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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. What's the correct usage for the hyphen in this example, and why? "six to nine months prior" vs. "six-to-nine months prior" – from Rolling Meadows, Ill. on Tue, Oct 06, 2015

A. ... six to nine months prior ... Not compound modifiers so don't hyphenate.

Q. Should than be lowercase in a headline? Or uppercase? – from Rosemead, Calif. on Tue, Oct 06, 2015

A. In an AP headline, the first word and proper nouns or names are capitalized. So than is lowercase. Other headline styles capitalize main words, which could include than.

Q. Should it be mac and cheese or mac-and-cheese? Ie. The person became angry over being denied mac and cheese. His mac-and-cheese quest ended with an arrest. – from NY on Tue, Oct 06, 2015

A. It's not hyphenated in online uses, such as recipes.

Q. When listing bullet point entries, do you capitalize the second part of a hyphenated word? For example: Each course is: - Self-Paced. - Fully facilitated. - 10 hours long. In this instance, should the first entry be "Self-Paced" or "Self-paced"? Thanks. – from Buffalo, N.Y. on Tue, Oct 06, 2015

A. Lowercase paced. Also, spell out ten as the first word in the bullet point.

Q. For dosages measured in tablets, capsules, or packets, would you recommend we use numerals or spell out numbers less than 10? Examples: Take two to four tablets twice daily. Take the contents of one packet twice daily. – from Milwaukee on Tue, Oct 06, 2015

A. Spell figures under 10 in this context.

Q. Is it "finely grained sandpaper," "fine-grained sandpaper" or "fine-grain sandpaper"? The fate of thousands of do-it-yourselfers hangs in the balance! – from Chicago on Tue, Oct 06, 2015

A. In online retail ads, fine grain or, for example, 220 grit fine advanced sanding sheets.

Q. Is energy-efficient always hyphenated as in "the house was energy-efficient" and as a modifier, the "energy-efficient house?" Thanks. – from Rosemead, Calif. on Tue, Oct 06, 2015

A. Correct by the dictionary spelling of the modifier.

Q. I just started working at a military school. For the first six weeks cadets are here they are referred to as "New Boys." Once they graduate from this training they are "Old Boys" for the rest of their lives. Should we use quotations and/or capitalization? – from Salina, Kan. on Tue, Oct 06, 2015

A. The school website uses New Boy and Old Boy without quotes.

Q. When using the name of an organization that is typically named by its acronym, it feels awkward to not include "the" prior to the full name, but normal with the acronym. For example: "The National Precast Concrete Association conducted a study ..." feels awkward without "the" leading the sentence. "NPCA conducted a study ..." feels right without "the." Which use is correct? – from Carmel, Ind. on Tue, Oct 06, 2015

A. NPCA is an abbreviation, rather than an acronym, which is a word formed from the first letters of the term. Use an article with the full name or the abbreviation in most instances.

Q. How does AP write the following in a singular reference: headquarter or headquarters? – from Atlanta on Tue, Oct 06, 2015

A. The Stylebook spelling of the noun is headquarters for both singular and plural uses.

Q. Are the hyphens needed in "a digital-service-enabled experience"? – from san francisco, Calif. on Mon, Oct 05, 2015

A. No, and it reads like jargon. Try rephrasing: a feature of digital service.

Q. Would you use a hyphen in this instance? "He grew up in south-central Indiana." – from Elkhart, Ind. on Mon, Oct 05, 2015

A. Yes.

Q. There's a new sport fad called spikeball. Do we capitalize or keep it lower case? A member was asking. I see that it's registered trademark as well. – from Seattle on Mon, Oct 05, 2015

A. Better capitalize it as a trademark novelty game.

Q. Your "Chamber of Commerce" rule reads: "U.S. Chamber of Commerce: On second reference, the Chamber is acceptable. Lowercase when referring to a local chamber of commerce: the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, but the chamber on second reference." Wouldn't the Seattle chamber, in relation to the U.S. chamber, be considered a "local chamber of commerce," and if so, why isn't it lowercase in the example presented? – from Arlington, Va. on Mon, Oct 05, 2015

A. Capitalize Chamber in follow-ups to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, meaning the national-level organization. For local groups, use the capitalized formal name on first reference, the chamber (lowercase) in follow-ups.

Q. When expressing a range of amount, is it "$500%uFFFD750" or $500%uFFFD$750"? Thanks. – from Ellicott City, MD on Mon, Oct 05, 2015

A. By the "range" entry, $500 to $750. The hyphenated version with dollar signs is also acceptable.

Q. Do you need to use the modifier "former" or something similar when referring to an erstwhile nation? Example: The couple emigrated from Czechoslovakia and are now living in Ohio. We lack further information that would allow us to say Czech Republic or Slovakia specifically. – from Cleveland, Ohio on Mon, Oct 05, 2015

A. Lacking the year of emigration or other details, the former Czechoslovakia looks right in this case, assuming that fact can be attributed.

Q. Sometimes verb forms of trademarks appear in quotations. 2012 and 2014 Ask the Editor entries say to lowercase "tased" in a quotation, but between those, a 2013 entry says to uppercase "Photoshopped." Taser style entry also says to lowercase. Is a standard for all trademarks established? – from St. Paul, Minn. on Mon, Oct 05, 2015

A. The company website objects to verb or noun forms of the trademark name Photoshop. Hence, better to confine photoshopped (lowercase) to direct quotes only. So it's case-by-case on usages of other trademarks

Q. Maybe I'm just missing it in the numerals entry, but I'm not seeing anything that would address my question. What would you do here? Would you keep to rule about spelling out numbers under 10? There's one instance here of "7 in 10" and another "3 in 5" so what's the best way to handle it? %uFFFDAbout three-quarters of consumers say ..., and 7 in 10 say they%uFFFDre more likely to visit a restaurant that offers locally sourced ingredients over one that doesn%uFFFDt,%uFFFD Stensson says. %uFFFDIn addition, 3 in 5 consumers say availability..." – from Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. on Mon, Oct 05, 2015

A. Use figures for ratios. The model is 1 in 4 voters in the "numerals" and "ratios" examples.

Q. "Most answers aren't one-size-fits-all." Without rewording, are the hyphens correct? Thank you! – from Mount Prospect, Ill. on Mon, Oct 05, 2015

A. The American Heritage Dictionary hyphenates this adjective.

Q. When referring to Vetrans' Affairs as an abbreviation is it the VA or just VA. an example should it be%uFFFDEmotions ran high at the hearing as advocates for veterans strongly disagreed with representatives of the VA on the way veterans' claims are processed, and on the efficacy of two bills that the committee is considering%uFFFDS.901 and S.681%uFFFDwhich the veterans' organizations strongly support. Or should it be%uFFFDEmotions ran high at the hearing as advocates for veterans strongly disagreed with representatives of VA on the way veterans' claims are processed, and on the efficacy of two bills that the committee is considering%uFFFDS.901 and S.681%uFFFDwhich the veterans' organizations strongly support. – from Orysia, New York City, N.Y. on Sun, Oct 04, 2015

A. It depends on the formulation. A recent AP story reported: VA Secretary Robert McDonald has denied that he or anyone else at VA had hidden or downplayed its budget problems. He said the VA is facing a crisis because of a sharp increase in demand for health care.

Q. In formal business letter writing, should the recipient's name include a suffix where applicable? Or should it be left off (i.e. Dear Mr. John Smith II or Dear Mr. John Smith). – from Fort Collins, Colo. on Sun, Oct 04, 2015

A. The notation II is rarely used in a salutation. The usual form: Dear Mr. Smith,

Q. In our local newspaper, Times Record, Fort Smith, AR, changes in editorial habits have caused the words Lord and Savior to be printed in lowercase in obituaries in which the client and funeral home have capitalized these words. The editor's response to queries has been, 'We are just following the AP standards.' I have searched pages: 40, 467, 480, 478, 29 114 of AP Sylebook to no avail. I have read page 470 under "Jesus". Are you asserting that the word savior is a personal pronoun? NV – from Fort Smith, Ark.omment: In our local newspaper, Ti on Sat, Oct 03, 2015

A. In references to God or Jesus, capitalize L in the Lord. The Stylebook reference is "A.D.," meaning the year of the Lord. The Stylebook spells savior lowercase in all references. See "Jesus" entry in the Religion Guidelines.

Q. It is GOP Establishment, or GOP establishment? – from Belleair Bluffs, Fla. on Fri, Oct 02, 2015

A. It's lowercase establishment.

Q. When using a range of numbers in a sentence, is the rule of spelling out 1-9 omitted? (i.e. It happened for about 5-10 seconds.) – from Liverpool, N.Y. on Fri, Oct 02, 2015

A. As a time range, about 5-10 seconds.

Q. Hi there, I just looked up "tourbillon" because in a watch article I'm proofing they capitalize it, and the WNWCD lists it as tourbillion. I think this is a spelling error. Is it possible you can fix your entry? See below. Thank you! Webster's New World College Dictionary results: not favorite tourbillion (Source: Webster's New World College Dictionary) – from Belleville, XX on Fri, Oct 02, 2015

A. The watch brand name Tourbillon is capitalized. The common noun tourbillion, meaning whirlwind, derived from the French tourbillon, is lowercase. AP defers to the dictionary entry because it's not a Stylebook term.

Q. For clarification of earthquake magnitude. Is the hyphen used both in writing a 6.7-magnitude earthquake hit and when writing a magnitude-6.7 earthquake hit. Is one or the other preferred as to the placement of the word magnitude. I realize no hyphen when not used as a modifier (the earthquake registered at 6.7 magnitude or magnitude 6.7) And if there is a range mentioned -- would it be written as: in the event of a magnitude-7 to 7.9 earthquake. Or magnitude-7-7.9? I think I like the word to better, otherwise, too many hyphens. – from New Jersey on Fri, Oct 02, 2015

A. Suggested rephrase to avoid hyphenitis: in the event of an earthquake of magnitude 7 to 7.9, ...

Q. In the phrase "more than 60-year-old policy" (as in the policy has existed for more than 60 years), should "more than" also be hyphenated: "more-than-60-year-old policy"? – from Washington on Fri, Oct 02, 2015

A. ... more than 60-year-old policy. Or, policy for over 60 years.

Q. Do you capitalize the second half of a hyphenated word when it appears in a headline or title? e.g., Best-Selling Author or Best-selling Author – from Salt Lake City on Fri, Oct 02, 2015

A. Usually capitalized in a title, such as the name of a book or song. Headlines depend on the publication's style -- all-caps or a mixture. In an AP headline, assuming the term starts the headline in a news story: Best-selling author ...

Q. For unique course titles, is the second part of a hyphenated word capitalized? For example, is it Learning-Focused Feedback or Learning-focused Feedback? – from Dallas on Fri, Oct 02, 2015

A. Likely capitalized in a course title by the school or organization.

Q. "His personality shined through" or "His personality shone through" Which is correct? – from , on Fri, Oct 02, 2015

A. The first.

Q. You've written that "first responder" generally isn't hyphenated in AP stories. Does that apply to the term's use as an adjective as well as its use as a noun? Thanks. Q. Is it first responders or first-responders? Example: "First responders comprised 10 of the dead." from Salina, Kan. on Apr 19, 2013 A. Generally not hyphenated in AP stories. – from Richardson, Texas on Thu, Oct 01, 2015

A. Yes.

Q. What do you do with "in training"? For instance, The company brought six dogs in training to the event. Would it be dogs-in-training? dogs in training? dogs in-training (seems weird)? We paraphrase when we can but sometimes it's not possible. Thoughts? – from Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. on Thu, Oct 01, 2015

A. The company brought six dogs in training to the event.

Q. Does AP have a style on the use of surnames when you're identifying parents and children? How would you handle this? Would you just use the first name, or would you say Ann Smith? Julie Smith is the most popular kid in her school. %uFFFDShe's a wonderful, active, friendly child," says her mother, Ann. – from Shepard, Indiana on Thu, Oct 01, 2015

A. From the "names" entry: When it is necessary to distinguish between two people who use the same last name, as in married couples or brothers and sisters, generally use the first and last name ... In stories involving juveniles, generally refer to them on second reference by surname if they are 16 or older and by first name if they are 15 or younger.

Q. Can QR code and 2-D barcode be used interchangeably and if not is one preferred over the other? QR seems to have become part of the vernacular but I have read that it refers to a specific type of 2-D barcode (similar situation to common use of Kleenex to refer to all tissues). – from Oshkosh, Wis. on Thu, Oct 01, 2015

A. Generally written QR code and two-dimensional bar code. A technical reference book should have the answer to your questions about interchangeability and preference.

Q. Is it acceptable to use the acronym CF for cystic fibrosis on second reference? – from Atlanta on Thu, Oct 01, 2015

A. The abbreviation may be used in headlines when space is tight. Otherwise, AP tends to spell out cystic fibrosis within news stories.

Q. How would AP handle #2s? Garmin and Nike as distant #2s in terms of current ownership. – from St. Petersburg, Fla. on Thu, Oct 01, 2015

A. ... distant No. 2s ... or, a distant second ...

Q. Which is correct as a heading on our city website: "Parks Rentals" or "Park Rentals"? There are multiple parks available to be rented, but I believe a singular adjective should be used, ala "freshman team" rather than "freshmen team". Right? – from Wylie, Texas on Thu, Oct 01, 2015

A. Either spelling. Alternatively, rent a park.

Q. In discussing a Proposal to be on the state ballot, is Proposal Three or Proposal 3? – from Littleton, Colo. on Thu, Oct 01, 2015

A. Use the official name as printed on the ballot.

Q. I can't find where style for airline flights is explained. I see a few specifics for Sept. 11 flights, but no general rule. Example: Delta Flight 9 is correct -- I think. But I need to show students the rule. Thanks. – from Minneapolis, Minn. on Wed, Sep 30, 2015

A. AP stories generally use the same formulation as the airline: Delta Flight 1086, United Flight 447, etc., as in your example. It's usage rather than a formal Stylebook entry.

Q. Is a company or organization considered an animate or inanimate object? For example, "He provides training to our technical support team and reseller partners that (or who) sell our products abroad." – from Salt Lake City on Wed, Sep 30, 2015

A. If resellers refers to companies rather than individuals, use that as the pronoun.

Q. We have an advertising agency requesting that we send a couple images from a ribbon cutting ceremony of a big box store we will be covering as editorial content. I feel sending our reporter/photographer to this event and asking they do double duty as a reporter and advertising photographer could be somewhat in conflict. Is this the case? Is it acceptable to supply images for and advertiser while covering an event for the editorial side? – from vernal, Utah on Wed, Sep 30, 2015

A. It could be questionable if extra images supplied for advertising go beyond what you publish as news. No doubt your publication has guidelines for such situations.

Q. Regarding "Internet age," would the A be capped? So, the Internet Age? – from Boston on Wed, Sep 30, 2015

A. You could capitalize the Internet Age using the dictionary's definition of a period characterized by a special development or influence: e.g., the Stone Age, the Atomic Age, the Information Age.

Q. Would it be "...two-thirds of Iowa's crop production.." or "...two-thirds of Iowa crop production..."? – from Ames, Iowa on Wed, Sep 30, 2015

A. The possessive spelling is preferable in that formulation.

Q. Is it specialty or speciality (specifically in the medical field)? I see both spellings used in numerous AtE answers. – from Joliet, Ill. on Wed, Sep 30, 2015

A. The preferred spelling is specialty. The other spelling is the British variant.

Q. How would you write the plural of iPhone 6 plus? Would it be iPhone 6 Plus phones or iPhone 6 Pluses or iPhone 6s Plus? And then what about iPhone 6 phones? Could we write iPhone 6s? – from Orysia, New York City, N.Y. on Wed, Sep 30, 2015

A. In AP technology reports, iPhone 6s and 6s Plus phones, or iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus models.

Q. When talking about programs a school has to offer, would you say "on our new campus" or "at our new campus?" For example: "Learn about the exciting opportunities at our new campus." Thank you! – from Neenah, Wis. on Wed, Sep 30, 2015

A. While there could be a nuance of difference, it would seem either preposition fits. Perhaps you could use "at" and "on" for variety.

Q. Is HOMECOMING ALUMNI REUNION redundant? Would you be just ALUMNI REUNION? Or would one add the HOMECOMING to indicate that the alumni reunion is for a specific event? Clear as mud, huh! Any guidance appreciated. – from Edmond, Okla. on Wed, Sep 30, 2015

A. Homecoming is an annual reunion attended by alumni, so homecoming should suffice. If certain classes are holding events, you might specify those years.

Q. In a college academic setting (information sheets, college catalogs, etc) where students are wanting to quickly find and compare such things as credit hours for courses, can it be appropriate to use "the course is 6 hours," a "3-hour course," or as a listing such as Electives: 6 hours,"...mainly when referring to hours/credits? The issue arises when we might have something like: For this degree, you must take 18 hours of science, three hours of history, 12 hours of math and six hours of art. Or again as a listing: Elective 12 hours, Art: six hours, Math: three hours, English: 18 hours. For a student wanting to quickly see the number(s) he needs to add up and compare, it might be easier to see everything treated equally as numbers, not spelled out. Thank you for your help. – from Nashville, Tenn. on Wed, Sep 30, 2015

A. My impression is that degree and major requirements are specified as credit hours, at least on first reference. College catalogs may use figures for credit hours when listing various courses. But text descriptions of degree programs may spell out credit hours under 10. Suggest check various university publications to see what the standard is.

Q. Title IX, Title Nine or title nine? Thank you. – from Santa Cruz, , Calif. on Tue, Sep 29, 2015

A. It's Title IX.

Q. When using a sports team name as an adjective (such as "Panthers mascot"), does the team name retain the "s" or drop it (making it "Panther mascot")? – from Longview, Texas on Tue, Sep 29, 2015

A. Generally retain the team name. There could be a local variation using the singular in some references, though.

Q. When more than one congressional district is listed (e.g., representatives from the 1st, 3rd and 4th Congressional Districts met ... ), is Congressional District still capitalized per the AP entry guidance? – from Bloomington, Minn. on Tue, Sep 29, 2015

A. For the plural reference, lowercase congressional districts.

Q. Q. What is the style for the possessive form of U.S.: U.S.'s or U.S.'? (ms) from Englewood Cliffs, N.J. on Tue, Sep 29, 2015 A. Write out United States' ... or use the abbreviation U.S. as a descriptive rather than possessive: the U.S. team. Q. Yes, but what about in a quote? – from Englewood Cliffs, N.J. on Tue, Sep 29, 2015

A. In a direct quote, the U.S.'s ...

Q. In a law firm you have percentage and nonpercentage partners. I have never used a hyphen in this word. Do I need to? – from Detroit on Tue, Sep 29, 2015

A. No. As you have it.

Q. What pronouns are associated with team names and musical acts? (i.e. "The Yankees recorded its/their first win." "Coldplay/The Jonas Brothers released its/their album.") Would this be the same for businesses? (i.e. "Brooks Brothers is closing its/their doors.") – from Liverpool, N.Y. on Tue, Sep 29, 2015

A. See the "collective nouns" entry for guidance.

Q. Hi, what is today's thinking about using a preposition at the end of a sentence? e.g. This document includes all companies for which we need to provide reports vs. This document includes all companies which we need to provide reports for – from , Jerusalem on Tue, Sep 29, 2015

A. Either works. There's no law against ending a sentence with a preposition.

Q. Hello AP. Do you have a style preference for listing the years of a biennium either as six digits or all eight? IE: "The 2016-2017 biennium education curriculum is in the works." Or "The 2016-17 biennium ..." Thank you! – from Madison, Wis. on Tue, Sep 29, 2015

A. Either is acceptable. Six digits often suffice for shorter range involving years.

Q. I recently interviewed someone who did not speak English. The interpreter spoke English but not very well, so the grammar was at times iffy. Do I quote the interpreter using the poor grammar or is it permissible to clean it up, given that the people speaking are obviously fluent in their native tongue. Using (sic) seems condescending and is something I would have to do often in the quotes. Thank you. – from Houston, Texas on Tue, Sep 29, 2015

A. Paraphrasing is a possibility. See "quotations in the news" for guidelines on handling problematic quotes.

Q. Greetings! Marketing is using "Best in class just got better" as a tagline, and we are unsure whether to hyphenate since it's neither referring to an award nor followed explicitly by a noun. Thank you for your guidance. – from Boston, N.C. on Tue, Sep 29, 2015

A. It's hyphenated as a modifier, but no hyphens in your usage.

Q. How would you reconcile the agreement on something like this: "My favorite thing was/were the rugs..." Do we conjugate according to "thing" or "rugs"? – from Harrisburg, Pa. on Tue, Sep 29, 2015

A. My favorite thing was the rugs.

Q. Is the past tense of gaslight, the behavior of making someone believe they are insane, the same as the past tense of gaslight, the practice of illuminating by natural gas? If so it would be "gaslit", but during a discussion among a few journalists on social media, and an assertion was made that the past tense of the behavior should be "gaslighted". – from Mableton, Ga. on Tue, Sep 29, 2015

A. The term is generally deployed as a gerund: gaslighting. Check the dictionary for light (v.) for the preferred past tense spelling.

Q. What do you recommend as a style reference for all things medical and healthcare related? Some academic rules, which are easy to find in the AP Stylebook, can apply (titles, departments, etc.), but my colleagues and I, who work for a healthcare system, wondered if there was something more comprehensive for the medical field that is AP-approved. – from Atlanta, Georgia on Tue, Sep 29, 2015

A. The AMA style guide is comprehensive. You can find it online. Incidentally, AP spells health care as two words.

Q. Do you use Mr. before a name when Esq. is lsited at the end of the name? Example: Mr. John Smith, Esq. – from , on Tue, Sep 29, 2015

A. AP doesn't use courtesy titles like Mr. or Esq., unless in a direct quote or on an official list of names, such as a White House guest list. In such cases, Mr. comes before the full name and Esq. after the surname and comma, as you have it.

Q. Parents night out and schools day out: How should parents be used: Parents, parent's or parents' Same goes with schools day out: How should schools be used: School's, Schools or Schools' – from Cleves, Ohio on Tue, Sep 29, 2015

A. Consider those descriptives rather than possessives: Parents night out; Schools day out

Q. Is it "low-single-digit decline" or "low single-digit decline?" Thank you. – from Boston on Tue, Sep 29, 2015

A. The second.

Q. When is it appropriate to use acronym VTC for video teleconferencing? – from Richmond, Va. on Tue, Sep 29, 2015

A. The abbreviation could work in follow-ups after spelling out the full term on first reference.

Q. What is the style for the possessive form of U.S.: U.S.'s or U.S.'? (ms) – from Englewood Cliffs, N.J. on Tue, Sep 29, 2015

A. Write out United States' ... or use the abbreviation U.S. as a descriptive rather than possessive: the U.S. team.

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