Ask the Editor

Forgot your password? | Lost Username?

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.

Not a subscriber? AP Stylebook Online subscribers can:

  • View the entire archive -- 20,471 answered questions and counting!
  • Submit questions to Ask the Editor
  • Search the complete Ask the Editor archive
  • View listings by categories (such as abbreviations, capitalization, figures, numerals, titles, etc.)

Annual subscriptions start at $26/year for individuals. Subscribe now or learn more.

Ask the Editor questions from the past week:

Q. Should I put a yearbook theme in quotation marks? e.g. The yearbook staff has decided that 'There's Just Something' will be the theme for this year's Lair. – from Shawnee, Kansas on Fri, Oct 24, 2014

A. Yes, but enclose the theme in double quotation marks.

Q. Do famous artists, writers, etc. need full names on first reference, such as Monet? Can't find the answer in the "artworks" section or in any search. Thanks much. – from Manchester , Mo. on Fri, Oct 24, 2014

A. While first names are sometimes omitted from surname listings of renowned artists, AP stories generally include the given names for clarity.

Q. Regarding how to indicate an academic degree, your answers on Sept. 19 and Aug. 22 of this year are conflicting. One says "Bachelor's in public health," the other says, "master's degree in philosophy." Which is it? Is the degree capitalized in this construction or not? – from Gary, Indiana on Fri, Oct 24, 2014

A. Within a sentence it should be bachelor's in public health, master's degree in philosophy. I've corrected the Sept 19 answer. Thanks.

Q. In a quote, does "like" get treated as a verb, such as "and I was like, 'What are you doing?'" What kind of punctuation does it receive? – from Bainbridge Island, Wash. on Fri, Oct 24, 2014

A. In colloquial speech, like combined with a verb -- usually a form of "to be" -- is used to introduce a direct quotation. In your example, the comma after like is correct as you have it.

Q. I am proofing a college recruitment booklet the headline on The headline on the first page is shown below - I'm uncomfortable with the use of punctuation - it also appears to be a run-on phrase - do you agree? What happens when you bring together a thousand eager students from around the world, 40 student-run organizations, 18 sports teams, 150 champion quality horses%uFFFD and then introduce the spark of simple curiosity, a daily dose of compassion, and a strong belief that every human needs a sense of purpose? Friendships form. Students find independence, room to roam, and the chance to resolve conflict and work together. Solid ground gets established. And people flourish. – from pittsburgh, Pa. on Fri, Oct 24, 2014

A. Rather than a traditional headline, it seems to be an introductory passage written with a bit of magazine-style literary license: a run-on sentence and fragments. The phrasing is no doubt intentional and has a certain eye-catching effect. You might raise your concerns with the editors.

Q. Would "world-changing generosity" or "world changing generosity" be correct? – from Indianapolis on Fri, Oct 24, 2014

A. As a modifier preceding a noun, world-changing is hyphenated in AP stories. As an aside, I'd be cautious about a term that may stray into overstatement.

Q. Earnings per share and net sales are both singular, correct? Doesn't seem to be a definitive guide in APStyle, and companies seems to handle it inconsistently. Singular seems right, but sounds wrong. Earnings per share is / Earnings per share are? – from Canton, Ohio on Fri, Oct 24, 2014

A. Both are plural, but the first can be expressed with the singular: e.g., earnings of 21 cents per share.

Q. Is it acceptable to abbreviate a basketball player's position? The position point guard has already been used previously in the story for a player, and now I have a writer introducing a new player as "All-Star Clippers PG Chris Paul." Should it be written out, or is it OK as it is? Thank you. – from Portland, Ore. on Fri, Oct 24, 2014

A. PG and other basketball position abbreviations are used in headlines. Within the story, however, the position is written out.

Q. Are "videotaped" and "videotaping" terms limited exclusively to images actually captured on film, or is that term that's also acceptable for digital filming? – from austin, Texas on Thu, Oct 23, 2014

A. Yes, for images captured on tape. The Stylebook entry says video recording is the precise term for digital audio and visual recording. Digital has largely replaced videotaping.

Q. Per the rule, set off the day with a comma in a full date, would this be correct? For the three and nine months ended September 30, 2014, and 2013, respectively. – from , Tulsa, Okla. on Thu, Oct 23, 2014

A. It's confusing as written. Specify the full end dates for both three months and nine months. Also, the month is abbreviated in both dates: Sept.

Q. Do I need to insert commas in the following sentence after the word entitled, and within the end of the quotation marks? Accordingly, the paragraph on page 17 of the Information Statement entitled %uFFFDAccounts are not Separate from AJB%uFFFDs Assets%uFFFD is hereby deleted. – from Elgin, Ill. on Thu, Oct 23, 2014

A. No commas. The paragraph title is essential information and shouldn't be set off.

Q. Hello. In this sentence, "Many parents or guardians work more than one job to provide a good future for their children," a couple of questions. "Children" is correct because the parents/guardians collectively have children even though some may be parents/guardians of only one child? And would you say "provide good futures" because of the plural "children"? Could you also explain the rule that would cover when to use plural nouns? Thanks much. – from Tustin, Calif. on Thu, Oct 23, 2014

A. A good future is correct in the sense of parents working to provide the opportunity for their children to achieve success and satisfaction in life. The plural futures more often refers to contracts in commodity trading.

Q. As a compound modifier preceding a noun, would "best quality" be hyphenated? – from San Diego on Thu, Oct 23, 2014

A. Yes, often is hyphenated in that adjective usage. As a noun, though, it's best quality.

Q. Hi - what would be the proper use of the article in this case- a or an: An LEO is responsible for reporting the incident. or A LEO is responsible for reporting the incident. Thanks! – from East Greenbush, N.Y. on Thu, Oct 23, 2014

A. A LEO is responsible ...

Q. Is it "Ebola Virus Disease" or "Ebola virus disease"? The CDC website spells it "Ebola Virus Disease," but other sites such as WHO's, spells it "Ebola virus disease." – from CA on Thu, Oct 23, 2014

A. In AP stories, it's often Ebola alone. If used with Ebola or in a separate explanation virus and disease are lowercase.

Q. What title does one use for Pope Benedict XVI now that he is retired? – from , Ohio on Thu, Oct 23, 2014

A. He's Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI or Benedict XVI, the pope emeritus. Benedict alone on second reference. The explanation is in the "pope" entry of the online Stylebook.

Q. If "do's" is part of a header, and you want to cap the D, do you also cap the O? E.g. "Spokesperson DO's" or "Spokesperson Do's?" Thank you. – from Chicago on Wed, Oct 22, 2014

A. No.

Q. For NCAA divisions, should they be referred to as Division I, II, III or Div. I, II, III? – from Santa Cruz, , Calif. on Wed, Oct 22, 2014

A. Division I, Division II and Division III.

Q. In our region, we see a lot of stories with killer whales, or orcas, called whales. Our understanding is that they are not whales, but dolphins and part of the Delphinidae (dolphin) family. Can you clarify? – from Tacoma, Wash. on Wed, Oct 22, 2014

A. Yes, killer whales or orcas are more closely related to dolphins than to whale species, according to encyclopedia descriptions.

Q. "In" or "on" social media? As in, "a trend gains traction [in/on] social media..." Thank you! – from Boston on Wed, Oct 22, 2014

A. Either preposition is used. Probably comes down to writer's preference in a given context.

Q. I'm writing a press release and am wording the titles this way in two separate paragraphs: said NAME, COMPANY%uFFFDS President and Chief Financial Officer. said NAME, Chief Product Officer and co-founder. These are both technically titles. I know to spell out chief financial/product officer rather than use the abbreviations because they're both the first references of each. From what I can tell, co-founder is lowercase. Should president be lowercase? What about "chief ___ officer?" – from San Francisco on Wed, Oct 22, 2014

A. Lowercase formal titles and co-founder following the individual's name:... said NAME, COMPANY president and chief financial officer... said NAME, chief product officer and co-founder.

Q. Is it a Voter Guide or Voters Guide or Voter's Guide or Voters' Guide? Thanks. – from Allentown , Pa. on Wed, Oct 22, 2014

A. AP stories favor voter guide.

Q. Is it money-back guarantee or money back guarantee. It seems plenty clear w/o the hyphen, so I'd say it's the latter. – from Chandler, Ariz. on Wed, Oct 22, 2014

A. Businesses spell the term either way. AP stories are also split on usage. It's not in the dictionary or the AP Stylebook. Go with your preference.

Q. "What is the preferred form: 'he has more than 24 years' experience' or 'he has more than 24 years of experience' ?" – from Minneapolis on Wed, Oct 22, 2014

A. Either is acceptable. I prefer the second.

Q. On a flier for a health care event, would you say mini health seminars or mini-health seminars? Thanks! – from Kansas City, Mo. on Wed, Oct 22, 2014

A. ... miniseminars on health care.

Q. Does AP have a rule or guideline for multi-line paragraphs related to having one word on the last line (line runt)? – from Elgin, Ill. on Wed, Oct 22, 2014

A. AP news stories are automatically justified by a user's software. This may result in line runts. We don't see this as a big problem.

Q. Hello, your entry on blond/blonde below confuses me, could you please clarify when one would use blonde as a noun for females? "blond, blonde Use blond as a noun for males and as an adjective for all applications: She has blond hair. Use blonde as a noun for females." – from Detroit on Wed, Oct 22, 2014

A. In an AP story on the late Joan Rivers: The raspy-voiced blonde with the brash New York accent was a TV talk show host, stage, film and TV actress ...

Q. I am copy editing an article for the dining section and came across this%uFFFDcyber sous chef. Since we do not treat cyber as a word omits own would do either of the following: cybersous chef or cyber-sous? Help – from Orysia, New York City, N.Y. on Wed, Oct 22, 2014

A. Try sous-chef in cyberspace.

Q. The AP stylebook doesn't seem to address this one question re: headlines. Does one capitalize a preposition that is four letters long, such "with" or "over?" Example: Americans Anxious over (or Over) Ebola I have heard that repeatedly, but cannot find it in this guide. – from , washington dc on Wed, Oct 22, 2014

A. AP headlines capitalize the first word and proper nouns, so in your example only Americans and Ebola would be uppercase. If you capitalize the primary words in a headline, prepositions of four or more letters would be uppercase.

Q. The suffix "cross" is not listed in the AP Stylebook. It appears that Webster's style may be followed on this. However, Webster's is not clear about how to use the suffix "cross" either. I'm assuming it's hyphenated, unless the unhyphenated word is found in Webster's. If this is the case, then I'm assuming it would be cross-divisional, since the nonhyphenated word is not there. Is this correct? – from RTP, N.C. on Wed, Oct 22, 2014

A. The adjective cross-divisional has been used in a few AP stories.

Q. In a headline, is the month spelled out when using a full date (January 1, 2015) or would it still be abbreviated (Jan. 1, 2015)? – from Colorado Springs, Colo. on Tue, Oct 21, 2014

A. Abbreviate the month in a headline.

Q. With all the news about the air bag recall, I've seen it spelled 'airbag' and 'air bag.' Which one is it? – from , Birmingham, Ala. on Tue, Oct 21, 2014

A. It's in the Stylebook: air bag.

Q. Should I capitalize "prosecco" since it is a location in Italy as well as a drink? – from Truckee, Calif. on Tue, Oct 21, 2014

A. The Stylebook entry is prosecco, lowercase, for the Italian sparkling wine produced in the regions of Veneto and Friuli Venezia.

Q. What is the correct job title for someone who died while holding his or her last position? Would he forever be CEO or should he be referred to as former CEO? – from Bellaire, Texas on Tue, Oct 21, 2014

A. Use the formal title in reporting the death and thereafter until a replacement is named. Thereafter, the person who died can be described as the late CEO or CEO at the time of his death.

Q. He will provide the 60 to 80 feet tall white spruce... Is this correct or would it be the 60 to 80 foot tall white spruce? – from St. Paul , Minn. on Tue, Oct 21, 2014

A. He will provide the 60- to 80-foot-tall white spruce...

Q. Hello. Does "the" need to be repeated in the names of the teams here? "The Giants and the Royals will compete in the World Series." What is the rule that would cover repeating (or not repeating) "the"? Thanks. – from Tustin, Calif. on Tue, Oct 21, 2014

A. Use the definite article when referring to the team as an entity: the Giants and the Royals squared off in the World Series. No article when the team name functions as a descriptive: Kansas City manager Ned Yost, Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner.

Q. Is "board of trustees" capitalized when following the name of the organization, e.g. Frisco ISD Board of Trustees? Or would it still be Frisco ISD board of trustees? – from Pflugerville, Texas on Tue, Oct 21, 2014

A. Lowercase board of trustees in all uses, according to the Stylebook entry.

Q. Is "before" and "after" photos in quotes? Example: Send us your "before" and "after" photos for a chance to win. – from Mesa, Ariz. on Tue, Oct 21, 2014

A. Correct.

Q. When (if ever) is it appropriate to follow a form of the verb "to be" (e.g., "is" or "are" with a colon, after which a list of bulleted points would appear ? – from Northridge, Calif. on Tue, Oct 21, 2014

A. Grammarians say a colon shouldn't separate a verb and its direct object. Thus, a colon shouldn't immediately follow a "to be" verb introducing a list.

Q. If you wanted to start a sentence with the number of touchdown passes Peyton Manning threw to break the NFL career record -- 509 -- would you spell it "Five-hundred nine"? No hyphen? – from Erie, Pa. on Tue, Oct 21, 2014

A. Five hundred and nine ...

Q. Is it "oil field" or "oilfield?" – from Brookline, MA on Tue, Oct 21, 2014

A. Two words for oil field.

Q. In a headline, should the second word of a hyphenated phrase be capitalized? (Example: "Two-headed Dog Born" or Two-Headed Dog Born?") – from Yardley, Pa. on Tue, Oct 21, 2014

A. In an all-caps headline style, the second word would likely be up. In AP headline style, it would be written: Two-headed dog born.

Q. Hello. Regarding proper identification of state lawmakers -- AP calls for the political party designation (typically D or R) and the lawmaker's actual hometown like this: Joe Blow, R-Anytown Correct? Thanks! – from Salinas, Calif. on Tue, Oct 21, 2014

A. In a short form title, state Rep. John Doe, D-Anytown.

Q. 1) Please provide at least a 24 hour notice. 2) Please provide at least a 24-hour notice. 3) Please provide at least a 24 hours' notice. 4) Please provide at least a 24-hours' notice. Also, is there any reason to use "advance notice"? Doesn't notice imply advance? Thanks. – from Webster Groves, Mo. on Tue, Oct 21, 2014

A. Please provide at least a 24-hour notice. Please provide at least 24 hours' notice. No need to add advance; notice suffices.

Q. What is the correct format for medical journals? For example, the American Medical Association%uFFFDs JAMA Internal Medicine. Should JAMA Internal Medicine be in quotes? Or italicized? – from Washington on Tue, Oct 21, 2014

A. As you have it without quotes: JAMA Internal Medicine. AP doesn't use italics in news stories.

Q. Why would communication, as a practice or field of study, have an "s" on the end? It's not the Finances Department; it's the Finance Department; so shouldn't it be Communication Department, instead of Communications Department? – from Saint Louis , Mo. on Tue, Oct 21, 2014

A. As a field of study, it's generally mass communications. Some universities have a department of communications, though others might use the singular spelling.

Q. Our agency hosts scores of programs and events for the public throughout the year. Some take place one time and last just an hour; some take place over one, two or three days and last five hours each day. When we refer to the names of these programs and events in news releases and stories, should they be in quotation marks, such as "Friday Forest Hikes," "Christmas on the Farm," "Wonders of Winter" or "Holiday Market"? What if one of them is a 5K? – from Wheaton, Ill. on Tue, Oct 21, 2014

A. Event titles or themes are generally enclosed in quotes, with primary words usually capitalized. Recurring events -- e.g., the Academy Awards -- are simply capitalized without quotes. To be enclosed in quotes, the race distance could use few words of explanation.

Q. Are there guidelines on how to list professors and/or staff on a (university) website? Should they be listed by rank or by last name? – from Omaha, Neb. on Tue, Oct 21, 2014

A. AP Stylebook doesn't have guidelines on this topic. Better check other university websites for possibilities.

Q. If a story quotes someone who is speaking in English but refers to a foreign body using its foreign name (i.e., the speaker switches to a foreign language), should the name of the organization be translated into English? – from Alexandria, La. on Tue, Oct 21, 2014

A. In a direct quote, use the speaker's words. Provide a translation of the name in a follow-up reference.

Q. The SUNY entries may be outdated because of name changes: Now that State University of New York (SUNY) at Albany has changed its name to University at Albany, State University of New York, what is the best way to refer to it? University at Albany--SUNY, or just University at Albany? Everyone still knows it as SUNY--Albany. – from Biddeford, Maine on Tue, Oct 21, 2014

A. AP stories from New York use several names on first reference, including the University of Albany and State University at Albany. SUNY Albany is another designation, with the acronym usually spelled out in a follow-up. So we haven't formalized one naming practice for all schools in the system.

Q. In relation to increased military construction on Guam, the government uses the phrase "Mamizu money" to refer to money provided by the government of Japan. We have been told "Mamizu" is Japanese for "clear water." Should Mamizu be capitalized? – from Yona, Hawaii on Mon, Oct 20, 2014

A. AP archives don't show the term. However, Guam news media reports, U.S. Navy announcements and Stars and Stripes, the U.S. armed forces newspaper, capitalize Mamizu Multiple Award Construction Contract.

Q. The roadside barrier: is it guard rail or guardrail? – from Barre, Vt. on Mon, Oct 20, 2014

A. AP stories use guardrail as spelled in the dictionary.

Q. Does AP have a style for chip and PIN standard for credit cards? – from , on Mon, Oct 20, 2014

A. PIN number, chip cards.

Q. AP style says to use Wal-Mart with a hyphen. But the company branding is Walmart without a hyphen. Is there a reason why AP says to include the hyphen? – from Washington , District of Columbia on Mon, Oct 20, 2014

A. It's the hyphenated Wal-Mart in the company's official spelling, Wal-Mart Stories Inc. The unhyphenated spelling on retail outlets proved difficult to apply in AP news stories.

Q. Jet Ski is capped as trademarked name. How about WaveRunner? Or is wave runner/wave-runner OK? If so, which one? Does AP use a generic for them? – from Chicago on Mon, Oct 20, 2014

A. The Yamaha trademark is WaveRunner as spelled in most AP stories.

Q. How do you determine the difference between a compound modifier and noun phrase? AP has many examples of noun phrases that could arguably be considered compound modifiers. – from Denver , Colo. on Mon, Oct 20, 2014

A. Dictionary and Stylebook spellings are primary determinants, along with common usage.

Q. Is "heavy duty" hyphenated when it does not precede a noun? In this case, we are listing attributes: "More heavy duty that competitors." I cannot recast. – from Mount Prospect, Ill. on Mon, Oct 20, 2014

A. Deferring to Webster's spelling: heavy-duty (adj.).

Q. Is it okay to use "our" or "ourselves"? For example: They are on a quest for knowledge about our universe. – from Washington on Mon, Oct 20, 2014

A. ... a quest for knowledge about our universe. Or, ... a quest for knowledge about ourselves.

Q. Would you need a comma when introducing a composition. Ex: Lane is the author of the book, "The Digital Divide." Shea presented a paper, "The Digital Divide," at the conference. – from , New Brunswick, N.J. on Mon, Oct 20, 2014

A. In the first sentence, the book title is essential information. Don't set it off with a comma. In the second sentence, the nonessential title of the paper is correctly set off with commas.

Q. Is it correct to say, "200 employees attended the town hall featuring the CEO"? Or is "town hall" used only as an adjective ("... attended the town hall meeting ...")? Thank you. – from Houston on Mon, Oct 20, 2014

A. The town hall meeting is more precise. If you start the sentence with the attendance figure, it should be spelled out: Two hundred employees ...

Q. We're having a discussion about whether this subject is singular or plural: Sense of taste and smell improve or improves? – from Orlando, Fla. on Mon, Oct 20, 2014

A. Better to use plural subject and verb: Senses of taste and smell improve ...

Q. Hello, I have a question and would like to know if someone can call me at 502.580.2990. Thanks. Best, Alex Kepnes – from Louisville, Ky. on Mon, Oct 20, 2014

A. Is it a style question or technical issue? If something else, please be more specific here.

Q. Are trademark symbols used in publications? Ex: Microsoft Word – from White Lake, S.D. on Mon, Oct 20, 2014

A. See the "trademark" entry for an explanation.

Q. What is the proper AP format for The ITU World Triathlon Series. I noticed many refer to it as ITU. What is the correct usage? – from Fort Lauderdale , Fla. on Sun, Oct 19, 2014

A. AP stories use ITU World Triathlon Series on first reference. International Triathlon Union should be spelled out lower in the story.

Q. Do you say Third-place podium result for triathlon results? – from Fort Lauderdale , Fla. on Sun, Oct 19, 2014

A. Placed third or finished third suffices.

Q. In a situation where a law enforcement agency is attempting to require that the officers involved in an arrest never be named %uFFFD not in a specific incident, but in all incidents involving the agency - would you agree and just cite, for example, a probable cause statement to the agency? Or would you insist on including the arresting officer's name who wrote and filed the probable cause statement? – from St. George, Utah on Sat, Oct 18, 2014

A. When relevant to the case, the arresting officer's name should be included in a news story.

All contents © copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved.