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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. We are having a discussion: Which is correct when referring to the date (Jan. 2)? The Day after New Year's or The Day after New Years – from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. on Thu, Oct 30, 2014

A. Jan. 2 is the day after New Year's.

Q. If someone in the military is quoted using "sir" in addressing a higher rank,should "sir" be capitalized? Is it, "Yes, Sir," or "Yes, sir"? Thanks. – from Alexandria, Va. on Thu, Oct 30, 2014

A. Lowercase sir as a term of address.

Q. I have been fighting the good fight getting my organization to follow the AP Stylebook's guidelines on "cyber," but this past week alone I've seen AP articles use "cyber-attacks," "cyber security" and "cyber fraud." Is AP moving away from this rule? – from Merrick, N.Y. on Thu, Oct 30, 2014

A. Keep up the good fight on cyber. Words formed with this prefix aren't hyphenated, per the Stylebook guidance.

Q. In regard to the Sept. 22, 2014, question from Blacksburg, Virginia, about the search function, I am having the same problem. A search for "big box store" returns entries for big, box and store. This makes it difficult to find the answer to my search. Thanks. – from Shelbyville, Ind. on Thu, Oct 30, 2014

A. My archive search for box showed a 2010 Q&A using the spelling big-box stores. AP stories still hyphenate the modifier.

Q. Would you spell it Class A affiliate or uppercase them all as Class A Affiliate? The term in use in the context of utility companies. Thanks. – from Rosemead, Calif. on Thu, Oct 30, 2014

A. It's probably Class A affiliate.

Q. How do I write where a person being interviewed is from in my article? Currently I have it listed as follows: Wendy Salt, of Shakopee, Minn., is scheduled to be the first patient. – from Minneapolis on Thu, Oct 30, 2014

A. Correct as written and punctuated.

Q. What is the rule for comma usage before including or such as when preceding a list? Example A: We partnered with John Smith's company because they offer valuable benefits to your members including: %uFFFD Multiple carrier options %uFFFD Easy-to-navigate online tools %uFFFD Ease of enrollment Example B: It generally protects your members against the financial effects of risks such as: %uFFFD Employee theft and dishonesty %uFFFD Forgery %uFFFD Counterfeit money – from Urbandale, Iowa on Thu, Oct 30, 2014

A. A colon introduces a list at the end of a complete sentence. Drop includes in Example A and place the colon after members. In Example B, place colon after risks.

Q. Is the use of the phrase "A dozen" allowed to start a sentence, or is there a better way to phrase it? – from PoughKeepsie, N.Y. on Thu, Oct 30, 2014

A. A dozen can be used to start a sentence.

Q. On a business card, would you use a hyphen for the phrase NRA-Certified Instructor? Thank you for your help! – from Tallahassee, Fla. on Thu, Oct 30, 2014

A. NRA-certified instructor or instructor certified by the NRA. As a job description, certified instructor is lowercase.

Q. Which spelling is correct: pricey or pricy? I tried looking it up but I keep finding websites that say both spellings are right and I want to know which one to always use. – from Arlington, Va. on Thu, Oct 30, 2014

A. It's pricy in Webster's New World College Dictionary, Fifth Edition, the Stylebook's primary dictionary.

Q. Dashes in headlines. Should we capitalize the first word after a dash in a headline (e.g. "Bray to God -- Donkeys take over church")? Does it make a difference if what follows is a sentence or not? – from Kent, XX on Thu, Oct 30, 2014

A. That looks right, capping first letter of complete sentence.

Q. Is there a gender-neutral substitute for "manned/unmanned"? The reporter has written about the Antares "uncrewed" rocket, which I had not seen before. Thanks. – from Houston on Wed, Oct 29, 2014

A. I don't see uncrewed in AP stories about space missions. Not aware of other substitutes for manned and unmanned. Our coverage of the Antares explosion described it as an unmanned mission.

Q. Previously I asked the following Q: Q. I submitted a question to Ask the Editor, and I received an email with this copy: Your question has been submitted to Ask the Editor. This issue may have come up previously in this AP online forum. For a faster response and to avoid repetitions, try a keyword search of the Q&A's using either the category list archive or the chronological archive. Thanks for your interest. Shouldn't it be "Q&As" and not "Q&A's"? Thank you. %uFFFD from Chicago on Fri, Sep 19, 2014 You responded: A. Use 's for plurals of single letters. See the SINGLE LETTERS section of the Stylebook's "plurals" entry. My New Question: BUT, "Q&As" is not the plural of a single letter. It's the plural of 3 elements (2 letters and a symbol). So I'm confused. Thank you very much. – from Chicago on Wed, Oct 29, 2014

A. Sticking to explanation of the plural abbreviation as written: Q&A's. For guidance, see SINGLE LETTERS section of "plurals" entry: Use 's (apostrophe s): your p's and q's, the three R's. For single letters linked with an ampersand, the second letter gets the 's.

Q. Technical glitch? I searched for 3-D and got 0 results. But searching 3D provides a question here in the FAQ in which the answer says 3-D. Shouldn't it be returned with the initial query as well? – from Washington on Wed, Oct 29, 2014

A. Better to search the Stylebook first, where the 3-D spelling entry will come right up. My search of Ask the Editor archive also retrieved 3-D and the other spelling.

Q. Is it preferred to use an article before titles? So I should say: John Doe, the director of XYZ Corporation, and James Smith, a co-chair of ABC Committee? Or are the articles not necessary? I was sure AP preferred them but now I can't find the documentation to back it up. THANKS! – from Champaign, Ill. on Wed, Oct 29, 2014

A. It's depends on the context and need for accuracy. If John Doe is the director of XYZ corporation, the article implies he's the only person in that position. A co-chair may be redundant because co- means at least one other person holds that title.

Q. For the Western mountains higher than 14,000 feet, so popular to climb/hike, would the term be 14er? I'm seeing 14-er and fourteener, but 14er seems to be most common -- though I can't find it in the Stylebook. – from Denver on Wed, Oct 29, 2014

A. AP stories about the Colorado Rockies have occasionally used 14er for the highest peaks.

Q. Hi, I need to find the AP section on the use of "user friendly." I understand it should be rephrased to say "easy to use" but I need to document the exact section entry. Thanks. – from San Jose, Calif. on Wed, Oct 29, 2014

A. The Stylebook no longer has the entry on "user friendly" saying to avoid it favor of easy to use. The term is so widely used in conversational and written English that the admonition served little purpose.

Q. AGE: What is the correct way to write 7 1/2 years old? – from Falls Church, Va. on Wed, Oct 29, 2014

A. As you have it: use figures and fractions for mixed numbers.

Q. An ABE teacher will help develop academic and college readiness skills to (?in or for?) students enrolled in the program. – from Rosemount, Minn. on Wed, Oct 29, 2014

A. ... readiness skills of students enrolled in the program.

Q. Is Hillary Clinton, "former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton" or "former Sen. Hillary Clinton." Or perhaps, "former First Lady Hillary Clinton"? – from Aurora , Colo. on Wed, Oct 29, 2014

A. Hillary Clinton while on the campaign trail for Democratic candidates in the midterm elections and her own political aspirations. Referring to her previous roles, a recent AP story wrote of Hillary Clinton, former first lady, senator and secretary of state.

Q. Is candlelight dinner acceptable, or should it be candlelit dinner? Thanks. – from Miami on Wed, Oct 29, 2014

A. The noun is candlelight. As an adjective, it's candlelit dinner.

Q. In college sports stories, new recruits are often referred to as "commits." Is this an acceptable way to use the word? For example, can you say "The Washington State commit went on to ...?" – from Gillette, Wyoming on Wed, Oct 29, 2014

A. Though understandable, it's informal or slang. Better to take a few more words in a story to say the player committed to playing for XYZ.

Q. You define PAT as point after touchdown. Would it be PATs plural, as in RBIs? – from Brewster, Wash. on Wed, Oct 29, 2014

A. Correct.

Q. Per AP, should "comfort" foods be in quotes. – from Mesa, Ariz. on Wed, Oct 29, 2014

A. In AP stories, comfort food or comfort foods aren't enclosed in quotes.

Q. Hi, now that you're offering the Fifth Edition of Webster's as part of the online service, can you estimate how long it will be until you update the Stylebook (under "Dictionaries") to use that edition: "For spelling, style and usage questions not covered in this stylebook, consult Webster's New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston and New York, 2013." – from Chicago on Wed, Oct 29, 2014

A. Presto! dictionaries For spelling, style and usage questions not covered in this stylebook, consult Webster's New World College Dictionary, Fifth Edition, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston and New York, 2014.

Q. If following AP headline style where second word of hyphenated compound modifier is lowercase, would I also follow the same rule in the copy? For example: The Multi-stream Sequencer saves you money and minimizes space. – from Oconomowoc, Wis. on Wed, Oct 29, 2014

A. As a generic term within a headline or text, it's multistream sequencer spelled lowercase.

Q. Does AP have a style preference for Indonesian President Joko Widodo? Some publications refer to him by his family name, Widodo, while others use his nickname, Jokowi. – from Tokyo, Japan on Wed, Oct 29, 2014

A. On first reference, Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo. On second reference, Jokowi.

Q. Does a recipe serve 4 to 6 people or four to six people? – from West Palm Beach, Fla. on Tue, Oct 28, 2014

A. The recipe serves four to six people.

Q. Would you capitalize "dream" in the American dream? – from Minneapolis on Tue, Oct 28, 2014

A. No, it's the American dream.

Q. Is it spear phishing, spear-phishing or spearphishing? This is a type of cyberattack, similar to phishing, but targeted toward a specific individual or company. – from Atlanta on Tue, Oct 28, 2014

A. Recent uses in AP stories favor the hyphenated spelling.

Q. Should white sand beach be hyphenated? i.e. white-sand beach? The beach is white sand? – from Unit 4007, Colo. on Tue, Oct 28, 2014

A. Guided by White Sands, New Mexico, I wouldn't hyphenate white sand beach, though others may feel the urge to do so.

Q. When using a semi-colon to divide two separate thoughts in a headline, should I capitalize the first letter of the word following the semi-colon? Example: AP to report third-quarter earnings Nov. 4; Conference call set for Nov. 5 (The "Headlines" entry says to capitalize the first word following a colon in a headline, but it doesn't address semi-colons.) – from Oklahoma City on Tue, Oct 28, 2014

A. With the exception of a proper noun, lowercase the first letter of a word following a semicolon in a headline.

Q. Should the term "seller-doer" be hyphenated even as a noun, to avoid confusion in a sentence? For example: Seller-doers are starting to become more involved in the marketing aspects of the company. – from Virginia on Tue, Oct 28, 2014

A. The term has come up in AP stories of recent vintage. Online, the preference seems to be seller-doer.

Q. Looking for guidance on how new electricity technology called Microgrids should be written. Microgrid? MicroGrid? micro grid? Thanks. – from Portland, Ore. on Tue, Oct 28, 2014

A. It's microgrid in AP usage.

Q. I have a "numeral" question. What is the best way to state one in 10? It looks strange if you follow the true AP style rule (spelling out one through nine). Examples: to fulfill one of the 10 speech requirements to fulfill 1 of the 10 speech requirements to fulfill one of the ten speech requirements – from Falls Church, Va. on Tue, Oct 28, 2014

A. The first example is correct: to fulfill one of the 10 speech requirements. While ratios are expressed in numerals, this doesn't meet that definition.

Q. What verb should be used here? "Search for the test(s) that is/are to be added." Is or are? – from Gary, Indiana on Tue, Oct 28, 2014

A. Search for the test(s) to be added.

Q. Hi, I am still struggling with the capitalization of headlines. Does the following have the correct AP Style headline capitalization? 'How Elon Musk is Changing the World' Thanks, Craig – from Aylesbury, XX on Tue, Oct 28, 2014

A. In AP headline style only the first word and proper nouns or names are capitalized: How Elon Musk is changing the world. However, some publications capitalize the main words, including forms of "to be" verbs, so you might want to cap "Is" in your headline.

Q. Would CBS 11 be italicized in magazine copy? – from Palo Pinto, Texas on Tue, Oct 28, 2014

A. AP doesn't use italics in news copy. Some publications use them for proper names and titles, though.

Q. I saw a similar question in the archive, but the answer didn't really address the inconsistencies: We write "women's basketball" or "men's tennis," so it seems that we are using the possessive. So why would it be "girls basketball" or "boys tennis"? We don't write "women basketball." Using "girls" and "boys" as descriptive adjectives for the sport just seems incorrect. – from Wilmington, Del. on Tue, Oct 28, 2014

A. See the FORM CHANGE section of the "plurals" entry for an explanation of the required apostrophe-s possessive spelling for men's and women's. On the other hand, girl and boy don't change forms in plural spellings, adding only s: girls, boys. Used with the sports, these youth gender terms are considered descriptives or adjunct nouns in AP usage, rather than possessives: hence, girls basketball, boys tennis.

Q. Do I need to use parenthesis after first use of a company name if I'm going to shorten it throughout the rest of the article/news release? Example - "Company A, B, C & D Professional Association (Company A) has been selected..." – from Manchester, N.H. on Tue, Oct 28, 2014

A. AP doesn't enclose an abbreviation in parentheses immediately after a company name. For the shortened form, add a brief explanation if it's needed for the initial follow-up.

Q. What is the correct way to write a number range? Examples: between 4,000 and 8,000 articles 4,000-8,000 articles 4,000 to 8,000 articles – from Falls Church, Va. on Mon, Oct 27, 2014

A. They're all clear. Your preference.

Q. Please advise of capitalization or punctuation of yes in the following sentence: I would say absolutely yes. – from Raleigh, N.C. on Mon, Oct 27, 2014

A. As an indirect quote so it's fine as written.

Q. How do you write the fraction when describing nanoscale as 1/100 the width of a strand of human hair? – from Knoxville, Tenn. on Mon, Oct 27, 2014

A. It's one hundredth the width of a human hair.

Q. What is the correct verb tense in the following example -- (past, present or past perfect). The drop in sales in February (is, was, had been) attributed to fewer working days due to the prolonged strike. (One thing to note -- it is now October and the drop in sales is still attributed to the prolonged strike) – from Virginia, XX on Sun, Oct 26, 2014

A. ... was attributed to ...

Q. Do you put a comma after a conjunction if there is an introductory clause following it? For example, would you say, %uFFFDThe horse hadn%uFFFDt been exercised for days, and as he was led out to the watering trough, he wheeled playfully.%uFFFD Or, instead, would you say, %uFFFDThe horse hadn%uFFFDt been exercised for days, and, as he was led out to the watering trough, he wheeled playfully.%uFFFD – from Portland, Ore. on Sun, Oct 26, 2014

A. No comma after the conjunction because the clause provides essential information.

Q. Pls let me know whether the Chinese dish Peking duck should have capital or lowercase "d." Thx, Elaine – from Edina, Minn. on Sun, Oct 26, 2014

A. Lowercase the "d" in Peking duck.

Q. How do i cite the state and the political affiliation for a senator according to APA guidelines ? for an examplE, in the following sentence: Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (Dem.-Arizona) has been a staunch supporter of Gun Control since a man shot her in Jan. 2011. – from Germantown, MD on Sun, Oct 26, 2014

A. Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., has been a staunch supporter of gun control since a man shot her in January 2011.

Q. "Republican Party" should both words be capitalized in a sentence? – from Germantown, MD on Sun, Oct 26, 2014

A. Yes.

Q. When referring to a company being on the Fortune 500 or Fortune 100, is Fortune in italics or all caps? – from Houston, Texas on Sat, Oct 25, 2014

A. Neither in italics nor all caps. It's Fortune 500.

Q. A direct quote refers to "businessmen and women." Would women require a hyphen in front of it to denote the speaker meant to say "businesswomen" rather than just women in general? Or would it be better as (business)women in the quote? – from McAllen, Texas on Sat, Oct 25, 2014

A. Don't alter the direct quote. If it's unclear from the context, add a brief explanation after the quote.

Q. I have a question on dates. Should it read: he was born on May fifth, he was born on May 5th, or he was born on May 5? Also: The event will be held on Tuesday, May 5; the event will be held on Tuesday, May fifth; or the event will be held on Tuesday, May 5th? – from Casper, Wyo. on Sat, Oct 25, 2014

A. He was born May 5. The event will be held Tuesday, May 5.

Q. Should I put a yearbook theme in quotation marks? e.g. The yearbook staff has decided that 'There's Just Something' will be the theme for this year's Lair. – from Shawnee, Kansas on Fri, Oct 24, 2014

A. Yes, but enclose the theme in double quotation marks.

Q. Do famous artists, writers, etc. need full names on first reference, such as Monet? Can't find the answer in the "artworks" section or in any search. Thanks much. – from Manchester , Mo. on Fri, Oct 24, 2014

A. While first names are sometimes omitted from surname listings of renowned artists, AP stories generally include the given names for clarity.

Q. Regarding how to indicate an academic degree, your answers on Sept. 19 and Aug. 22 of this year are conflicting. One says "Bachelor's in public health," the other says, "master's degree in philosophy." Which is it? Is the degree capitalized in this construction or not? – from Gary, Indiana on Fri, Oct 24, 2014

A. Within a sentence it should be bachelor's in public health, master's degree in philosophy. I've corrected the Sept 19 answer. Thanks.

Q. In a quote, does "like" get treated as a verb, such as "and I was like, 'What are you doing?'" What kind of punctuation does it receive? – from Bainbridge Island, Wash. on Fri, Oct 24, 2014

A. In colloquial speech, like combined with a verb -- usually a form of "to be" -- is used to introduce a direct quotation. In your example, the comma after like is correct as you have it.

Q. I am proofing a college recruitment booklet the headline on The headline on the first page is shown below - I'm uncomfortable with the use of punctuation - it also appears to be a run-on phrase - do you agree? What happens when you bring together a thousand eager students from around the world, 40 student-run organizations, 18 sports teams, 150 champion quality horses%uFFFD and then introduce the spark of simple curiosity, a daily dose of compassion, and a strong belief that every human needs a sense of purpose? Friendships form. Students find independence, room to roam, and the chance to resolve conflict and work together. Solid ground gets established. And people flourish. – from pittsburgh, Pa. on Fri, Oct 24, 2014

A. Rather than a traditional headline, it seems to be an introductory passage written with a bit of magazine-style literary license: a run-on sentence and fragments. The phrasing is no doubt intentional and has a certain eye-catching effect. You might raise your concerns with the editors.

Q. Would "world-changing generosity" or "world changing generosity" be correct? – from Indianapolis on Fri, Oct 24, 2014

A. As a modifier preceding a noun, world-changing is hyphenated in AP stories. As an aside, I'd be cautious about a term that may stray into overstatement.

Q. Earnings per share and net sales are both singular, correct? Doesn't seem to be a definitive guide in APStyle, and companies seems to handle it inconsistently. Singular seems right, but sounds wrong. Earnings per share is / Earnings per share are? – from Canton, Ohio on Fri, Oct 24, 2014

A. Both are plural, but the first can be expressed with the singular: e.g., earnings of 21 cents per share.

Q. Is it acceptable to abbreviate a basketball player's position? The position point guard has already been used previously in the story for a player, and now I have a writer introducing a new player as "All-Star Clippers PG Chris Paul." Should it be written out, or is it OK as it is? Thank you. – from Portland, Ore. on Fri, Oct 24, 2014

A. PG and other basketball position abbreviations are used in headlines. Within the story, however, the position is written out.

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