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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. With religious titles, do you spell out Brother and Sister and capitalize? Or can you abbreviate Bro. and Sis.? – from Chicago on Fri, Oct 28, 2016

A. Spell out and capitalize Sister preceding the name of a nun and Brother preceding the name of a member of a religious order that uses the title.

Q. Is it always rain forest? For example, would it be rainforest sounds or rain-forest sounds? – from Yonkers, N.Y. on Fri, Oct 28, 2016

A. Deferring to the dictionary's primary spelling, which is rainforest.

Q. When writing about the names of races or ethnicities, I know we capitalize Hispanic, Asian, and so on. I also know we use lowercase for white and black, but what about caucasian? Should that be capitalized? – from Charlotte, N.C. on Fri, Oct 28, 2016

A. Yes, the Stylebook's capitalized spelling is Caucasian.

Q. Dear Editor, we would like to know how to handle references to the Iranian Labour News Agency, ILNA. In AP copy, we find it mostly as Iran's semi-official ILNA news agency. The "NA" in the acronym stands for news agency, so it seems redundant to add this spelled out. We have been spelling it out as Iranian Labour News Agency on first reference, but then we wonder if we should use "Labor" for our US-based audience. Your thoughts please. – from New York on Fri, Oct 28, 2016

A. On occasions when AP used the full name, stories used the American spelling: Iranian Labor News Agency. Currently in AP stories from Tehran, it's the semiofficial ILNA news agency, and ILNA in subsequent references.

Q. I was recently told that new rules were released regarding date spans. The new rule indicates using a hyphen is no longer the preferred style to reflect a date span. Can you please confirm? Most FAQs reflect a hyphen with date spans but I was told this update was released in June. Also, if printing a brochure that will span between EDT and EST, is it permissible to use ET instead? – from Glen Saint Mary, Fla. on Thu, Oct 27, 2016

A. Date spans in the current year are usually expressed with hyphens: Nov. 7-8, Dec. 19-26. The "time zones" entry spells out Eastern time zone and Eastern time for short forms. In AP stories, ET is often used in reference to TV programming.

Q. Given the new use of "refresh" for computers, is it appropriate to say "Our homepage is getting a refresh"? – from Glendale, Calif. on Thu, Oct 27, 2016

A. Probably a makeover, revision or update would be more accurate.

Q. Is it south tower of the World Trade Center or South Tower of the World Trade Center? – from florida on Thu, Oct 27, 2016

A. It's generally lowercase in AP stories: south tower of the World Trade Center.

Q. How do I write "He is the #1 player in the league?" Write it out as "number one" or leave as is? I need to make a list after a colon. Each list will contain a brief description. Can I use bullets or dashes only? Thanks – from florida on Thu, Oct 27, 2016

A. He is the No. 1 player in the league. See IN LISTS section of the "dash" entry for AP's guideline.

Q. When the word company does not refer to a business, but rather to a group of musicians or dancers, is it still abbreviated Co. on first reference? – from Washington, D.C. on Thu, Oct 27, 2016

A. Spell out company in referring to a performing group.

Q. Is it baby-proof, babyproof or babyproof? Thank you! – from , on Thu, Oct 27, 2016

A. Usually baby-proof in AP stories, though the term is sometimes two separate words without a hyphen, as used in book title.

Q. Is it same-store sales or same store sales? – from Thornton, Colo. on Thu, Oct 27, 2016

A. Business stores hyphenate same-store sales.

Q. Is the word "on" necessary in regards to dates if it doesn't immediately follow a proper noun or number? For example, "The team captured the regional title Oct. 22" or "I'll be in the city Nov. 1," but "The Cubs will win the World Series on Oct. 30." – from Crystal Lake, Ill. on Thu, Oct 27, 2016

A. Correct. See the "on" entry for further guidance.

Q. For cities that stand alone in datelines, do they also stand alone within the story? For example, She lived alone in her home located in Phoenix. OR She lived alone in her home located in Phoenix, Arizona. Which is correct? – from Casper, Wyo. on Wed, Oct 26, 2016

A. No state name is necessary in the body of a story if it is the same as the dateline. In your case, Phoenix stands alone in both the dateline and text.

Q. Merriam-Webster sites "carryover" as one word as a noun and as two words ("carry over") in verb form. How should it be used in adjective form? I'm tempted to hyphenate it but am not sure if that's correct (i.e. carry-over legislation). – from San Francisco on Wed, Oct 26, 2016

A. It's one word as a modifier, also known as an adjunct noun: carryover legislation.

Q. Should problem solver be hyphenated? – from Raleigh, N.C. on Wed, Oct 26, 2016

A. The Stylebook entry is problem-solving. By extension, problem-solver could be hyphenated. However, usage varies in AP stories, varying between unhyphenated and hyphenated spellings, probably influenced by the context.

Q. When do you use conform "to" versus conform "with" or can they be used interchangeably? My sentence is: The lawyers wrote this to conform with Texas law. – from Austin, Texas on Wed, Oct 26, 2016

A. The prepositions are used interchangeably in similar formulation in AP stories.

Q. What is AP style for b-to-b (business-to-business) and b-to-c (business-to-consumer)? Thank you! Kate – from Fort Collins, Colo. on Tue, Oct 25, 2016

A. AP stories spell out business to business. It's hyphenated as a modifier: business-to-business relationships.

Q. My company has been using the phrase "most trusted business partner" a lot lately %uFFFF should "most trusted" be hyphenated in this case? – from Portland, Ore. on Tue, Oct 25, 2016

A. AP stories generally don't hyphenate most trusted.

Q. Is it mother to be or mother-to-be? – from Ramsey, N.J. on Tue, Oct 25, 2016

A. AP stories prefer expectant mother.

Q. In references to the national legislature of Venezuela, should "congress" be capitalized -- that is, Venezuelan Congress? – from Washington on Tue, Oct 25, 2016

A. It's lowercase congress in AP stories from Venezuela.

Q. I've seen people start using the word "Latin@" as a gender-neutral reference to persons with Latin American Heritage. What does the AP recommend? – from Columbia, Mo. on Tue, Oct 25, 2016

A. AP news archives don't show that term. The @ symbol may not transmit through all computer systems, or could appear as (at).

Q. Which is correct..."to have a lasting impact in people%uFFFFs lives" or "to have a lasting impact on people%uFFFFs lives" – from , Millwood, Va. on Tue, Oct 25, 2016

A. The dictionary entry says it's usually "impact on" for lasting effect.

Q. Should there be a comma between a month and year when no specific date is referenced, e.g., May 1947 or May, 1947? – from Irvine, Calif. on Tue, Oct 25, 2016

A. No comma in May 1947.

Q. Zombies ... are they a "who" or a "that"? Example sentence: The parade features zombies who/that sneak up on the moviegoers. – from Chicago on Tue, Oct 25, 2016

A. Who is the pronoun for references to human beings, portrayers of zombies included.

Q. Is someone in the "driver's seat" or the "drivers seat" if things are going their way? – from West Lafayette, Ind. on Tue, Oct 25, 2016

A. It's the driver's seat by the dictionary spelling.

Q. The archive shows no answers for this question: when to use single quotation marks? Should new product names be enclosed in single quotation marks? – from Chicago on Tue, Oct 25, 2016

A. Per the "quotation marks" entry, use single quotation marks for quotes within quotes. Also, single quotes are used in headlines. Product names or brands are capitalized but aren't enclosed in quotes.

Q. I know "trick or treat" isn't hyphenated when standing alone, but what about as a modifier? "Trick-or-treat hours begin at 4 p.m." – from Crystal Lake, Ill. on Tue, Oct 25, 2016

A. The traditional greeting, trick or treat, isn't hyphenated. However, nouns and modifiers are hyphenated, including treat-or-treat hours.

Q. Is it 55 years' experience or 55 years experience? – from Boston on Tue, Oct 25, 2016

A. It's 55 years' experience, using the QUASI POSSESSIVES guidance in the "possessives" entry.

Q. Your answer to "stock out or stock-out" was "Do you mean out of stock? Not familiar with the term as you spell it." Stock out/stock-out is used extensively in the business publication world to mean out of stock. It's often hard to quote somebody in this field without using stock out/stock-out. In supply chain/logistics, it also can mean inventory shortfall arising from unexpected demand. Which version should we use? – from Norcross, Ga. on Tue, Oct 25, 2016

A. The news archive shows one hyphenated usage: a national stock-out.

Q. Is a comma necessary in the following sentence (assuming rewriting is not an option)? "The winner will receive four, one-day passes." – from Crystal Lake, Ill. on Mon, Oct 24, 2016

A. ... four one-day passes.

Q. Are titles of magazines, tv shows and movies italicized, surrounded by quotation marks or remain as is? What about titles of articles from a magazine? – from florida on Mon, Oct 24, 2016

A. Titles of magazines are capitalized but not enclosed in quotes. Titles of TV shows and movies are capitalized and enclosed in quotes. AP doesn't use italics in news stories.

Q. I'm wondering about using MLB. Under the abbreviations entry in the sports section, it says MLB is acceptable. However, in an Ask the Editor question in 2014, the suggestion is to spell out the organization name first. Please clarify for me the AP's most recent stance so I can settle a debate with my editor. Thank you. – from Henderson, Nev. on Mon, Oct 24, 2016

A. In the 2015 Stylebook, MLB was added to the "abbreviations" entry in Sports Guidelines, meaning acceptable in all uses. At the time of the 2014 query, Major League Baseball was generally spelled out on first reference in AP stories. That Q&A will be updated to show the change. Thanks for pointing it out.

Q. Medicare has a star rating system for rating programs and a dual eligible program wherein select individuals quality for Medicare and Medicaid. Should "star rating" and "dual eligible" be in title case, or is it acceptable to keep them in sentence case? Thank you! – from New York on Mon, Oct 24, 2016

A. While Medicare and Medicaid are capitalized, explanatory terms like star rating and dual eligible are lowercase in AP usage.

Q. Which is the correct spelling for the city in Israel: Beer-Sheva, Beersheba or Be'er Sheva? – from , Louisville, Ky. on Mon, Oct 24, 2016

A. AP stories from Israel and elsewhere use Beersheba, in line with the dictionary spelling.

Q. Would you hyphenate guitar-playing? E.g. He was known for his delicate guitar-playing. – from Tokyo on Sun, Oct 23, 2016

A. No hyphen needed in that phrasing.

Q. Do you "Quotations in the News" guidelines apply to written material, such as that in press releases, official statements and the like? Often, other organizations do not follow AP style in regard to, well, anything, including abbreviations, capitalization, spelling out numbers or using numerals, and punctuation, such as hyphens, quotes or a space before and after the ellipses. Same with quoting the written material of other current news sources, such as magazines or websites, or things like tweets and Facebook posts. I don't think we should be changing a written quote, even if it's just a lowercase letter vs. an uppercase one, but then, if the same term appears in our story elsewhere, as it often does, it may be confusing to readers. Often you say to just avoid the situation, but in many cases we can't. – from Boston on Sun, Oct 23, 2016

A. Yes, that guidance applies to most press releases and other written material. However, quotations from historical documents, such as the wording of the Constitution, are rendered as written. Direct spoken quotes aren't changed. The "(sic)" entry provides guidance on handling quotes that include spelling errors, incorrect grammar and the like.

Q. student-athlete or student-athlete – from Corpus Christie, Texas on Sun, Oct 23, 2016

A. AP hyphenates student-athlete.

Q. How should I refer to a Ph.D. student? Since doctorate is preferred, would I say doctoral student? – from Bellingham, Wash. on Sun, Oct 23, 2016

A. The usual phrasing is a person studying for a doctorate in whatever academic field, or a doctoral candidate in that discipline.

Q. When editing sports writing, is there a hyphen in walk off, is it one word, or is there a space? – from Burlington, Vt. on Sat, Oct 22, 2016

A. The adjective is hyphenated: a walk-off homer to clinch the division. However, the verb isn't hyphenated: He couldn't walk off under his own power.

Q. Hello, I have two questions: 1. Does the S and the G in "A season of gratitude" need to be capitalized? 2. Do I need to put the title after the word Chancellor. Example: Chancellor Jon Doe and his wife Deborah Doe invite you to OR is it Chancellor, Jon Doe, Ph.D. and his wife Deborah Doe invite you... This is the Chancellor's invitation to his holiday reception. Let me know. Thank you. – from Riverside, Calif. on Fri, Oct 21, 2016

A. 1. Use lowercase spellings. 2. Chancellor Jon Doe and his wife, Deborah, invite you to ... There's no need to include the academic title. But if you do, set off the abbreviation with commas after the name: Chancellor Jon Doe, Ph.D., and his wife, Deborah, ... Also, Deborah suffices if she uses the same surname as her husband.

Q. Is it acceptable to say,when talking about American football, "scoring the winning goal with only 30 seconds left in the game!" as opposed to saying, "scoring the winning touchdown with only 30 seconds left in the game!" That is, should touchdown always be used when referring to a 6-point scoring? – from San Jose, Calif. on Fri, Oct 21, 2016

A. Use touchdown for American football. The winning goal is used for soccer, hockey and other sports.

Q. Thank you for the confirmation that no degree should be listed after people's names who have honorary doctorates. However, I should have asked if anything at all should be placed after their name, if we are putting their names at the top of a bio, such as John Doe, honorary doctorate of chemistry, or Joe Doe, honorary doctorate of chemistry from Harvard. The explanation under honorary degrees only says the following: All references to honorary degrees should specify that the degree was honorary. Do not use Dr. before the name of an individual whose only doctorate is honorary. – from Reseach Triangle Par, N.C. on Fri, Oct 21, 2016

A. You could list the honorary degree in that form, but earned academic degrees are more appropriate to start a bio, with the honorary degree placed lower in the profile.

Q. Is AP's style anti-oxident? – from Secaucus, N.J. on Fri, Oct 21, 2016

A. Deferring to the dictionary's unhyphenated spelling: antioxidant. It's preferred in AP stories.

Q. For an honorary doctorate, I found a recommendation for wording that can be used in text. However, is a Ph.D. placed after their name, if their name is at the top of a bio? I assume not, since it was not an earned degree, but I couldn't find confirmation of this anywhere. – from Reseach Triangle Par, N.C. on Fri, Oct 21, 2016

A. No. See "honorary degrees" entry.

Q. Test bed or testbed? One or two words? – from San Diego on Fri, Oct 21, 2016

A. The preference in AP usage is test bed, two words.

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