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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. Looking for clarification on the use of the verb "launch." Because it's a transitive verb, it would seem incorrect to say "the website launches this week." I see that construction more and more, but do not see this issue addressed in the Stylebook or Ask the Editor. Appreciate your direction on this. – from Tucson, Ariz. on Mon, Jul 06, 2015

A. Dictionaries also define launch as an intransitive verb, though examples don't include the usage you cite. While "website launches" and similar constructions are much in vogue in publicity releases, they are overdone and best avoided.

Q. I cannot find a definitive answer for a couple vs a few vs several. Webster's says that several is "more than two but not very many." I have always understood it to be the following: A couple is 2; A few is 3-4, perhaps 5; and several is 5-10. My concern is that if a reporter describes something as occurring several times -- the exact number being three times -- that the use of several is misleading. It all seems very subjective, but I'm hoping the editor has some answers. Thanks. – from New York on Mon, Jul 06, 2015

A. We agree on a couple, which means two. But in my view, a few and several both suggest three to five, and a half dozen indicates about six. These are, as you say, subjective estimates. In news journalism, the exact number if known should be used instead of estimates because precision is best for accuracy and credibility.

Q. In the following example, should the comma go after the 2015 or 2014? The expense related to the purchase of the house for the six months ended June 30, 2015 and 2014 was $1.2 million. Thank you – from Pineville, La. on Mon, Jul 06, 2015

A. The sentence needs a comma after 2015. Also, the reference to 2014 would be clearer preceded by for: The expense related to the purchase of the house for the six months ended June 30, 2015, and for 2014 was $1.2 million.

Q. Which would AP use when a child doesn't say yes, but says uh-huh, mm-hmm, or mm hmm? Thank you. – from Charleston, S.C. on Mon, Jul 06, 2015

A. The dictionary lists uh-huh as an informal interjection. I'd go with that.

Q. Is the appropriate wording regionwide or region-wide? – from Austin, Texas on Mon, Jul 06, 2015

A. No hyphen with the combining form: regionwide. See the Stylebook entry.

Q. Should it be Confederate Navy Jack or Confederate Naval Jack, and what if any capitalization on Navy/Naval and Jack? – from Mount Pleasant, S.C. on Mon, Jul 06, 2015

A. A recent AP story from Charleston used Confederate Naval Jack flag.

Q. I see from the Stylebook that an interstate should be written Interstate Hwy 10 or Interstate 10, but how do I write the name of a loop such as I-210 loop? – from Lake Charles, La. on Mon, Jul 06, 2015

A. We don't abbreviate highway. It's Interstate 210 on first reference, I-210 on second reference, or 1-210 Loop.

Q. Is it Swiss franc or Swiss Franc? In context, when uused without the modifier "Swiss", is it franc or Franc? E.g., the Franc dropped in value. – from Dulles, Va. on Mon, Jul 06, 2015

A. It's the Swiss franc. Currency names are lowercase -- dollar, mark, yen, rial, etc.

Q. Hi, Should a rhetorical question like 'Who knows' have a question mark? As in Who knows? – from 115953, XX on Mon, Jul 06, 2015

A. Correct with a question mark.

Q. Shouldn't Quranic be lower-case to be consistent with biblical? – from Tokyo on Sun, Jul 05, 2015

A. The dictionary caps Quranic (adj.). In a rare use in an AP story, it was capitalized: Quranic schools.

Q. I respectfully request you revisit your "foot and mouth" vs "hoof and mouth" style rule. You say don't use hoof and mouth. The disease is limited to cloven-hooved animals; such animals do not have feet. Experts in the cattle industry have pointed out that "foot and mouth" is a misnomer. http://livestocktrail.illinois.edu/dairynet/paperDisplay.cfm?ContentID=603 Can you explain the style rule in which a disease of hooved creatures should refer to feet? – from Corpus Christie, Texas on Sun, Jul 05, 2015

A. The hyphenated foot-and-mouth disease can sometimes be transmitted to humans. Hence, we use that term rather than limiting it to cloven-footed animals.

Q. Can I assume that, based on the Webster's entry for -sphere as a combining form, e.g. oosphere (whatever that is), that Twittersphere is one word, not hyphenated? – from Tokyo on Sun, Jul 05, 2015

A. Yes, but it's overused. Try another description.

Q. The entry for May Day vs mayday seems unclear. It indicates "mayday" is not upper-cased, yet in the description the term "Mayday" begins a sentence so it has to be upper-cased. It might be a bit more clear if the explanatory sentence did not begin with the word "mayday," for example, "The international distress signal mayday means...." – from Santa Barbara, Calif. on Sun, Jul 05, 2015

A. It's usually a capitalized exclamation: "Mayday! Mayday!" she shouted.

Q. "Grudgingly" and "begrudgingly" -- totally synonymous when describing something done reluctantly? If there's a difference, when it is appropriate to use one or the other? – from Charlotte, N.C. on Sun, Jul 05, 2015

A. It seems so, but check the dictionary entries for nuances pertaining to specific contexts.

Q. Is it incorrect grammar to use perfect tenses with %uFFFDafter%uFFFD? For example, He has/had been recovering at home after competing in the tournament. – from Virginia, XX on Fri, Jul 03, 2015

A. Use simple past tense with after.

Q. Would you abbreviate a state name in a direct quote, as in regular text? For example: "I was born in Baltimore, Md." Or does it seem more natural that a speaker would actually say, "I was born in Baltimore, Maryland"? – from Rehoboth Beach, Del. on Fri, Jul 03, 2015

A. AP no longer uses state abbreviations within news stories, just in story datelines, so spell out Maryland in the direct quote.

Q. Is the following punctuated correctly (no comma before the quote and capitalized first letter because it's a complete sentence)? He was pleased that "The charity had helped more than 5,000 children over its 10 years." Thank you – from Virginia, XX on Thu, Jul 02, 2015

A. He was pleased that the "charity had helped more than 5,000 children over its 10 years."

Q. Should it be "who to contact with questions" or "whom to contact with questions"? – from Chicago on Thu, Jul 02, 2015

A. Whom to contact with questions. See "who, whom" entry.

Q. Although I was taught decades ago in college that AP prefers "said" to "says" in quoted material, I can't find anything here to confirm that. Does AP have a rule on this? If so, what is it? – from Oak Ridge, Tenn. on Thu, Jul 02, 2015

A. In news usage, said is the customary attribution. However, 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. You really didn't answer my question which involves a story that doesn't have a city/state in the dateline. We wouldn't post a story in Pensacola with a Pensacola dateline, so my original question is: Do we still have to put Florida, behind the city in the story? Especially if it involves local towns? Can you clarify the new policy on listing states in stories. For example, we're in Pensacola, Florida, so we wouldn't use a dateline, so if we mention Pensacola in the story, we have to add , Florida, ? And does that apply to every nearby city? %uFFFD from Pensacola, Fla. on Wed, Jul 01, 2015 A. If an AP story uses Florida city in the dateline, other Florida cities mentioned in the text don't need to have the state included unless confusion might arise -- say, with a city in another state with the same name. – from Pensacola, Fla. on Thu, Jul 02, 2015

A. No, don't add Florida after Pensacola in the story text or for other nearby cities understood to be within the state.

Q. It has recently come to my attention that the AP stylebook recommends not using the title "Dr." for people holding a PhD degree. I am an MD and recently won an award with two PhDs, equivalent award for equivalent stature all around, but the newspaper article refers to me as "Dr." and my colleagues as "Mr." This is frankly insulting to them and outdated. If it had gone the other way, referring to them as "Dr." and to me as "Mrs." I would have been outraged. This policy introduces inaccuracy in reporting, as it diminishes the perceived PhD academic contribution. Can this recommendation please be changed? – from Worcester, MA on Thu, Jul 02, 2015

A. See the appropriate entries in the AP Stylebook -- "academic degrees," "doctor," "Ph.D., Ph.D.s," "courtesy titles" -- to understand our guidance, which is not as used in the article. An AP story would specify that the two other individuals hold doctorates and their specialties. AP doesn't use Mr. and Mrs. as a title except in direct quotes, or Mrs. only if requested by a woman.

Q. I am editing this article and came across a phrase 10 cents per pound pickup cost. Your thoughts on hyphenating 10-cents-per-pound as a compound modifier. – from Orysia, New York City, N.Y. on Thu, Jul 02, 2015

A. My thought is to rewrite it to avoid an awkward modifier: a pickup cost of 10 cents per pound.

Q. Is "goal driven" always hyphenated regardless of whether it is compound modifier? Is it "I am goal driven" or "I am goal-driven."? And always "She is a goal-driven person."? – from Chandler, Ariz. on Thu, Jul 02, 2015

A. By the dictionary entry, hyphenate words with the combining form -driven: goal-driven.

Q. Is there a rule as to whether or not a professional title should use "of"? For example: Bob is the vice president, sales for Company A. versus Bob is the vice president of sales for Company A. – from Houston on Wed, Jul 01, 2015

A. A news story would favor the second: Bob Smith is the vice president of sales for Company A.

Q. I have seen conflicting answers in Ask the Editor regarding references to web pages, sections, links, buttons, etc. Capitalize titles, but not buttons? Use quotations or do not? Keep all punctuation inside quote marks? Click Submit. Click "Submit." Click "Submit". Click submit. Select Maps & Directions. Select "Maps & Directions." Select "Maps & Directions". Select maps & directions. Please clarify. Thank you! – from Elgin, Ill. on Wed, Jul 01, 2015

A. Word usages and instructions vary from website to website. Be guided by spellings on the link you're referring to. If a term is capitalized on the website, then cap it for the instruction. If lowercase, then use the same spelling in your reference. Terms such as "submit" are enclosed for emphasis in the answer. Keep punctuation inside quotes. Select maps and directions (or "maps and directions.")

Q. Should mobile health be abbreviated m-health or mHealth? – from San Francisco on Wed, Jul 01, 2015

A. Spell it out: mobile health.

Q. Punctuating indirect quotes. I need some help on when to use a comma in punctuating indirect quotes. Please see examples below and let me know when/if commas are needed. Thanks Kelderman said some of the lines had never..... Kelderman said, during th eprocess of locating... Kelderman said, the team worked closely.... – from Richmond, Va on Wed, Jul 01, 2015

A. Kelderman said some of the lines had never ...; Kelderman said that during the process of locating ...; Kelderman said the team worked closely ...

Q. Quick Question - I am looking for a rule about when to use a colon prior to a list. I have the rule in my head of "if there are three or more items use a colon to introduce the list." Is this correct? – from Athens, Ga. on Wed, Jul 01, 2015

A. A list introduced by a colon is generally three or more items.

Q. The Roman numerals entry doesn't make clear AP's stance on movies. Would it be "Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope" or "Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope" or "Star Wars Episode Four: A New Hope"? – from New York on Wed, Jul 01, 2015

A. Star Wars: Episode VIII

Q. Can you clarify the new policy on listing states in stories. For example, we're in Pensacola, Florida, so we wouldn't use a dateline, so if we mention Pensacola in the story, we have to add , Florida, ? And does that apply to every nearby city? – from Pensacola, Fla. on Wed, Jul 01, 2015

A. If an AP story uses Florida city in the dateline, other Florida cities mentioned in the text don't need to have the state included unless confusion might arise -- say, with a city in another state with the same name.

Q. Is it E-Pass or E-PASS for the electric toll collector? – from Orlando, Fla. on Wed, Jul 01, 2015

A. The generic term is e-pass. If it's a brand name, capitalize E-pass.

Q. In a sentence (not a headline or dateline), is it Washington, D.C., or Washington, DC? – from Washington on Wed, Jul 01, 2015

A. Washington, D.C.

Q. Dear AP eds, With all due respect, we're a little puzzled by your response to our question this week about whether you prefer the spelling "shahid" or "shaheed." You replied that you've only seen this word used as a given name and with both spellings. But many news stories, including your own, feature this word as a common noun -- it means "martyr" in Arabic and is used to glorify suicide bombers. Here is just one example I copied and pasted (from late April): BOSTON (AP) %uFFFD Testimony in the trial of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev zeroed in Tuesday on his late brother's wife, revealing searches done on her computer on the rewards of dying as a martyr's spouse and raising questions about what she knew before the 2013 attacks. Mark Spencer, a computer expert testifying for the defense, said a computer belonging to Tamerlan Tsarnaev's wife, Katherine Russell, contained searches done more than a year before the bombings for terms that included "rewards for wife of mujahedeen" and "If your husband becomes a shahid, what are the rewards for you?" We would guess from the above that your preferred spelling is probably "shahid," but would welcome a formal ruling for the sake of consistency.(And also, what would be the plural?)Thank you! – from Tel Aviv, XX on Wed, Jul 01, 2015

A. You are correct. New search of archive did turn up several uses with the spelling "shahid" for martyr.

Q. I know Gothic is capitalized (for the architectural movement), but what about Neo-Gothic? Or is neo-Gothic? – from Tokyo on Tue, Jun 30, 2015

A. It's neo-Gothic.

Q. Should singular nouns or plural nouns follow the word 'No.' We're reporting on a medical outbreak and are wondering if "No additional cases of the disease have been reported" or "No additional case of the disease has been reported" is better? Thank you. – from Virginia, XX on Tue, Jun 30, 2015

A. The verb should agree with the subject, which is cases (pl.) or case (sing.), depending the phrasing you use.

Q. Greetings, When referencing credit card bonus points, for example, would you use numerals or would you spell out numbers below 10? Example: Cardholders earn two points for every dollar spent. – from Washington , District of Columbia on Tue, Jun 30, 2015

A. Spell out points under 10.

Q. Hi: I submitted this question this week and just want to be sure about a comma or not in "Hi there." I wasn't clear on whether your answer, "comma," referred to everything in my original question. Thanks! Here are the original question and answer: "Q. Hi there. Is the lack of a comma in this salutation correct? What about in cases such as "Hi, Adrian" and "Dear Sir"? Comma or no? Thank you. %uFFFD from Tustin, Calif. on Mon, Jun 29, 2015 A. Comma." – from Tustin, Calif. on Tue, Jun 30, 2015

A. Hi, there: Hi, Adrian: Dear Sir, or Dear Sir:

Q. I'm struggling to find a term that encompasses both Native Americans in the U.S. and their Canadian counterparts, who are not called Native Americans or Indians. Do you have a preference or some guidance? Thank you. – from Portland, Oregon on Tue, Jun 30, 2015

A. Use First Nation for tribal people of Canada.

Q. How should we handle a headline in an instance where a colon already exists and we are adding something before it, such as the last name of an opinion columnist, to add clarification that the piece in question is opinion-oriented content, not a news story? Would a colon between the columnist's name and the headline be appropriate, and the second colon would be replaced with an em dash, or is a different treatment option better? Rewrites are not an option. – from Lakeland, Florida on Tue, Jun 30, 2015

A. Yes, that would work if The Ledger permits a dash in a headline.

Q. Is it appropriate to use U.S. on first reference? – from Lake Charles LA on Tue, Jun 30, 2015

A. Yes. See Stylebook entry.

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