Ah, the good old AP Stylebook , source of answers for professional writers everywhere. On some days, it seems there is nothing it doesn’t know. On other days, you can’t help but wonder why in the world it doesn’t have what you are looking for.
Since it is tax season, we venture into the latter camp.
The Associated Press Stylebook is curiously quiet on all of those tax terms being thrown around in thousands of articles all over newspapers, magazines, and the web. Is it taxman or tax man? Is it tax free, or tax-free? Is it tax-deferred or tax deferred? (It is deferred and NOT differed. With an I it means that something was not the same.) No one knows. Well, at least the AP Stylebook doesn’t know.
And so, we mere writers must journey away from our ever so comfortable and familiarly worn style guide to seek answers.
Writing and the IRS
Who better to consult than the arbiters of tax themselves, the IRS, when faced with taxing questions. (Yeah, I know…)
The official IRS publication on IRAs is Publication 590. It has virtually all of our compound terms that we might have questions about. It has also been around in more or less the same format for dozen years, so if there was a problem with how they are using the words, it would have been straightened out by now. So, I have used Pub. 590 to construct an officially unofficial tax style guide for writers.
If you’ve ever written a financial advice article or tax tips story and wondered whether that gets a hyphen, is the first letter capitalized or the whole thing, and is there a space or not, here is the answer.
And so, without further ado, the facts that the AP Stylebook doesn’t know:
Official Style Guide for Tax Terms:
- tax relief
- tax-deferred (term is not used in 590, but elsewhere like this)
- tax rules
- plural of IRA is IRAs
- traditional IRA
- Roth IRA
- SIMPLE IRA
- SEP IRA
- catch-up (as in catch-up contribution)
- filing status
- When referencing tax forms:
- Form (#) – Form is capitalized
- box (#) – box is not