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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. Is the "D" in "American Dream" capitalized? – from New York on Thu, Apr 28, 2016

A. Lowercase dream in AP usage, in line with the dictionary's first spelling of American dream.

Q. Is "to" capitalized in a headline when it is used as a verb (i.e., part of an infinitive, such as "to vote")? – from Houston on Thu, Apr 28, 2016

A. Yes, for an all-caps headline style. However, AP caps only the first word and proper nouns in a headline, so "to vote" would be lowercase within the headline.

Q. Would you use Big Data or big data? Thanks – from , on Thu, Apr 28, 2016

A. Lowercase big data.

Q. When attributing a quote, is it correct to say 'said John Doe' or 'says John Doe'? – from Charlotte, N.C. on Thu, Apr 28, 2016

A. Yes, it's a variation of the attribution formulation that normally places the verb after the name: .... John Doe said.

Q. I keep seeing people hyphenate native, i.e., Florida-native Joe Smith. I haven't seen it until recently, and it's being done by young reporters fresh out of college. I wouldn't hyphenate it, never have, but wanted to make sure I didn't miss a change. Thanks! – from Harrisonburg, Va. on Wed, Apr 27, 2016

A. No hyphen in Florida native Joe Smith.

Q. In the more than, over entry, it says both are acceptable in terms of numerical value. Are they both acceptable in terms of time as well? Example: She has been a lawyer for over six years. – from Camarillo, Calif. on Wed, Apr 27, 2016

A. Yes.

Q. Dear Editor, why is 'millennials' lower case but Generation Y is set in upper case? Would it be correct to upper case when using this term to a specific group? Thanks – from Irving, Texas on Wed, Apr 27, 2016

A. We defer to the dictionary on the lowercase spelling. Same for capitalization of the G-terms.

Q. Can use you CAT in a headline instead of Caterpillar? – from Lisle, Ill. on Wed, Apr 27, 2016

A. Yes, assuming the CAT acronym is known to your audience.

Q. Hello, Can you tell me, is it Planet Earth? or planet Earth? I can't find a trustworthy reference anywhere. Thanks! – from Loveland, Colo. on Wed, Apr 27, 2016

A. Lowercase p within a sentence: November was a hot month for planet Earth.

Q. Is there a rule against using an apostrophe with a registration mark aka R ball? Example: Ram Promaster City%uFFFFs%uFFFF – from Detroit on Wed, Apr 27, 2016

A. AP doesn't use the registration mark. However, it wouldn't be reproduced with an apostrophe.

Q. I see "academe" used as a substitute for "academia." Which does AP prefer? – from New York on Wed, Apr 27, 2016

A. Yes, they are synonyms for the academic world in dictionary definitions. In AP stories, academia is used more frequently than academe.

Q. Hi, Would it be B or B-plus? – from New York on Wed, Apr 27, 2016

A. Generally use B-plus because the sign may not transmit through all computer systems.

Q. When alphabetizing according to last name, and the name begins with "Van" or "de," for instance, "Jon de Maa Zubil" or "Nate De Synegub," how should the name be ordered? In the examples given, would the first name be ordered by the letter "d" or "M" or "Z"? And for the second name, would it be ordered by the letter "d" or "s"? For a name like "Tim Van Winkle," should the name be alphabetized by the letter "v" or "w"? Thank you! – from Virginia Beach, Va. on Wed, Apr 27, 2016

A. Such listings are generally are alphabetized by the first element of the surname as spelled by the family, followed by the given name: de Maa Zubil, Jon; Van Winkle, Tim

Q. Is there any reason you don't curate old Ask the Editor questions that have been superseded and now contain wrong information, i.e. this one about capitalization for bloody mary, which AP says it lower case? Q. Editor: Would you cap these cocktails: mojito, kamikaze, pomtini? Generally, are cocktails capped? My sense is no, but some may be exceptions. As you know, there is no "cocktail" entry in the stylebook. Many thanks. from sausalito, Calif. on Oct 19, 2010 A. Cocktail names are generally lowercase, with some exceptions for clarity: Old Fashioned, Bloody Mary, Manhattan. Those you list look right lowercase. – from Chicago on Wed, Apr 27, 2016

A. Working on that. If you see others, let me know. Meanwhile, the current Stylebook listing is authoritative; otherwise, use the most recent Q&A.

Q. I know the word 'staff' is generally a collective noun taking singular verb and pronoun, but we sometimes refer to events where more than one staff group attends or need to act. For example, "The toolbox includes talking points for tribal child support directors to use when speaking to tribal council and finance staff." I understand the sentence is awkward, but should it be written as 'staffs' since we're talking about staff in two different offices? – from Washington on Wed, Apr 27, 2016

A. Yes, the dictionary lists staffs as the plural noun for personnel.

Q. I saw the phrase "mass murder" recently used in a story to describe a killing of four individuals all from the same family in their own home. Is this an appropriate use of "mass murder"? – from Santa Barbara, Calif. on Wed, Apr 27, 2016

A. By the "homicide, murder, manslaughter" entry, AP advises against using the term until charges are filed or a court reaches a verdict. However, authorities sometimes use the term, so a news story might have it in a direct quote.

Q. How many times should you use a registration mark in copy? Only the first reference? (I have been searching for the answer on your site. Even found a refernce to it that was not at all helpful. Why not answer the question instead of sending us on another lenghty search? Thanks!) "Q. How many times must a registration mark be used? I always thought the brand should be trademarked on first use only unless the piece was long, and then it should be reintroduced at chapter breaks. %u2013 from Andover, MN on Fri, Nov 20, 2009 A. See response of Sept. 16 in "other terminology" area of this archive." – from Parker, Pa. on Wed, Apr 27, 2016

A. OK, I'll repeat yet again. AP doesn't use the registration or registry mark because it won't transmit through all computer systems. See the "trademark" and "brand names" entries for additional guidance.

Q. I see this Q and A to first reference. what about second reference? Upper or lower case? Q. OK, I checked the Stylebook and Ask-the-Editor Archive and don't see "Superfund." Uppercase? Acceptable on first reference? from Frankfort, Ky. on Oct 04, 2011 A. In AP stories, federal Superfund site or federal Superfund list on first reference, meaning pollution cleanup is largely covered by federal funds. – from St. Louis, Mo. on Wed, Apr 27, 2016

A. On second reference, the site or the Superfund site.

Q. Is there a style for photo credits that involve Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube? – from New York on Tue, Apr 26, 2016

A. See PHOTO CAPTIONS section of USER-GENERATED CONTENT in the Stylebook's Social Media Guidelines.

Q. Either spelling of tranquility/tranquillity seems acceptable, but is there a preferred version? – from Palm Springs, Calif. on Tue, Apr 26, 2016

A. AP stories tend to use tranquility.

Q. Does AP Style have a rule for capitalizing prepositions that are part of an adverbial or other adjectival phrase, such as Chicago Style? For example: "Find Out Where You Belong." – from Charlottesville, Va. on Tue, Apr 26, 2016

A. The "composition titles" entry says to capitalize principal words, including prepositions and conjunctions of four or more letters. By that guideline, out would be lowercase in the quoted title.

Q. When quoting a sentence within a sentence should you add a period at the end? Here's an example: Have you ever walked down the street and thought to yourself, "If only I could steel that car."? Or should it be this: Have you ever walked down the street and thought to yourself, "If only I could steel that car"? The latter sentence doesn't have a period. – from Portland, Ore. on Tue, Apr 26, 2016

A. Drop the quotes and end the query with a question mark, which applies to the entire sentence: Have you ever walked down the street and thought to yourself, If only I could steal that car?

Q. In your reply to my mid-$30s range question, you suggested defining the range, such as $34-$37. Why is a dollar sign necessary in front of 37? I would think the hyphen indicating a range implies that the dollar sign is inclusive, i.e., assumed for 37. – from Saint Petersburg, Florida on Tue, Apr 26, 2016

A. Following guidelines in the "dollars" entry, use figures and the $ sign in all except casual references. This includes ranges.

Q. Has or have: In this sentence, which is correct "has" or "have?" More than 30 percent of all students enrolled in adult education and literacy courses in Texas have less than a sixth grade level of reading, math and language skills. – from Austin, Texas on Tue, Apr 26, 2016

A. Use the plural have.

Q. Slightly confused by subject/verb agreement over the use of a subject with the word "or", so which of these would be correct: "We recommend that senior management or your account rep uses email" or "We recommend that senior management or your account rep use email"? – from Chicago on Tue, Apr 26, 2016

A. Use the singular verb when the coordinating conjunction "or" connects singular nouns. If that seems awkward, substitute "and" to allow the plural verb.

Q. One of your quiz answers says nonlife-threatening injuries is correct: "Use the 'nonlife' spelling in Webster%uFFFFs New World College Dictionary, following the advice in the Stylebook%uFFFFs %uFFFFnon-%uFFFF prefix entry." How does this fit with Webster's definition of nonlife as absence of life? – from Camden, Maine on Tue, Apr 26, 2016

A. Which dictionary are you referring to? Webster's NWCD, Fifth, shows only the spelling. In any case, there's a better phrasing: injuries that weren't life-threating.

Q. Hello, I am editing a food article and came to this manchego cheese. Should it be capped? It is from manchega sheep in Spain. – from Orysia McCabe Middletown, N.Y. on Tue, Apr 26, 2016

A. See "manchego cheese" in the Food Guidelines.

Q. Is it okay to start the main part of a sentence after the introduction phrase with a number? For example: Between 1952 to 1971, 451 American infants who died at birth.... Thanks! – from AE, AP on Tue, Apr 26, 2016

A. Yes, the figure is correct. However, rephrase the intro: From 1952 to 1971, ... or, Between 1952 and 1971, ...

Q. Is it photojournalist (one word) or photo journalist (two words)? Thanks! – from AE, AP on Tue, Apr 26, 2016

A. It's photojournalist in AP usage.

Q. [The performing arts school offers workshops, labs and children's theater productions and, perhaps most famously, its well-known Mainstage Musical, which is presented as the sun sets over an outdoor amphitheater.] I edited this so that Mainstage Musical was capitalized. I checked the school's website and this Mainstage Musical is a yearly event. This year it's "Mary Poppins." Am I correct in simply capitalizing Mainstage Musical and not putting it also in quotations? – from Fargo, N.D. on Mon, Apr 25, 2016

A. Yes, but you might substitute annual for well-known to underline the recurring event of that name.

Q. When a foreign word is used, is it put in quotes every time it is used in the story or just the first time? Thanks! – from Camarillo, Calif. on Mon, Apr 25, 2016

A. Just the first time.

Q. If someone is working on a project and has stopped working on it for a while, should he "let it lay" or "let it lie"? Thank you! – from Towson, MD on Mon, Apr 25, 2016

A. Let the project lie.

Q. In the term Mid-Michigan, is it correct to capitalize "mid" because it's denoting a region of Michigan? – from Southfield, MI on Mon, Apr 25, 2016

A. It's mid-Michigan in AP stories from that state.

Q. In forestry, should an area with all the trees removed be called a "clear cut," "clearcut" or "clear-cut"? And is the process called "clear cutting," "clearcutting" or "clear-cutting"? – from Fairbanks, Alaska on Mon, Apr 25, 2016

A. AP stories on forestry prefer clear-cut and clear-cutting, the dictionary's primary spellings.

Q. In the phrase "second most common cancer," should there be any hyphens? – from Macungie, Pa. on Mon, Apr 25, 2016

A. It's clear as written though second-most common cancer is an alternative.

Q. Would a comma be necessary after "DMD" in the following sentence? "Dr. Mark Horowitz, D.M.D., is a cosmetic dentist" or "Dr. Mark Horowitz, D.M.D. is a cosmetic dentist"? – from Austell, Ga. on Mon, Apr 25, 2016

A. Use either the Dr. title or D.M.D. set off with commas. Dr. Mark Horowitz is a cosmetic dentist.

Q. In this direct quote, should it be left as 4:00? (or rewritten as 4, or four - since there is no mention of a.m.?) "The working out in the morning is 'me time.'" she said. "It's hard to get up at 4:00, but I get to move my body. And that's a privilege." – from Fargo, N.D. on Mon, Apr 25, 2016

A. Use the figure 4 as a clock time.

Q. When a restaurant review mentions dishes unique to that restaurant, such as the Baby Bella burger or Crouching Tiger sushi roll, do I capitalize their names as I have here? – from Jackson, Wyo. on Sun, Apr 24, 2016

A. Spell these fanciful names as written on the menu items.

Q. Should the apostrophe remain in this phrase? "...in the mid-$30's range. – from Saint Petersburg, Fla. on Sun, Apr 24, 2016

A. By the Stylebook's "range" entry, there's a lower and upper figure. Better to be specific: e.g., $34-$37 range. If you do retain the expression, make it .. in the mid-$30s.

Q. I know you're not supposed to capitalize food dishes generally, but when a restaurant offers a signature dish on its menu, such as a Spicy Philly Cheesesteak, would you capitalize that? – from Jackson, Wyo. on Fri, Apr 22, 2016

A. If it's a separate item on the menu, the first word is generally capitalized. The Stylebook entry is Philly cheesesteak. So it could be written: Spicy Philly cheesesteak

Q. All submitted questions about using Dr. as a title vs. using M.D. after a name are in the context of sentences. What about a listing in a formal program? If our commencement speaker is a physician, and her name is simply listed in the program agenda, would we say Dr. Sue Smith, or Sue Smith, M.D.? (Her current, nonmedical job title will also appear, on the line below her name.) We have several doctor-degreed faculty members listed in the program, and we do not use any titles or degrees for them, so I'm thinking M.D. will draw less attention to their absence, and show proper courtesy to our guest. Many thanks for all the work you do! – from San Jose, Calif. on Fri, Apr 22, 2016

A. Yes, good way to handle it.

Q. Looking for the answer to the style question: software as a service or software-as-aservice; similarly commercial off the shelf or commercial-off-the-shelf ?? – from SANTEE, Calif. on Fri, Apr 22, 2016

A. Generally, software as a service; commercial off-the-shelf software.

Q. AP appears to use "jailor" and "jailer" interchangeably - consistent within each story, of course. Ever consider choosing one and running with it? – from , Ala. on Fri, Apr 22, 2016

A. As the dictionary's primary or first spelling, jailer is AP's preferred usage. It far outnumbers the "or" spelling in AP news stories.

Q. Does one capitalize famous legal cases? For instance: Oklahoma City Bombing Case? – from Denver on Fri, Apr 22, 2016

A. Capitalize only the proper noun elements of legal case summaries: Oklahoma City bombing case.

Q. In financial table headlines, which is the correct way to abbreviate thousands: Total Operating Revenue ($000's) or ($000s)? – from Washington, D.C. on Fri, Apr 22, 2016

A. It's lowercase s without an apostrophe for the plural.

Q. Is it top three characteristics or top 3 characteristics. Should I use the numeral 3 or spell out three? – from St. Louis on Fri, Apr 22, 2016

A. Spell three.

Q. "Late night TV shows" or "late-night TV shows? – from Liverpool, N.Y. on Fri, Apr 22, 2016

A. Generally hyphenated as late-night TV shows.

Q. How would you hyphenate an "-ly" adverb that modifies a compound adjective? "Risk adjustment does not compensate for extremely high-cost enrollees for a number of reasons." Or "...extremely-high-cost..."? The construction is used frequently, so recasting would become awkward. – from Washington, D.C. on Fri, Apr 22, 2016

A. No hyphen. See the "-ly" entry.

Q. Which is correct: ramp up or ramp-up? Thank you! – from Santiago, Ore. on Fri, Apr 22, 2016

A. Two words, no hyphen for verb forms.

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