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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. When it comes to unit of measurement is the a standard/universal way to display the abbreviations (e.g. foot (ft), Pound (lbs) etc..) should they be sentence case, lower case, title case? Do they always require the periods are there exceptions to the rules? Do the rules apply to standard, metric and imperial measurements as well? – from Magnolia, Texas on Fri, Aug 01, 2014

A. In tight space situations, such as captions for graphics, AP uses ft., sq. ft. and lbs. These abbreviations are written with periods.

Q. In the following text, would the comma go inside or outside the closing quotes after the X?: The X-height is the height of the body of a lowercase letter, such as the "x," without ascenders or descenders. – from Minneapolis on Fri, Aug 01, 2014

A. Comma goes inside the closing quote, as you have it.

Q. Can you help with a style ruling on old school vs. old-school? I tend to think it should be hyphenated whether placed before a noun or not; doesn't look right to me without the hyphen. Somehow loses its hip origins. But I'll go with whatever you decide. Thanks. – from Reading, Pa. on Fri, Aug 01, 2014

A. Deferring to the dictionary's old school, two words without a hyphen, including such terms as old school tie.

Q. Reemphasized or re-emphasized? – from Washington on Fri, Aug 01, 2014

A. The hyphenated spelling is correct.

Q. Would there be a hyphen in life cycle in this phrase: "such as life cycle managment..."? – from Raleigh, N.C. on Fri, Aug 01, 2014

A. No hyphen in life cycle management, based on the dictionary's entry.

Q. There are two contradictory "Ask the Editor" responses regarding mile post vs. milepost. Can you weigh in officially? In a 2014 response, it says: "Use decimals if referring to an actual mile marker or milepost with that designation" -- hence, milepost. But in a 2009 response, it says: "AP uses figures with mile posts, so mile post 0" -- hence, mile post. An official weigh-in would be most appreciated on which we should use: milepost or mile post. Thank you! – from Moccasin, Ariz. on Thu, Jul 31, 2014

A. Go with milepost, one word, the dictionary spelling.

Q. I wasn't exactly clear in my previous question. Which is correct? The university offers track and field, baseball and golf. Or this? The university offers track and field, baseball, and golf. Since track and field is one sport, is a comma needed before the final "and" of the series when "track and field" isn't last in the series. – from Edmond, Okla. on Thu, Jul 31, 2014

A. The university offers track and field, baseball and golf.

Q. Should Ebola never appear without virus when talking about the virus, as is the case with West Nile virus? – from Minneapolis on Thu, Jul 31, 2014

A. It's often Ebola alone or Ebola outbreak on first reference in AP news stories. However, virus should be mentioned in the account to explain the illness.

Q. Does the AP have a position on the trend to include "the" in proper names, using an uppercase T? ("The Ohio State University" is a good example, with an uppercase T even when it is used in the middle of a sentence.) I learned that "the" should be lowercased unless it begins a sentence or is part of a formal title. The confusion, I guess, arises from identifying what is a formal title these days. As another example, there is a gospel group that wants to be known as The Singing Sisters, and an arts organization that wants to be listed as The Arts Partnership. Advice is appreciated. – from Findlay, Ohio on Thu, Jul 31, 2014

A. In AP usage, the definite article is lowercase when needed in proper names: the Ohio State University, the Beatles, etc. Ditto for the arts organization and singing group you mention.

Q. When referring to one of the "metals" levels of coverage under the Affordable Care Act (platinum, gold, silver, bronze), is the name of the metal capitalized, for example a Bronze plan, or a bronze plan? – from Camp Hill, Pa. on Thu, Jul 31, 2014

A. Lowercase the plans, including the metals.

Q. I have a question about the phrase "track and field." When it is used in a series, is a comma needed before the "and" that precedes the final element of a series? "Track and field" functions as one sport, so we are curious. Thank you. – from Edmond, Okla. on Thu, Jul 31, 2014

A. It's always track and field without an interior comma, including as an element in a series.

Q. limited-time offer or limited time offer? – from Houston on Thu, Jul 31, 2014

A. AP stories use the hyphenated spelling.

Q. ..XYZ company provides oil services in the Gulf Coast and midcontinent (or Mid-Continent) regions of the United States...??? Thanks. – from ,Ocala, Fla. on Thu, Jul 31, 2014

A. Generally spelled lowercase in this contexgt: mid-continent.

Q. Is it AP acceptable to refer to North Carolina and South Carolina as simply, "the Carolinas" ??? ie, "The Georgia-based bank also operates in the Carolinas and Tennessee." Thanks. – from , Independence, Ohio on Thu, Jul 31, 2014

A. Yes, the term is fine in that context.

Q. Question on using the pre- prefix. In the "prefixes" entry, it says: Generally do not hyphenate when using a prefix with a word starting with a consonant. But under the "pre-" entry, it says: The rules in prefixes (entry) apply .... follow Webster's New World College Dictionary, hyphenating if not listed there." So if the prefix is not listed in the dictionary and is not one of the exceptions in the "pre-" entry, should a hyphen be used or not? – from Tucson, Ariz. on Wed, Jul 30, 2014

A. Hyphenate "pre-" formations that aren't listed exceptions in the Stylebook or not in the dictionary.

Q. What is the correct abbreviation for non-alcoholic? N/A or NA – from Louisville, Ky. on Wed, Jul 30, 2014

A. We don't abbreviate nonalcoholic, as in nonalcoholic drinks.

Q. This is in regard to capitalization of words in headlines. When searching for "headline capitalization", three hits are returned. They are: They offer two different answers, one suggesting that the first letter of all words be capitalized, and the other suggesting that only the first word of the headline and all subsequent proper nouns be capitalized. Please clarify, and if you would, please specify the appropriate use for both online and print scenarios. Thank you. – from Dallas on Wed, Jul 30, 2014

A. The Stylebook's "headlines" entry covering both print and online says only the first word and proper nouns are capitalized, with the exception of the first word after a colon, which is always uppercase in a headline. However, for online subscribers so desiring, AP systems convert headlnes to a version with all words capitalized.

Q. How would AP refer to the hand signal commonly seen at rock concerts, where the index and pinky fingers are extended and the thumb, middle and ring fingers are balled up? This is commonly referred to as the Devil's Horns, possible also rock n roll horns. – from , Idaho Falls, Idaho on Wed, Jul 30, 2014

A. AP stories on rock concerts have referred to fans flashing the devil's horns hand signal.

Q. Which is correct, or at least preferred: nurses' station, nurse's station or nursing station? Thank you! – from Hickory , N.C. on Wed, Jul 30, 2014

A. AP stories tend to use nurses' station. There may be some local preferences in the terms, though.

Q. If a photographers image is published through the AP, it is policy to cite the photographer. If an AP article's focus is a specific building, why is it not policy to cite the architect of that building? – from Washington on Wed, Jul 30, 2014

A. It's common to name the architect or architectural firm in a story about building, particularly if a comment from the designers is an element of the news.

Q. I am using HOUSTON as a dateline. In the news release I mention Alberta, Canada. Do I just use Alberta or do I say Alberta, Canada? AP Style is not clear. – from Newport News, Va. on Wed, Jul 30, 2014

A. If the news release refers to Canada in an earlier reference, Alberta could stand alone. Otherwise, use Alberta, Canada, on a first reference to the province.

Q. What is the proper usage for indicating noon in business writing, such as a certificate of attendance? I realize 12:00pm is not correct. Would I put 11:00a.m. - noon ? Thank you! – from McLean, Va. on Wed, Jul 30, 2014

A. AP uses noon or midnight without figures. In your example, the time range is 11 a.m.-noon without zeros.

Q. Hello. Would you say "The team THAT finishes first" or "The team WHO finishes first"? Thanks. – from , Tustin, Calif. on Wed, Jul 30, 2014

A. The team that finishes first.

Q. What is the correct past tense of "to lend"? – from , North Carolina on Wed, Jul 30, 2014

A. The dictionary forms are lend, lent, lending.

Q. I know AP uses co-worker, but how does the AP handle coworking, as in a style of work that involves a shared working environment. I've seen it mostly as coworking on the Internet. – from ,Tucson, Ariz. on Wed, Jul 30, 2014

A. The Stylebook's "co-" entry says retain the hyphen when forming nouns, adjectives the verbs that indicate occupation or status. By that guidance it's co-working.

Q. Is it "robo-signing" or "robosigning"? – from Bangalore, Karnataka, India on Tue, Jul 29, 2014

A. AP stories use "robosigning" enclosed in quotes.

Q. In constructions such as -- He said no, he wouldn't be going -- or -- The answer was a resounding yes -- is there a need to put quotes around no or yes? – from Chicago on Tue, Jul 29, 2014

A. Quotes generally not needed in these casual constructions. In the case of votes, however, AP generally encloses "yes" or "no" in the numerical tallies.

Q. We need your advice on this one. The sentence reads: "With summer comes late sunsets and brightly lit horizons." And the question is whether the verb should be "comes" or "come." (There are several different ways of inverting this sentence.) Recasting would cause an argle-bargle. Thanks. – from Clemmons , N.C. on Tue, Jul 29, 2014

A. For the plural subject use the plural verb come.

Q. Is this hyphenated correctly: If you are first-aid- and CRP-certified ... – on Tue, Jul 29, 2014

A. No. If you are first aid- and CPR-certified ... Or: If you are certified to give first aid and CPR ...

Q. Is it six months salary or six months' salary? As in, "...he will be offered a severance payment of six months' salary." – from Eagle, Colo. on Tue, Jul 29, 2014

A. It's a quasi possessive: six months' salary.

Q. In this example, are the hyphens needed? "...before areas are closed-in or covered-up." – from Raleigh, N.C. on Tue, Jul 29, 2014

A. Correct.

Q. Is it correct to use the numerals the way I have in the sentence below? From a readability standpoint the 18 and 20-pound don't look right next to one another, even though I know to use numerals for numbers over 10. "Storage is limited to two cages, containing up to 18 20-pound propane cylinders in each cage (720 pounds total) without any separation from a structure." – from Broomfield, Colo. on Tue, Jul 29, 2014

A. It's correct as you have it, though you could rewrite the reference to avoid abutting numerals: Storage is limited to two cages holding up to 18 propane cylinders weighing 20 pounds apiece in each cage (720 pounds total), without any separation from a structure.

Q. Do you capitalize the word "institute" in this sentence: An interesting study was discussed by Dr. Smith, of The Jones Institute, during the Institute%uFFFDs 2014 Annual Research Conference. – from Maitland, Fla. on Tue, Jul 29, 2014

A. Lowercase institute on second reference.

Q. In a sentence like the one below, if "healthcare practices" is plural, should the phrase "their business and client base" also be plural? We work closely with healthcare practices to understand their business and client base and to determine the feasibility of the projects they are considering. – from Wilton, Conn. on Mon, Jul 28, 2014

A. The Stylebook spelling is health care, two words in all uses. Health care practices is vague. Try using health care companies or providers. Make it their businesses and client bases.

Q. It is the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, but the U.S. House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. Should we too be inconsistent with the apostrophe? – from Panama City, Fla. on Mon, Jul 28, 2014

A. It's the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the House Veterans' Affairs Committee.

Q. Does the same rule for chief financial officer apply to CEO as well? – from San Marcos, Texas on Mon, Jul 28, 2014

A. See "CEO, CFO, COO" entry in the online Stylebook.

Q. You have any guidance on abbreviating or shortening Central African Republic to fit in a newspaper headline? I've seen "C." used a couple of times in recent months, but I've never seen "C." used for Central anywhere else in my 32 years of journalism. – from Tampa, Fla. on Mon, Jul 28, 2014

A. AP short headlines occasionally use C. African Republic.

Q. Should the ampersand (&) be used for titles of political committees, for instance the House Energy & Commerce Committee, as it is titled? Or is "and" used in this instance? – from York, Pa. on Mon, Jul 28, 2014

A. The "ampersand" entry limits usage to company names, composition titles and a few abbreviations like B&B.

Q. We are writing about pillow-top mattresses at a local hotel. Some mattress sites show pillowtop as one word. Others show it as two, but no one seems to hyphenate it. How would you do pillowtop/pillow top/pillow-top mattresses? – from Dallas on Mon, Jul 28, 2014

A. In the only usage I could find in the AP archive, it's spelled pillow-top mattress.

Q. In the same vein, *three-year term* or *3-year term*? Thanks. – from Dallas on Mon, Jul 28, 2014

A. The first is correct, spelling the numeral.

Q. Can you please weigh in on whether hyphenation needs to be used with words beginning with multi-? (example: multigrip or multi-grip; multi-slot or multislot) Thank you. – from Hickory, N.C. on Mon, Jul 28, 2014

A. The Stylebook's "multi-" prefix entry says no hyphen in most cases.

Q. We will be unveiling a large bronze sculpture, which has been dubbed Essence of Rex. How should this be written on first reference:"Essence of Rex," 'Essence of Rex,' (italicized), or plain? And then, how should it be written on subsequent references? – from Casper, Wyo. on Mon, Jul 28, 2014

A. The Stylebook's "artworks" entry says names of sculptures are capitalized without quotes. AP doesn't use italics in news stories, though examples in the Stylebook are in italics. If you don't use the full name on second reference, synonyms like the sculpture or the artwork are fine.

Q. "Gamify" and "gamification" are used (predominately in technology contexts) to refer to the application of game-playing processes to business, social, academic and other pursuits. What is the AP style for this. For instance, "An app that gamifies goal-setting can help teens track progress toward better study habits." – from New Berlin, Wis. on Mon, Jul 28, 2014

A. In rare uses in AP stories, these terms are enclosed in quotes.

Q. Should court documents be initial capped or lowercased? Example: An Order Admitting Will to Probate will be required. (caps or not?) Also, what about initial caps or not on "last will and testament" in a similar sentence "A last will and testament was not received from the executor." Thanks so much for your help. Jean T – from Marietta, Ga. on Mon, Jul 28, 2014

A. AP spells such terms lowercase.

Q. What is the proper punctuation for plural possessives ending with ss? – from Addison, Texas on Mon, Jul 28, 2014

A. An example: cross. The simple plural: crosses. The plural possessive: crosses'

Q. Should "Donetsk People's Republic" be in quotes in any context? Should there always be the word "self-proclaimed" before it? What is the correct way to refer to the DNR, and is there a precedent in AP style for referring correctly to self-proclaimed groups? – from Highland Park, Ill. on Sun, Jul 27, 2014

A. In AP stories, it's the self-proclaimed or self-declared or self-styled Donetsk People's Republic. Follow-ups use pro-Russian rebels or insurgents rather than the three-letter abbreviation. This is not unprecedented in AP reporting. Similar cases in other countries are weighed separately.

Q. Which is more correct: "high functioning" or "high-functioning?" – from Chicago on Sun, Jul 27, 2014

A. He is high functioning. He's considered a high-functioning individual.

Q. In job description information how should the policy on evaluations be written? evaluated using school board's policy on Evaluation of Administrative Personnel evaluated using school board's policy on evaluation of administrative personnel evaluated using School Board's policy on Evaluation of Administrative Personnel – from Lexington SC on Sun, Jul 27, 2014

A. AP would write: evaluated using the school board's policy on evaluation of administrative personnel.

Q. Are all the commas necessary in this sentence? "From marketing, to HR, to estimating, to project management, and to accounting, the use of..." – from Raleigh, N.C. on Sat, Jul 26, 2014

A. From marketing to human resources, from estimating to project management and accounting, the use of ..."

Q. Previous question/answer settled the general issue of "computer numerical control" for CNC, but what if it's used as an adjective, e.g., CNC router? Still "computer numerical control" or should it be "computer numerically controlled" using adverb and past participle? Thanks. – from Minneapolis on Sat, Jul 26, 2014

A. Same guidance in spelling out the modifier form on first reference.

Q. Is the verb tense in the beginning of the following sentence correct? "Producing millions of widgets in 2013, the company is a leader in..." – from San Francisco on Fri, Jul 25, 2014

A. Assuming widget production is on-going, you might substitute annually for the year.

Q. Happy Friday, AP! Quick question: "injection-site reaction" or "injection site reaction"? Thank you, Andrea – from Kansas City, Mo. on Fri, Jul 25, 2014

A. Usually not hyphenated in AP stories on drugs. You might check medical websites for usage.

Q. Whis is right? Our staff of boys, girls, moms and others devise or devises? – from Darien, Conn. on Fri, Jul 25, 2014

A. ... staff ... devises.

Q. Should a comma always precede --no matter what--, even when the phrase is used alone? Two examples: Rules should be followed, no matter what. Your business will face risks, no matter what its industry is. Are the commas needed in both of those instances? Please advise. Thank you much. – from Kansas City, Mo. on Fri, Jul 25, 2014

A. You have to decide whether that phrase functions as essential or nonessential information. If so, no comma. If not, set it off.

Q. I know AP does not recognize a naturopathic as a doctor, but should the words "naturopathic doctor" be uppercase when used before the person's name, just like any other title? – from Chesterfield Townshi, MI on Fri, Jul 25, 2014

A. Make it naturopathic physician, lowercase before or after the full name.

Q. When using "guest star" as a verb - e.g. John Smith is guest-starring on Seinfield, should this be hyphenated? Or should it be John Smith is guest starring on Seinfield? – from Fort Worth, Texas on Fri, Jul 25, 2014

A. Correct.

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