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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. Should a department name be "Women and Children's Services" or "Women's and Children's Services" – from Portland, Ore. on Tue, Aug 30, 2016

A. Women's and Children's Services

Q. Is the Civil Rights Movement capitalized? I don't see an entry in the AP Stylebook. – from St. Louis on Tue, Aug 30, 2016

A. It's lowercase in AP usage, in line with the dictionary's first spelling.

Q. How would you reference a child who is 6 and 1/2 years old? – from Portland, Ore. on Tue, Aug 30, 2016

A. In a news story identification, a child, 6, or a 6-year-old child. In an indirect quote: The boy said he was 6 1/2 years old.

Q. When referring to a particular line of business name, are both the "R" and "O" capitalized in the hyphenated word "Roll-Off"? I believe that if we are referring to the action itself then it would be "roll-off". – from Mesa, Arizona on Tue, Aug 30, 2016

A. Yes, if the business itself capitalizes both letters in its name. The action itself is roll-off.

Q. I'm editing a piece that repeatedly refers to plantations that produce palm oil as "oil palm plantations." Is that correct or should it be "palm oil plantations"? – from Olympia, Wash. on Tue, Aug 30, 2016

A. Based on the dictionary definition of palm oil, it would be correct as oil palm plantation.

Q. When referring to rules on paper, especially those for calligraphy, would AP go with guide lines or guidelines? – from Chicago on Tue, Aug 30, 2016

A. Based on internet searches for calligraphy, guidelines is the preference.

Q. When is the use of a year appropriate in a date? I've heard a year isn't needed if the date written is within the current year. Example if today is Aug. 15: The meeting will take place Aug. 30. I've also heard you don't need years for months which have already passed. Example: If today is Aug. 30, the a sentence referencing June 12 wouldn't need a year because it's the next logical month. Can you please clarify when to use a year in dates within an article? – from Springfield, Mo. on Tue, Aug 30, 2016

A. Generally, use the year with a calendar date in referring to upcoming events scheduled next year or beyond: The event is planned June 24, 2017. A calendar date 12 months or more in the past generally includes the year for precision.

Q. Does the term "Historically Black Colleges and Universities" need to be capitalized? – from Washington on Tue, Aug 30, 2016

A. The term is lowercase in AP usage. On second reference, the capitalized abbreviation HBCU may be used.

Q. Is tiremaker or tire maker preferred? Thank you – from Boston, XX on Mon, Aug 29, 2016

A. AP stories seem to prefer tiremaker, in line with Stylebook entries automaker and boilermaker.

Q. I'm trying to refer to children who are in school, no matter what age or grade, but I'm not sure about the hyphen or the correct form of age/aged. Would it be "school age kids" / "school aged kids" / "school-age kids" / or "school-aged kids"? – from Plymouth, Minn. on Mon, Aug 29, 2016

A. The dictionary hyphenates the adjective school-age. So school-age kids is preferred, though school-aged kids is also used.

Q. Is "Twin Cities" possessive in this case when referring to western suburbs of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota? Is it "We help families who live in eight Twin Cities' western suburbs" or "We help families who live in eight Twin Cities western suburbs"? Thank you. – from Plymouth, Minn. on Mon, Aug 29, 2016

A. As formulated, no apostrophe for the descriptive phrasing. For the possessive, rephrase it: the Twin Cities' eight western suburbs.

Q. In previous Ask the Editor entries, I see that there's no space between the numeral and abbreviation for gigabytes, for example "an 8GB drive." Does this hold true also for gigabits (for example, "an 8Gb drive")? – from Boise, Idaho on Mon, Aug 29, 2016

A. To avoid confusion, spell out gigabits with the figure: an 8-gigabit drive.

Q. Is fleece singular and plural? In retail, we use it as a stand-alone noun: "fleece." Is "25% off All fleece" correct? – from Menomonee Falls, Wis. on Mon, Aug 29, 2016

A. The dictionary gives only the fleece spelling, which covers singular and plural. Often this noun is paired with apparel types: fleece jackets, fleece vests, fleece blankets, etc.

Q. Some nouns are commonly used as adjectives. What is AP style on using networking as an adjective, i.e., "networking event"? Thank you. – from Providence, R.I. on Mon, Aug 29, 2016

A. In AP usage, networking functions as an adjunct noun modifying event.

Q. Does the AP have specific abbreviations for lesser-known political parties, to be used in party affiliation? Green, Libertarian, Right to Life, Working Families, etc.? – from Queensbury, N.Y. on Mon, Aug 29, 2016

A. The names are spelled out.

Q. Help! Our school is located in a village (Fox Crossing), but our mailing address is based in a local city (Neenah). When referring to the school in a standard closing for press releases, should we say"... in the Village of Fox Crossing" even though EVERYWHERE else it is listed with the actual address, which says Neenah? – from Neenah, Wis. on Mon, Aug 29, 2016

A. Perhaps written ... village of Fox Crossing in Neenah, Wisconsin. However, web searches show the incorporated village as part of the town of Menasha.

Q. Is tongue-in-cheek hyphenated in all cases? – from Portland, Ore. on Mon, Aug 29, 2016

A. Yes, by the dictionary's entry for the adjective.

Q. Q. I saw an entry on capitalizing subcategories on a webpage, and the direction was not to capitalize them. However, what about when you are describing a page or section of a website? For example, if an article mentions that readers should visit the "stories" page on a website, should I capitalize the word stories? And, does it require quotations? We've started pointing to pages in lieu of long URLs and I want to be sure we are referencing them correctly. Thanks! – from Colorado Springs, Colo. on Mon, Aug 29, 2016

A. Stylebook entries referencing website pages don't capitalize these common terms. Quotation marks enclosing a page name provide emphasis, though probably aren't needed in most cases.

Q. When using a timeline of numerals in a sentence, should you say, for example, eight-to-ten days, eight-to-10 days or 8-to-10 days? – from Harrah, Okla. on Mon, Aug 29, 2016

A. In AP usage, eight to 10 days.

Q. He was reunited with his brothers in arms, or with his brothers-an-arms? – from Tokyo on Sun, Aug 28, 2016

A. The first phrase is correct.

Q. Labor and delivery services - hyphenated or no? I feel like it wouldn't be confused without, but it is a compound modifier, I suppose. Eh? – from Mount Pleasant, S.C. on Sun, Aug 28, 2016

A. No hyphens.

Q. Corporate-speak drives me crazy! You? How do you feel about "role model" used as a verb? – from Sugar Land, Texas on Fri, Aug 26, 2016

A. Stick with role model (n.). The gerund role modeling works in some phrasing.

Q. In this phrase -- Knowing Dad%uFFFFs death was imminent -- should be uppercase or lowercase? – from Chicago on Fri, Aug 26, 2016

A. Dad is capitalized only when it substitutes for a name in a form of address: Hi, Dad!

Q. America's railroads are updating signal systems in preparation for positive train control technology, as required by the federal government. I've seen positive train control lowercased and uppercased in various publications. Is it a proper name or a general term? What say you? – from Lincoln, Nebraska on Fri, Aug 26, 2016

A. The preference in AP stories is lowercase positive train control, or PTC in follow-ups.

Q. Do you use caps on both sides of a hyphen? Web-Based (in a title) and Web-based if term used as a bullet point or at the start of a sentence? – from , Birmingham, Ala. on Fri, Aug 26, 2016

A. In an AP headline, it's web-based. Capitalize the W as the first word in a headline or bullet point.

Q. Two academic programs are titled "officially" as follows by a university: Urban and Regional Studies, MA; Construction Management, BS. If AP was writing a story about those two programs, would they be referred to as the university's master's program in urban and regional studies and its bachelor's program in construction management? – from Mankato, Minn. on Fri, Aug 26, 2016

A. Correct.

Q. Is there an apostrophe in Administrative Professionals Day? – from Steamboat Springs, Colo. on Fri, Aug 26, 2016

A. Based on internet references, no apostrophe in Administrative Professionals Day.

Q. In the following sentence, is the comma after the state name correct? Should the comma always follow the state name, or are there instances where it would be acceptable to leave the comma out. Jeff graduated from Waldorf College in Forest City, Iowa, in 1975 with a liberal arts degree. – from Charlotte, N.C. on Fri, Aug 26, 2016

A. The comma after the state name is correct. If the state name in a city-state reference ends a sentence, use a period instead of a comma.

Q. Hi! I am confused about "a while" and "awhile" in the term "been a while." I found an example of "been awhile" in this section confirmed by the AP editor as correct. So I used that spelling and was told by a work colleague that I was wrong. Can you please confirm that "been awhile" is correct? Thank you! – from Akron, Ohio on Fri, Aug 26, 2016

A. Use awhile for the adverb: He plans to stay awhile. The noun is while: I haven't seen you for a while. While is also a conjunction: The walls are green, while the ceiling is white.

Q. I work for an international company and many times proper nouns contain the symbol %uFFFFt of respect for last names or locations containing %uFFFF example S%uFFFF, Denmark), I have been including that symbol in our global publications. Please let me know what the AP stance is on that. Thanks! Larry O'Reilly, a long time AP user – from Johnstown, Pa. on Fri, Aug 26, 2016

A. AP doesn't transmit the capitol O with the slash and the lowercase o with a slash. However, we accept that others have the capability to use these letters.

Q. Does an organization have Ends Policies, Bylaws, and a Mission (statement); or ends policies, bylaws, and a mission? – from Montpelier, Vt. on Fri, Aug 26, 2016

A. AP would spell those terms lowercase and without a comma after bylaws in the series.

Q. My class has found conflicting AP entries for Coca-Cola. Is proper reference to the company The Coca-Cola Co. the Coca-Cola Co. Coca-Cola Co. without "the"? Does the way the company name is used make a difference? The sentence we were correcting includes a list of companies. The sentence follows: Olsen cites the national corporations that have regional offices in the community, including Coca-Cola Co., ConAgra Food Inc., Dell Inc., MedLife Inc. and Whirlpool Corp. – from Littleton, Colo. on Thu, Aug 25, 2016

A. The "company names" guidance is that if "The" is part of the formal company name it should be included: The Coca-Cola Co. However, the product names are Coca-Cola and Coke without the capitalized definite article.

Q. Any guidance on "wrist slap"? "Wrist-slap"? – from North Providence, R.I. on Thu, Aug 25, 2016

A. Based on usage in AP news archives, wrist slap is preferred.

Q. It would be much easier for individual newspapers to abide by the Associated Press style rule on "firm" if more stories that move on the AP wires were written correctly. AP says the use of "firm" is pretty much limited to a law or architectural office, yet we routinely see AP stories referring to huge companies and corporations as "firms." Sure, it's dandy for writing a headline in a tight count, but it's ridiculously inaccurate. Can you get the word out at the Associated Press? – from Omaha, Neb. on Thu, Aug 25, 2016

A. Yes, definitely worth a reminder.

Q. Would it be "stop-arm violation" or "stop arm violation" in reference to passing a stopped school bus? – from High Point, N.C. on Thu, Aug 25, 2016

A. AP news archives show a preference for stop arm when the term is used alone in connection with school buses. It shouldn't require a hyphen when used with violations, though some localities seem to favor the hyphenated spelling, based on spellings in some AP stories.

Q. How would you refer to the state a college or university is in? For example, would you say "Syracuse (N.Y.) University" or "Syracuse University, N.Y."? Thank you! – from Alexandria, Va. on Thu, Aug 25, 2016

A. Generally the city-state locality follows the school name: Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York.

Q. I know that Swiss, as in Swiss cheese, would be capitalized. Would it be capitalized in turkey and swiss as well, when referring to a particular type of sandwich? – from Charlotte, N.C. on Thu, Aug 25, 2016

A. Yes: a turkey and Swiss sandwich.

Q. How should the term "home-gating" (i.e. a tailgating party at home) appear? With a hyphen or not? – from Chicago on Thu, Aug 25, 2016

A. The term doesn't appear in the AP news archives. Usage on the internet might provide you with guidance.

Q. Good Day, another garden question. When referring to the disease that affects roots, it is "root rot", "root-rot" or "rootrot"? Many thanks again! – from Phoenix on Thu, Aug 25, 2016

A. AP stories use root rot.

Q. Good Day, we're working on a garden story and would like to know, is the proper terminology for the mass of roots below ground level of a plant spelled "root ball" or "rootball"? It's not anywhere in AP, nor an any of the usual gardening sites agree on a common spelling. Thanks! – from Phoenix on Thu, Aug 25, 2016

A. It's root ball in AP stories.

Q. Question about punctuating an indirect question within a sentence: What should be of greater concern to the USSF is, How will it address the legal and societal implications of the pay disparity in 2017 and beyond? Comma after the "is" and capitalize "how"? – from Omaha, Neb. on Thu, Aug 25, 2016

A. The "comma" entry says no comma at the start of an indirect or partial quotation.

Q. Can "medicine" be used as a singular or plural? ie., Which is correct: The study will look at medicines that are recommended by the American Diabetes Association. OR The study will look at medicine that is recommended by the American Diabetes Association. – from Bloomington, Minn. on Thu, Aug 25, 2016

A. The study will look at medicines ...

Q. Should hurricane hunters be capped when referring to either the planes or the crews of the planes? – from St. Paul, Minn. on Thu, Aug 25, 2016

A. AP stories generally use lowercase spellings for hurricane hunter aircraft.

Q. What is the style when rounding percentages? If a percentage is 10.575 percent, Do you say 10 percent or 11 percent? Or do you include decimal points. – from Honolulu on Wed, Aug 24, 2016

A. Probably 10.5 percent to round off. Decimals shouldn't exceed two places in most cases within texts. See "decimal units" for guidelines.

Q. How do website names get styled? "CivilEats" or "Civil Eats" (for civileats[dot]com)? What if their urls don't match their company names, e.g. Dynamo (for WeAreDynamo[dot]com)? Thanks. – from Bainbridge Island, Wash. on Wed, Aug 24, 2016

A. Follow the spelling of the website: ...

Q. Hi, I have an Olympics question (which is a bit late as the Rio Games are already finished), but can I assume, following on from advice here ( that the style for the next games is "2020 Tokyo" and not "Tokyo 2020," despite the local Olympic Organizing Committee naming itself Tokyo 2020 ( – from Tokyo on Wed, Aug 24, 2016

A. In AP usage, the year precedes the city name in Olympic host reference: 2020 Tokyo Olympics. We avoid the marketing practice of placing the year after the city.

Q. When referring to the FDA's emergency use authorization (EUA) of clinical tests (such as a test for the Zika virus) or a medical device, is the phrase, "emergency use authorization" capitalized or no? – from Rochester, Minn. on Wed, Aug 24, 2016

A. AP stories spell that term lowercase. Rather than using an unfamiliar abbreviation, it's clearer as the authorization on second reference.

Q. How would AP spell the interjection for when something smells bad or stinks? The one that sounds like "pew" or "pyoo." – from Bloomington, Ind. on Wed, Aug 24, 2016

A. Go with the dictionary's spelling: phew.

Q. Do you capitalize city when referring to a specific city like you do City Council when you are referring to a specific City Council on second reference? – from Pekin, Ill. on Wed, Aug 24, 2016

A. Yes, see the "city council" entry for guidance.

Q. AP style says to retain British spelling in to match formal British titles (e.g., Regional Resource Centre for Asia and the Pacific), but to use American spelling in general usage. What if the formal title and generic usage are in close proximity? For example: The Regional Resource Centre is a center/centre of global activity... – from Chevy Chase, MD on Wed, Aug 24, 2016

A. Try a synonym for the generic reference: hub, nucleus or focal point.

Q. We're debating the proper preposition (if any) to use in this phrase: " make your experience in working with ABC exceptional." " make your experience working with ABC exceptional." " make your experience of working with ABC exceptional." Which one is correct? – from Washington on Wed, Aug 24, 2016

A. I'd opt for the second.

Q. Hi, The George Washington Univeristy captitalizes "The" in its name. Should that be retained? For example: "...she is a professor at The George Washington Univeristy" or "...she is a professor at George Washington University." Thank you. – from Washington on Wed, Aug 24, 2016

A. AP doesn't use the capitalized article for schools: ... she is a professor at George Washington University.

Q. How do you form the plural of a name ending in a silent X, such as Devereaux? – from Salina, Kan. on Wed, Aug 24, 2016

A. Based on internet usage in family references, add "s" for the simple plural: Devereauxs.

Q. How would we hyphenate a two-word state that is part of a compound modifier? For example, "New Jersey-based nonprofit" versus "New-Jersey-based nonprofit." – from Sacramento, Calif. on Wed, Aug 24, 2016

A. The first is correct: New Jersey-based nonprofit.

Q. What's the style for counter space and countertop? One word or two? – from Portland, Ore. on Wed, Aug 24, 2016

A. AP news stories prefer countertop, counter space.

Q. When you are writing about the floors of a building, should you use "third" or "3rd"? – from MARION, Ark. on Wed, Aug 24, 2016

A. It's third floor, forth floor, etc., spelling ordinals under 10th.

Q. In the following sentence, is the use "their" correct? Or, should the sentence be reworked to avoid confusion with subject and verb agreement. Every one of our clients receives a customized program that meets their unique facility and budget needs, allowing you and your administration to focus on your core task of education. – from Charlotte, N.C. on Wed, Aug 24, 2016

A. Drop "their" and substitute "the" for the second "your": Every one of our clients receives a customized program that meets unique facility and budget needs, allowing you and your administration to focus on the core task of education.

Q. How do you write 3 and a half hours? What is spelled out and what isn't? Are there hyphens anywhere? – from West Palm Beach, Fla. on Wed, Aug 24, 2016

A. Use numerals for the mixed number: We needed 3 1/2 hours to drive home.

Q. helping provide or helping to provide? – from Winter Park, Fla. on Tue, Aug 23, 2016

A. The second is preferred.

Q. Can you start a headline with a numbers? Example: 872 citations for seat belt, child restraint in July – from Grafton, N.D. on Tue, Aug 23, 2016

A. Yes. The "headlines" entry says use numerals in headlines for all but casual uses, such as the word hundreds.

Q. The examples for using numbers does not give an example for "length of time" in years vs. age, that I could find. Would this "5" be spelled out, since it is below 10, or should I use a number: "Once we identify those partnerships greater than five years, ......" – from Lake Mary, Fla. on Tue, Aug 23, 2016

A. In AP usage, years under 10 in that context are spelled out: five years. However, use figures for ages: a 5-year-old girl and a boy, 7.

Q. Is it "SoCal" or "So Cal" and is it correct to lowercase "chief physician executive" in this example: He accepted the position of chief physician executive for the SoCal service area. – from Riverside , Calif. on Tue, Aug 23, 2016

A. It's Southern California as a region. The title is correctly spelled lowercase.

Q. Principle Display Panel (front label) requirements: Should this be Principal rather than Principle? What message do your current offerings send to your employees? Should this be "What message does your current offering send to your employees?" – from Charlotte, N.C. on Tue, Aug 23, 2016

A. It's principal display panel. What message does ...

Q. do you lowercase titles after name – from , on Tue, Aug 23, 2016

A. Correct, with only a few exceptions such as CEO.

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