Clearly there was a lot of internal discussion about this in the past week. The stylebook editors and news department leaders heard from others as well. And I hope this stylebook entry will be effective for one and all,” he says.