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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. Hi Editors, I can't find a rule for this in the style guide. In the Chicago Manual, it's okay to drop "The" (or a, an) at the beginning of a title if it's awkward, say, in this kind of sentence: "'It was stupendous,' so and so says of the Houston Ballet%uFFFDs The Nutcracker." E.g., Fielding's History of Tom Jones (instead of The History...), or That dreadful Old Curiosity Shop character (instead of The Old Curiosity Shop...). In AP style, is "The," "A" or "An" ever dropped in composition titles in running text? Thanks! – from Belleville, XX on Sun, Dec 21, 2014

A. The Stylebook's "composition titles" entry says capitalize the principal words, including an article -- the, a, an -- if it's the first or last word in a title. So we don't recommend dropping the article. In your last example, rephrasing solves the problem: That dreadful character in "The Old Curiosity Shop" ...

Q. "As the only contractor in our space to become ISO quality certified, ABC%uFFFDs quality program is second to none." Would you hyphenate "ISO quality certified" in this sentence? – from Faribault, Minn. on Sun, Dec 21, 2014

A. Hyphens not needed.

Q. Why and when did you change the style on use of numerals for miles when referring to distance? The style AP used for years made complete sense. Why change it? Thank you. – from Victoria, Texas on Sun, Dec 21, 2014

A. The "numerals" entry was updated in the 2013 Stylebook to specify using figures for dimensions and distances, including miles under 10: He walked 4 miles.

Q. When referencing a news story in print, should the headline be in quotes? Thanks. – from Lincoln, Neb. on Sat, Dec 20, 2014

A. If the headline summarizes by borrowing a term or short quote from the news story in print, it might be enclosed in quotes for emphasis. Hard to say for sure without knowing details.

Q. U.S. Virgin Islands, United States Virgin Islands, US Virgin Islands, or USVI? – from FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. on Fri, Dec 19, 2014

A. See "Virgin Islands" entry.

Q. In our region, it's common for state Route to be abbreviated with the road's numeral -- so what would AP recommend stylistically? S.R. 18, SR 18, SR-18...? – from Moccasin, Ariz. on Fri, Dec 19, 2014

A. AP stories from Arizona spell out those terms.

Q. In colloquial usage, would you spell out and/or capitalize Co., as in "Connor and Co. made their case for..."? I think it should be written "Connor and company made their case for...". Thanks! – from Cleveland, Ohio on Fri, Dec 19, 2014

A. Better to write out company in that phrase.

Q. I work for a park district. Should I be capitalizing the word(s) "park district" when not used with the full name? Example: The Fox Valley Park District serves over 200,000 residents. The park district serves over 200,000 residents. The district serves over 200,000 residents. When should I capitalize? – from Aurora, Ill. on Fri, Dec 19, 2014

A. The district spelled lowercase suffices on second reference. If you must use both words after the capitalized formal name, it's park district spelled lowercase.

Q. Regarding West Texas Intermediate--a grade of crude oil used as a benchmark in U.S. oil pricing--how should it be capitalized, if at all? Also, is it acceptable to use WTI after the first reference? – from Jefferson, Wis. on Fri, Dec 19, 2014

A. It's West Texas Intermediate on first reference, WTI in subsequent references.

Q. Does AP punctuate catch lines? – from Colorado Springs, Colo. on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

A. Not sure because the term isn't familiar. Send an example and where it's used for publication. I'll take a look.

Q. Why on earth did you change the abbreviation of state names to spelling them out when used with a city or town? – from Hooksett, N.H. on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

A. AP stories are transmitted globally. State names are easier to grasp by audiences overseas and in the U.S. when written out within stories.

Q. Which is correct: Web address or web address. – from St. Petersburg, Fla. on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

A. It's Web address. See the "Web" entry for compounds spelled lowercase.

Q. In the following sentence, should web be capitalized? "You can find a lot of information on the web." – from St. Petersburg, Fla. on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

A. ... on the Web.

Q. We've been debating the use of "says" vs. "said" with quotes and with paraphrases in the narrative of a story. Does the writer have flexibility on which to use, or is "said" the only option? – from Elkhart, Ind. on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

A. Said is the customary attribution. Says is used in initial versions of AP stories for broadcast. Says is also used in some feature stories or narratives to express a sense of ongoing present or for mood.

Q. Would you hyphenate "built in" in this sentence? Reassurance is built in. – from Kansas City, Mo. on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

A. Yes.

Q. I saw all the questions about military chaplains, but what about the person who serves as the chaplain to the U.S. Senate? Is chaplain an official title in that case? (And in a caption, it's shorter to say Senate c[C]haplain Barry Black rather than turning it around). Cap or lowercase in front of the name? – from Washington on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

A. Recent AP stories from Washington have capitalized the title preceding the name: Senate Chaplain Barry Black.

Q. Hello, We are writing several articles for a newsletter, to be published in January, which will refer to someone who is now past president of the organization. However, the articles are about our December conference in which this person presided as president. When we refer to her, do we call her "past president" (her current title) or do we call her "president" since that was her title when she presided over events at conference? Or could we call her "then president?" – from West Sacramento, Calif. on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

A. Probably easiest to identify her as then-President Jane Smith, who completed her term at the conference or shortly afterward.

Q. Hi, I just wanted to alert you to a discrepancy within the stylebook as to whether to use periods in the name of the company U.S. Bancorp. Under "company names," the name is given as US Bancorp, while under "financial institutions," it's given as U.S. Bancorp. I'm not looking for clarification so much as I just wanted to let someone know. Thanks. – from Norwich, Conn. on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

A. Thank you. We'll make the the entries conform.

Q. I've reviewed other answers, but I don't understand why the correct style isn't Health Insurance Marketplace for the single federal marketplace (as it appears throughout and health insurance marketplaces for the multiple state marketplaces? – from Naperville, Ill. on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

A. Government entities tend to capitalize legislation, program names and the like for emphasis. For news stories using such terms, lowercase spellings suffice in most cases.

Q. Is there a hyphen with this phrase? 60 -person – from Chicago on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

A. As a compound modifier, make it 60-plus-person whatever.

Q. Should "rent seeking" be written with or without a hyphen? e.g. Rent seeking is the action of individuals and groups that pursue personal income via income transfers and other government favors rather than through production in exchange for income. – from Kigali, Rwanda on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

A. In an AP story about an economist's view of this practice, the term was spelled rent-seeking.

Q. Is the hyphen used correctly in this direct quotation? ...people within a 1.5-hour travel radius... Please advise; I cannot recast. Thank you much. – from Kansas City, Mo. on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

A. Yes.

Q. Would you hypenate this? "...providing day in and day out reliability..." – from West Chester, Pa. on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

A. No, because the dictionary spelling is day in, day out.

Q. Should I use hyphens in this sentence? Our evidence based services are person centered, culturally competent, recovery focused and trauma informed. – from Madison, Wis. on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

A. Hyphenate the combining form in evidence-based but not the other terms.

Q. When listing events for New Year's Eve, are events listed with the outgoing year or the upcoming, new year? – from Mechanicsburg, Pa. on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

A. It would depend on the name of the event -- whether the focus is on 2014 or looking ahead to 2015. From the New Year's Eve context, some event names should be obvious without requiring either year.

Q. Question about a comma in 'from-to' constructions. You wouldn't put a comma before 'to' in a phrase like this, would you? ...everything from prenatal care and screenings to diagnosis, treatment and counseling for high-risk pregnancies. – from Encinitas, Calif. on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

A. No, but the list of services is rather complex. Alternately, two shorter sentences could be used to convey the scope.

Q. Does best-seller still get hyphenated when using with New York Times? And, which of these would be accurate in this situation: Molly Smith celebrates daughter's New York Times Best-Seller Molly Smith celebrates daughter's New York Times best-seller Molly Smith celebrates daughter's New York Times Best Seller – from Layton, Utah on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

A. Molly Smith celebrates daughter's New York Times' best-seller. (note possessive)

Q. Which use of "continue" is correct in expressing an observation of an ongoing condition expected to continue in the future? "We see investment continue to trend upward," or, "We see investment continues to trend upward." – from Chicago on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

A. We see investment continuing to trend upward.

Q. I have this title coming after a name. Is the whole thing lowercase (except for China) or just program director%uFFFDLabor and Employment Law Counsel and China program director – from New York City, N.Y. on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

A. Formal titles and occupational specialties following a name are lowercase (except for China in this case).

Q. Does AP's guidance on the use of pronouns in reference to transgender persons -- "Use the pronoun preferred by the individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth" -- include the allowable use of plural pronouns in reference to an individual? – from Falmouth, Maine on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

A. A news story could directly quote a transgender person's preference to be described with a plural pronoun. On second or subsequent references, the person's name might be used for clarity.

Q. How would you write out a time element such as quarter past 4? As in, "It's a quarter past 4 and the house is full" – from Cleveland, Ohio on Wed, Dec 17, 2014

A. The clock time should be clear using the figure 4. However, it could be argued that this is a casual use of a numeral and thus spelled four.

Q. Ask the Editor results: favorite Q. What is AP style for a "third base coach" in baseball? Should it be "third-base coach"? from Los Angeles on Oct 31, 2007 A. Yes, with hyphen. favorite Q. How does AP handle base coaches in baseball? Is it third-base coach, third base coach or third basecoach? ó Chelsey, California A. We use third base coach. What os the current preference for third base coach? Hyphenate or not? – from st. paul, Minn. on Wed, Dec 17, 2014

A. It's third base coach without hyphens.

Q. Is the correct usage "The Navajo Nation" or "Navajo Nation"? – from Boston on Wed, Dec 17, 2014

A. The Navajo Nation starting a sentence. Within a sentence, lowercase the article preceding Navajo Nation.

Q. If the title, president and owner, follows the person's name, is it lowercase? And if it precedes, is it uppercase? This is in reference to a business owner. – from Stuart, Fla. on Wed, Dec 17, 2014

A. Lowercase president and owner following the individual's name. As a formal title, president is capitalized preceding the name and owner is lowercase.

Q. Good afternoon, Is there a policy on capitalization and proper usage for 'triads' (as in predominantly Asian gangs)? Would it follow the established guidelines for Mafia and Yakuza, for example? Thank you. – from Annapolis, MD on Wed, Dec 17, 2014

A. In AP stories, triad is lowercase as a generic term for underworld societies linked to organized crime. It's also lowercase when used with a group's name, such as the Hong Kong-based Wo Hop To triad.

Q. Current AP style is post-traumatic stress disorder, but there is some discussion at our military publications to drop "disorder" in consideration of the stigma related to it. See and What do you think? We're leaning toward dropping the "D" in generic references, but including it in cases when we need to refer to the disorder specifically, i.e. to mention a diagnosis. Thanks for your help. – from Virginia on Wed, Dec 17, 2014

A. Your question is the first I've heard of any discussion about that term. Apart from the PTSD entry, the AP Stylebook uses disorder in definitions of several other ailments. Also, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke is listed among the research units of the National Institutes of Health.

Q. What is the AP style for foster child? A child in foster care? – from Idaho Falls, Idaho on Wed, Dec 17, 2014

A. News stories generally use foster child, foster parents. There may be situations where the other term is appropriate.

Q. Is the proper second reference for Malala Yousafzai Malala or Yousafzai? – from , Tulsa, Oklahoma on Wed, Dec 17, 2014

A. In AP stories she's Malala on second reference.

Q. will likely be or likely will be? – from Winter Park, Fla. on Wed, Dec 17, 2014

A. The second is preferable. The first is more informal.

Q. The first entry in the 2014 holiday style guide is "A Visit From St. Nicolas." Is "Nicolas" a typo, or is that the spelling of "Nicholas" in the original poem? – from Scranton, Pa. on Wed, Dec 17, 2014

A. Should read "A Visit From St. Nicholas." Thanks for pointing it out.

Q. In some technical documents I'm editing, I've come across datalink and data link. So what would AP suggest: one word or two? – from , Tucson on Wed, Dec 17, 2014

A. AP stories use two words for the common term data link, which is often a plural.

Q. How does AP abbreviate fiscal year? Is it FY2014 or FY 2014? – from Raleigh, N.C. on Wed, Dec 17, 2014

A. The second with a space.

Q. I'm uncertain of how to use the verb 'repent' correctly. Is the standard pattern 'repent something' or 'repent for something' ? Thank you – from Seoul, XX on Tue, Dec 16, 2014

A. The dictionary entry says "of" is commonly used with repent, as in repent of one's sins. Repent for is another standard usage.

Q. Just stumbled on this entry in stylebook as I was looking for something else. And from what I was taught, it is flat-out wrong. The 66-year-old amateur photographer has pleaded not guilty to four counts of first-degree murder for the slaying of four women. It should be "in the slaying of four women" -- "for the slaying" means the photographer did it. Right? We convicted him ahead of time. Did this change at some point as becoming acceptable, using "for" rather than "in," and I missed it? Regardless, I won't be using "for." – from Boise, Idaho on Tue, Dec 16, 2014

A. No, using "for" in this context does not mean the individual is being prejudged. However, "in" is the customary preposition in such phrasings. I'll look into updating the example. Thanks for pointing it out.

Q. Capitalized title or not - (note comma): "....optimism related to the country's pro-business prime minister-elect, Narendra Modi." Thanks! – from , Manchester, N.H. on Tue, Dec 16, 2014

A. Correct as written with name set off. Otherwise, Prime Minister-elect Narendra Modi.

Q. IS it correct to use hyphens in the statement "first-of-its-kind?" Why or why not? – from McLean, Va. on Tue, Dec 16, 2014

A. Hyphenate as compound modifier preceding noun: a first-of-its-kind water plan.

Q. Couldn't find this in the stylebook. When talking about a branch campus, would there be a hyphen used? For example: The student attended NOC-Stillwater OR The student attended OSU-Tulsa. – from Stillwater, Okla. on Tue, Dec 16, 2014

A. AP stories from Oklahoma spell out the university or college name on first reference: Northern Oklahoma College-Stillwater initially, then NOC-Stillwater on follow-ups. Same for Oklahoma State University on first reference, including a hyphenated Tulsa for that campus when applicable, then OSU-Tulsa on second reference.

Q. Is it correct to use e-receipts? – from Mississippi State, Miss. on Tue, Dec 16, 2014

A. Yes.

Q. Is it "Happy Birthday" or "happy birthday"? – from Madison, Wis. on Tue, Dec 16, 2014

A. "Happy birthday!" We wish you a happy birthday.

Q. You mentioned in a recent FAQ that a brand name could include a second capital letter, i.e. AstroTurf. Is this acceptable with a company name, as well, or should the name always be initial cap and lower case, even if the company itself uses a second cap in the name? – from Jefferson, Wis. on Tue, Dec 16, 2014

A. See the "company names" entry for various examples, including ConocoPhillips, MasterCard Inc. and PepsiCo Inc.

Q. How should we treat free fall? At first glance at the dictionary, it's free fall, two words as a noun and hyphenated as a verb. But then there's a separate entry hypenated that makes this confusing. – from Centreville, Va. on Tue, Dec 16, 2014

A. Yes, these dictionary entries seem inconsistent. My interpretation, based on the examples, is that noun forms are primarily unhyphenated. AP stories often hyphenate the term as a modifier for parachuting, as in free-fall formations or free-fall jumps.

Q. Is it "cromnibus," "CRomnibus" or "Cromnibus" as the nickname for the 2015 "continuing resolution omnibus" budget agreement just passed by Congress? – from Washington on Tue, Dec 16, 2014

A. Haven't seen that term. AP stories refer to the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill passed by Congress.

Q. A July answer on midcontinent/mid-continent/Mid-Continent in reference to U.S. oil-services companies suggested a lowercase and hyphenated "mid-continent," which seems to conflict with AP's entry on "mid-": no hyphen unless a capitalized word follows. Can you clarify? – from Chicago on Tue, Dec 16, 2014

A. Right. The common term is midcontinent without a hyphen. Correcting the July Q&A. Thanks.

Q. I'm seeing the word "assure" crop up a lot in company documents I edit. Is it used correctly in this sentence: "And we must assure that customer expectations around cost and service are met if our company is to grow, be profitable, and maintain its competitive position." I thought it should be ensure but I'm seeing it so often now in sentences like this that I'm starting to wonder if I'm mistaken. Thanks. – from Duluth, Minn. on Tue, Dec 16, 2014

A. The usage seems to be OK based on the example in the Stylebook's "ensure, insure, assure" entry.

Q. What would AP do with the term Red Scare, as in the 1950s? – from Farmington, Maine on Tue, Dec 16, 2014

A. Generally capitalized in AP references, such as Sen. Joe McCarthy's Red Scare of the 1950s.

Q. "Cromnibus" is quickly entering the lexicon. Should the term always first be placed in quotes, with a brief description following? – from Arlington, Va. on Tue, Dec 16, 2014

A. In AP stories, it's the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill passed by Congress.

Q. When talking about more than one certificate of deposit (CD) would it be certificates of deposit or certificate of deposits? – on Tue, Dec 16, 2014

A. The first is correct: certificates of deposit.

Q. Which is correct: Guy wire or guide wire when referring to wires attached to utility poles? – from Levittown, Pa. on Mon, Dec 15, 2014

A. A guy (n.) is a rope, chain, rod or wire attached to something to guide or steady it.

Q. "At risk for" or "at risk of"? – from , Palo Alto, Calif. on Mon, Dec 15, 2014

A. Usually, at risk of. However, at risk for fits certain phrasings.

Q. Should the term "utility patent" be capitalized? – from Stockton, Calif. on Mon, Dec 15, 2014

A. No.

Q. AP style puts periods in academic degrees (B.A., M.S., Ph.D.)--except for MBA. Just curious as to why no periods in MBA? – from Washington on Mon, Dec 15, 2014

A. MBA is the first spelling in Webster's NWDC. Also, it's in wide usage without periods.

Q. I would like to know the proper formatting of the second "In" in the quotes, should it be capitalized or not? In addition, "in principle, it is possible to..." – from College Park, MD on Mon, Dec 15, 2014

A. Yes. In starts the sentence in quotes.

Q. Do I capitalize the term "genderqueer" when referring to them it as a gender, like male and female? In context, "Sam Smith identifies as genderqueer/Genderqueer." – from Maplewood, N.J. on Mon, Dec 15, 2014

A. Within a sentence, the term is lowercase.

Q. I know 'family' is collective noun, but because the predicate, do I use 'have been' or 'has been'? The family have been loyal donors and advocates for the University for many years. – from houston, Texas on Mon, Dec 15, 2014

A. Using family as a collective noun, keep the references singular: The family has been a loyal donor and advocate for the university for many years. As family individuals, the references should be plural: The family members have been loyal donors and advocates for the university for many years.

Q. When including 800 numbers in text, is it appropriate to say "toll-free" before the number? For example, "Call us toll-free at 855-123-4567." And, should "toll-free" be hyphenated? – from Portland, Ore. on Mon, Dec 15, 2014

A. Yes and yes.

Q. When listing states that are abbreviated via AP style guide specifications, are the states separated by comma or semicolon? For ex: Ark.; Iowa; Kan.; La.; and Texas? or Ark., Iowa, La., and Texas? – from , on Mon, Dec 15, 2014

A. Use commas as in the examples in STATES IN HEADLINES section of the Stylebook's "state names" entry.

Q. In reference to an educational degree. Which is correct? M.Phil. in Economics at Oxford MPhil in Economics at Oxford – from Studio City, Calif. on Mon, Dec 15, 2014

A. For a news story, it's master's degree in economics from Oxford University. As an exception, the abbreviation might follow the individual's name in a list of people with academic degrees: John Smith, M.Phil. in economics, Oxford, University.

Q. I'm writing about a tool created for peer review. Is it a peer review tool or peer-review tool? – from Columbus, Ohio on Mon, Dec 15, 2014

A. Make it peer review tool, no hyphen in the noun phrae.

Q. AP does not cap border collie. Would the same be true for border terrier? – from Farmington, Maine on Mon, Dec 15, 2014

A. Yes.

Q. Is it "mumps" or "the mumps?" – from Pittsburgh on Mon, Dec 15, 2014

A. It usually depends on the phrasing. He came down with the mumps. The hospital provides vaccinations against polio, mumps and measles.

Q. Should Leading Economic Indexes (plural) be capitalized in a sentence such as: The Leading Economic Indexes for the U.S. and U.K continue to improve, according to reports from The Conference Board. – on Mon, Dec 15, 2014

A. Use lowercase spelling.

Q. What are the rules for "for example" or "in other words" and their latin abbreviations - e.g. and i.e.? Should they be written out? And if abbreviated, does AP require a comma following them before the list or explanation? – from Cincinnati, Ohio on Mon, Dec 15, 2014

A. See "e.g." and "i.e." entries in the Stylebook. In brief, both are acceptable followed by commas.

Q. Washington is one of the cities that can stand alone in the dateline. However, the "District of Columbia" entry states it should be abbreviated only rarely, such as in datelines - and it lists the example of Washington, DC. Can you clarify? – from Cincinnati, Ohio on Mon, Dec 15, 2014

A. Only rarely to avoid confusion with another U.S. locality would the story dateline be WASHINGTON, D.C.

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