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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. Hello Editor, Would apostrophes be needed here and, if so, where should they go considering that the sharks are no longer the rightful owners of these teeth? "Midwestern visitors to Florida's west coast love to collect the prehistoric sharks' teeth that wash up on the beach. There is even an annual shark's tooth festival." – from Detroit on Sun, Jan 25, 2015

A. Florida's west coast is correct as a possessive. Also, the annual Shark's Tooth Festival in Venice uses the apostrophe, based on news references and the event's website. The other reference might be better written as prehistoric shark teeth.

Q. AP style seems to vary on terms with "yard." What is the recommended style when "yard" is combined with "rail" ... "railyard" (one word) or "rail yard" (two words)? Is there a rule? Thank you. – from Long Beach, Calif. on Sat, Jan 24, 2015

A. AP stories use two words for rail yard.

Q. Does AP have any guidance on how a "scale" of numbers should be written? For example, if you're asking someone to rate their experience based on a scale of # to #, should the smaller number be listed first and should figures be used: On a scale of 0 to 10 or On a scale of zero to 10; On a scale of 10 to 0 or On a scale of 10 to zero – on Fri, Jan 23, 2015

A. Usually it's an ascending scale with a brief explanation that the highest number is the most favorable rating.

Q. Should mobile-responsive be hyphenated: ... designed to be mobile-responsive for a more enjoyable experience. – on Fri, Jan 23, 2015

A. That term doesn't show in AP stories of recent years. An online check shows similar phrasings that aren't hyphenated.

Q. Is it 'cheesecake' or 'cheese cake'? – from Charleston, S.C. on Fri, Jan 23, 2015

A. The dictionary spelling is cheesecake.

Q. Re federal agencies: Why NASA on first reference but not NOAA? – from Washington on Fri, Jan 23, 2015

A. NASA has almost universal name recognition among the public. CIA and FBI are other agency abbreviations in that category. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is better spelled out on first reference for readers not as familiar with the name. NOAA is acceptable on second reference.

Q. Don't miss this high-energy rock and roll musical! How do I write rock and roll musical? rock-'n'-roll musical? rock-and-roll musical? rock and roll musical? – from Houston on Fri, Jan 23, 2015

A. In AP stories, it's written rock 'n' roll musical. See that Stylebook entry.

Q. Is ENT acceptable in the first reference for an ear, nose and throat specialist? – from San Antonio on Fri, Jan 23, 2015

A. Spell out that medical specialty. AP would use ENT for a medical department or clinic that uses the abbreviation. But in most cases, it should be spelled for clarity.

Q. What is the second reference for Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner: Fernandez, her birth name, or Kirchner, her late husband's name? – from Washington on Fri, Jan 23, 2015

A. In AP stories from Argentina, she's President Cristina Fernandez, and Fernandez on second reference. Some stories note that her predecessor and husband, Nestor Kirchner, died of a heart attack in 2010.

Q. It's been over a year since Ernst & Young rebranded as EY and even longer since PricewaterhouseCoopers became PwC. I see many publications still use the original names on first reference. Is this still correct? Or would something like "accounting firm EY announced" be acceptable? I do think that either the full name or a description of the firm needs to be used. – from New Jersey on Fri, Jan 23, 2015

A. AP business stories spell out those firms on first reference. The abbreviations may be used in follow-ups.

Q. I'm afraid I didn't state my question clearly the first time. I'm writing website text for a community foundation. The organization provided a grant for a performing arts group's six-week education program to be presented in a local school. When talking about this education program on the foundation's website, should I put its full name, School Partners with Artists Reaching Kids, in quotation marks for the first reference? Should subsequent references to SPARK (the acronym) be in quotation marks? Thanks. – from Dayton, Ohio on Fri, Jan 23, 2015

A. The education program doesn't need to be enclosed in quotes. Having spelled out the name on first reference, it's fine to use SPARK in follow-ups.

Q. Does AP have any guidance on the use of "some" in place of "approximately"? For example, "Sales volume increased by some 9 percent." Thanks. – from Tacoma, Wash. on Thu, Jan 22, 2015

A. Some or about 9 percent is acceptable though the exact percent without a qualifier is preferable.

Q. Did "American Sniper" Chris Kyle have 160 recorded "kill shots" or "killshots"? – from Charlotte, N.C. on Thu, Jan 22, 2015

A. I can't find an AP story that used the term. Better consult the autobiography or the film script for the spelling.

Q. In all instance below, is the use of the numbers correct or should they be spelled out. Possible imprisonment of up to 1 year; fines of up to $2,500. Class 4 felony %uFFFD Possible imprisonment of 1-3 years; fines of up to $25,000. %uFFFD Aggravated DUI involving injury %uFFFD Possible imprisonment of 1-12 years; fines of up to $25,000. – from gillespie, Ill. on Thu, Jan 22, 2015

A. The dollar figures are correct. It's Class 4 felony if that's the spelling in your jurisdiction. For the sentence ranges, spell years under 10: up to one year ... one to three years ... one to 12 years.


I've seen an answer that says %uFFFDshort-handed%uFFFD with a hyphen is correct, but I also see this entry: power play ?1 an offensive play, as in sports, in which force is concentrated in one area; specif., in ice hockey and indoor soccer, one that occurs when the defensive team is shorthanded due to penalties?2 an attempt to attain an end, as in politics or business, through the use of power rather than finesse

– from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Thu, Jan 22, 2015

A. Indeed, the Webster's dictionary "power play" entry uses shorthanded without a hyphen. However, the dictionary also has a separate entry for "short-handed (adj.)." So, we'll stick with the hyphenated spelling as listed in the Stylebook's "hockey" entry.

Q. Not a question: Could you tell the AP sports staff that they used chomping at the bite instead of champing in the story on Seahawks fans trying to buy tickets – from Tucson, Arizona on Thu, Jan 22, 2015

A. Our dictionary allows both chomping and champing for that expression.

Q. Bermudan or Bermudian? Webster's favors the former, but I've seen references online that seem to indicate Bermudian is preferred by the island's residents. Thanks – from NJ on Thu, Jan 22, 2015

A. The dictionary says Bermudian (n.).

Q. Should "Princess of Pop" or "King of Blues" be capitalized? Example: The B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center was built to honor the life and music of the king of the blues. – from Holland, MI on Thu, Jan 22, 2015

A. Such descriptive phrases are generally lowercase and not enclosed in quotes in AP stories.

Q. I typically abbreviate St. and Ste. in the names of places, but what about hyphenated cites such as Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue in Quebec? Should I spell that out, as I have here, or abbreviate it as Ste.-Anne-de-Bellevue? – from Columbia, S.C. on Thu, Jan 22, 2015

A. While that location hasn't come up in AP stories, there are other examples of towns with that name spelled out, including Sainte-Julie, Quebec.

Q. Should the phrase "raw material sourcing" be hyphenated between "raw" and "material"? We're unclear as to whether "raw material" is an independent noun or if it's an adjective describing "sourcing." Thanks! – from Canton, Ohio on Thu, Jan 22, 2015

A. Hyphen not needed.

Q. Would it be "As one of the South Central U.S. region's largest...." or "south central" or "south-central"? – from Lexington, Ky. on Thu, Jan 22, 2015

A. As one of the south-central U.S. region's largest ...

Q. Hello. How does AP designate legislation--i.e., Senate and House bills? HR 2022, H.R. 2022, SB 2022, S.B. 2022 or something else entirely? Thanks. – from Tustin, Calif. on Thu, Jan 22, 2015

A. Normally AP stories use a concise description for pending legislation. Occasionally, the numerical designation is included or appended to the story, as in: The House lobbying bill is HR 2316.

Q. Is it Google Glass on first reference and 'the Glass' on second? – from Washington, D.C. on Thu, Jan 22, 2015

A. On second reference for Google Glass, AP stories have used generics such as the eyeglass and eyewear. Some stories also repeat Google Glass in follow-ups.

Q. Does de- follow the rule of prefixes? Specific example that led to my question: de-throttling. – from Jefferson, Wis. on Thu, Jan 22, 2015

A. Dictionary entries using that prefix aren't hyphenated.

Q. Does the rule about translating the names of foreign governmental bodies, awards, schools, etc., apply to companies, particularly those with a somewhat generic name? Example: Tredje Natur, a Dutch design firm whose name translates as "Third Nature." – from Alexandria, La. on Thu, Jan 22, 2015

A. It's not a requirement but the translation could be helpful to your readers in the phrasing you suggest.

Q. I am not seeing a listing for, "etc." Does AP use etc. or should it spelled out in stories? Thanks. – from Uniondale, New York on Thu, Jan 22, 2015

A. The abbreviation is acceptable. There are a number of Stylebook definitions that use etc.

Q. I was wondering if you place a comma after a book title when the author's name follows. For example is it "You Before Me," by Jojo Moyes or "You Before Me" by Jojo Moyes? Thank you! – from Chicago on Thu, Jan 22, 2015

A. No comma needed unless other information, such as the publisher, is placed between the title and the author.

Q. Deflate-Gate or Deflategate? – from New York on Thu, Jan 22, 2015

A. AP stories don't hyphenate the term.

Q. I'm writing the text of a website for a community foundation that offers grants to nonprofits, school districts and the like. We want to talk about an educational program of a local performing arts group called School Partners with Artists Reaching Kids (SPARK). It involves six in-class lessons followed by a formal concert, performed by a professional musician and attended by the students. Do I understand correctly that for the website, "School Partners with Artists Reaching Kids" (SPARK) should be in quotation marks? Should subsequent references to SPARK be in quotes? – from Dayton, Ohio on Thu, Jan 22, 2015

A. Website names generally aren't enclosed in quotes. An exception would be an unusual spelling such as all-lowercase. Rather than putting the acronym in parentheses, append it to the website name if it also links to the website: School Partners with Artists Reaching Kids, or SPARK.

Q. I seem to be finding a lot of contradictory information on the capitalization of "web" when it's referenced both as a thing and a place (even incorrectly, as the internet - example: "on the web.") I see that website is not capitalized. Can you please clarify if "web" should be capitalized? Thank you. – from Portland, Ore. on Wed, Jan 21, 2015

A. As a short form standing alone, the Web is capitalized. It's also capitalized in terms with separate words: Web page, Web feed, Web browser. However, compounds are lowercase: website, webcam.

Q. Regarding the plural abbreviation for Ph.D., an Ask-the-Editor entry from 2013 suggests Ph.D.s, and an entry from 2014 suggests Ph.Ds. Is the lack of a period between D and s in the 2014 entry an oversight, or does this reflect a change in convention from one year to the next? Thank you. – from Tacoma, Wash. on Wed, Jan 21, 2015

A. The Stylebook entry is Ph.D., Ph.D.s

Q. The "jihad" entry says jihadi is preferred over jihadist, but some AP stories still use jihadist. What's the reasoning for jihadi over jihadist? – from Tokyo on Wed, Jan 21, 2015

A. The preferred spellings are closer to the Arabic pronunciations.

Q. Would you capitalize vice president, if referring to the vice president of a college sports club/team when it precedes the name? I'm not sure if this qualifies as an occupational or formal title. – from Santa Cruz, Calif. on Wed, Jan 21, 2015

A. Formal titles conferred by clubs and other organizations are capitalized preceding the full name of the office holder.

Q. I've been following what I thought was AP style, avoiding "email" as a noun or verb, such as "Email me the file" or "Send me an email," but, while looking up something else, I saw an Ask-the-Editor entry from 2012 saying it's acceptable to use it as both. Would you please give me an official ruling? Thanks! – from Tacoma, Wash. on Wed, Jan 21, 2015

A. The Stylebook spelling since 2011 has been email. Before then AP hyphenated the term. No reason to shun email, which is used both as a noun and a verb.

Q. I have a student who has said that AP style says that you shouldn't use head with head coach. I can't find that on the site anywhere. Can you please confirm? – from Stillwater, Okla. on Wed, Jan 21, 2015

A. As a job description spelled lowercase, head coach is used frequently in AP sports stories.

Q. Does AP say "botanic" garden or "botanical" garden? – from Houston on Wed, Jan 21, 2015

A. It's generally botanical garden in AP stories, though there may be a local name that uses the first.

Q. On Dec. 23, 2014, a question about page range format was answered with "The matrix that appears on pages 18-19 categorizes the actions by type. (p is lowercase)" However, the page numbers entry states that page should be capitalized when used with a figure. Was the Dec. 23 answer a mistake or does the rule change when used with a page number range? – from Seattle on Wed, Jan 21, 2015

A. Generally plural forms of capitalized nouns are spelled lowercase: Page 1, pages 18-19.

Q. If you have spelled out and used an acronym earlier in your document, do you use the acronym only in a main header/section later on in the document? – from Oxnard, Calif. on Wed, Jan 21, 2015

A. Once you've spelled out the full name, the acronym can be used in all instances of follow-ups.

Q. Has AP Style changed to now omit the comma after the year in a sentence? I keep seeing it done like this, particularly in AP photo captions, so I'm wondering if style changed and we somehow missed it: In this May, 22, 2014 file photo, Illinois Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, speaks to lawmakers at the state Capitol in Springfield, Ill. – from Pekin, Ill. on Wed, Jan 21, 2015

A. The comma should be used after the year in a full date, including in captions. Reminder in order. Thanks.

Q. I saw a couple of Ask the Editor questions asking about whether to use a numeral or to spell out "two" in reference to doing something every two seconds. But what about if you are referring to a specific time during a sporting event. "He hit the game-winning shot with 2/two seconds remaining." Would you use the numeral or spell it out? – from Erie, Pa. on Wed, Jan 21, 2015

A. Use the figure for describing an exact time -- 00:02 remaining on the clock.

Q. When used as a noun, is "flowchart" or "flow chart" more clear? – from Baton Rouge, La. on Wed, Jan 21, 2015

A. AP normally defers to the dictionary when a word isn't in the Stylebook. The entry in Webster's NWCD, Fifth Edition, is flowchart.

Q. Does AP have a style regarding "lastly"? Use it or not? Thanks! – from Houston on Wed, Jan 21, 2015

A. It's OK if not overused. The Webster's entry says lastly (adv.) in conclusion; finally.

Q. Hi, there - Is there a rule for spelling out numbers in a countdown sequence? For example, "Kids anticipate the game's start--five, four, three, two, one--and then they..." Thanks for your help! – from Loveland, Colo. on Wed, Jan 21, 2015

A. Kids anticipate the game's start by counting "five, four, three, two, one" and then they ..."

Q. When describing a bank as a "Main Street" bank, do I use quotations marks? – from Fort Wayne, Ind. on Wed, Jan 21, 2015

A. Lowercase and in quotes: a "main street" bank. Include a brief explanation.

Q. Is there an AP style guide for listing information for medical presentations/posters and the like? For example: presentation or poster title (in quotes?), conference name, location, date? And what is AP style for footnoting reference material? – from Macungie, Pa. on Wed, Jan 21, 2015

A. No such guide for posters, though AP Stylebook guidance on spellings, punctuation other points would apply. We don't use footnotes in news stories.

Q. "If your family member or friend is a danger to themself or to others, or is gravely disabled, it may be necessary to place them on an involuntary hold.." Is the use of themself and them correct in this sentence? – from San Mateo , Calif. on Wed, Jan 21, 2015

A. No, themself is substandard English. Rephrase along these lines: If your family member or friend is a danger to himself or to others, or is gravely disabled, it may be necessary to place that person (or him) in an involuntary hold ...

Q. In the body of a story, should it be: "the Town of Gotham" or "the town of Gotham"? – from Jeffersonville, Ind. on Wed, Jan 21, 2015

A. It's the town of Gotham with a lowercase t, by extension from guidance in the "city" entry.

Q. Do I use themself or themselves in the following sentence "If the individual is placing you or themself/themselves in danger...." – from San Mateo , Calif. on Wed, Jan 21, 2015

A. If the individual is placing you or himself in danger ... or ... If individuals are placing you or themselves in danger ...

Q. AP says that formal titles should be capitalized immediately before a name, and that long titles should be set off by commas and in lower case after a name. Yet I saw the following caption credited to AP and published on January 13, 2015: "Joe Main, third from left, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health, and Patricia Silvey, center, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Operations with MSHA, speak with workers..." Why are those titles capitalized? – from Jefferson, Wis. on Wed, Jan 21, 2015

A. The titles in the captions should be lowercase by the AP Stylebook guidance. The caption writer may have incorrectly used uppercase spellings. Publications sometimes change captions to a differing style.

Q. Is there a preferred spelling of "motor scooter?" Spefically, is it 1 word (motorscooter) or 2 ( motor scooter)? Thank you – from Bloomington, Ill. on Wed, Jan 21, 2015

A. Deferring to dictionary's motor scooter.

Q. The AP Styleguide says that in "stories with U.S. datelines, do not include U.S. before the titles of Secretary of State or other government officials, except where necessary for clarity." However, similar advice is not given for the U.S. governmental departments. Is it reasonable to assume that U.S. is not required before the name of a governmental department in a story with a U.S. dateline? – from Jefferson, Wis. on Wed, Jan 21, 2015

A. Correct.

Q. It looks like there's a typo in "sovereign" in this entry on Davos: soverign debt Debt issued only by a government. – from Englewood Cliffs, N.J. on Wed, Jan 21, 2015

A. Thanks for pointing out sovereign debt:

Q. Can you clarify how to spell the Shiite militia group in Yemen? Houthi? Hawthi? Hawth? I've seen all three. – from Chicago on Wed, Jan 21, 2015

A. In AP stories from Yemen, the Houthis or Houthi movement.

Q. Are movements in a classical movement work enclosed in quotes? – from Studio City, Calif. on Wed, Jan 21, 2015

A. If the movement has a popular name, enclose it in quotes. Otherwise, capitalize the reference without quotes.

Q. In your new list of World Economic Forum style points, you include "BRICS" for Brazil, Russia, India and China, but then in the definition of "Next 11" on the same list you spell it "BRICs." I prefer the latter, but which is correct per AP? I entered a note on this discrepancy under the BRICS definition, so once you rule, please remove it! – from Stamford, Conn. on Wed, Jan 21, 2015

A. It's BRICS for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, the latter having been added to the original group. To conform, also making it BRICS in the "Next 11" capsule. Thanks.

Q. Hi, this is not a question but a correction to the list sent to our emails about Davos. This list misspelled "sovereign debt" as "soverign," and under "Next 11," it spelled BRICS with a lowercase s as in BRICs. – from Manila, Philippines on Wed, Jan 21, 2015

A. The topic guide was updated with sovereign and BRICS.

Q. When writing a letter to an individual such as a prosecuting attorney... should we address them using "honorable" or "esquire"? – from Sistersville, W.Va. on Tue, Jan 20, 2015

A. Call the individual's office and ask how he or she prefers to be addressed in a letter.

Q. for triple bevel knife edge or double bevel knife edge, is double and triple hyphenated to read double-bevel knife edge, etc.? Thanks. – from avondale, Pa. on Tue, Jan 20, 2015

A. Better look it up in a specialized reference. I don't see it hyphenated in online sales references.

Q. Is "fraternal organization" interchangeable with "fraternity" when referring to the college organizations? – from Durham, N.C. on Tue, Jan 20, 2015

A. That term normally refers togroups like the Elks, Moose and Eagles, rather than collegiate fraternities for male students.

Q. Hello! Where can I find the entry explaining when to use a comma before a name? For example, which is correct: "I went to the store with my son, John." Or, "I went to the store with my son John." One means I have more than one son, whereas the other means I have only one. – from CHESTER, Va. on Tue, Jan 20, 2015

A. That's explained in "essential phrases, nonessential phrases"

Q. Good morning. Is the comma correct in the following phrase? Any other punctuation needed in it?: No pain, no gain. – from Millburn, N.J. on Tue, Jan 20, 2015

A. The saying is correct as written.

Q. If one cannot find out whether or not a company name is an acronym (specific example here--TMAT Ltd. in the U.K.) but suspects it is because of the nature of the name, what is the conventional wisdom about spelling the name? Should it be left in all caps (the way the company represents itself) or should it be only an initial cap? – from Jefferson, Wis. on Tue, Jan 20, 2015

A. By the advice in the "company names" entry, use all-caps only if the letters are individually pronounced. Otherwise, capitalize only the first letter.

Q. Do the cities Stockholm and Vienna stand alone in body text? – from Pittstown, N.J. on Tue, Jan 20, 2015

A. Both are listed in the stand-alone datelines entry, so they don't require countries in text references.

Q. Your entry on using like as a suffix would seem to leave many words without hyphens. But sometimes these construction seem odd. E.g. chimneylike, roselike, ditchlike, buildinglike and so on. Does the entry still stand? – from Tokyo on Mon, Jan 19, 2015

A. See the -like entry in Webster's NWDC for additional examples.

Q. What is the style for Q&A? If it is jargon to be avoided, should it be question-and-answer session? What if Q&A appears in a quotation? Thank you. – from Minneapolis on Mon, Jan 19, 2015

A. As you have it. See "Q&A format" entry.

Q. Trademark and copyright symbols are never used in editorial copy, right? Just caps? – from Seaside, Calif. on Mon, Jan 19, 2015

A. Correct.

Q. The bottom-line matters, or, the bottom line matters? – on Mon, Jan 19, 2015

A. No hyphen for the bottom line matters. As an adjective, the term is hyphenated: bottom-line issues.

Q. I may be totally missing it, but I'm not finding an entry for m&m's, which melt in your mouth and not in your hand. Is it M&Ms? M&M's? m&m's? m&ms? Signed, She Who Loves The Almond Iteration – from Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. on Mon, Jan 19, 2015

A. AP stories use M&M's for the candy.

Q. Is event planning hyphenated? – from Chestnut Hill, MA on Mon, Jan 19, 2015

A. No.

Q. Webster's Fourth lists "fail-safe" only as an adjective. Has it ever been used as a noun, is it ever acceptable to use as a noun, and if so would it include the hyphen? – from Jefferson, Wis. on Mon, Jan 19, 2015

A. It's usually an adjective, as in fail-safe measures. However, AP stories have occasionally used fail-safe as a noun in place of safeguard.

Q. I've not been able to find an answer to this. In business writing, is first quarter always spelled out in the body of the story? Is Q1 then acceptable for headlines and call outs? Would Q1, Q2 be acceptable further into the story, after each quarter is spelled out initially? Or is spelling out not necessary? – from Raleigh, N.C. on Mon, Jan 19, 2015

A. Within business stories, AP spells out quarter references. Q1, Q2, etc., are used in headlines

Q. Are there any issues hyphenating "joint venture" as a modifier? e.g., "joint-venture agreements" – from Houston, Texas on Mon, Jan 19, 2015

A. No hyphen in the noun phrase.

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