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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. Lampshade or lamp shade? – from Austin, Texas on Tue, Aug 26, 2014

A. It's lampshade in Webster's New World College Dictionary.

Q. Hello, we've come across a management concept called Talent Development Reporting Principles. It appears the consensus is to write it as TDRp on second reference, even though "Principles" is a keyword. Should we follow the industry preference (TDRp) on this or make it "TDRP" on second reference? – from Chicago on Tue, Aug 26, 2014

A. I don't find this term in AP stories. If it's a trademark or brand name, the term would be capitalized on first use. How widely it is recognized could determine whether the all-caps abbreviation is acceptable on second reference. Alternatively, it could be a shorted form: the talent reporting system, or similar.

Q. In the sentence " He bought 50 45-foot-long boards," would you use figures or spell out "fifty"? – from Sagamore Hills, Ohio on Tue, Aug 26, 2014

A. Correct with the figure 50.

Q. When giving a rang of numbers, could you use a hyphen instead of using the word "to"? For example, the company shareholders would lose 20 - 30 cents a share. Side question: Would you also put a dollar sign and period before the numbers? – from Portland, Ore. on Tue, Aug 26, 2014

A. The company shareholders would lose 20-30 cents a share, without a dollar sign or period before the numerals.

Q. Hello. Why does AP follow the corporate styling and use full caps for the RAND Corp.? It's not a true acronym, and the letters aren't individually pronounced. AP styles Ikea and Visa initial cap, despite the companies' preference. – from New York City on Tue, Aug 26, 2014

A. AP stories generally use Rand Corp. these days.

Q. I've noticed a trend in recent years of people saying and writing "sooner than later" instead of "sooner rather than later." Do you have an opinion about this? – from San Antonio on Tue, Aug 26, 2014

A. I'd stick with the idiom: sooner rather than later.

Q. Is it "click-bait" or "click bait" or "clickbait" when referring to content that is designed primarily to get readers to click on a tab or site? – from New York on Tue, Aug 26, 2014

A. A recent AP story spelled it click-bait.

Q. Is it "Fewer than 5 percent of students..." or "Less than 5 percent of students..."? I've reviewed the entries for fewer/less and percent and can't find a clear answer. One example states that "she was fewer than 60 years old" is wrong" because it refers to a general amount, not individual years. Would this be the same for students? Thanks. – from Buffalo, N.Y. on Tue, Aug 26, 2014

A. Less than 5 percent of students ...

Q. I asked the following question and got the following response: "Q. I'm curious: What was the reason for AP's removal of the hyphen in "mind-set" as it appears in Webster's? %uFFFD from Arlington, Va. on Mon, Aug 25, 2014 A. The 2008 Stylebook settled on "mindset" (one word), an exception to the first spelling in Webster's New World College Dictionary, which says "also mindset." The Stylebook's two backup dictionaries list mindset first." But that didn't answer my question. What I was asking is the specific reason or rationale for AP's settling on "mindset" (one word). – from Arlington, Va. on Tue, Aug 26, 2014

A. Common usage.

Q. Is this correct? "The wheres and hows" of how to do something. It's not "where's" and "how's" is it? Thanks. – from Chicago on Mon, Aug 25, 2014

A. Correct spelled as the wheres and hows.

Q. Is it "breastmilk" or "breast milk"? – from Atlanta on Mon, Aug 25, 2014

A. AP stories favor breast milk, two words.

Q. When discussing hemophilia, is it that the general disease (hemophilia) is lowercase, while specific types are upper case (Hemophilia A, etc)? Or are they all lowercase? For example, this sentence: He had Hemophilia A himself and fought to help others with hemophilia. – from Clinton Township, MI on Mon, Aug 25, 2014

A. Both uses of hemophilia are lowercase, though A for the type is capitalized.

Q. In the sentence, "They were city dwellers turned country folk," would just one hyphen suffice, between "dwellers" and "turned," or would AP editors hyphenate everything between "city" and "folk"? – from Evanston, Illinois on Mon, Aug 25, 2014

A. The phrasing is clear without hyphens.

Q. Is it antiharassment or anti-harassment? – from McLean, Va. on Mon, Aug 25, 2014

A. Hyphenate anti-harassment.

Q. What is the correct punctuation for a time and date, e.g., 8 a.m.-10 a.m. Aug. 23. Is there a comma between the time and date? – from Ardmore, Okla. on Mon, Aug 25, 2014

A. It's 8-10 a.m. Aug. 23 without a comma between time and date. For hourly times crossing noon or midnight, use both abbreviations: 11 a.m.-1 p.m. or 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Q. Does this qualify as a sentence that needs a period? Thanks. "If only you could dance" – from Clemmons , N.C. on Mon, Aug 25, 2014

A. Yes, a period if the sentence stands alone, or a comma after dance if an attribution is added: "If only you could dance," she said.

Q. Is using "and/or" acceptable? – from Falls Church, Va. on Mon, Aug 25, 2014

A. We avoid this bureaucratic construction in news stories. Either word suffices.

Q. What if I'm writing a more informal weekly column instead of a news article and want to use the word "bucks" instead of dollars? 200 bucks? Two-hundred bucks? – from Clarksburg, W.Va. on Mon, Aug 25, 2014

A. Fine to use bucks in a casual context. The amount can be a numeral unless it starts the sentence.

Q. I'm curious: What was the reason for AP's removal of the hyphen in "mind-set" as it appears in Webster's? – from Arlington, Va. on Mon, Aug 25, 2014

A. The 2008 Stylebook settled on "mindset" (one word), an exception to the first spelling in Webster's New World College Dictionary, which says "also mindset." The Stylebook's two backup dictionaries list mindset first.

Q. Are these examples correct, or would "wear" and "play" be plural (assuming France and Italy are independent entities that can take this action)? "France wear purple hats when they eat grapes." or "Italy play for hours too long, and the crowd sat in the rain." – from portland, Ore. on Sun, Aug 24, 2014

A. The first sentence is awkward even when retouched: France wears purple hats when eating grapes. The second sentence should use the past tense, in agreement with the verb in the second clause: Italy played for hours too long, and the crowd sat in the rain.

Q. How would you write "annual YMCA Prayer Breakfast"? – from Honolulu on Sun, Aug 24, 2014

A. The capitalization works if it's a formal event of that name and publicized as such.

Q. Multiple response surveys or multiple-response surveys? – from Virginia, XX on Sun, Aug 24, 2014

A. In line with Webster's multiple-choice (adj.) entry, hyphenate multiple-response survey.

Q. Are state names spelled out in datelines now? I ask as a result of the recent style change to spell out most state names in copy. Thanks. George Pollock Jr. The Daily Progress Charlottesville, Virginia (spelled out :) ) gpollock@dailyprogress.com 434-978-7273 – from Charlottesville, Va. on Sun, Aug 24, 2014

A. Use state abbreviations in datelines. See ABBREVIATIONS REQUIRED section of the "state names" entry for elaboration.

Q. actually as I read the article about Backoff it doesn't say it is malware, just software. So do we put it in quotation marks? – from Orysia, New York City, N.Y. on Sun, Aug 24, 2014

A. Correct.

Q. Would you say "demand straight talk" or "demand straight-talk"? – from New York on Sun, Aug 24, 2014

A. The first without a hyphen.

Q. Can you use, if you are not directly quoting someone, in the beginning of a sentence, "According to John Smith, director of operations ..." – from Marshall, Texas on Sun, Aug 24, 2014

A. Yes.

Q. Which is correct? John Smith said, "The grass is green, and all is right with the world." Looking around him, John Smith said, "The grass is green, and all is right with the world." "The grass is green," John Smith said, "and all is right with the world." My editor says that we shouldn't start a sentence off with John Smith said or Looking around him, John Smith said. What is the correct AP style? – from Marshall, Texas on Sun, Aug 24, 2014

A. All three are acceptable, but don't overuse versions with the attribution first.

Q. Which is correct: "an Ebola victim" or "a Ebola victim"? I've seen it both ways in newspapers. Thank you! – from Cincinnati on Sat, Aug 23, 2014

A. ... an Ebola patient ...

Q. is there an apostrophe in Gardeners Hotline? – from Port Orange, Fla. on Sat, Aug 23, 2014

A. No.

Q. Would like to know AP's preference for the new prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic - Alexander or Aleksandr Zakharchenko. Thank you. – from Chicago on Fri, Aug 22, 2014

A. In AP stories, he's Alexander Zakharchenko.

Q. My question is in regards to using quotation marks when defining or referring to words or terms. Example: "Zapato" means "shoe" in Spanish. Are the quotation marks used correctly there? What is the standard rule on this, and what are these types of quotation marks called? I can't find an answer to this anywhere, so hopefully you can help me. Other examples: An expletive is a dramatic or emotional word or phrase interjected into a statement. In the United States, the term "expletive" is most often used to refer to a curse word or profanity. In Dutch, the word for "fire" is "vuur." Any help you can provide would be very much appreciated. – from Swansea, Ill. on Fri, Aug 22, 2014

A. Correct as you have it. It's covered in the Stylebook's "foreign words" entry.

Q. Would you hyphenate greenhouse-gas emissions or go with greenhouse gas emissions? – from Rosemead, Calif. on Fri, Aug 22, 2014

A. No hyphen in this noun phrase.

Q. If I refer to the same city twice in one article, do I only need to add the state upon first mention? – from Cincinnati on Fri, Aug 22, 2014

A. Correct.

Q. In this sentence, "He weighed 8 pounds, 10 ounces and was 21 inches long," should there be a comma after "10 ounces"? I'm thinking it's like, "He lived in St. Paul, Minnesota, and was a teacher," with the comma after the state. – from Salina, Kan. on Fri, Aug 22, 2014

A. No comma after 10 ounces in that sentence.

Q. Is it Master of Arts in philosophy or Master of Arts in Philosophy; and is it master's degree in philosophy or master's degree in Philosophy? – from oakwood village, Ohio on Fri, Aug 22, 2014

A. Master of Arts in philosophy; master's degree in philosophy.

Q. Does AP style now allow the use of "centered around" in addition to "centered on?" – from Plano, Texas on Fri, Aug 22, 2014

A. Both are acceptable, though centered around is perhaps more informal.

Q. In general, would you avoid the phrase "in order to"? Example: He felt strongly about joining the PAC in order to contribute to the collective whole of the group and for the benefits of the charity matching program. – from Falls Church, Va. on Fri, Aug 22, 2014

A. Yes. And you might want to tighten up other phrases in the sentence.

Q. Should U.S. News & World Report be italicized? – from Falls Church, Va. on Fri, Aug 22, 2014

A. Not in an AP news story. Italics don't transmit through all computer systems. See the "magazine names" entry for use of italics for AP Stylebook examples.

Q. I'm editing a novel. The writer is saying that an excessive sin has been committed. He has written "Cardinal sin". Should cardinal be capitalized? – from Charlotte, N.C. on Fri, Aug 22, 2014

A. Lowercase cardinal sin.

Q. I have seen the word saltshaker spelled as one word but pepper shaker spelled as two. Is this correct? – from Charlotte, N.C. on Fri, Aug 22, 2014

A. Yes, those are the spellings in Webster's New World College Dictionary, the AP Stylebook's main reference.

Q. In the following list, I'm what needs a hyphen. I'm certain "long-term" does since it modifies care facilities. But not sure on the other two... Disability sports organizations Psychiatric treatment centers Long-term care facilities – from Mt. Pleasant, Mich. on Fri, Aug 22, 2014

A. No hyphens in the first two, hyphenate long-term care facilities.

Q. Would you use past tense or present tense in this example? Police said Monday they have confirmed that the man in the video is/was John Smith. – from Virginia, XX on Thu, Aug 21, 2014

A. Use the present tense in this formulation.

Q. There is an entry for "Alitalia Airlines," yet the "airline, airlines" entry states, "Companies that use none of these include Aer Lingus, Aeromexico, Air Canada, Air France, Air India, Alitalia, Emirates and Iberia." Which is the correct way to refer to this carrier? Thank you. – from Atlanta on Thu, Aug 21, 2014

A. Alitalia alone is correct. Thanks for pointing out the Stylebook entry. I'll look into making it conform.

Q. Sue helps her students find their voice and their passion as writers - or - Sue helps her students find their voices and their passions as writers – from Elgin, Ill. on Thu, Aug 21, 2014

A. The plural, though that phrase is a cliche. Better to be more specific about Sue's influence on her writing students.

Q. Is this the correct way to write the following expression when you mean with regard to risk management? risk managementwise – from Raleigh, N.C. on Thu, Aug 21, 2014

A. It looks awfully contrived. Better to rephrase: regarding risk management.

Q. Is this use of the colon incorrect? "Risks may include: surgical complications, infection, failure to deliver therapy as needed and/or worsening of some symptoms." Thanks for your expertise. – from Minneapolis on Thu, Aug 21, 2014

A. No colon in that construction. And rather than the slash, or suffices for the last item in the series.

Q. I believe that according to AP style, the phrase "dirty-energy" to modify a noun, like "industry" should be hyphenated. But it's not hyphenated in much of what I am seeing, such as in this NYT headline: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/22/opinion/22tue1.html?_r=0 Hyphenate or no? – from Boston on Thu, Aug 21, 2014

A. No, dirty energy either standing alone or preceding another noun isn't hyphenated in AP stories.

Q. Should enterprisewide be hyphenated? – from Temecula CA, Calif. on Thu, Aug 21, 2014

A. No, but it's awkward. Better to rephrase: e.g., throughout the enterprise or company.

Q. For an invitation, is this the proper way to invite guests? "You and a guest are invited to join me and New York Yankee shortstop Alex Rodriguez for an evening to celebrate..." – on Thu, Aug 21, 2014

A. You might rephrase slightly to underline the two-person limit for the invitation: You and one other guest are invited ...

Q. Under "organizations and institutions," the section on INTERNAL ELEMENTS says to lower case internal elements of an organization when they have names that are widely used generic terms, such as the board of trustees of Columbia University. Our university has a board of governors. I saw board of governors capitalized in other instances, such as the Academy Awards Board of Governors. Would it be capitalized in reference to a university's governing board? – from Warrensburg, Mo. on Thu, Aug 21, 2014

A. AP would lowercase the university's board of governors.

Q. Is ring-bearer correct? – from Houston on Wed, Aug 20, 2014

A. In AP news stories, there's no hyphen in ring bearer.

Q. I have a reoccuring problem with the guidance that an end period punctuation always goes inside the quote. I work in an industry full of jargon and technical terms. A quote can easily be interpreted as including the end punctuation, and this is often incorrect. For example: If I want the sentence: Search for the file "jo.ex". If I write it, Search for the file "jo.ex." I should expect the person doing the search to search for "jo.ex." and NOT "jo.ex", but "jo.ex" is absolutely correct, and "jo.ex." is absolutely wrong, since the search will never find "jo.ex.," since "jo.ex." will never exist. Instead, only "jo.ex" does, and "jo.ex" is definitely NOT the same thing as "jo.ex." I submit that if the quoted text is to be interpreted as EXACTLY what is in the quotes, it is indeed correct to follow the quote with the punctuation, and not embed the punctuation within the quotes. Is this correct or incorrect? Alternate emphasis for "jo.ex" is not always possible as the text may very well be plain text, and may not support bold or italics characters. – from Minneapols, Minn. on Wed, Aug 20, 2014

A. If it's a problem, rewrite the sentence to place the file name within the text, instead of at the end. Here's an example: Search for the "jo.ex" file name. Also, see the Stylebook's "Internet" for other suggestions.

Q. Which is correct: "oldest continually occupied city" or "oldest continuously occupied city"; "oldest continually celebrated event" or "oldest continuously celebrated event"? Thank you. – from Cerrillos, N.M. on Wed, Aug 20, 2014

A. Either could be correct. See the "continual, continuous" entry for an explanation of these terms.

Q. Is the body of water on the Georgia-South Carolina border called Hartwell Lake or Lake Hartwell? – from Greenville, S.C. on Wed, Aug 20, 2014

A. AP stories from South Carolina usually call it Lake Hartwell.

Q. "Roskam is now in his fourth term in Congress." Is the proper way to state the number of terms served as "fourth" or "4th"? – from Falls Church, Va. on Wed, Aug 20, 2014

A. It's fourth. Spell out ordinals under 10th.

Q. Is stating "...the political environment in Washington" acceptable or should Washington be stated as Washington, D.C., or, Capitol Hill? – from Falls Church, Va. on Wed, Aug 20, 2014

A. It's clear in a news story if the dateline is WASHINGTON.

Q. Do I need to write out HIV (human immunodeficiency virus)on the first reference? – from Falls Church, Va. on Wed, Aug 20, 2014

A. The abbreviation is acceptable.

Q. Can something be described as "centuries-old" if it is between 100 and 200 years old? – from Houston, Texas on Wed, Aug 20, 2014

A. Reserve centuries-old for 200 years or 300 years and above.

Q. Many sports team names end in "s" and we're struggling with whether an apostrophe is needed: He purchased Royals' tickets (or Royals tickets); the group attended a Royals' game (or Royals game). My argument is that neither is really possessive, so no apostrophe is needed, but I can't find any authoritative guidance on this. How would you handle it? – from Kansas City, Mo. on Wed, Aug 20, 2014

A. No apostrophe in those references. It's covered in the DESCRIPTIVE PHRASES section of the Stylebook's "apostrophe" entry.

Q. In retail, should an inventory turn number be spelled out, three vs. 3, for instance? – from LAKE MARY, Fla. on Wed, Aug 20, 2014

A. Better check an accounting reference for advice on expressing the inventory turn number.

Q. In 1980, President Ronald Reagan . . . Is the comma needed after 1980? I've seen it both ways in numerous publications. – from Reading, Pa. on Wed, Aug 20, 2014

A. Short introductory phrases don't require commas.

Q. The term "engagement" is being used a lot of late with regard to western involvment in Iraq. Should it be used purely in the context of military involvement, or does "engagement" also entail other involvment (e.g. humanitarian aid, etc.)? – from Koeln, XX on Wed, Aug 20, 2014

A. Engagement is also used in diplomacy. Humanitarian aid can be an element of a policy of diplomatic or military engagement -- bilateral or multilateral.

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