AP’s Update on Mormon Terminology Gains Criticism

The Associated Press caught a little flack recently when it wrote up an update to its Stylebook about Mormon terminology.

When the Associated Press updated its rules about the use of Mormon terminology, the way it wrote about it caught some by surprise.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints began moving away from the name “Mormon” and the abbreviated “LDS Church” back in 2018, a tweet from the Associated Press Stylebook states.

The church has since specified that it should be referred to as its full name, and that its members should be referred to as “Latter-day Saints,” not Mormons going forward.

The Associated Press establishes rules about how certain things are written and it can be a big deal. That’s because many websites, particularly news sites, use AP Style in their writing. This site, for example, uses many of the rules AP Style dictates, although I do sometimes put my own spin on a few of their rules.

AP offers updated rules

AP suggested using the full name of the church, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints,” on first reference, meaning the first time you mention the church by name in a story. From there, it advises using phrases like “the church” on subsequent references.

After the first reference for parishioners, as “Latter-day Saints,” it stipulates that phrases like “church members” and “members of the faith” should do.

Though the church has apparently tried to move away from the term Mormon, AP points out that the word is based on the church’s sacred Book of Mormon, and that it “remains in common use by members of the faith.” 

So, it advises that when you use the church’s full name, you could, if necessary, include a short explanation somewhere in the story, along the lines of, “the church, widely known as the Mormon church….”

The story about the change might have missed the mark.

Keep in mind: the point of the story was to avoid the term Mormon and instead use the preferred name of the church.

Joel Campbell pointed out the irony of the AP story on the change:

Not only did they violate their rule by using Mormon in their headline, they then used the term “Mormon church” at the start of the lede sentence. In the first dozen words or so, they broke their own rules twice.

Not only did they not use the church’s full name in first reference, it wasn’t even mentioned in the first paragraph.


Change can definitely be hard…even if you’re the one who makes the changes everyone else must follow!

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 29 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.