AP deletes ‘the French' tweet and apologises after it is widely mocked

The Associated Press, the biggest news agency in the United States, has apologised after it was ridiculed for warning journalists against referring to "the French".

The AP stylebook Twitter account had recommended writers avoid using "the" in phrases like "the disabled, the poor and the French".

The French embassy responded by briefly changing its name to the "Embassy of Frenchness in the United States".

"We just wondered what the alternative to the French would be," Pascal Confavreux, the embassy spokesman, told the New York Times. "I mean, really."

The original AP tweet received more than 20 million views and 18,000 retweets before being deleted.

The writer Sarah Haider joked that there was "nothing as dehumanizing as being considered one of the French" and that a better term was "suffering from Frenchness".

Ian Bremmer, a political scientist, suggested "people experiencing Frenchness" as an alternative.

After it deleted the tweet, the AP stylebook said its reference to French people was "inappropriate" but that it "did not intend to offend".

"Writing French people, French citizens, etc., is good. But "the" terms for any people can sound dehumanising and imply a monolith rather than diverse individuals," it wrote.

"That is why we recommend avoiding general 'the' labels such as the poor, the mentally ill, the wealthy, the disabled, the college-educated," it wrote.

For example, a better term than "the poor" was "people with incomes below the poverty line", it added.

Lauren Easton, the vice president of AP corporate communications, told the French daily newspaper Le Monde: "The reference to 'the French' as well as the reference to 'the college educated' is an effort to show that labels shouldn't be used for anyone, whether they are traditionally or stereotypically viewed as positive, negative or neutral."

The AP stylebook is considered one of the best style guides for journalists and other writers, particularly in the US.