An AI Style Guide

Wait, don’t leave. I promise there will be lots of jokes in this post.

But seriously, we need to talk about style guides. Let me dust off my old journalist hat for a second. A style guide is a guide used by journalists to define and standardize terms as well guide reporting. For instance, the AP style guide tells us to use atomic bomb, rather than A-bomb, that academic departments should be written in lowercase, unless one of the words is a proper noun, and that immigrants should never be referred to as “illegals.” On a basic level, it defines how journalists should use language.

A large part of this blog is discussing how we ought to be using language to describe AI. Many misconceptions about AI can be partially traced back to the lazy or ambiguous use of language. To give one very important example, the usage of AI as a term to describe an intelligent system. Describing it in this way often gives readers the impression that the system is more like an AI from science fiction, like HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey, able to perform a wide variety of tasks and cognitive functions, communicate and understand human language, and formulate plans and actions without human input. In reality, most “AIs” are more like finely-tuned filters – taking in a very specific kind of input, like an image, and returning a very specific output – like if there is a face in the image.

Because the way we use language describing AI affects how we think about AI, journalists, public figures, and anyone else seeking to talk or write about AI must be very careful in the words and language they use to describe it. That is why, as part of this blog, I am launching an AI Style Guide, which you can take a look at right now. See the AI Style Guide page for a more precise description and to look at the entries. Each entry either lists, defines, or provides a discussion about a term related to AI. I will be continually updating this along with the blog.

A really important one to look at is my entry on Artificial Intelligence. This is kind of an overloaded term, so I think it is really important to think about how we use it.

If you want definitions or discussion to be added, please use the comments below or in another post. If you are a publication and actually want to use this style guide, feel free to email me at and I will be happy to assist you and answer any questions you might have.

And because I promised jokes:

Q: What is yellow and equivalent to the Axiom of Choice?

A: Zorn’s Lemon


Humans: What do we want?

Computer: Natural Language Processing!

Humans: When do we want it?

Computer: When do we want what?


And one final joke:

Elon Musk is deeply knowledgeable about AI and never blatantly fear-mongers to get attention.

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