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AP style tips for the Super Bowl: Avoid ‘Hail Mary’

The Lombardi Trophy at a news conference for NFL Super Bowl XLIX football game Friday, Jan. 30, 2015, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Lombardi Trophy at a news conference for NFL Super Bowl XLIX football game Friday, Jan. 30, 2015, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

If you’re covering the Super Bowl on Sunday instead of watching it (or just watching the commercials), you probably know the correct style to use for every player and play. In case you’re not a sports reporter and may end up writing about the game, the fans or the players anyway, here’s a quick look at some common football terms from the Associated Press Stylebook.

Some football positions:

Cornerback, defensive end, defensive tackle, fullback, halfback, left guard, linebacker, lineman, running back, quarterback, tailback, tight end and wide receiver.

In a 2012 Super Bowl style guide, the AP advises:

Spell out a player’s position on first reference. In follow-ups, mix in QB for quarterback, RB for running back, FB for fullback, WR for wide receiver, TE for tight end, DE for defensive end, DT for defensive tackle, LB for linebacker or CB for cornerback (though never just corner).

Some game terms:

Blitz, out of bounds, end line, end zone, pitchout, fair catch, place kick, field goal, play off (verb), playoff (noun, adjective), goal line, goal-line stand, halftime, handoff, kick off (v.), kickoff (noun, adjective), touchback and touchdown.

According to the AP on phrasing: “yards passing, yards receiving, touchdowns rushing, etc. Not passing yards, receiving yards, rushing touchdowns.”

Years vs. Roman numerals:

Use the year the game is played.

Except in formal reference as a literary device, pro football Super Bowls should be identified by the year – not the season – played, rather than the Roman numerals: 1969 Super Bowl, not Super Bowl III.

Also, use figures for yardage and yard lines.

Don’t use ‘fumblerooski:’

Finally, from 2012, a few more distinctions:

A field goal clears the crossbar, not the goal posts.
Avoid “Hail Mary.” Use desperation pass instead.
Don’t use “fumblerooski” for a strange turnover. Describe the play.
It’s end zone, not pay dirt.
No such thing as a “forward lateral.” A lateral is tossed sideways or backward.
Only a quarterback gets sacked. Other ball carriers are tackled for a loss.

Related: What you can learn about video storytelling from the Budweiser Super Bowl commercial

Read more

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