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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. Question on using the pre- prefix. In the "prefixes" entry, it says: Generally do not hyphenate when using a prefix with a word starting with a consonant. But under the "pre-" entry, it says: The rules in prefixes (entry) apply .... follow Webster's New World College Dictionary, hyphenating if not listed there." So if the prefix is not listed in the dictionary and is not one of the exceptions in the "pre-" entry, should a hyphen be used or not? – from Tucson, Ariz. on Wed, Jul 30, 2014

A. Hyphenate "pre-" formations that aren't listed exceptions in the Stylebook or not in the dictionary.

Q. What is the correct abbreviation for non-alcoholic? N/A or NA – from Louisville, Ky. on Wed, Jul 30, 2014

A. We don't abbreviate nonalcoholic, as in nonalcoholic drinks.

Q. This is in regard to capitalization of words in headlines. When searching for "headline capitalization", three hits are returned. They are: http://www.apstylebook.com/online/?do=ask_editor&id=25938 http://www.apstylebook.com/online/?do=ask_editor&id=25282 http://www.apstylebook.com/online/?do=ask_editor&id=8607 They offer two different answers, one suggesting that the first letter of all words be capitalized, and the other suggesting that only the first word of the headline and all subsequent proper nouns be capitalized. Please clarify, and if you would, please specify the appropriate use for both online and print scenarios. Thank you. – from Dallas on Wed, Jul 30, 2014

A. The Stylebook's "headlines" entry covering both print and online says only the first word and proper nouns are capitalized, with the exception of the first word after a colon, which is always uppercase in a headline. However, for online subscribers so desiring, AP systems convert headlnes to a version with all words capitalized.

Q. How would AP refer to the hand signal commonly seen at rock concerts, where the index and pinky fingers are extended and the thumb, middle and ring fingers are balled up? This is commonly referred to as the Devil's Horns, possible also rock n roll horns. – from , Idaho Falls, Idaho on Wed, Jul 30, 2014

A. AP stories on rock concerts have referred to fans flashing the devil's horns hand signal.

Q. Which is correct, or at least preferred: nurses' station, nurse's station or nursing station? Thank you! – from Hickory , N.C. on Wed, Jul 30, 2014

A. AP stories tend to use nurses' station. There may be some local preferences in the terms, though.

Q. If a photographers image is published through the AP, it is policy to cite the photographer. If an AP article's focus is a specific building, why is it not policy to cite the architect of that building? – from Washington on Wed, Jul 30, 2014

A. It's common to name the architect or architectural firm in a story about building, particularly if a comment from the designers is an element of the news.

Q. I am using HOUSTON as a dateline. In the news release I mention Alberta, Canada. Do I just use Alberta or do I say Alberta, Canada? AP Style is not clear. – from Newport News, Va. on Wed, Jul 30, 2014

A. If the news release refers to Canada in an earlier reference, Alberta could stand alone. Otherwise, use Alberta, Canada, on a first reference to the province.

Q. What is the proper usage for indicating noon in business writing, such as a certificate of attendance? I realize 12:00pm is not correct. Would I put 11:00a.m. - noon ? Thank you! – from McLean, Va. on Wed, Jul 30, 2014

A. AP uses noon or midnight without figures. In your example, the time range is 11 a.m.-noon without zeros.

Q. Hello. Would you say "The team THAT finishes first" or "The team WHO finishes first"? Thanks. – from , Tustin, Calif. on Wed, Jul 30, 2014

A. The team that finishes first.

Q. What is the correct past tense of "to lend"? – from , North Carolina on Wed, Jul 30, 2014

A. The dictionary forms are lend, lent, lending.

Q. I know AP uses co-worker, but how does the AP handle coworking, as in a style of work that involves a shared working environment. I've seen it mostly as coworking on the Internet. – from ,Tucson, Ariz. on Wed, Jul 30, 2014

A. The Stylebook's "co-" entry says retain the hyphen when forming nouns, adjectives the verbs that indicate occupation or status. By that guidance it's co-working.

Q. Is it "robo-signing" or "robosigning"? – from Bangalore, Karnataka, India on Tue, Jul 29, 2014

A. AP stories use "robosigning" enclosed in quotes.

Q. In constructions such as -- He said no, he wouldn't be going -- or -- The answer was a resounding yes -- is there a need to put quotes around no or yes? – from Chicago on Tue, Jul 29, 2014

A. Quotes generally not needed in these casual constructions. In the case of votes, however, AP generally encloses "yes" or "no" in the numerical tallies.

Q. We need your advice on this one. The sentence reads: "With summer comes late sunsets and brightly lit horizons." And the question is whether the verb should be "comes" or "come." (There are several different ways of inverting this sentence.) Recasting would cause an argle-bargle. Thanks. – from Clemmons , N.C. on Tue, Jul 29, 2014

A. For the plural subject use the plural verb come.

Q. Is this hyphenated correctly: If you are first-aid- and CRP-certified ... – on Tue, Jul 29, 2014

A. No. If you are first aid- and CPR-certified ... Or: If you are certified to give first aid and CPR ...

Q. Is it six months salary or six months' salary? As in, "...he will be offered a severance payment of six months' salary." – from Eagle, Colo. on Tue, Jul 29, 2014

A. It's a quasi possessive: six months' salary.

Q. In this example, are the hyphens needed? "...before areas are closed-in or covered-up." – from Raleigh, N.C. on Tue, Jul 29, 2014

A. Correct.

Q. Is it correct to use the numerals the way I have in the sentence below? From a readability standpoint the 18 and 20-pound don't look right next to one another, even though I know to use numerals for numbers over 10. "Storage is limited to two cages, containing up to 18 20-pound propane cylinders in each cage (720 pounds total) without any separation from a structure." – from Broomfield, Colo. on Tue, Jul 29, 2014

A. It's correct as you have it, though you could rewrite the reference to avoid abutting numerals: Storage is limited to two cages holding up to 18 propane cylinders weighing 20 pounds apiece in each cage (720 pounds total), without any separation from a structure.

Q. Do you capitalize the word "institute" in this sentence: An interesting study was discussed by Dr. Smith, of The Jones Institute, during the Institute%uFFFDs 2014 Annual Research Conference. – from Maitland, Fla. on Tue, Jul 29, 2014

A. Lowercase institute on second reference.

Q. In a sentence like the one below, if "healthcare practices" is plural, should the phrase "their business and client base" also be plural? We work closely with healthcare practices to understand their business and client base and to determine the feasibility of the projects they are considering. – from Wilton, Conn. on Mon, Jul 28, 2014

A. The Stylebook spelling is health care, two words in all uses. Health care practices is vague. Try using health care companies or providers. Make it their businesses and client bases.

Q. It is the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, but the U.S. House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. Should we too be inconsistent with the apostrophe? – from Panama City, Fla. on Mon, Jul 28, 2014

A. It's the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the House Veterans' Affairs Committee.

Q. Does the same rule for chief financial officer apply to CEO as well? – from San Marcos, Texas on Mon, Jul 28, 2014

A. See "CEO, CFO, COO" entry in the online Stylebook.

Q. You have any guidance on abbreviating or shortening Central African Republic to fit in a newspaper headline? I've seen "C." used a couple of times in recent months, but I've never seen "C." used for Central anywhere else in my 32 years of journalism. – from Tampa, Fla. on Mon, Jul 28, 2014

A. AP short headlines occasionally use C. African Republic.

Q. Should the ampersand (&) be used for titles of political committees, for instance the House Energy & Commerce Committee, as it is titled? Or is "and" used in this instance? – from York, Pa. on Mon, Jul 28, 2014

A. The "ampersand" entry limits usage to company names, composition titles and a few abbreviations like B&B.

Q. We are writing about pillow-top mattresses at a local hotel. Some mattress sites show pillowtop as one word. Others show it as two, but no one seems to hyphenate it. How would you do pillowtop/pillow top/pillow-top mattresses? – from Dallas on Mon, Jul 28, 2014

A. In the only usage I could find in the AP archive, it's spelled pillow-top mattress.

Q. In the same vein, *three-year term* or *3-year term*? Thanks. – from Dallas on Mon, Jul 28, 2014

A. The first is correct, spelling the numeral.

Q. Can you please weigh in on whether hyphenation needs to be used with words beginning with multi-? (example: multigrip or multi-grip; multi-slot or multislot) Thank you. – from Hickory, N.C. on Mon, Jul 28, 2014

A. The Stylebook's "multi-" prefix entry says no hyphen in most cases.

Q. We will be unveiling a large bronze sculpture, which has been dubbed Essence of Rex. How should this be written on first reference:"Essence of Rex," 'Essence of Rex,' (italicized), or plain? And then, how should it be written on subsequent references? – from Casper, Wyo. on Mon, Jul 28, 2014

A. The Stylebook's "artworks" entry says names of sculptures are capitalized without quotes. AP doesn't use italics in news stories, though examples in the Stylebook are in italics. If you don't use the full name on second reference, synonyms like the sculpture or the artwork are fine.

Q. "Gamify" and "gamification" are used (predominately in technology contexts) to refer to the application of game-playing processes to business, social, academic and other pursuits. What is the AP style for this. For instance, "An app that gamifies goal-setting can help teens track progress toward better study habits." – from New Berlin, Wis. on Mon, Jul 28, 2014

A. In rare uses in AP stories, these terms are enclosed in quotes.

Q. Should court documents be initial capped or lowercased? Example: An Order Admitting Will to Probate will be required. (caps or not?) Also, what about initial caps or not on "last will and testament" in a similar sentence "A last will and testament was not received from the executor." Thanks so much for your help. Jean T – from Marietta, Ga. on Mon, Jul 28, 2014

A. AP spells such terms lowercase.

Q. What is the proper punctuation for plural possessives ending with ss? – from Addison, Texas on Mon, Jul 28, 2014

A. An example: cross. The simple plural: crosses. The plural possessive: crosses'

Q. Should "Donetsk People's Republic" be in quotes in any context? Should there always be the word "self-proclaimed" before it? What is the correct way to refer to the DNR, and is there a precedent in AP style for referring correctly to self-proclaimed groups? – from Highland Park, Ill. on Sun, Jul 27, 2014

A. In AP stories, it's the self-proclaimed or self-declared or self-styled Donetsk People's Republic. Follow-ups use pro-Russian rebels or insurgents rather than the three-letter abbreviation. This is not unprecedented in AP reporting. Similar cases in other countries are weighed separately.

Q. Which is more correct: "high functioning" or "high-functioning?" – from Chicago on Sun, Jul 27, 2014

A. He is high functioning. He's considered a high-functioning individual.

Q. In job description information how should the policy on evaluations be written? evaluated using school board's policy on Evaluation of Administrative Personnel evaluated using school board's policy on evaluation of administrative personnel evaluated using School Board's policy on Evaluation of Administrative Personnel – from Lexington SC on Sun, Jul 27, 2014

A. AP would write: evaluated using the school board's policy on evaluation of administrative personnel.

Q. Are all the commas necessary in this sentence? "From marketing, to HR, to estimating, to project management, and to accounting, the use of..." – from Raleigh, N.C. on Sat, Jul 26, 2014

A. From marketing to human resources, from estimating to project management and accounting, the use of ..."

Q. Previous question/answer settled the general issue of "computer numerical control" for CNC, but what if it's used as an adjective, e.g., CNC router? Still "computer numerical control" or should it be "computer numerically controlled" using adverb and past participle? Thanks. – from Minneapolis on Sat, Jul 26, 2014

A. Same guidance in spelling out the modifier form on first reference.

Q. Is the verb tense in the beginning of the following sentence correct? "Producing millions of widgets in 2013, the company is a leader in..." – from San Francisco on Fri, Jul 25, 2014

A. Assuming widget production is on-going, you might substitute annually for the year.

Q. Happy Friday, AP! Quick question: "injection-site reaction" or "injection site reaction"? Thank you, Andrea – from Kansas City, Mo. on Fri, Jul 25, 2014

A. Usually not hyphenated in AP stories on drugs. You might check medical websites for usage.

Q. Whis is right? Our staff of boys, girls, moms and others devise or devises? – from Darien, Conn. on Fri, Jul 25, 2014

A. ... staff ... devises.

Q. Should a comma always precede --no matter what--, even when the phrase is used alone? Two examples: Rules should be followed, no matter what. Your business will face risks, no matter what its industry is. Are the commas needed in both of those instances? Please advise. Thank you much. – from Kansas City, Mo. on Fri, Jul 25, 2014

A. You have to decide whether that phrase functions as essential or nonessential information. If so, no comma. If not, set it off.

Q. I know AP does not recognize a naturopathic as a doctor, but should the words "naturopathic doctor" be uppercase when used before the person's name, just like any other title? – from Chesterfield Townshi, MI on Fri, Jul 25, 2014

A. Make it naturopathic physician, lowercase before or after the full name.

Q. When using "guest star" as a verb - e.g. John Smith is guest-starring on Seinfield, should this be hyphenated? Or should it be John Smith is guest starring on Seinfield? – from Fort Worth, Texas on Fri, Jul 25, 2014

A. Correct.

Q. Which would be correct, a pick-up in sales or a pickup in sales? – from St. Petersburg, Fla. on Thu, Jul 24, 2014

A. The Stylebook entry is pickup (n. and adj.).

Q. Would you say: Virginia is one of 20 states that have/has opted out of Medicaid expansion. – from Arlington, Va. on Thu, Jul 24, 2014

A. ... one of 20 states that have opted out ...

Q. St. Barts: Can it stand alone in the context of a feature article? – from Santa Monica, Calif. on Thu, Jul 24, 2014

A. In AP stories on first reference, usually described the French Caribbean island St. Barts or the small Caribbean island St. Barts.

Q. Is it froyo, one word, or fro yo, two words, for the colloquial name for frozen yogurt. – from Tampa, Fla. on Thu, Jul 24, 2014

A. Probably one word. The only AP usage I could find is Froyo, an Android operating system.

Q. Is it %uFFFDnonjournalist%uFFFD or %uFFFDnon-journalist%uFFFD or %uFFFDnon journalist%uFFFD? – from Durango, Colo. on Thu, Jul 24, 2014

A. It doesn't require a hyphen.

Q. Is there a standard explanation of Internet of Things? Do we need to source it, for example Webopedia as noted below, or just explain it briefly? (The Internet of Things, according to Webopedia, is the "ever-growing network of physical objects that feature an Internet Protocol address for Internet connectivity, and the communication that occurs between these objects and other Internet-enabled devices and systems.") – from New Jersey on Thu, Jul 24, 2014

A. It may be defined as simply as Internet-connected devices and home appliances talking to each other.

Q. Is it acceptable to start a sentence with an acronym? – from East Lansing, MI on Thu, Jul 24, 2014

A. Sure, but see the Stylebook's "abbreviations and acronyms" entry for guidance on these terms.

Q. Humanitarian projects the Rotary Club of Boston have/has been instrumental in include....? also, The guiding principles set forth by Rotarians give/gives them direction and purpose? – from Chesterfield Townshi, MI on Thu, Jul 24, 2014

A. ... has been instrumental in ... give them ...

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