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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. How would one and a half hour tour be hyphenated, without using 90-minute tour? Does AP use fractions, decimals or words in this circumstance? Example: She enjoyed the one and a half hour-tour of the museum. – from Holland, MI on Thu, Jan 29, 2015

A. She enjoyed the 1 1/2-hour tour of the museum. She enjoyed a tour of the museum for an hour and a half.

Q. If an artist or musician goes by a stage name that has a first and last name, and the artist's real name (including first and last) is also used in the story, should the artist then be referred to by his or her real last name or stage last name on second reference? – from Arkansas on Wed, Jan 28, 2015

A. Use the stage name in follow-ups if that's what the person uses in public life.

Q. Which is more correct? Both drivers were wearing a seat belt? Both drivers were wearing seat belts? – from Festus, Mo. on Wed, Jan 28, 2015

A. Each driver was wearing a seat belt. Both drivers were wearing seat belts.

Q. Should DAYTONA 500 be in all caps or should it be Daytona 500? I've seen it both ways in news articles so I'm wondering if AP has any guidance on the term. – on Wed, Jan 28, 2015

A. In AP stories, Daytona 500.

Q. What is AP style for a small plane (not a drone) controlled by a remote? Is it remote-controlled plane, remote-control plane, remote control plane, ect.? – from , Idaho Falls, Idaho on Wed, Jan 28, 2015

A. Usually it's remote control plane, though sometimes hyphenated as remote-controlled plane.

Q. When a last name is multiple words and the first letter is lower-cased (such as van Buren), when you start a new sentence, do you capitalize the v? So: van Buren was a great professional OR Van Buren was a great professional. – from Salt Lake City on Wed, Jan 28, 2015

A. Capitalize the V if it starts a sentence.

Q. What is the preferred abbreviation for atrial fibrillation -- AFib, Afib, A-Fib, A-fib? – from Macungie, Pa. on Wed, Jan 28, 2015

A. AP stories don't shorthand the term, but it's defined as a type of irregular heartbeat.

Q. When abbreviating college/university names not in a sports story and which are not part of the list of schools that can be abbreviated on first reference, should periods be used between each letter or not? For example, would University of Washington be UW or U.W., and Pacific Lutheran University be PLU or P.L.U.? Thanks. – from Tacoma, Wash. on Wed, Jan 28, 2015

A. AP spells out school names within stories on first reference, then UW or PLU on follow-ups.

Q. For government contracts, is IDIQ contracts "indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract" or "indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract" or other? – from McLean, Va. on Wed, Jan 28, 2015

A. At the GSA website, it's indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contracts.

Q. Alphabetization -- Companies that start with the word The Delfield Company. I would think they get alphabetized in the D's. This is easy to do on a printed piece. Does this apply on an electronic listing as well? – from Chicago on Wed, Jan 28, 2015

A. Yes, under the Ds.

Q. Is the correct usage "sliding scale fee" or "sliding fee scale"? – from Tulsa, Okla. on Wed, Jan 28, 2015

A. It's usually written sliding fee scale in AP stories.

Q. Does the below ruling also apply to "night vision device?" Q. Is it night-vision googles or night vision googles? %uFFFD from Parris Island, S.C. on Thu, May 17, 2012 A. Usually written in AP stories as a noun phrase without hyphens, night vision goggles. – from Ft. Meade, MD on Wed, Jan 28, 2015

A. Yes.

Q. When referencing the San Francisco Chronicle's San Francisco Gate free online publication, would you say, "San Francisco Chronicle via the San Francisco Gate" or just one of them, which one? – from San Diego on Wed, Jan 28, 2015

A. One possibility:, the online news publication of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Q. Is the hyphen grammatical in "He won his 11th-career Asian Cup on Sunday"? – from Tokyo on Wed, Jan 28, 2015

A. No hyphen in 11th career Asian Cup.

Q. I've seen two versions in AP stories: Gross National Happiness and "gross national happiness". What's the suggested style? – on Tue, Jan 27, 2015

A. It's lowercase, sometimes enclosed in quotes as an unusual term.

Q. I need to alphabetize a list. I have numbers and alpha in the company names. What comes first? Do I list all alpha first and then the company names? Or, do I treat the numbers as if they were written, and alpha accordingly? Example: 10 Strawberry Street Commercial 3M A La Cart, Unified Brands A.J. Antunes & Co. Should I place the 3M and 10 Strawberry in the "T"s? Please advise. Thanks! – from Chicago on Tue, Jan 27, 2015

A. The Stylebook's "company names" listing of 125 major U.S. corporations begins with 3M Co. followed by Abbott Laboratories and others alphabetically. Using that model, put numbered companies up top in numerical order, followed by the others spelled out in alphabetical order.

Q. How would I spell out the number 656 at the start of a sentence? Six hundred fifty-six? Six hundred and fifty-six? Please advise? Thanks. – from Rosemead, Calif. on Tue, Jan 27, 2015

A. It probably comes down to personal preference. To me the second is a little easier to grasp. Better yet, rewrite to use the numeral 656 within the sentence.

Q. Should Internet of Things have quotation marks around it? Is it reasonable to use the IoT acronym on the second reference? – from Madison, Wis. on Tue, Jan 27, 2015

A. It's the "Internet of Things" in AP technology stories, meaning Internet-connected products. The abbreviation doesn't appear.

Q. I have a question about a sentence beginning with a number. It used to say in the "numeral" topic to spell out numbers that begin a sentence unless it begins with a year. Now it doesn't. Did the rule change? – from Jacksonville, Fla. on Tue, Jan 27, 2015

A. The guidance in "numerals" is the same. Spell out: %u2013 At the start of a sentence: Forty years was a long time to wait. Fifteen to 20 cars were involved in the accident. The only exception is years: 1992 was a very good year. See years.

Q. Who in the legislative branch of government can be called "politician"? Is it everyone, no one, only political appointees (vs. career civil servants), only people who were elected (or tried to get elected) to the legislative branch of government in the past, or some other subgroup? – from 20009 on Tue, Jan 27, 2015

A. Deferring to Webster's New World College Dictionary: politician n. [[pol itic & -ian]] 1 a person actively engaged in politics, esp. party politics, professionally or otherwise; often, a person holding or seeking political office 2 a person skilled or experienced in practical politics or political science

Q. When using a common phrase, such as "not in my backyard," as a modifier, should I deploy hyphens, quotations or rephrase? EX: " ... the not-in-my-backyard mentality." – from Houston, Texas on Tue, Jan 27, 2015

A. Hyphenated you have it. No quotes needed for common phrases. Rephrasing is often better to avoid lengthy compound modifiers.

Q. Hopefully, you can settle a disagreement. I believe that the statement below is correct as is with nonreimbursable as one word. A colleague believes that it should be hyphenated as non-reimbursable. Who is correct? FLIK will fund 100 percent of the transition costs as outlined in the Opening Budget up to $85,540 in the form of a nonreimbursable investment that will be internally amortized on our books over 10 years. – from Charlotte, N.C. on Tue, Jan 27, 2015

A. Terms formed with the "non" prefix are rarely hyphenated in AP Style. Nonreimbursable is correct based on the Stylebook entry and spelling models in Webster's New World College Dictionary.

Q. Karaoke DJ who works independently or a karaoke DJ that works independently? – on Tue, Jan 27, 2015

A. The first, although the Stylebook guidance is to spell out disc jockey on first reference.

Q. Would you say "is" or "are" in this sentence? "His talent, combined with his personality, is/are attractive." Thanks. – from Tustin, Calif. on Tue, Jan 27, 2015

A. Better rephrase. His talent combined with his personality make him attractive.

Q. What is the AP's style policy for using "U.S." or "America" as a geographic reference. Are the two interchangeable? – from 21701, MD on Tue, Jan 27, 2015

A. Within texts, U.S. is preferred. America may be used for variety when the context is clear.

Q. How would you punctuate this? One of the first things I do is ask "why are you here?" OR One of the first things I do is ask, "Why are you here?" – from Tucson, Ariz. on Tue, Jan 27, 2015

A. One of the first things I do is ask, "Why are you here?"

Q. Is "Paralympians" correct to specify athletes who compete in the Paralympic Games? Just like "Olympians" is for the Olympic Games? Thank you. – from Chicago on Tue, Jan 27, 2015

A. Correct.

Q. Is "restaurant level" hyphenated? – from Plano, Texas on Tue, Jan 27, 2015

A. It depends on the construction. Hyphenated as a modifier: restaurant-level margins. Unhyphenated in some other uses: Job cuts won't be made at the restaurant level.

Q. Which is correct for the spelled-out form of SMEs -- subject-matter experts, or subject matter experts (sans hyphen)? I have seen it both ways. Thanks, J.J. – from Fanwood, N.J. on Tue, Jan 27, 2015

A. the term is usually without a hyphen in AP stories.

Q. How is the AP spelling/punctuating the name of Saudi Arabia's new king? – from Washington on Tue, Jan 27, 2015

A. King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud Salman. He's Salman on second reference.

Q. For subsequent uses of kilogram, I know the AP Style is to abbreviate them 'kg'. But what if the word gram is used after kilogram has been spelled out? Should we spell it out or abbreviate it 'g' ? Thank you. – from Richmond, XX on Mon, Jan 26, 2015

A. On first reference, spell out gram.

Q. Is there some rule regarding not having to use year with month/date if its within a couple months of the cureent month? If so, I can't find it. Ex Dec. 19, 2014 use in a story published Jan. 26, 2015. Could you just use Dec. 19? – from Richmond, Va on Mon, Jan 26, 2015

A. In AP usage, the calendar date generally suffices if the previous year is obvious from the context, as in your example.

Q. To be more succinct with the phrase "in which industry or industries the client is involved," I'd like to use parentheses immediately after the word "industry" to show the possibility of multiple industries, but should it be shown as "industry(ies)" or "industry(s)?" – from Chicago on Mon, Jan 26, 2015

A. The plural is industries. However, the parenthetical is awkward. Better to stick with industry or industries.

Q. Is the punctuation in the following sentence correct? Do you agree with most people who say, "You're no good."? Thanks. fw – from medina, Minn. on Mon, Jan 26, 2015

A. Better rephrase as an indirect question, which doesn't get a question mark: Do you agree with most people who say you're no good.

Q. If a hospital capitalizes a unit in their facility, should we? For example, Intensive Therapy Unit or should it be intensive therapy unit? – from Nichols Hills, Okla. on Mon, Jan 26, 2015

A. Lowercase the common name of the unit.

Q. Is "cross-use" hyphenated, or should it simply be "cross use"? I have seen the phrase appear both ways. Thank you! – from Woodbridge , N.J. on Mon, Jan 26, 2015

A. Your call on that. It doesn't show in AP stories, dictionaries or other references.

Q. Hello, today my question is actually two questions. I am reading something about different platforms and came across this sentence%uFFFDPublisher Simon and Schuster has released its Simon Says platform of online video courses taught by popular authors. Should the platform be in quotation marks? And the second question refers to name of courses provided by whoever runs the SimonSays website. The name of the one of the courses is A Short Guide to a Long Life. does it get quotation marks? – from Orysia, New York City, N.Y. on Mon, Jan 26, 2015

A. Both look OK as written without quotation marks.

Q. If an email address has one or more CAPS, does that get carried over into stories? Or all letters lowercase? – from Akron, Pa. on Mon, Jan 26, 2015

A. Render the email address as written by the account holder, including capital letters.

Q. How would I reference a local news affiliate in web or print copy? For example, is it "WTVR-6 CBS" or "CBS WTVR-6", or simply "WTVR-6"? – from Richmond, Va. on Mon, Jan 26, 2015

A. If essential to include the network, place that in apposition to the call letters: WTVR-6, a CBS affiliate.

Q. Thoughts on using the word "drone" vs "unmanned aerial vehicle" or the like? Some people at work feel "drone" has a government, militaristic tone, but I see it used everywhere. Thanks. – from Rochester, N.Y. on Mon, Jan 26, 2015

A. Drone is widely used and understood. The other term might be used as a brief explanation, though it's a bit bureaucratic.

Q. Can overseas be used when you can travel to that country via land? Ex: The North Korean leader will make his first overseas trip of 2015 to Russia. – from Seoul, XX on Sun, Jan 25, 2015

A. No. It's his first foreign trip of the year.

Q. Do you need dashes when you say, for example "2-to-3 feet of snow?" – from , on Sun, Jan 25, 2015

A. ... 2 to 3 feet of snow.

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.

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