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Ask the Editor provides answers, clarification and guidance on style issues that go beyond the pages of the AP Stylebook. Before posing a question to AP editor David Minthorn, search the accompanying style archives for your topic. With thousands of questions and answers on file, your topic has very likely been covered. For typical style questions and responses, visit Ask the Editor FAQ.

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Ask the Editor questions from the past week:

Q. Struggling with subject-verb agreement in the following sentence: The remainder of the population is/are children of diplomats. I think the word "remainder" here is a collective noun or "noun of multitude" and should take the plural verb "are" (synesis or notional agreement), as in the sentence "A lot of people are wearing raincoats today." Am I right, or am I all wet? Thank you. – from Buffalo, N.Y. on Wed, Apr 01, 2015

A. Webster's NWCD defines remainder as those remaining. In your sentence, "are" reflects the plural sense or notional agreement.

Q. Example: The XYZ Times believes in delivering relevant, timely information to our community. At XYZ, [our goal] is to be seen as trustworthy and accessible across mediums. [We are] committed keeping [our audiences] highly engaged and informed every day. At XYZ, [our team] models integrity and excellence and integrity in reporting. Question: May a company or organization refer to itself in the first person, as in the example above? (The XYZ Times ---> %uFFFDour goal,%uFFFD %uFFFDwe are,%uFFFD %uFFFDour team,%uFFFD %uFFFDour audiences,%uFFFD etc.? – from Seattle on Tue, Mar 31, 2015

A. Correct.

Q. turbo charge or turbo-charge? "See how this product can turbo-charge your customers' results" – from Cary, N.C. on Tue, Mar 31, 2015

A. Neither. Make it turbocharge in line with the dictionary.

Q. I work for a utility. Is the proper terminology backbilling, back billing or back-billing? – from Davenport, Iowa on Tue, Mar 31, 2015

A. Use the one-word compound: backbilling.

Q. I see this in the StyleBook: "Retain capitalization if Co., Corp. or a similar word is deleted from the full proper name," but when a university has been listed properly in a story but a subsequent references say, "the university," would "university" be capitalized? – from Germantown, MD on Tue, Mar 31, 2015

A. It's lowercase university in follow-ups to the capitalized formal name.

Q. How do you punctuate the phrase not one but two in the sentence They competed in not one but two events. – from Orrville, Ohio on Tue, Mar 31, 2015

A. As you have it without commas.

Q. I see your citation for "C-section is acceptable on second reference," but if it's mid-sentence, would you capitalize the "C?" Would it be c-section or C-section in a second reference that's not the beginning of a sentence? – from Germantown, MD on Tue, Mar 31, 2015

A. C-section with a capital C within a sentence.

Q. Would the name of a generic medication be capitalized? It seems that most trademarked names you have listed that became generic are not capitalized but this wasn't clear for medications. Specific examples I'm working with would be hydrocortisone (a generic form of brand Cortef) and Florinef (which is also listed as fludrocortisone). I think I have them correct here (where brand is capitalized but generic is not) but wanted to be sure. Thanks for any help! – from Germantown, MD on Tue, Mar 31, 2015

A. The generic name is spelled lowercase.

Q. Does the AP have a preferred pronunciation of Appalachia for broadcast? It doesn't have an entry in the pronunciation guide. – from Morgantown, W.Va. on Tue, Mar 31, 2015

A. AP conforms with the dictionary entry for the pronunciation.

Q. Does the following phrase need hyphens? an up and coming neighborhood or an up-and-coming neighborhood. THANK YOU! – from Houston on Tue, Mar 31, 2015

A. Hyphenate the adjective up-and-coming.

Q. Hello, I'm confused by the use of light and lite. Can you clarify the usage of each? Also with light beer, would it be lite beer or light beer? Thank you! – from Mesa, Ariz. on Tue, Mar 31, 2015

A. The Stylebook's "spelling" entry says to avoid spelling simplications such as lite. An exception would be a well-known product such as lite beer.

Q. In the body of an article, I am writing that a company is based in the U.S. Should I write as "U.S.-based" or "US-based"? Thank you. – from Denver on Tue, Mar 31, 2015

A. Use periods with U.S. within a story: U.S.-based.

Q. How do I do the dateline for St. Kitts and Nevis? ST. KITTS AND NEVIS, West Indies? ST. KITTS AND NEVIS, the Commonwealth? Some other way? Thank you very much. – from Chicago on Tue, Mar 31, 2015

A. For example: CHARLESTOWN, St. Kitts and Nevis (AP)

Q. I know "whom" would be grammatically correct here but it sounds really awkward to me: "Who(m) else are you talking to?" Is it okay to use "who"? – from Kansas City, Mo. on Tue, Mar 31, 2015

A. Conversationally, who is more natural starting a sentence.

Q. What is the plural of Canada goose? – from Fort Meade, MD on Tue, Mar 31, 2015

A. For the plural, Canada geese.

Q. What is your opinion with regard to the term "hardline Muslim" when it is used in reference to the movement in Asian countries to institute Sharia law and its accompanying severe physical punishments? The Asian media is using the term freely, with "conservative" seeming to describe practicing Muslims who do not believe such harsh measures are necessary, and "extremist" or "Islamist" seeming too far in the other direction. Thoughts? – from Annapolis, MD on Tue, Mar 31, 2015

A. Rather than hard-line (note hyphen), the Stylebook's "Islamist" entry seems more precise for those favoring government and society reordered in accordance with laws prescribed by Islam.

Q. Do you put quotation marks around short story titles when writing about them? – from Wichita, Kan. on Mon, Mar 30, 2015

A. Yes, short story titles are enclosed in quotation marks.

Q. Would it be obsessive-compulsive disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder? many thanks! – from Carlsbad, Calif. on Mon, Mar 30, 2015

A. Hyphenate obsessive-compulsive as an adjective, per your example, or as a noun: He is obsessive-compulsive.

Q. Hello, I have a question about the use of a vs. an. Which of these sentences is correct? 1) She is a member of a 1,800-member group. (Read: one thousand, eight hundred.) 2) She is a member of an 1,800-member group. (Read: eighteen hundred.) I know the sentence could be rewritten, but the newsroom is wondering if there is a rule for such cases. Thank you! – from Quincy, Calif. on Mon, Mar 30, 2015

A. No. 2 is correct. Use "an" before a vowel sound, which is long a ... as in ay-teen or 18.

Q. Would military training be capitalized? For example, "After graduating from Advanced Individual Training, she joined the Peace Corps and..." – from New York on Mon, Mar 30, 2015

A. Lowercase advanced individual training.

Q. More on "less" ... For example: Co-ops were developed to bring electric services to less densely populated areas of the state. No hyphen, right? Thanks. – from Richardson, Texas on Mon, Mar 30, 2015

A. Correct.

Q. Hello, This is the second time I have written to you. I can't find the answer to my question on the AP Stylebook site and AP is the arbiter of choice for my manager. When creating written media, i.e. pamphlets, posters or bill inserts, is the convention to display the internet address with, or without, the www. prefix. Thank you! – from Bellingham, Wash. on Mon, Mar 30, 2015

A. Render the address in the same form as written by the owner. An example in the printed AP Stylebook's bibliography for National Geographic Atlas of the World:

Q. How would AP style the childhood game of Duck, Duck, Goose? All caps? Any quotation marks? – from Farmington, Maine on Mon, Mar 30, 2015

A. Lowercase such traditional games, a la hide-and-seek.

Q. Is super glue a trademark? Or should it be superglue? – from Milwaukee on Mon, Mar 30, 2015

A. It's super glue as a generic term.

Q. When using a date in the sentence, should the word "on" be included before the date? For example, is it: "A blood drive was held in the gym March 23" or "A blood drive was held in the gym on March 23." ? – from Woodbridge, Va. on Mon, Mar 30, 2015

A. Not in your example. See the "on" entry for elaboration.

Q. In writing about earthquakes, is "fault" capitalized in San Andreas fault, and is "plate" capitalized in "the Pacific plate which is being pushed into the North American plate" Thanks – from Huntington Beach, Calif. on Sun, Mar 29, 2015

A. Capitalized formally named geological formations, such as San Andreas Fault and Pacific Plate.

Q. Which is correct: A whole-food, plant-based diet A whole food, plant-based diet A whole food plant-based diet Or some other combination? Thank you! A whole food – from Albany, N.Y. on Sat, Mar 28, 2015

A. A whole food, plant-based diet ....

Q. What about event titles, such as a concert title or an art exhibition title? E.g. Global Beat Festival, or Smile! A Photo Anthology. Quotes? Italics? Only capitalization? – from New York on Sat, Mar 28, 2015

A. In AP news stories, event titles and exhibition names are generally enclosed in quotes, with primary words usually capitalized. The generic name of a recurring event often isn't enclosed in quotes. AP doesn't use italics in news stories.

Q. Can you say a congregation who or should it be a congregation that? Thanks for responding. – from LAKE MARY, Fla. on Fri, Mar 27, 2015

A. A congregation that ...

Q. When putting state postal codes in alphabetical order, would it be organized by state name ( Illinois then Iowa--IL., IA) or by abbreviation (IA, IL)? Thanks! – from Clinton Township, MI on Fri, Mar 27, 2015

A. The state names would no doubt accompany the abbreviations, so alphabetize by full spellings.

Q. Is it appropriate to put a comma after the word preceding the word "by"? For example, "The leaders facilitated discussion, by partnering with local government officials in advance." Someone uses this very frequently in their writing, but it seems inappropriate to me. – from Chicago on Fri, Mar 27, 2015

A. UPDATE: no comma after the word discussion in that sentence.

Q. When referring to a job promotion, would you say, "....has been promoted to xx from xx" or "from xx to xx"? – from Chicago on Fri, Mar 27, 2015

A. Often the new development is placed first in such sentences: ... has been promoted to xxx ... from xxx.

Q. Is the apostrophe in 'others' correct: ... ensuring your loved one%uFFFDs and others%uFFFD safety is a top priority. – from Encinitas, Calif. on Fri, Mar 27, 2015

A. Correct.

Q. When you include a question in quotes within the middle of a sentence, do you capitalize the first word? Example sentence (should the "S" in So be capitalized?): When someone asks, "So what does your company do?" you want to be able to have a clear, consistent response and make a good impression. – from Radnor, Pa. on Fri, Mar 27, 2015

A. Correct. And make the response a separate sentence: You want to be able ...

Q. Which is right here: University of Wisconsin System president Ray Cross informed system campuses that, due to proposed budget cuts, OR: University of Wisconsin System president Ray Cross informed system campuses that, because of proposed budget cuts, – from , Wisconsin on Fri, Mar 27, 2015

A. Traditionalists would probably prefer "because of," though "due to" is acceptable. Incidentally, if it's a formal title, President would be capped preceding Ray Cross.

Q. I have a list of military branches. Is it acceptable to use MARINES in that list (Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines)? Or should it always say MARINE CORPS? – from San Antonio on Fri, Mar 27, 2015

A. That service branch would no doubt prefer Marine Corps in your listing.

Q. Thank you for your new entry on suicide. I appreciate your position on "death with dignity." What is your position on "right to die," particularly if one is referring to proposed legislation that would confer a legal right to doctor-assisted suicide? – from Pasadena, Calif. on Fri, Mar 27, 2015

A. Unless the actual name is at issue, AP would refer to proposed legislation to legalize medically assisted suicide.

Q. Should we say, "Cook 50 to 60 minutes." or "Cook 50-60 minutes."? – from Chicago on Fri, Mar 27, 2015

A. Either way.

Q. Hi! Would I put "every two to three weeks" or "every two-to-three weeks" ? Thank you! – from Fort Worth, Texas on Thu, Mar 26, 2015

A. Every two to three weeks, or a two- to three-week period.

Q. Is it 12-bar blues or twelve-bar blues. My sentence: [Joshua] Redman is invited to play with a traditional Chin musical group. %uFFFDI tried to call a 12-bar blues, but they encouraged me to instead get with their groove,%uFFFD Redman recalls. – from New York on Thu, Mar 26, 2015

A. AP uses the figure for numerals 10 and above.

Q. I see that "live stream" is the preferred term for what appears to be the noun version of the phrase. What about usage as a verb? "The app allows people to live stream anything." Seems to me, it would be "live-stream" in this case. No? – from Salina, Kan. on Thu, Mar 26, 2015

A. Yes, live-stream is often hyphenated in verb usages.

Q. Do comic strip titles require quotes? A 2009 response says yes, but a 2013 question said they don't, and that position wasn't contradicted in your response. Please clarify. – from Salt Lake City on Thu, Mar 26, 2015

A. Comic strip titles are enclosed in quotes using the "composition titles" guidance.

Q. Hello! Need help with less or fewer. There are less/fewer transactions than last year. Thank you! – from Houston on Thu, Mar 26, 2015

A. There are fewer (individual) transactions than last year.

Q. When referring to the people of Argentina, is the demonym "Argentinian" or "Argentine"? – from New York, New York on Thu, Mar 26, 2015

A. Argentine is the preferred term for the people and culture of Argentina.

Q. What is AP style for the Internet of Things? Thanks. – from Rockford, Ill. on Thu, Mar 26, 2015

A. It's the "Internet of Things" in AP technology stories, meaning Internet-connected products.

Q. When a transgender person prefers the pronouns they/them, should editors use singular or plural conjugations? Example: Smith, who uses the pronouns they and them, says some strangers assume they (is/are?) a teenage boy, others that Smith is female. – from Boston on Wed, Mar 25, 2015

A. Try rephrasing. Smith, who uses the pronouns they and them, says some strangers assume they means (or refers to) a teenage boy, others that Smith is female.

Q. Is there a AP preference between the use of "cellphone" and "mobile phone"? If so, under what circumstances? – from Los Angeles on Wed, Mar 25, 2015

A. No stated preference, though cellphone has become the commonly used term.

Q. In using consecutive years, which usage is correct, 2014-15 or 2014-'15? – from , San Antonio, Texas on Wed, Mar 25, 2015

A. The first.

Q. Wanted to outpoint possible conflicting information. I was trying to figure out whether we need to hyphenate %uFFFDridesharing%uFFFD when describing Uber, Lyft, etc. One entry says to use one word, but then the other entry says not to use the wording at all -- and that similar descriptions should be hyphenated. What%uFFFDs the correct style? Thanks much! Erin, CER Ask the Editor results: Q. Do you write "ridesharing program" or "ride-sharing program"? Thom, Oklahoma City A. Different localities use one or the other spelling, based on AP stories. The trend seems to be to the one-word compound ridesharing. Q. What is current AP style for ride-sharing, car-sharing and bike-sharing programs? The following story uses both "ridesharing" and "ride-hailing" to describe Lyft: lyft-cheated-new-drivers-out-1000-bonuses My understanding is that car sharing (hyphenated as a modifier) is correct, so I would style ride sharing and bike sharing in the same way. But the following Ask the Editor reply implies that "ridesharing" is trending: What is current AP style, two words or one? A. Ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft let people use smartphone apps to book and pay for a private car service or in some cases, a taxi. They may also be called ride-booking services. Do not use ride-sharing. – from Chicago on Wed, Mar 25, 2015

A. The Stylebook's "Uber" entry hyphenates ride-sharing, ride-booking and ride-hailing. However, some localities have used the one-word spelling for ridesharing.

Q. It's OK to say this: ... someone who's been there before Instead of: ... someone who has been there before – from Encinitas, Calif. on Wed, Mar 25, 2015

A. Yes, the contraction who's can mean who is or who has. Also, see the Stylebook's "contraction" entry for guidance.

Q. How do I make U.S. possessive? – from Washington on Wed, Mar 25, 2015

A. Write out United States' ... or use the abbreviation U.S. as a descriptive rather than possessive: the U.S. team.

Q. Subcommittee on Surface Transportation is not the full name of the panel. Should initial letters of Subcommittee on Surface Transportation be lower-cased? – from Arlington, Va. on Wed, Mar 25, 2015

A. Lowercase spelling looks right for the shortened name. See the "subcommittee" entry for elaboration.

Q. Does early onset dementia need a hyphen? – from Chicago on Wed, Mar 25, 2015

A. No hyphen in that term.

Q. I've seen the entry for FORMER as in "former President Bill Clinton." But is the use of the word "then" also appropriate, for example when referring to an action a former official took while in office. "In 2013, then Mayor Jane Doe issued an executive order." I'm worried that using the word "former" suggests that Jane Doe was not the mayor when that happened, but leaving out "former" or "then" may seem to some people that Jane Doe is still the mayor. – from Seattle on Wed, Mar 25, 2015

A. In 2013, then-Mayor Jane Doe issued an executive order. Or: In 2013, Jan Doe, then the mayor, issued an executive order.

Q. In a sentence with a parallel list, is it okay to imply parts of a phrase after the first phrase in the list? For example, is the following correct: "California will have 1,234 fewer dentists than are needed, Florida 1,152 fewer and New York 1,024." – from Washington on Wed, Mar 25, 2015

A. Yes, but better to write ... and New York 1,024 fewer.

Q. What would AP do with the section of the Appalachian Trail called the Hundred-Mile Wilderness? – from Farmington, Maine on Wed, Mar 25, 2015

A. As a formally named area on the trail, the Hundred-Mile Wilderness.

Q. A quick check of the government website,, indicates the correct name of the federal student loan for undergraduates and graduates is Direct PLUS Loan. When referencing this loan, please clarify whether it's correct to lowercase the "f" in "federal" in a sentence like this: "ABC Bank's DEF Loan offers a better rate than the federal Direct PLUS Loan." Your response is very much appreciated. – from Bridgeport, Conn. on Wed, Mar 25, 2015

A. It's correct to lowercase federal when used as an adjective to distinguish something from state or other program. See "federal" entry for details.

Q. I was searching for the word, "Teamwork," and read the following entry in the "Ask the Editor" section: Ask the Editor results: Q. Which is correct? Team work, Teamwork or team-work? from St. Peters, Mo. on Apr 09, 2012 A. It's one work, teamwork. Did you mean to say "It's one word, teamwork."? Sorry, I just thought I should ask. – from Naperville, Ill. on Wed, Mar 25, 2015

A. Yes, it should be one word, not one work.

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