Trivia question: How should we refer to someone from Ecuador?

A farmer on a horse looks at the Tungurahua volcano eruption - December 10, 2010, in Banos, Cordillera, central Ecuador.

A farmer on a horse looks at the Tungurahua volcano eruption on December 10, 2010, in Banos, Cordillera, central Ecuador. (Photo by Kseniya Ragozina)

As a freelance copy editor, I follow the guidelines of The Associated Press Stylebook in perhaps a third of my professional work. I also edit using The Chicago Manual of Style, the Publications Manual of the American Psychological Association, other style manuals, or no preferred style manual at all in some cases. The AP’s book is always close at hand, though, because it is one of the most useful reference books available for carefully considered questions of language, culture and current events.

There is a little-know field on the website of The Associated Press Stylebook that lets users outside AP offer suggestions for updates for the style guide. I’ve dug my way through various layers to find it, and I’ve offered my thoughts on various minor questions of language and usage. The most recent was one of the more inconsequential, I thought, but it was also a relative no-brainer. AP Stylebook took my suggestion, even thanked me in a tweet. So, now, those who follow AP Style should say Ecuadorian rather than Ecuadorean, as was previously advised.

This seems trivial, and it certainly is. But setting style and sticking with it provides readers with clarity and signals to them we care about getting things right. Despite AP’s preference over the decades, Ecuadorean never was used as much as Ecuadorian, and Ecuador’s English-language tourism website uses Ecuadorian.

This illustrates a strength of the AP Stylebook over other reference sources — it responds quickly when it needs to. It was updated almost immediately after I brought Ecuadorian to the Stylebook editors’ attention. Every spring, the book publishes anew with scores of changes and additions. Between editions, the online version updates as needed. Some recent additions include advice on reggaeton, the musical style, and on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, the successor to the North American Free Trade Agreement (the initialism USMCA is acceptable on first reference with a definition, but spelling it out is preferred).

I’ve had many writers and copy editors tell me they avoid the AP Stylebook because they don’t edit for news. But I wonder why they would ignore a reference book created with thoughtful advice on how we use language. If we don’t edit in AP Style, we don’t need to follow the advice, but on pesky issues of language, I prefer all the advice I can get.

I’ll be writing more about the AP Stylebook (and other style guides) in this space, and I hope both nonusers and aficionados find my thoughts useful. If you have any comments or questions, please let me know.

At some point, I may find that suggestion field again so I can share it with you all.




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