I have been a devotee of Associated Press style since I was 13 years old and enrolled in Jeff Grant’s seventh-grade newspaper class. I learned how to conduct interviews, write a proper article, and edit my work vigorously. To achieve that third standard, I had to learn all the rules for punctuation. One of those rules was to never — under any circumstances — use “%.”
The percent sign has been anathema to my writing. I don’t use it in my articles, school projects, or even texts. It doesn’t even really occur to me to use anything except “percent.”
So why am I the one defending the change? Because it’s AP style; God has spoken and she’s changed her mind.
The only real reason I’ve cultivated disdain for “%” is because AP style has said it’s bad. It’s the same reason I don’t use numerals for one through nine — because AP style says so.
I could cynically just write off a reversal on the percent rule as AP editors wanting to get a little attention from their peers, but it’s more than that. Shifts in how journalists write the news have changed throughout media history, and they will continue.
Another rule change announced in March prohibits the use of “racially charged” and similar phrases as euphemisms for “racist.” As journalists, direct and precise language is crucial to delivering the news to its audience.
And if that means ditching an old quirk of the rules, so be it.