Ask the Editor

Forgot your password? | Lost Username?

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.

Not a subscriber? AP Stylebook Online subscribers can:

  • View the entire archive -- 19,657 answered questions and counting!
  • Submit questions to Ask the Editor
  • Search the complete Ask the Editor archive
  • View listings by categories (such as abbreviations, capitalization, figures, numerals, titles, etc.)

Annual subscriptions start at $26/year for individuals. Subscribe now or learn more.

Ask the Editor questions from the past week:

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 ...

Q. Should you put quotations around inner dialogue? (e.g., I thought to myself, "why don't I go for a walk.") – from Portland, Ore. on Wed, Jul 23, 2014

A. Correct with a couple of changes: I though to myself, "Why don't I go for a walk?"

Q. My query is on the use of premise versus premises, which have two different meanings; premise - something assumed or taken for granted vs. premises(1) a tract of land with the building thereon, or (2) a building or part of a building. Which is correct, on-premise solutions or on-premises solutions? – from St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wed, Jul 23, 2014

A. Based on your definitions, on-premises would be correct.

Q. Just a quick clarification on in vs into: when using plug as the verb, would it be plugs into? – from Chicago on Wed, Jul 23, 2014

A. Correct by the Stylebook's "in, into" entry.

Q. Which, please, is correct? "including three who have gone on to earn Masters%uFFFDdegrees" or "including three who have gone on to earn Masters's degrees" – from , Menlo Park, Calif. on Wed, Jul 23, 2014

A. ... master's degrees ...

Q. Are slashes permitted when it comes to roadways with multiple names? (Eden Prairie Road/County Road 4) I have read the slash entry, but any other way of phrasing the information seems more disruptive to the flow of the sentence. Any ideas? Thank you. – from Minneapolis on Wed, Jul 23, 2014

A. A hyphen would work.

Q. What is preferred, gay pride or LGBT pride? GLAAD seems to avoid the use of gay pride in its news releases, but offers no clear guidance in its style guide. – from , Montgomery, Ala. on Wed, Jul 23, 2014

A. The first is often used in news stories as a generic description for parades or other events. The second may be perceived by some as more inclusive. We're open to both.

Q. Considering AP rules for serial commas, is the following sentence correctly punctuated or would there be a comma after %uFFFDMove IT Resource%uFFFD? Types of Space Requests include: New Employee, New Leased Resource, Move IT Resource and Resource Leaving IT (Vacate). – from Detroit on Wed, Jul 23, 2014

A. No comma there. By the way, AP would lowercase all those terms except the the first word and IT, which apparently is spelled out earlier.

Q. The document I'm updating contains the phrase " a volume of 5 feet by 5 feet by 5 feet (dimension requirements)." The customer doesn't like this format, and I agree it looks awkward. I haven't found an exact example in the Stylebook. The dimensions entry does not refer to volume. I believe using the numerals is correct, and related examples use the word "by." Can I use the "x" for "by"? Could we skip the first two "feet" and say simply "5 by 5 by 5 feet"? The customer wants "5 x 5 x 5 feet." How would it be stated if we put the dimensions in an adjectival phrase in front of the word "volume"? Thanks. – from HUNTSVILLE, Ala.A on Wed, Jul 23, 2014

A. ... in a volume of 5 cubic feet dimension requirements.

Q. I have a question about AP Style Quiz #8 (question 4) regarding hyphens. The Stylebook's %uFFFDco-" entry says retain the hyphen when forming nouns, adjectives or verbs that indicate occupation or status. In the following sentence, shouldn't co-productions have a hyphen because it's a noun: The Hollywood star said she would encourage filmmakers to use Spain as a location for coproductions (this is the correct answer). Is this an error in the answer or am I missing something? – from Encinitas, Calif. on Wed, Jul 23, 2014

A. It's coproduction or coproduct without a hyphen, ... but co-producer hyphenated as an occupational reference.

Q. For the purposes of a feature, would the name of a comedy show that is a metonym for a comedy troupe be treated as a composition title, i.e., in quotation marks? – from Portland, Ore. on Wed, Jul 23, 2014

A. No doubt, if I understand the context correctly.

Q. Is it "underspent" or "under spent"? – from San Antonio on Wed, Jul 23, 2014

A. By guidance in the "under-" prefix entry, it's underspent.

Q. cannot find "liable per se" and "liable per quod" in the print edition at all. Can you please assist me in locating or providing proper usage for it. Thank you – from Beverly, MA on Wed, Jul 23, 2014

A. Check a legal lexicon online for the definitions.

Q. Should we cap the term Transcendental Meditation? – from Farmington, Maine on Wed, Jul 23, 2014

A. As a trademark, it should be capitalized.

Q. What is the title of General Breedlove. I have heard Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, also Supreme Allied Commander, NATO. Is he a four-star or five-star general? – from East Windsor, N.J. on Tue, Jul 22, 2014

A. U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, NATO's supreme commander in Europe. He wears four stars.

Q. Should LP have periods. The 2 answers are conflicting. Can you please do a complete list in the corporate names section? Thanks. Ask the Editor results: Q. I am editing financial documents and see that LLC (Limited Liability Corporation) is used as above, while L.P. (for Limited Partnership) contains periods. Our organization relies on AP Style but I do not see a comment on this, even under the heading for company names. Can you guide me? from Tacoma, WA on Apr 25, 2008 A. AP uses these standard abbreviations, LLC and L.P. not favorite Q. In what stylebook entry can I find how to handle abbreviations for forms of business? For example, Limited Partnership -- LP or L.P.? Also LLC, PA, Plc. ... from Orlando Fla. on May 16, 2007 A. The Stylebook does not have an entry on these abbreviations, but we generally use them without periods: LP, LLC. – from Atlanta on Tue, Jul 22, 2014

A. LP, the abbreviation for limited partnership, is without periods in a proper name.

Q. Is lecturer capitalized when used as a university title before a name? – from Cupertino, Calif. on Tue, Jul 22, 2014

A. Like professor, lecturer is lowercase before a name.

Q. When should you use past tense linking verbs before present tense action verbs? For example: was running vs. ran, could hear vs heard. – from Portland, Ore. on Tue, Jul 22, 2014

A. That would require considerably more space and detail than is allotted here. Suggest consult the "verb tenses" section of a grammar book for detailed explanations.

Q. Dear Editor: When using e.g. or i.e. in sentences, is it acceptable to include etc. in the phrase/list that follows, or should etc. never be used when using e.g. or i.e.? Please let me know whether there are special circumstances. Thanks! – from Illinois on Tue, Jul 22, 2014

A. There's no prohibition on using etc. to end a list of examples.

Q. I know that 'master of ceremonies' is the preferred term for 'emcee,' but is that still the case if the emcee in question is a woman? 'Mistress of ceremonies' sounds so...saucy. – from Portland, Ore. on Tue, Jul 22, 2014

A. Yes, master of ceremonies serves for both genders.

Q. Confirming "real-time marketing" would have a hyphen per the noun modifier rule – from Austin, Texas on Tue, Jul 22, 2014

A. Yes, it's real-time marketing with the hyphenated modifier.

Q. Which use of the serial comma is correct in this example? All trade and service marks, names, dress and logos are the property of their respective owners. All trade and service marks, names, dress, and logos are the property of their respective owners. – from Lincoln, Nebraska on Tue, Jul 22, 2014

A. The first sentence is correct.

Q. Could you please clarify whether or not it is acceptable to write "Israeli Defense Forces"? In the entry under "army" it says lower case the names of non-U.S. military forces. However, I have seen AP copy with "Israeli Defense Forces" in it. Thank you for clearing this up. – from New York on Tue, Jul 22, 2014

A. As a proper name, Israeli Defense Forces is capitalized. However, common noun elements in Israeli army and the Israeli military are lowercase.

Q. All watercraft offered for rent is subject to periodic inspection. Is that correct? Or should it be, All watercraft offered for rent are subject..." – from St. Paul , Minn. on Tue, Jul 22, 2014

A. All watercraft offered for rent are subject ...

Q. If there is a hyphenated word in an article or composition title, do you capitalize both the first and second portions of the word, or just the first? (Non-medical Counseling Options, or Non-Medical Counseling Options?) – from STAFFORD, Va. on Tue, Jul 22, 2014

A. Cap both parts per the U.S. national anthem example in "composition titles" entry.

Q. The state of California has determined that all State correspondence should be directed to the Office of ... Is the capitalization of S in the second State correct because it is renaming or referring to the specific state of California? If it is incorrect, why is it not considered a proper noun in this case? – from New York, N.Y. on Tue, Jul 22, 2014

A. The Stylebook's "state" entry says do not capitalize state when used as an adjective to specify a level of jurisdiction. Similarly, state of constructions -- e.g., state of California -- are lowercase. The Stylebook's "capitalization" guidance says avoid unnecessary capitals, including common noun elements of proper names on second reference: e.g., the state, the government, the agency, the company, etc.

Q. Should a semicolon be used since there are commas to separate words in a series or does it not need any punctuation before or? %uFFFD Bachelor%uFFFDs degree in agricultural education with previous student teaching experience; or equivalent combination of training and experience which provides the required knowledge, skills and abilities – from , Lexington SC on Tue, Jul 22, 2014

A. It's correct with the semicolon.

Q. What is the position of AP on hyphens and Latin phrases? My understanding of the general rule for hyphens is that Latin phrases such as vice versa, ad hoc, etc., should never be hyphenated, even as modifiers. Is this the policy for AP as well? – from Sarasota, Fla. on Tue, Jul 22, 2014

A. In AP usage going by dictionary spellings, Latin terms are not hyphenated, even as modifiers.

Q. Should sport be plural or singular in the generic sense, e.g. "Australians love sport" or "Australians love sports"? I'm thinking the singular sport is a British usage. – from Tokyo on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. In American usage, sports is probably more common in a collective reference to organized games of physical activities: Australians love sports. In the U.S., sport is more common in a singular sense: My favorite sport is golf. Horse racing is the sport of kings.

Q. What is the AP style for wildfire names: Sam Hill Fire or Sam Hill fire? – from Klamath Falls, Ore. on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. The word fire is usually lowercase in such names. However, there are cases where fire or a similar term is capitalized in a name bestowed by authorities: e.g., Yacolt Burn.

Q. I'm looking for a reliable source that lists the proper abbreviations for units of measure (like lbs. for pounds and in. for inches, etc.) primarily because I need to know which abbreviations have a period and which do not. Can you help me? Thank you. – from Incline Village, Nev. on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. A few examples in AP usage for tight-space situations, such as headlines or graphics: lb., lbs., in., ft., yd., oz., ozs., g, mg, mm. Beyond these, see the various abbreviated entries in Webster's New World College Dictionary.

Q. I'm writing a piece for a real estate client and am unsure whether to use a hyphen or not: "...priced from the low to mid-$200,000s." I know mid requires a hyphen when it precedes a number, but wanted to check that that was still the case with $. Thank you very much. – from Portland, Ore. on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. ... priced from the low- to mid-$200,000s.

Q. Which is it: How many fingers and toes do you have altogether? OR How many fingers and toes do you have all together? And what is the applicable rule of grammar? Thanks. – from Los Angeles on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. The first is correct: altogether (adv.), meaning the sum of your fingers and toes counted together.

Q. Is U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket hyphenated? Is it U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket? – from St. Paul , Minn. on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. Correct as Coast Guard-approved life jacket.

Q. When adding [sic] to a direct quote, should it be in brackets? Should it be italicized? Thank you – from Fort Wayne, Ind. on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. Insert (sic) in the quote directly after the problem. The term is enclosed in parentheses but not Italicized in AP news stories. See the "(sic)" entry in the Stylebook for elaboration.

Q. I submitted the question below last week, and I am still confused. I was told by AP to change an acronym in a direct quote. Then, I read that AP does not change direct quotes. Will you please clarify? Thank you! Q. I quoted someone in a story for my company publication. They used a well known acronym (describing a program) to begin a sentence. I was told I should change the direct quote and use the full name of the program and use the acronym immediately afterward. I'm pretty sure he is wrong on this. I say it should be left "as is." Or should I spell out the full name and put it in parenthesis before the acronym to begin the sentence? That seems like it would be confusing to the reader. He said if the article is seen by clients or is re-purposed it will not be clear. What should I do? I need an answer fast! Thanks!%uFFFD from Madison, Wis., on Fri, Jul 18, 2014 – from Madison, Wis. on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. On a second reading, I see your question is more complex than I understood on the first go-round. Yes, the quote should reflect the person's actual words unchanged, in this case the acronym. AP does not insert the full wording in parentheses after the acronym or abbreviation, but uses the full term in a subsequent reference if it's unfamiliar.

Q. Is broker associate ever capitalized? – from Eagan, Minn. on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. AP doesn't capitalize job descriptions such as broker associate.

Q. Should "chargeline" be one word or two words? An example: "Please use the approved chargeline." – from Kent, Wash. on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. I don't find the term in AP archives. An accounting textbook or glossary could provide the answer.

Q. Could you tell me what the capitalization rule is for using compound modifiers in section titles? For example, would it be On-site Services or On-Site Services? – from Altamonte Springs, Fla. on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. In such uses, the second element of the hyphenated term is generally lowercase.

Q. Hello! Can you settle a departmental debate, please? I maintain that --spectra-- is the correct plural, not --spectrums--. Am I right? Please advise. Thank you much! – from Kansas City, Mo. on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. Most words ending in um add s for the plural. For the spectrum entry, Webster's New World College Dictionary lists spectra before spectrums as the primary noun plural spelling.

Q. Which is correct: Bennie is a good friend of my brother Billy. OR Bennie is a good friend of my brother Billy's? And what grammatical rule applies? – from Los Angeles on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. Bennie is a good friend of my brother Billy. Or, my brother Billy's good friend is Bennie. These are possessive construction functioning as descriptions.

Q. Hi. Hoping you can help us out. Is it 3-step in a headline and three-step otherwise? – from Washington on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. Use figures for specific numbers in headlines.

Q. For state highways abbreviations, what is the appropriate abbreviation on second reference? S.H. 183 (like U.S. 1) or SH-123 (Like I-35)? – from Plano, Texas on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. Use the state route model in the "highway designations" entry: state Highway 183 on first reference, Highway 183 on second reference. The hyphenated letter-number designation on second reference is reserved for interstate highways.

Q. You can rest easy knowing that ... OR You can rest easily knowing that ... – on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. The common expression is rest easy.

Q. Is team builder two words or hyphenated when used as a noun? – from Katy, Texas on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. No hyphen.

Q. Following up on your earlier answer, does the fact that it's being used as a compound modifier of trends not matter? Q. In the following sentence, should base pay be hyphenated? "Exhibit 2 shows the base pay trends of the top..."%uFFFD from Raleigh, N.C., on Mon, Jul 21, 2014 A. The dictionary term is base pay, two words without a hyphen. – from Raleigh, N.C. on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. It's a noun phrase without a hyphen.

Q. What's the proper format for non-numbered chapter names within a sentence, vis a vis capitalization, quotation marks, etc? For example: In the chapter titled "How to train your Pokemon," you will find several winning strategies. – from Hypoluxo, Fla. on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. It's fine as written in your sentence if it duplicates the spelling of the actual chapter title. For other examples, see "composition title" entry.

Q. Which is proper style: Counter sue or countersue when used as a verb? Example: The judge also ruled card issuers could countersue retailers. – from Washington on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. It's countersue in the dictionary. See the Stylebook's "counter" entry for elaboration.

Q. In the following sentence, should base pay be hyphenated? "Exhibit 2 shows the base pay trends of the top..." – from Raleigh, N.C. on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. The dictionary term is base pay, two words without a hyphen.

Q. I know that when some people abbreviate tablespoon, they capitalize the t. How does AP prefer: Tbsp. or tbsp.? – from Louisville, Ky. on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. Per the "recipes" entry, AP Stylebook guidance is to spell out tablespoon, teaspoon, etc.

Q. Should titles of departments within an organization be capitalized such as fiscal services department or human resources department? – from Lexington,SC on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. Generic names of departments are lowercase in AP usage.

All contents © copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved.