Just last week, the Associated Press, a guidepost for journalistic style and usage, reminded its staff in a memo to generally use “couples or partners to describe people in civil unions or same-sex marriages,” while the words husband and wife were generally for straight couples. We called the rule both archaic and inexact, but a spokesperson insisted it was just “a restatement of our style … The focus was on letting people call themselves what they feel is right.” Not anymore: “Regardless of sexual orientation, husband or wife is acceptable in all references to individuals in any legally recognized marriage.”
Reversing the previous guidelines, “Spouse or partner may be used if requested,” according to an announcement today.
“The AP has never had a Stylebook entry on the question of the usage of husband and wife,” said Mike Oreskes, the AP senior managing editor for U.S. news. “All the previous conversation was in the absence of such a formal entry. This lays down clear and simple usage.” See? Simple.