Twitter or X? AP Style Makes a Ruling

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When you refer to that certain social platform these days, are you calling it Twitter or X? AP Style recently tackled that topic.

Elon Musk announced to raised eyebrows that he would rebrand Twitter as X back on June 23. In throwing away a brand that has become so common that people use its terms even if they don’t use the platform, he also created a quandary. It was the same kind of question Prince created when he briefly changed his name to a symbol. Back then, people asked should they still call him Prince or should they now call him “the artist formerly known as Prince”? We now face a similar question about Musk’s platform: Do we still call it Twitter or X?

How long should we wait after a name change like that to refer to it as the new brand? And how long after we start using the new brand name are we safe to stop mentioning the old one?

The Associated Press Stylebook, the style guide that journalists around the world use, made its ruling. That ruling came with raised eyebrows as well.

White House reporter Seung Min Kim recently posted on the platform this update:

Let’s first tackle ‘first reference’

“First reference” refers to the first time we mention something in a story. After that first reference, things get a bit easier.

For example, let’s consider a health story involving the CDC. AP Style dictates that on first reference, the first time we mention it, we should refer to its full name: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On second reference, and every reference thereafter in the same story, “the CDC” works just fine. For some reason, the CDC doesn’t seem to be interested in being called CDCP.

The first reference rules are meant to remove any room for confusion about abbreviations. But there are some organizations, like the FBI, that work with their initials on first reference. We know FBI stands for Federal Bureau of Investigations, but that’s so well-known now that FBI stands on its own. Maybe CDC will one day as well.

Whenever we do a story about Twitter or X, the first time we reference it, AP wants that reference to be “X, formerly known as Twitter.”

From there on out, X works just fine, AP says.

When does the ‘new’ wear off?

That’s a little harder to nail down. I imagine by the next printed AP Stylebook, which should be in 2024 or 2025, X will just be X.

Twitter — the brand — lasted for 17 years. I’m sure there are plenty of people who still don’t know of the name change. I figure there are even more who don’t care about the name change. But it’s for those two groups that the extra words to explain the meaning are necessary.

Remember, when you write — whether it’s a news story or not — your goal should always be clarity. Adding a few extra words to make sure your readers understand what you mean isn’t too much to ask.

But I learned from my 20 years in marketing that everyone doesn’t recognize a big change at the same time. When one longtime news anchor retired after decades in the business, months after her last day, people would still periodically call in and ask what happened to her. Even though her pending retirement had been mentioned for weeks and her last day was one of the big stories of the day.

Different people place different priorities on different things. That’s just life.

What about tweets and retweets?

Tweets and retweets are still tweets and retweets. Fortunately, as we deal with the question of “Twitter or X?” we don’t have to worry about those two common terms.

At least, for now.

If X decides to change the names of those two terms — and it’d make sense that they do — we’ll have to adjust there, too.

But if you wanted to get away from “tweet” and “retweet,” you could always go with “post” and “repost,” which would work for multiple platforms.

Personally, I don’t think this is such terrible advice. I certainly think it’s no worse of an idea than throwing away the Twitter brand.

How long would you say it’s necessary to refer to both ‘X’ and the former ‘Twitter’ until it’s clear what X is?

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 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.

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