AP Stylebook to Change Usage Rule for ‘Collision’

There are certain words that will set me off when I’m copyediting a story. For one of them, ‘collision,’ the rules just changed.

The word collision has long had a traditional, accepted meaning. But thanks to the Associated Press, that accepted meaning may be about to change.

Many newsrooms follow what is called “AP Style,” a writing convention established and maintained by the Associated Press.

Some of the rules in AP Style can be a bit annoying. Some can even feel a bit antiquated. Once in a while, the AP will change a rule and the chance can often set off folks of a certain age (like me) who don’t like the change being proposed.

The traditional meaning for a collision involves two moving things that run into each other. I realize that there are plenty of people out there who may not have realized this.

Here’s what the dictionary says.

A quick Google search provides the following definition:

“An instance of one moving object or person striking violently against another.”

In other words, a collision occurs when one moving thing strikes another moving thing.

Both things — people or objects (or even points of view, for that matter) — have to run into each other.

A car accident that involves two moving cars striking each other is a collision.

A moving car that strikes a parked car, by definition, is not a collision because only one of the vehicles was in motion at the time of impact.

But not all dictionaries are specific about requiring motion from both objects. Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines collide as “to come into violent contact; strike violently against each other; crash” or “to come into conflict; clash.” The objects merely must come together with force.

If two things “come together,” it might be assumed that both are moving, but that’s not necessarily specified.

It may sound like nitpicking, but some of us believe language should have a clear meaning and should be used in a precise way so that everyone stays on the same proverbial page.

The AP is changing that.

The Columbia Journalism Review reported on Monday that a lead editor announced the change at the conference of ACES: The Society for Editing. Paula Froke said the AP would “no longer require that two bodies must be in motion for a ‘collision’ to happen.”

The change, or relaxing of rules, or evolution — or whatever you want to call it — means a moving car may “collide” with a parked car.

Sorry, AP, I can’t go along with you on this one. I’ll stick with the old way: two things collide with each other, while one thing crashes into something else.

Does ‘collision’ mean both things are in motion or only one? How do you use the word?

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 27 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.