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.

Already a subscriber? Log in here.

Not a subscriber? AP Stylebook Online subscribers can:

  • View the entire archive -- 21,827 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. When a transgender person prefers the pronouns they/them, should editors use singular or plural conjugations? Example: Smith, who uses the pronouns they and them, says some strangers assume they (is/are?) a teenage boy, others that Smith is female. – from Boston on Wed, Mar 25, 2015

A. Try rephrasing. Smith, who uses the pronouns they and them, says some strangers assume they means (or refers to) a teenage boy, others that Smith is female.

Q. Is there a AP preference between the use of "cellphone" and "mobile phone"? If so, under what circumstances? – from Los Angeles on Wed, Mar 25, 2015

A. No stated preference, though cellphone has become the commonly used term.

Q. In using consecutive years, which usage is correct, 2014-15 or 2014-'15? – from , San Antonio, Texas on Wed, Mar 25, 2015

A. The first.

Q. Wanted to outpoint possible conflicting information. I was trying to figure out whether we need to hyphenate %uFFFDridesharing%uFFFD when describing Uber, Lyft, etc. One entry says to use one word, but then the other entry says not to use the wording at all -- and that similar descriptions should be hyphenated. What%uFFFDs the correct style? Thanks much! Erin, CER Ask the Editor results: Q. Do you write "ridesharing program" or "ride-sharing program"? Thom, Oklahoma City A. Different localities use one or the other spelling, based on AP stories. The trend seems to be to the one-word compound ridesharing. Q. What is current AP style for ride-sharing, car-sharing and bike-sharing programs? The following story uses both "ridesharing" and "ride-hailing" to describe Lyft: lyft-cheated-new-drivers-out-1000-bonuses My understanding is that car sharing (hyphenated as a modifier) is correct, so I would style ride sharing and bike sharing in the same way. But the following Ask the Editor reply implies that "ridesharing" is trending: What is current AP style, two words or one? A. Ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft let people use smartphone apps to book and pay for a private car service or in some cases, a taxi. They may also be called ride-booking services. Do not use ride-sharing. – from Chicago on Wed, Mar 25, 2015

A. The Stylebook's "Uber" entry hyphenates ride-sharing, ride-booking and ride-hailing. However, some localities have used the one-word spelling for ridesharing.

Q. It's OK to say this: ... someone who's been there before Instead of: ... someone who has been there before – from Encinitas, Calif. on Wed, Mar 25, 2015

A. Yes, the contraction who's can mean who is or who has. Also, see the Stylebook's "contraction" entry for guidance.

Q. How do I make U.S. possessive? – from Washington on Wed, Mar 25, 2015

A. Write out United States' ... or use the abbreviation U.S. as a descriptive rather than possessive: the U.S. team.

Q. Subcommittee on Surface Transportation is not the full name of the panel. Should initial letters of Subcommittee on Surface Transportation be lower-cased? – from Arlington, Va. on Wed, Mar 25, 2015

A. Lowercase spelling looks right for the shortened name. See the "subcommittee" entry for elaboration.

Q. Does early onset dementia need a hyphen? – from Chicago on Wed, Mar 25, 2015

A. No hyphen in that term.

Q. I've seen the entry for FORMER as in "former President Bill Clinton." But is the use of the word "then" also appropriate, for example when referring to an action a former official took while in office. "In 2013, then Mayor Jane Doe issued an executive order." I'm worried that using the word "former" suggests that Jane Doe was not the mayor when that happened, but leaving out "former" or "then" may seem to some people that Jane Doe is still the mayor. – from Seattle on Wed, Mar 25, 2015

A. In 2013, then-Mayor Jane Doe issued an executive order. Or: In 2013, Jan Doe, then the mayor, issued an executive order.

Q. In a sentence with a parallel list, is it okay to imply parts of a phrase after the first phrase in the list? For example, is the following correct: "California will have 1,234 fewer dentists than are needed, Florida 1,152 fewer and New York 1,024." – from Washington on Wed, Mar 25, 2015

A. Yes, but better to write ... and New York 1,024 fewer.

Q. What would AP do with the section of the Appalachian Trail called the Hundred-Mile Wilderness? – from Farmington, Maine on Wed, Mar 25, 2015

A. As a formally named area on the trail, the Hundred-Mile Wilderness.

Q. A quick check of the government website,, indicates the correct name of the federal student loan for undergraduates and graduates is Direct PLUS Loan. When referencing this loan, please clarify whether it's correct to lowercase the "f" in "federal" in a sentence like this: "ABC Bank's DEF Loan offers a better rate than the federal Direct PLUS Loan." Your response is very much appreciated. – from Bridgeport, Conn. on Wed, Mar 25, 2015

A. It's correct to lowercase federal when used as an adjective to distinguish something from state or other program. See "federal" entry for details.

Q. I was searching for the word, "Teamwork," and read the following entry in the "Ask the Editor" section: Ask the Editor results: Q. Which is correct? Team work, Teamwork or team-work? from St. Peters, Mo. on Apr 09, 2012 A. It's one work, teamwork. Did you mean to say "It's one word, teamwork."? Sorry, I just thought I should ask. – from Naperville, Ill. on Wed, Mar 25, 2015

A. Yes, it should be one word, not one work.

Q. Is the adjective form for duty free hyphenated? Ex: Duty-free chain Thank you – from Virginia, XX on Tue, Mar 24, 2015

A. Yes, hyphenate the adjective duty-free.

Q. Would you say "the countries with the highest pace of life" or "the countries with the highest paces of life"? And what about "cost of living" vs. "costs of living"? – from Tokyo on Tue, Mar 24, 2015

A. ... countries with the fastest pace of life ... countries with the highest cost of living.

Q. Should foreign currencies in similar constructions as the following one be hyphenated? A 10-billion-yen plan to ... Or should it be -- a 10 billion yen plan Thank you – from Virginia, XX on Tue, Mar 24, 2015

A. ... a 10 billion-yen plan.

Q. I've seen AP use antiretrovirals and antimalarial drugs, but then anti-epileptic drugs. Which are correct please? – from Bethesda, MD on Tue, Mar 24, 2015

A. AP medical writers don't hyphenate antiretroviral, using the Webster's dictionary spelling. Using the Stylebook's "anti-" guidance, hyphenate anti-malarial and anti-epileptic.

Q. Is it Lunar New Year or Chinese New Year? – from Baton Rouge, La. on Tue, Mar 24, 2015

A. Both capitalized spellings are used.

Q. Handpainted figurine or hand-painted figurine? Thanks! – from Las Vegas on Tue, Mar 24, 2015

A. AP stories prefer the hyphenated spelling.

Q. I cannot find an entry for the proper use of the noun for businesses organized under sub-chapter S of the IRS code. Is it S corporation or S-corporation? – from Trenton, N.J. on Tue, Mar 24, 2015

A. A recent AP story from Washington used S-corporation.

Q. Is it correct to use "individuals" in this sentence, or should the word "people" be used: Skills training will be provided to individuals caring for older adults in the home. – from Little Rock, Ark. on Tue, Mar 24, 2015

A. Either works or perhaps caregivers.

Q. When preparing a report, if you have included as part of the report header "Report Prepared For: Mr. Smith, Homeowner," do you need to qualify Mr. Smith as the homeowner the first time he is referenced in the body of the report? – from thornton, Pa. on Tue, Mar 24, 2015

A. Yes, and this suggested rephrasing of header: Report prepared for Mr. Smith, homeowner

Q. Should the term "assets under management" be capitalized? – on Tue, Mar 24, 2015

A. An AP story wouldn't capitalize this description.

Q. Is it correction officer, corrections officer, or correctional officer? – from Johnson City, N.Y. on Tue, Mar 24, 2015

A. Various governmental websites use correctional officer, corrections officer and correction officer. Use the spelling that prevails in a specific jurisdiction.

Q. Does the title "Federal Reserve governor" take the abbreviation "Gov." before an individual's full name on first reference? – from Charlotte, N.C. on Mon, Mar 23, 2015

A. See this link for the titles:

Q. Can you please settle this? Should we write "University of California, Los Angeles," (or Berkeley, or Irvine) or "University of California at Los Angeles?" Part of my question also is about the comma AFTER the city, if the rule is to just use the city without at. – from Eugene, Oregon on Mon, Mar 23, 2015

A. Generally written University of California, Berkeley without a comma after the city unless followed by a subordinate clause or phrase: The University of California, Berkeley is a member of the Pacific-12 Conference. The University of California, Berkley, which belongs to the Pacific-12 Conference, ...

Q. Is it "requester" or "requestor"? Your answer of "correct" to a 2011 question asking "Should requester/requestor be -er just like adviser/advisor?" makes no sense. I tried a word ending pattern (e.g., -st), but I can make both "protester" and "investor." I work for a government agency using plenty of legal language, so I'd like the answer to be firmly one spelling or the other. – from Pittsburgh on Mon, Mar 23, 2015

A. Is this clearer? Requester, which is the first spelling in Webster's New World College Dictionary, the Stylebook's main reference.

Q. Do academic and policy journals need to be italicized, left alone or need quotes around them? – from HARRISONBURG, Va. on Mon, Mar 23, 2015

A. AP news stories don't enclose the titles of academic and policy journals in quotes. No italics in news stories, though other publications may italicize titles in their own style.

Q. Marsala is a capitalized when it comes to wine. Does that mean it's also capitalized when used in a dish like chicken Marsala? I didn't see a reference in the Food Guide. Thanks! – from Chicago on Mon, Mar 23, 2015

A. Marsala is capitalized as the proper name of the Sicilian seaport associated with those culinary specialties.

Q. As a noun, sneak peek or sneak-peek? Thanks! – from Dallas on Mon, Mar 23, 2015

A. Generally spelled without a hyphen.

Q. While I would use "put the device in the palm of their hand," others are leaning toward one of the phrases below. Which is correct if we use the plural (hands)? Put the device in the palm of their hands. Put the device in palms of their hands. – from Albany, N.Y. on Mon, Mar 23, 2015

A. In the sense of sharing one device: Put the device in the palm of their hands.

Q. I sense some inconsistency on the name of the president of Afghanistan. The listing uses Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai but the most recent response to a question about use of his name lists only Ashraf Ghani. – from Tacoma, Wash. on Sun, Mar 22, 2015

A. His preference recently expressed to AP is Ashraf Ghani, without Ahmadzai. We're updating the online Stylebook pronouncer entry.

Q. Should official player of the year winners be capitalized? Ex: He was named Big Ten Player of the Year. – from East Lansing, MI on Sun, Mar 22, 2015

A. AP stories capitalize recognized awards like Big Ten Player of the Year.

Q. In the phrase "bright green, piercing eyes," would there be a hyphen between "bright" and "green" because they are used as a single adjective? – from Portland, Ore. on Sun, Mar 22, 2015

A. No comma after bright.

Q. What is the preferred way to refer to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai on second reference? Is it Ghani, Ahmadzai or Ghani Ahmadzai? I have seen it all three ways in AP stories. – from lincoln, ne on Sat, Mar 21, 2015

A. AP stories from Afghanistan use President Ashraf Ghani on first reference and Ghani on second reference

Q. Can't find a mention of this. Should areas within a city be capitalized? Downtown, Uptown, Midtown? As in "He worked to redevelop Downtown San Angelo." – from Corpus Christie, Texas on Fri, Mar 20, 2015

A. Usually such descriptions are lowercase unless local usage caps the term.

Q. Which acronym for milisamples-per-second is AP Style: Msps or MSPS? – from Dallas on Fri, Mar 20, 2015

A. It's an abbreviation, not an acronym. See the Stylebook entry for the difference. In any case, it's not a Stylebook term and not listed in our primary dictionary. Check a specialty reference.

Q. Regarding workflow (one word) versus work flow (two words, there are conflicting responses between the two Ask the Editor responses and the Webster Dictionary entry. One of the Ask the Editor responses and Webster says that it should be one word. However, another Ask the Editor response says it should be two words. Which one should we follow? – from Rockford, Ill. on Fri, Mar 20, 2015

A. Usage has no doubt evolved to a compound since the initial answer in 2006. I'd defer to the dictionary spelling: workflow.

Q. Is "Baltics" an acceptable substitute for "Baltic states"? – from Greensboro, North Carolina on Fri, Mar 20, 2015

A. Baltics is a short form of Baltic States, according to the entry in Webster's New World College Dictionary, Fifth Edition, the AP Stylebook's primary reference.

Q. In the article subtitle "Part Two of an Interview with..." Do you capital "two"? – from , Boston on Fri, Mar 20, 2015

A. As an AP subhead: Part two of an interview with ...

Q. are both "millennia" and "millenniums" acceptable? – from Chicago on Fri, Mar 20, 2015

A. Webster's New World College Dictionary lists the plurals as milleniums or millennia. In certain contexts, one may be preferred over the other.

Q. acting Mayor Peter Barry Shouldn't this be capitalized? – from Jackson Heights, N.Y. on Fri, Mar 20, 2015

A. Correct as written with acting spelled lowercase.

Q. What about smart room technology? I see it as SMART as well. Any guidelines? – from Naples, Fla. on Fri, Mar 20, 2015

A. As you have it: smart room technology. AP doesn't use all caps for smart.

Q. I know that this sentence is parallel: "I ate a banana, an apple and a pear." But is it also appropriate to say: "I ate a banana, apple and pear"? I say no (because it's not parallel), but my boss disagrees. Please help! – from West Palm Beach, Fla. on Fri, Mar 20, 2015

A. Your version with three articles is correct.

Q. A question on using the apostrophe in place of letters: In "His name is being submitted now," is it correct to say, "His name's being submitted now"? And then, "My name's Silvia" instead of "My name is Silvia"? Thank you. – from Los Angeles on Thu, Mar 19, 2015

A. These are contractions. Acceptable in informal conversation but best avoided in formal writing.

Q. I've been told that in this sentence -- Country A and Country B's new visa waiver program allows their citizens to stay up to 180 days in each other's countries without a visa -- is wrong because it should be 'each other's country,' since the other country involved is one country. I learned that after each other's countable nouns should be plural; however, since I started looking into the matter, I saw other grammar books saying it should be singular. Which is correct? Thanks a lot. – from California, XX on Thu, Mar 19, 2015

A. The singular is preferable.

Q. On the website of the company that owns the rights to the GED exam,the following is posted: "The GED Trademark must always be used as a proper adjective that is followed by the registration symbol and generic term." Does this apply to press releases and promotional materials from our public library which offers the exam? Must I include the superscript R after GED in all uses? That requirement is not currently covered in your entry. – from Jacksonville, Fla. on Thu, Mar 19, 2015

A. AP does not use that symbol in news stories. It can't be transmitted through all computer systems.

Q. What is the rule on diesel - capitalize or not? – from Troy, Mich. on Thu, Mar 19, 2015

A. It's lowercase in most uses: e.g., diesel fuel. An exception would be a formal name that includes the term.

Q. "Last mile" providers, or "Last-mile" providers? Do the quote marks negate the need for the hyphen? – from Arlington, Va. on Thu, Mar 19, 2015

A. An AP story on the Internet services to homes used "last mile" connection.

Q. I'm not seeing the use of "happy hour" as a modifier addressed in the archive. Hyphen in "happy hour special" or no? – from Charlotte, N.C. on Thu, Mar 19, 2015

A. AP stories do not hyphenate happy hour specials.

Q. I understand that titles of authority before a name get capped, as in State Attorney John Doe. But I see stories on AP's news site that lower case assistant, as in assistant State Attorney John Doe. Is this AP style? – from Anna Maria, Fla. on Thu, Mar 19, 2015

A. Capitalize assistant if it's part of a formal title preceding the full name of the individual.

Q. In a measurement that involves quotes, does the comma go inside the quotes like this: He stands nearly 5'3," but his name reflects ... – from Encinitas, Calif. on Thu, Mar 19, 2015

A. "... He stands nearly 5-foot-3," but his name reflects ...

Q. Are commas necessary to set off a proper noun in a construction such as this: "Thank you, Peggy, for your hard work." – from Tampa, Fla. on Thu, Mar 19, 2015

A. Set off the name used as a form of address.

Q. Would you hyphenate the term ad free? As in%uFFFDThe website will stay ad free. – from Orysia, New York City, N.Y. on Thu, Mar 19, 2015

A. Hyphenate ad-free.

All contents © copyright 2015 Associated Press. All rights reserved.