Those stylistic gurus at the Associated Press are at it again, and have just issued a new style guide related to the social media realm. Even if you do not use social media as part of your marketing campaign, lawyers should strive for stylistic perfection in briefs and other legal memoranda.
Remember your audience
Just because you use proper style, that does not mean your audience knows what you are talking about. If you have any doubts, it is a good idea to explain what you are referring to. For example, smart phone may seem obvious to anyone with a Blackberry or an iPhone. For someone who is just starting to use email, a smart phone could mean any number of things.
One word or two words?
Website is correct, the old guideline of “Web site” is a goner. Somewhat surprisingly, “smart phone” should be two separate words. It is unclear whether e-mail is now just “email.” Another relevant update relates is that “e-reader” should contain a hyphen.
The AP has defined a number of frequently used acronyms that are used in texting and instant messaging. As noted above, however, any reference to a widely used acronym is only helpful if your audience knows the meaning. Some judges may not have teenage kids that text all day long. As a result, ROFL will not mean much to them. Be sure to define what the acronym means for your audience.
Is social media a reliable reference?
The new guide also provides a guideline for referring to social media sources. Generally speaking, information used on blogs and other social media should be confirmed by other sources before it is considered reliable. For attorneys, that is a very good rule of thumb. Make sure you double check (even triple check) social media information before citing to it.