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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. One of our executives holds two doctorates and wants us to describe him in copy as "John Doe, Ph.D., Ph.D." We've insisted that one is enough, and the second would look like a mistake. Correct? – from Erie, Pa. on Wed, Nov 26, 2014

A. You could compromise: John Doe, who holds doctorates in abc and def, ...

Q. Dear AP: Is it "on a scale of one to 10" (as in numerals- Other uses) or "on a scale of one to ten" (as in numerals - informal or casual use)? – from Seattle on Wed, Nov 26, 2014

A. Assuming it's a true measurement, on a scale of 1 to 10 ...

Q. Nittiest nit ever? If you're going to make this statement ("Some words, such as the examples just given, are always proper nouns") in the CAPITALIZATION entry, you probably should pick a different man's name than John in your proper noun examples. (Nittiest nit and bathroom humor to boot. Apologies?) – from Bristol, Conn. on Wed, Nov 26, 2014

A. The capitalized example John refers to the unique identification of a specific individual, not a slang term spelled lowercase.

Q. Regarding the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Does it need "the," in front of each mention? And should it be referred to in the singular (it is a single body) or plural (because the name is the Armed Forces)? The FARC says, the FARC say; FARC says, FARC say? – from Quito, Ecuador on Wed, Nov 26, 2014

A. FARC functions as a collective noun and takes a singular verb. Whether the acronym is preceded by a definite or indefinite article depends upon the formulation, as in these examples from AP stories: members of the FARC's governing secretariat ... a FARC commander said ... how FARC members will transition ... the FARC captured two soldiers ...

Q. The country sent its first batch of 300 military personnel to the war-torn African nation Tuesday. In my opinion, the sentence means that the country plans to send 300 military personnel to the war-torn African nation and on Tuesday the country sent part of those 300 military personnel over in a first batch. However, the writer%uFFFDs opinion is that 300 military personnel were sent over in the first batch, and more will be sent in additional batches. What is the true meaning of the above sentence? Thank you. – from Virginia, XX on Tue, Nov 25, 2014

A. Better nail down what actually occurred, then rewrite the sentence to avoid any ambiguity.

Q. In the following example on reporting the results of a survey, should the findings be reported in present tense or past tense? Fifty-three percent of those surveyed are/were in favor of passing the resolution. – from Virginia, XX on Tue, Nov 25, 2014

A. The imperfect were is customary.

Q. When quoting multiple people with same last name, should first and last name be used in this case? – from Bohemia, N.Y. on Tue, Nov 25, 2014

A. Correct.

Q. Can sustainability increase, or does it have to be the "level of sustainability" that increases? Example: "...further increasing sustainability." Including "level of" seems redundant. – from Portland, Ore. on Tue, Nov 25, 2014

A. Without knowing the context, can't give an opinion.

Q. Protestor or protester? – from Fairway, Kan. on Tue, Nov 25, 2014

A. It's in the Stylebook: protester

Q. In keeping with the "cyber" prefix rule, would cyberforensics be one word? Rewording is not an option. Thank you! – from Kansas City, Mo. on Tue, Nov 25, 2014

A. Yes.

Q. Could you please clarify what the style is for referring to a police officer. My colleagues and I, who are dealing with copy about Ferguson, Missouri, have sifted through various stylebook entries about this and remain confused. Is it Police Officer Darren Wilson? Or police Officer Darren Wilson? Or police officer Darren Wilson? – from New York on Tue, Nov 25, 2014

A. As a job description without a name, it's police officer. Preceding a name, the "O" is capitalized as a job title: Officer Darren Wilson. If police precedes the Officer title, it's usually lowercase.

Q. In there a hyphen between "results driven" in this sentence: The initiative is committed to identifying measures that are effective and results driven." – from Washington , District of Columbia on Tue, Nov 25, 2014

A. I fear so. But let's do readers a favor and help retire a vague term that's overused by politicians, businesses and other organizations.

Q. Are pronouns, such as this, that, etc, lowercase in headlines? – from Rosemead, Calif. on Tue, Nov 25, 2014

A. In an AP headline, only the first word and proper nouns are capitalized. If you use an all-caps format, pronouns would be uppercase.

Q. When referring to a User ID for online banking, should User be capitalized? Thanks in advance. – from Bridgeport, Conn. on Tue, Nov 25, 2014

A. Assuming it doesn't start a sentence, it's user ID within a text.

Q. We would like to find out the correct spelling of the following name: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (as per the reply to a question posed in 2007) or Abu Musab Zarqawi (per the pronunciation guide). Thank you. – from New York on Tue, Nov 25, 2014

A. AP stories from the Mideast use this spelling: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi

Q. Is there a reason why the AP puts periods in B.A., M.A., LL.D., and Ph.D., but not in MBA? – from Cambridge, MA on Tue, Nov 25, 2014

A. MBA is the first spelling in Webster's NWCD, the Stylebook's primary reference.

Q. Is "suit" acceptable to AP as a synonym for "lawsuit?" Meanwhile, is the term "filing suit" acceptable as well? – from Austin, Texas on Mon, Nov 24, 2014

A. Yes, the Stylebook includes this usage: co-respondent In a divorce suit. Dictionaries also allow suit as a short form of lawsuit.

Q. How does AP Style handle the phrase "buy in"? Should it be "buy-in" with a hyphen in the following phrase: "Gain internal buy-in for your digital strategy"? I've seen conflicting versions online but cannot find anything in Ask the Editor. Thank you! – from Woodbridge , N.J. on Mon, Nov 24, 2014

A. Often buy-in (n.), but two words in verb forms, buy in.

Q. I see that Webster's New World College Dictionary has coursework as one word. Does that change Ask the Editor's previous decision to stick with one word? Q. Is the standard still two words for "course work" - or should it be "coursework"...? Thanks! from San Antonio on Feb 27, 2013 A. I'd stick with course work, though the one-word spelling seems to be gaining usage. Webster's New World College Dictionary results: not favorite coursework (Source: Webster's New World College Dictionary) k%uFFFDrs %uFFFD w?rk n. the various assignments, exercises, examinations, etc. completed by a student to fulfill the requirements for passing a particular class or course of study – from Seattle , Wash. on Mon, Nov 24, 2014

A. Yes, I'll defer to the coursework spelling in Webster's NWCD. AP stories this year favor the compound.

Q. Which is preferred, Great Britain or United Kingdom. Or are they interchangeable? – from Thousand Oaks, Calif. on Mon, Nov 24, 2014

A. They aren't interchangeable. Great Britain consists of England, Scotland and Wales. For the United Kingdom, add Northern Ireland.

Q. Athens's or Athens' ? He was Athens's first leader OR He was Athens' first leader – from seattle, Wash. on Mon, Nov 24, 2014

A. He was Athens' first leader.

Q. How would AP refer to ALS or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis on first reference? Should it be ALS or should the full name be used? Thank you. – from Austin, Texas on Mon, Nov 24, 2014

A. In AP stories, Lou Gehrig's disease on first reference. Stories specify that Lou Gehrig's disease, also called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, attacks motor neurons, cells that control the muscles.

Q. We are debating the "And smiles" in this sentence after the quotation mark. It seems left hanging and incomplete. But what would make it right? "Boston," She says. "But it was not my Texas." And smiles. – from seattle, Wash. on Mon, Nov 24, 2014

A. It's not clear as a fragment. Try this tweak: "Boston," she says. "But it was not my Texas," she adds smiling.

Q. Up-market or up market as in people with some wealth? Same as high net worth individual -- no hyphens? Examples: The company serves up-market and high net worth customers. -- or -- People in that town are more up market. (Used in quote so don't want to eliminate the wording.) – from New Jersey on Mon, Nov 24, 2014

A. It's upmarket (adj.) in Webster's NWCD.

Q. What is the proper headline? Clinical Data Abstractors Staff Receive Team Award Clinical Data Abstractors Staff Receives Team Award – from Lewisburg, Pa. on Mon, Nov 24, 2014

A. The second example has correct agreement.

Q. I work with a lot of inexperienced journalists who like to begin stories with quotations. I hate it, as it looks abrupt and amateurish. Has AP weighed in on this? – from Prague, XX on Mon, Nov 24, 2014

A. Reserve that kind of lead for only the most memorable quotes.

Q. Continuing A Call To Action (A Call to Action italicized) - An Introduction or Continuing "A Call to Action" - An Introduction? – from Scranton, Pa. on Mon, Nov 24, 2014

A. See the Stylebook's "italics" entry. For that reason, the second option.

Q. We capitalize mayor and commissioner before a name. Should we also be capping city clerk and city attorney before a name? – from Anna Maria, Fla. on Mon, Nov 24, 2014

A. Both positions could be capitalized as formal titles rather than occupational descriptions.

Q. Fuel-cell car or fuel cell car? – from Seoul, XX on Sun, Nov 23, 2014

A. Usually fuel cell car in AP stories.

Q. What is the AP style rule for using a comma before "too" or "as well" (both at the end of a sentence)? – from Deerfield Beach, Fla. on Sun, Nov 23, 2014

A. These words of emphasis usually aren't set off at the end of a sentence: He promised to help you too. She's driving home as well.

Q. In reference to a series of nations, do "U.S." or "United States" require "the" (e.g., Belize, Russia, the U.S.)? – from Clarkston, MI on Sun, Nov 23, 2014

A. Correct.

Q. I see AP has moved to consistently hyphenless spellings of "pushup," "pullup," and "situp." When quoting a Briton who refers to a "pressup" (which Americans would call a pushup), do you recommend the hyphenless spelling for parallelism or keeping the British-preferred hypenated form, "press-up"? – from Columbia, S.C. on Sun, Nov 23, 2014

A. Deferring to press-up (n.) in Webster's NWCD.

Q. When talking about a style of food that's associated with a specific region, should I hypenate the modifier, i.e. New York-style food, or Chicago-style pizza? Thanks – from Racine, Wis. on Sat, Nov 22, 2014

A. Correct.

Q. Victory in Europe Day -- V-E Day, VE Day or something different? – from Farmington, Maine on Fri, Nov 21, 2014

A. The Stylebook entry is VE-Day.

Q. When you're using an acronym for second references, do you list that acronym parenthetically after the first reference for clarity, or is that outdated? – from Menasha, Wis. on Fri, Nov 21, 2014

A. AP does not list the abbreviation in parentheses directly after the name of the institution or group. However, the abbreviation, usually all caps, may be used on second reference. Alternately, the story may use a shorthand form of the full name on second reference, such as the association or the agency.

Q. Hyphen or no hyphen: extended care strategy / extended-care strategy – on Fri, Nov 21, 2014

A. That particular term doesn't appear in a search of AP story archives. However, similar terms in the archive such as extended care facility and extended care area are not hyphenated.

Q. "When attributing a quote, should you put the name (on second reference) before or after said." %uFFFDInstead of paying for an $8,000 paint job, you can do a wrap for about half of that,%uFFFD said Michaud. Or should it say Michaud said. – from Columbus, Ohio on Fri, Nov 21, 2014

A. Usually the name precedes the verb in an attribution. However, when an appositive follows the name, the verb comes first.

Q. Each of our representatives belongs to OR Each of our representatives belong to? – from NY on Fri, Nov 21, 2014

A. Each takes a singular verb, as noted in the Stylebook entry.

Q. Does the double prefix rule apply when two different prefixes are tied together? For example, "mini self-portraits" or "miniself-portraits." – from Lebanon, Pa. on Fri, Nov 21, 2014

A. In this phrasing, mini stands separately as a noun: mini self-portraits.

Q. Is it buzzword or buzz word? – from , on Fri, Nov 21, 2014

A. It's buzzword (n.) in the dictionary spelling.

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