Most newsrooms in America were up in arms this week when the Associated Press announced the percentage sign was approved to be used in AP Style. The change came early last week when the AP announced that journalists could use the percent sign when it was following a numeral. For example, journalists could now write “22%” instead of writing out “22 percent.” While this might seem like an easy substitution, people who are used to AP Style freaked out. But personally, this percentage change was the best thing to happen to AP Style in the last half decade.
Journalists don’t enjoy change. In fact, we stress over minor adjustments because when we’re writing an article, we have to be as precise and grammatically correct as humanly possible, while also remembering the 10,000 AP Style rules that we will be reamed on if incorrect. When you’re trying to report on breaking news, you don’t want to have to carry your thick AP Stylebook with you to try to find the proper way to write street names, numbers or percentages. Instead journalists memorize AP Style hacks the first time they have to deal with them to avoid running into problems in the future.
Depending on what you write about, you may or may not run into percentage signs. If you write in the realm of sports or business journalism, there’s a good chance that you use percentages daily. Whether you’re writing out statistics for a baseball player, or the percentage change of a corporation, when you have to include 25 different statistics or numbers within one article, writing out “percent” can become tedious. It also adds to your word count, which is great for the slacker journalist in you, but when you’re trying to keep an article under 500 words, it can hinder you.
Obviously this is a personal choice for journalists, and this change won’t be immediate. Most journalists aren’t going to give up their written out “percents” that easy. It’ll be a gradual change, and will probably give more experienced journalists consistent heart attacks as they are editing work that features the symbols. The last big change to the AP Style Guide was in 2017, when “they” became an accepted non-gendered pronoun and when Walmart lost its beloved hyphen. We all survived then, and we will survive now. Change doesn’t always have to be bad.
Personally, I enjoy the symbol more than writing out “percent.” I find it to be more aesthetically pleasing and to make more sense when I have to write out so many different numbers. I also enjoy seeing the percentage sign as a reader because as weird as it sounds, it takes less effort for my eyes. I also appreciate when I’m trying to pull statistics from an article, they’re easy to identify and I can find that data quicker. It’s overall easier and I am welcoming this change with open arms.
So forget what anyone else says and if your heart desires shift 5, away my friends.