Frequent quizzes and a two-point penalty for each AP style error in writing assignments only add to the complaints. However, let the students compete in class to see who can correctly answer the most questions and suddenly – surprise! surprise! – it seems the stylebook is everyone's best friend. It warms my heart to see these aspiring journalists answer as many as 21 style questions in a row when bragging rights and prizes are on the line.
On the last class day each semester in my Digital Journalism I course, students compete for first, second and third place in the "JOUR 1100 AP Style Bowl." Briefly, here's how it works: divide the class into two teams and let them go at it until one reaches 21. Those on the winning team then get to vie for recognition and prizes. The questions come from AP style quizzes provided at Gerald Grow's Newsroom101.com. Previous end-of-semester winners: Caroline Campbell (spring 2010), Anthony Manno (fall 2010) and Erin Caughey (spring 2011).
Last week, Team Kvartunas upset Team Herndon in the most-competitive first-round match of any term so far, 21-20. ("We only got three wrong," said a disappointed member from the losing team. "We can't help it that they got 20 straight cupcakes.") The prize-winning round was just as fierce. One student was beside herself when she choose wrong between convince and persuade. Sympathetic protests came after another student didn't properly answer "noon" to the question asking, "The meeting is scheduled at ____________."
In the end, sophomore Victor Jacobo emerged victorious when he chose "B" for the question, "Which is longer, a yard or a meter?" Afterward, Jacobo, the first broadcast and electronic communication major to win the Style Bowl, humbly accepted his $25 gift certificate and accolades (see ceremony video below). "I'm, like, ridiculously lucky at these things," he said to much laughter, "so it had nothing to do with, like, skill."
No luck or skill necessary, my friends. Whether it's for the JOUR 1100 final exam this afternoon, or for any opportunity henceforth, just a readiness to check the AP stylebook – for as the company's president, Tom Curley, writes in the foreword of its 2011 edition, it's "the essential tool for anyone who cares about good writing" and will help "make a story written anywhere understandable everywhere."