The resulting book is a full-fledged style guide, Write More Good (Three Rivers Press, paperback, 272 pages, $13), that arrives in the nation's bookstores today.
Write More Good mimics the real Associated Press Stylebook, as well as other style guides, with tips and advice for how to use terms specific to such fields as entertainment, politics, sports, science and pseudoscience. The advice, though, is humorously incorrect, and the guide's cover helpfully tells readers, "If you use this, you will get fired!"
For example, the guide says that "Brainiac," "Nerdlinger" and "Geekatron3000" are "all acceptable on second reference to technology experts in interviews." It also advises the proper way to type R.E.M.: "All caps, with three periods, just like the band: the period when they were good, the period when they were popular, and the current one, when they're neither."
But it's not all esoteric jokes aimed at word nerds.
"We really tried to keep a balance," said Anna Neatrour, who by day works at the Marriott Library at the University of Utah, but in her spare time is one the 17 members of The Bureau Chiefs. "We're spoofing grammar rules, but there's also a lot of 'your mom' jokes."
The Bureau Chiefs are scattered across the country, and befriended each other primarily as bloggers who wrote about their favorite comic books. They collaborate on the Twitter feed and worked together on the book via the Internet, but many of them have never met each other face to face.
With so many collaborators, "we hit the viewpoint of a lot of people that we wouldn't have hit on our own," said Mark Hale, who with Ken Lowery edited the book.
Neatrour, whom I met in a downtown Salt Lake City cafe, said she worked on bits of the entertainment and politics chapters, and some of the chapter on sex a hilarious section where all the glossary terms are ridiculously literal definitions for sexual slang. (Example: a "bear" is listed as "a large mammal native to the northern regions of North America, Europe and Asia" rather than as a slang term for a big, hairy gay man.)
Neatrour is also proud of writing a dirty sonnet ("How to Write About Your Fair Mistress," circa 1597), and most of the chapter on citations, which reflects the deep arcana of a librarian's daily life. She also got in a joke about the cartoon rock group Jem and the Holograms.
Two parallel themes of the book are how the newspaper industry is dying it defines "press release" as "a fun game executives play in which they lay off reporters" and how people have declared newspapers to be dying since the invention of radio.
"We love to read," Hale, in a phone interview, said of The Bureau Chiefs. "That's why we started our web logs, because of the comic books. It's always something that's been with us. We're all readers. We read everything we can get our hands on."
Hale acknowledges the irony that a new-media phenomenon like Fake AP Stylebook could find creative expression in the old traditional media of a book. Something noted in the foreword of Write More Good, written by movie critic and Twitter maven Roger Ebert.
The Twitter feed, Hale said, "was a joke to make each other laugh. We fell ass-backwards into an agent and a book deal. There are writers who labor for years to get a book deal."
Like most reporters, though, The Bureau Chiefs do what they do for love rather than money.
"None of us went into this to get rich," Neatrour said. "I might be able to buy a couple of pairs of nice shoes."
Sean P. Means writes the Culture Vulture in daily blog form, at blogs.sltrib.com/vulture.