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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. Does Taliban take a singular or plural verb? – from Reading, Pa. on Thu, Jul 30, 2015

A. Taliban normally takes plural verb in AP stories, as in: The Taliban have fled the Pakistani army's advance.

Q. Hello. I noticed a typo on this page: Home > Webster's New World College Dictionary > Chapter M > -making -making (m?k%uFFFDi?) comnining form forming adjectives[Chiefly Brit.] creating a (specified) state or condition [shy-making, angry-making] comnining form forming adjectives ==> combining also, it seems a "for" is missing combining form FOR forming adjectives – from San Francisco on Thu, Jul 30, 2015

A. My online version seems to have fixed the issue: -making (m%u0101k´i%u014B) Chiefly Brit. creating a (specified) state or condition [shy-making, angry-making]

Q. The AP style rule is "adviser," not "advisor." However, what do we do when an individual uses "advisor" as part of his or her official title at a company or organization? – from West Sacramento, Calif. on Thu, Jul 30, 2015

A. If it's a formal title conferred by the company, use the "or" spelling.

Q. How do we treat "lay," as in layman or layperson, for similar uses not in the dictionary? – from St. Paul, Minn. on Thu, Jul 30, 2015

A. The dictionary spellings are layman and layperson, referring to someone who isn't a member of the clergy or a nonprofessional person.

Q. Would you hyphenate "live online course"? Along the same lines, which is better: "a live, online training" or "a live online training"? – from san francisco, Calif. on Thu, Jul 30, 2015

A. Perhaps better phrased as a course live online, or training live online.

Q. Is it correct to say "she holds a bachelor's degree" or "she earned a bachelor's degree" or does it matter? – from springfield, Ill. on Thu, Jul 30, 2015

A. Both are acceptable with the field of study included. She earned a bachelor's degree in Russian history. He holds a bachelor's degree in accounting.

Q. How do you spell "bench mark" when used as a noun (one word or two?) Also, how is it punctuated when used as an adjective, as in "bench-marking report"? And is it correct to use a gerund form (benchmarking)? Thanks! – from Reston, Va. on Thu, Jul 30, 2015

A. Webster's NWCD, Fifth Edition, says bench mark (two words) is a standard or point of reference in judging quality, value, etc. The noun is often written benchmark, the dictionary says. As an adjective it's benchmark report

Q. Should it be "human resource professionals" or "human resources professionals" in the following sentence: "This annual seminar, geared toward employers, managers, human resource professionals" ... – from , on Thu, Jul 30, 2015

A. Generally written as human resources professionals.

Q. Would you write 9-months or nine-months? – from , Washington on Thu, Jul 30, 2015

A. It's nine months. Hyphenate only as a modifier: nine-month limit.

Q. How do you handle Frist Names or nicknames within a quote? For example, if I'm writing a story about Jim Perry and a coworker is quoted as saying, "We couldn't get anything done without Jim's assistance" or "Jimmy just has a great attitude." – from Powhatan, Va. on Thu, Jul 30, 2015

A. If Jim Perry has been named earlier in the text, both quotes are clear. If not, add his name after the attribution: We couldn't get anything done without Jim's assistance," she said, referring to office manager Jim Perry.

Q. Does AP have a preference/rule about indenting (or not) the first paragraph of an article? Some publications seem to indent all new paragraphs and others indent all new paragraphs except the first one. Thanks! – from Albany, N.Y. on Thu, Jul 30, 2015

A. Paragraphs of AP news stories are indented three spaces.

Q. Singular or plural? "It is a story that shows how the work we accomplish, and the people who help us, improve(improves) our environment." Thanks. – from Clemmons , N.C. on Wed, Jul 29, 2015

A. ... the work ... improves ...

Q. Is it service-dog or service dog? – from Herndon, Va. on Wed, Jul 29, 2015

A. No hyphen in service dog.

Q. Should the word subregion be written as "subregion" or "sub-region?" – from Boston on Wed, Jul 29, 2015

A. No hyphen in subregion.

Q. Should Health Care Providers (in the general sense) be capitalized? – from Middletown, N.J. on Wed, Jul 29, 2015

A. The generic term is lowercase: health care providers.

Q. Is the Asian hot sauce sriracha capped? When I did a Web search it doesn't look like a name brand but I'm not sure. – from Orysia, New York City, N.Y. on Wed, Jul 29, 2015

A. The Stylebook caps Sriracha in the Food Guidelines for the city in Thailand where the hot sauce originated.

Q. The event to be held in Beijing on Friday or the event in Beijing on Friday -- Does the addition of 'to be held' change anything and is one way preferred over the other? – from Virginia, XX on Tue, Jul 28, 2015

A. The first phrasing emphasizes the future; the second phrasing is terser. One might be more appropriate than the other depending on the context.

Q. When 'hour by hour' stands alone, as in -- We watched hour by hour for him to come home -- would it by hyphenated? – from Chicago on Tue, Jul 28, 2015

A. No hyphens as used in your example.

Q. In a person's company bio, he is a writer "at" ABC Company,or he is a writer "for" ABC Company? Thanks. – from Greenwood Village, Colo. on Tue, Jul 28, 2015

A. Referring to a full-fledged employee, a writer for ABC Co.

Q. For someone who works at a pizzeria and makes pizzas, is he a pizza maker or pizza-maker? e.g. Joe Smith, a pizza maker (pizza-maker) at XYZ Pizzeria, rolls out pizza dough. – from New Jersey on Tue, Jul 28, 2015

A. Based on the Stylebook's "-maker" entry guidance, he's a pizza-maker.

Q. So if it's in a quote, highly pathogenic avian influenza should be lowercase and if the scientist refers to HPAI, that would be appropriate too? Just use bird flu for unquoted information, right? – from , on Tue, Jul 28, 2015

A. Correct.

Q. The entry for "bird flu" suggests that Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza would be all lowercase. Is that correct and would that mean HPAI should never be abbreviated? – from Mississippi State, Miss. on Tue, Jul 28, 2015

A. That bird flu entry says that term is preferred to avian influenza, and gives examples of virus abbreviations. So bird flu is recommended over term you list and its abbreviation.

Q. How would you suggest I approach the large-scale farms known as "concentrated animal feeding operations"? Should the first letter of each word be capitalized, given that it's an EPA designation? Is it acceptable to use CAFO on second reference? – from Madison, Wis. on Tue, Jul 28, 2015

A. AP stories generally use animal feedlots for these operations, specifying the sizes. I don't find the bureaucratic term, or the abbreviation, in our news archives, though may have been used in some references.

Q. I wanted to follow up on my question concerning diameter and millimeter. At my company we follow the AP guidelines for all things related to website, product flyers and press releases. Since our computer systems can handle the diameter symbol and the symbol is necessary on our product flyers, how should we use the symbol? Once at the beginning of a range or on both sides of the spectrum? – from Leesburg, Va. on Tue, Jul 28, 2015

A. Probably once at the beginning, but check your industry's standard references for the customary placement.

Q. How should quotation marks be used, if at all, to set apart a word? For instance, in the following example, should the word percent be enclosed by single quotations, double quotations, or no quotations? Spell out the word %uFFFD%uFFFDpercent%uFFFD%uFFFD rather than using the percent symbol. Can you please point me to where this answer can be found online or in the stylebook? – from Denver on Tue, Jul 28, 2015

A. Quotes around single words are used for unfamiliar terms, such as foreign language words, or to indicate irony. Occasionally, a common term is enclosed for emphasis. But it's probably not needed in this situation. Enclosing it might even imply that the term is always enclosed.

Q. Another agreement conundrum: "A group of seniors has/have formed its/their own organization..." Is this determined by "group" or by "seniors"? – from Harrisburg, Pa. on Tue, Jul 28, 2015

A. The sentence subject is group, a collective noun that takes a singular verb and pronoun. If it seems awkward, rephrase making seniors the subject, a la: Seniors in a group have formed their own organization.

Q. I have a question concerning AP style when typing ranges of millimeters where diameter is concerned. For something like this should it be %uFFFD4.5 %uFFFD 8.5 mm or %uFFFD4.5 %uFFFD %uFFFD8.5 mm ? What should we do when we have the &/and? mm after both or just the second one? What about the diameter symbol? In front of both or only the first one? ex: %uFFFD4.5 mm & 4.7 mm or %uFFFD4.5 mm & %uFFFD4.7 mm – from Leesburg, Va. on Tue, Jul 28, 2015

A. AP wouldn't use a diameter symbol in a news story. Computer systems couldn't handle it. For weapons or film, we'd abbreviate millimeter: 4.5 mm to 8.5 mm in diameter. Otherwise, we'd write out millimeter on first reference: 4.5 millimeters to 8.5 millimeters in diameter. Our use of ampersand it very limited, per the Stylebook entry. Instead, write out the conjunction if used in this range.

Q. Would you hyphenate "chemical free" in the following sentence? This product is chemical free. Thanks! – from Faribault, Minn. on Mon, Jul 27, 2015

A. This product is chemical-free.

Q. I am copy editing an article about different teas grown in Taiwan, and I am having difficulty determining what gets capped. I know oolong is lowercase but there a name of a tea Light Oolong, but I don't know if it is the name of the tea leaf or a tea blend. Some of the names are after places like Wenshan so that would be capped. But what about something like Oriental Beauty? Oh help. – from Orysia, New York City, N.Y. on Mon, Jul 27, 2015

A. Looks like a fanciful name for retailing and thus lowercase in a news story.

Q. Should we write "after-school program" or "afterschool program?" I've seen it written as one word, so am curious. Thank you. – from Columbia, S.C. on Mon, Jul 27, 2015

A. As a compound modifier, hyphenate "after-school program." See the "after" entry for details.

Q. Is it acceptable to use "interactive" as a noun these days? Such as in a Web tease that says "View an interactive with this story at" – from Austin, Texas on Mon, Jul 27, 2015

A. Yes, interactive is widely used that way.

Q. When speaking of music from a particular decade, would it be: '70s music? '70's music because we are omitting the "19" and making the decade possessive? – from Portland, Ore. on Mon, Jul 27, 2015

A. It's '70s music as a descriptive, not a possessive. See "decades" entry for models.

Q. I realize that "dwarf" is the preferred word, not "midget." Should longtime descriptions such as "midget football" or "midget racers" be avoided -- or at least confined to proper names of organizations? – from Chicago on Mon, Jul 27, 2015

A. The term is used in names of some organizations. However, generic descriptions like youth football would be used in a news story.

Q. What is the correct way to use the following words in a sentence: Right-of-way/right of way On-Site/on site Thank you! – from Corpus Christi, Texas on Mon, Jul 27, 2015

A. The Stylebook hyphenates on-site. The dictionary entry is right of way.

Q. AP style calls for no accent marks on "naive." How about "na%uFFFDvet%uFFFD"? Thank you. – from New York on Mon, Jul 27, 2015

A. For technical reasons, AP doesn't use accent marks in English-language copy: naivete.

Q. You answered the first part of this question but not the second. When "mom and pop" stands alone %uFFFDwithout modifying "store" or "shop" %uFFFD would you hyphenate it? The dictionary doesn't have this usage. Q. Would you say a mom-and-pop store? Or mom and pop store? And then, would you say: She worked at a mom-and-pop, or no hyphs? Thank you! %uFFFD from North Palm Beach, Fla. on Thu, Jun 04, 2015 A. The dictionary doesn't hyphenate mom and pop store. – from NY, N.Y. on Mon, Jul 27, 2015

A. Ditto. She works at a mom and pop.

Q. Which is correct: "The project is being developed through a "50 percent-owned joint venture" or "The project is being developed through a "50-percent-owned" joint venture?" Thanks. – from Reston, Va. on Mon, Jul 27, 2015

A. ... a 50 percent-owned joint venture.

Q. Is it the Defense Department or the Department of Defense? – from Ft Meade, MD on Mon, Jul 27, 2015

A. Department of Defense is the first choice, but many stories use Defense Department on first reference, and that's also acceptable.

Q. Is this sentence correct? Can the words supply chain technician be capitalized? The e-book focuses on the skill sets Supply Chain Technicians must possess to be successful in an automated warehouse or distribution center. – from Riverside, Calif. on Mon, Jul 27, 2015

A. AP would lowercase supply chain technicians as an occupational description rather than a capitalized title.

Q. What is the correct reference? He received his M.D. degree from Yale? OR He received his medical degree from Yale? – from , Kansas City on Mon, Jul 27, 2015

A. If the individual is identified as a physician on first reference, it's OK to write in a follow-up that he received his M.D. degree from Yale. Otherwise, better to specify initially that he received his doctor of medicine from Yale.,

Q. I am copy editing an article for business that has a Chinese company name and while the name itself doesn't go in quotation marks I don't think the English translation should either%uFFFDXiaomi, whose name translates to little rice, is the exact phrase used. Now the reporter never refers to this again in the article, so my question is do I put quotation marks around the English little rice, and if so why? – from New York City, N.Y. on Mon, Jul 27, 2015

A. No quotes needed around the translated name.

Q. Should lines in a document be single or double-spaced? How much space should be between paragraphs? – from Salt Lake City on Mon, Jul 27, 2015

A. There's no absolute rule on this. However, the AP Stylebook text uses single spacing, with an open line of space between individual items, which are indented.

Q. When a letter to the editor of a publication requires a reply, we generally italicize the reply and place it within parentheses. What about the "credit" for the reply (Joe Author or %uFFFDEd.)? Does that get printed in italics also? Thank you. – from Belmont, MI on Mon, Jul 27, 2015

A. AP doesn't use this format. However, it would seem sufficient to place a dash after the text, followed by the name of the person who responded, then a close parenthesis.

Q. I thoroughly enjoy the AP Stylebook Online. As writer for my church, we need guidelines for writing articles and would like to use your style. May I have permission to formulate a guideline specific for my church writers using AP Stylebook? What are the qualifications. Thank you. Shelley O. – from Lansdale, Pa. on Sun, Jul 26, 2015

A. Thanks for the praise. It's fine to use AP Style as a basis for your church guidelines. However, any deviations from AP Style should be briefly noted, so that users of your guidelines are clear on the exceptions.

Q. What is the correct spelling for Common Core, the educational standard, particularly within the body of a sentence? Should it be Common Core, Common core or common core? ie The Common Core standards are to help improve learning or The Common core standards are to help improve learning or The common core standards are to help learning. – from Stockton, Calif. on Fri, Jul 24, 2015

A. It's Common Core in all uses.

Q. In addresses, does "18 E. Avenue A" follow the same style rule as "18 E. K St." to become "18 E. Ave. A"? – from Corpus Christie, Texas on Fri, Jul 24, 2015

A. Correct.

Q. When referring to the IRS and a form, such as 1099-C, do I need to first spell out "Internal Revenue Service (IRS)" .. like this, or it is OK to just say IRS and not spell out, even if this is the first mention. – from Louisa, Va. on Fri, Jul 24, 2015

A. IRS is acceptable in all references for Internal Revenue Service, as noted in the Stylebook entry.

Q. When using the construction "types of ," is the thing plural or singular? For example: "Many types of animal make up the phyla." Or "Many types of animals make up the phyla"? – from Herndon, Va. on Fri, Jul 24, 2015

A. Many types of animals make up the phyla.

Q. Sportfisherman or sport fisherman? – from Farmington, Maine on Fri, Jul 24, 2015

A. Generally it's sport fishing. By that model, sport fisherman.

Q. When referring to agencies within the Department of Defense, is Defense capitalized in this example? "...DCMA and other Defense agencies." vs. "...DCMA and other defense agencies." – from FORT LEE, Va. on Fri, Jul 24, 2015

A. ... Defense Contract Management Agency and other DOD agencies ... (assuming you spell out Department of Defense or Defense Department on first reference.)

Q. Is mealparts one or two words? Thanks. – from Chicago on Fri, Jul 24, 2015

A. In conventional phrasing, meal parts.

Q. I have a few questions: I need some help researching "left-aligned" text and "justified" text and which one is usually preferred. Could I please be directed to the appropriate search page? When submitting information for a professional engineer, is it required to put "P.E." or is "PE" acceptable? Is storm water one word (stormwater) or two words (storm water) when referencing in engineering terms? Same for wastewater/waste water. If both are acceptable, which one is preferred? Thank you. – from Corpus Christi, Texas on Fri, Jul 24, 2015

A. The customary phrasing is copy justified left. AP doesn't use that abbreviation; instead, professional engineer is spelled out if needed in a news story. Both stormwater and wastewater are one word using the dictionary spellings.

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