AP compiles a Sept. 11 Style and Reference Guide

Sept. 11, 2012
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A version of this guide was first sent to AP member editors on Aug. 9, 2011. This Aug. 31, 2011 version drew from additional research. We are posting it again today, on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.


To help with standard phrasing and consistency of coverage of the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, The Associated Press has compiled a Sept. 11 Style and Reference Guide. A few of the items are included in the AP Stylebook, but the majority are based on AP usage that has developed over time. As you'll see, it includes guidance on spelling, pronunciation, frequently used terms and a timeline of events as they unfolded. 

The AP

airline, airlines
Capitalize airlines, air lines and airways when used as part of a proper airline name. American Airlines, United Airlines.

Capitalize as part of a proper name: LaGuardia Airport, O'Hare International Airport.

The first name of an individual and the word international may be deleted from a formal airport name while the remainder is capitalized: John F. Kennedy International Airport, Kennedy International Airport, or Kennedy Airport. Use whichever is appropriate in the context.

Do not make up names, however. There is no Boston Airport, for example. The Boston airport (lowercase airport) would be acceptable if for some reason the proper name, Logan International Airport, were not used.

Newark International Airport was renamed Newark Liberty International Airport after Sept. 11.

Headed by Osama bin Laden until his death by U.S. forces in Pakistan in May 2011. Pronounced al-KAH'-ee-dah.

bin Laden, Osama
Use bin Laden in all references except at the start of a sentence. It is the family preference for the last name, which is an exception to the general rule on Arabic names. He founded al-Qaida and was killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan in May 2011. Pronounced oo-SAH'-mah bihn LAH'-dihn.

Flight 93
Acceptable in first reference for United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed near Shanksville, Pa. Include airline name and context of crash in subsequent references. Flight 93 memorial is acceptable in all references for the Flight 93 National Memorial at the crash site.

ground zero
Acceptable term for the World Trade Center site. 

The flights they hijacked, where the planes crashed, their full names, their names on second reference and their pronunciation. Note that in Arabic, stressed syllables don't tend to be stressed hard.

American Airlines Flight 11 (World Trade Center's north tower): Mohamed Atta (Atta), moh-HAM'-ad AT'-ta; Wail Alshehri (Alshehri), WAH'-ihl ahl-SHEH'-ree; Waleed M. Alshehri (Alshehri), wah-LEED' ahl-SHEH'-ree; Abdulaziz Alomari (Alomari), ab-dool-ah-ZEEZ' ahl-OH'-mah-ree; Satam al-Suqami (al-Suqami), sah-TAHM' ahl-SOO'-kah-mee.

United Flight 175 (World Trade Center's south tower): Marwan al-Shehhi (al-Shehhi), mar-WAHN' ahl SHEH'-hee; Fayez Ahmed (Ahmed), FY'-ez AH'-med; Ahmed Alghamdi (Alghamdi), AH'-med ahl-GAHM'-ehd-ee; Hamza Alghamdi (Alghamdi), HAHM'-zah ahl-GAHM'-ehd-ee; Mohand Alshehri (Alshehri), moh-HAN'-nehd ahl-SHEH'-ree.
American Airlines Flight 77 (Pentagon): Hani Hanjour (Hanjour), HA'-nee han-JOOR'; Khalid Almihdhar (Almihdhar), KHAL'-lehd al-meh-DAHR'; Majed Moqed (Moqed), MAH'-jehd mah-GEED'; Nawaf al-Hazmi (al-Hazmi), nah-WAF' ahl-HAZ'-mee; Salem al-Hazmi (al-Hazmi), SA'-lihm ahl-HAZ'-mee.

United Airlines Flight 93 (Pennsylvania): Ziad Samir Jarrah (Jarrah), zih-YAD' sah-MEER' ahl-jar-RAH'; Saeed Alghamdi (Alghamdi), sah-EED' al-GAHM'-ehd-ee; Ahmed Alhaznawi (Alhaznawi), AH'-mehd ahl-HAZ'-nah-wee; Ahmed Alnami (Alnami), AH'-mehd ahl-NAH'-mee.

Lower Manhattan Development Corp.
Use in first reference for the agency created to help New York recover from the Sept. 11 attacks. Rebuilding agency or the agency are acceptable in subsequent references.

Acceptable in all references to describe the attacks in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. Not 9-11 or 911.

9/11 Commission
Acceptable in all references for the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.

1 World Trade Center
The official name of the skyscraper being built on the World Trade Center site. Formerly known as the Freedom Tower.

The headquarters of the Department of Defense, struck by American Airlines Flight 77. Located in Arlington, Va.

Sept. 11
The term for describing the attacks in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. Use 2001 if needed for clarity. Also acceptable is 9/11.

Sept. 11 memorial
Acceptable in all references to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum at ground zero. Add location for clarity if story references other memorials with similar names.

twin towers
Lowercase this popular term for referring to the two tallest buildings in the World Trade Center complex. Also lowercase north tower and south tower.

The Sept. 11 attacks killed nearly 3,000 people:
— 2,753 in New York. Includes three later deaths from respiratory disease that have since been linked to illnesses caused by the towers' collapse.
— 40 in Pennsylvania.
— 184 at the Pentagon.
— Total: 2,977 as of July 25, 2011.
— 2,983 names will be listed on the Sept. 11 memorial, including six who died in the 1993 World Trade Center truck bombing.

World Trade Center
Name of the seven-building complex in lower Manhattan destroyed on Sept. 11; trade center and trade center site (lowercase) are acceptable in later references. WTC or WTC site are acceptable shorthand in headlines.


7:59 a.m. — American Airlines Flight 11, a Boeing 767 with 92 people on board, takes off from Boston's Logan International Airport for Los Angeles.
8:14 a.m. — United Airlines Flight 175, a Boeing 767 with 65 people on board, takes off from Logan for Los Angeles.
8:20 a.m. — American Airlines Flight 77, a Boeing 757 with 64 people on board, takes off from Washington Dulles International Airport for Los Angeles.
8:37 a.m. — Federal Aviation Administration notifies North American Aerospace Defense Command about suspected hijacking of Flight 11.
8:42 a.m. — United Airlines Flight 93, a Boeing 757 with 44 people on board, takes off from Newark International Airport for San Francisco.
8:46 a.m. — Flight 11 crashes into north tower of World Trade Center.
8:52 a.m. — Attendant on Flight 175 notifies United Airlines of hijacking.
9:03 a.m. — Flight 175 crashes into south tower.
9:25 a.m. — FAA command center in Herndon, Va., tells headquarters about suspected hijacking of Flight 77.
9:31 a.m. — President George W. Bush, in Florida, calls crashes an "apparent terrorist attack on our country."
9:37 a.m. — Flight 77 crashes into Pentagon.
9:42 a.m. — FAA orders all aircraft in U.S. space — more than 4,500 — to land at nearest airport.
9:45 a.m. — Evacuation of U.S. Capitol and White House ordered.
9:59 a.m. — South tower of trade center collapses.
10:03 a.m. — Flight 93 crashes in Pennsylvania field.
10:28 a.m. — North tower of trade center collapses.
11:02 a.m. — New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani orders evacuation of lower Manhattan.
2:50 p.m. — Bush arrives at Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska.
5:20 p.m.— Empty 47-story 7 World Trade Center collapses.
8:30 p.m. — Bush addresses the nation from the White House, saying, "We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them."

TIMELINE SOURCES: Sept. 11 memorial foundation; 9/11 Commission Report; "The Ground Truth" by John Farmer, senior counsel to the 9/11 Commission

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