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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. In a press release should professional liability insurance be capitalized when used in this context: Protx Risk Management LLC, a managing general agency ("MGA") that underwrites professional liability insurance for community banks – from Denver on Mon, Nov 23, 2015

A. No, it's lowercase. Also, AP doesn't follow a description with an abbreviation in parentheses because it's jarring to readers.

Q. How do I use a number in this context: "This is the 22nd DreamCourt basketball court that has been openened..." or "This is the twenty-second DreamCourt..." – from Dallas on Mon, Nov 23, 2015

A. The first is correct. Use figures for ordinal numbers 10th and above.

Q. Apologies if I'm overlooking this in the archives. When describing an approximate time, is the word "at" used? As in, "The crash happened at around 7 p.m." or, "The crash happened around 7 p.m." Thanks! – from Long Island, N.Y. on Mon, Nov 23, 2015

A. The crash happened around 7 p.m. Or, the crash happened at 7 p.m.

Q. Greenlit or green-lit? Example: The show got greenlit/green-lit for a full season. – from Liverpool, N.Y. on Mon, Nov 23, 2015

A. Use the dictionary's first spelling of the verb's past tense, greenlighted.

Q. I came across a type of grape for wine%uFFFDGew%uFFFDrztraminer and am wondering if it should be capped or lowercase. The grape comes from Alsace France, so unless there is a town or region by that name I can't figure out why it is capped. – from Orysia, New York City, N.Y. on Mon, Nov 23, 2015

A. Wine grape varietals are lowercase.

Q. Would subsequent references to the U.S. Mint be to the "Mint" or "mint"? The governmental agencies and census entries imply simply "mint." – from Cincinnati, Ohio on Mon, Nov 23, 2015

A. Usually it's the mint on subsequent reference.

Q. "Two-and-a-half hour drive" or "2 12/ hour drive"? – from New York, New York on Mon, Nov 23, 2015

A. Use figures for mixed numbers: a 2 1/2-hour drive.

Q. When referring to a blog post headline, is the headline treated like a composition title and placed in quotes? – from Sterling, Va. on Mon, Nov 23, 2015

A. Enclose the blog headline in quotes when citing it.

Q. Does AP prefer 3D or 3-D? – from Monterey, Va. on Sun, Nov 22, 2015

A. The Stylebook entry is 3-D, found in the T section.

Q. National Capitol Region, when referring to Washington D.C., is the term capitalized or lowercased. – from Alexandria, Va. on Sun, Nov 22, 2015

A. It's National Capital Region, a federal government term for the Washington metropolitan area.

Q. In copy, can you abbreviate "page" to "pg." or "p." or should you write it out? – from Scottsdale, Ariz. on Sat, Nov 21, 2015

A. See "page numbers" for the recommended style. AP wouldn't abbreviate the term standing alone.

Q. Would you put quotes around a book or movie series? Would it be "Hunger Games" series/books or Hunger Games series/books; "Harry Potter" enthusiasts vs. Harry Potter enthusiasts? – from Atherton, Calif. on Sat, Nov 21, 2015

A. Enclose the title name in quotes: "Hunger Games" series, "Harry Potter" enthusiasts.

Q. According to the MLA, one would italicize a word when referring it as a word. For example, in this sentence, the words affect and effect would be italicized: "Students often confuse the word affect with effect." How would the same sentence be formatted according to the AP Stylebook? – from Charlotte, N.C. on Sat, Nov 21, 2015

A. In a news story, the two terms could be enclosed in quotation marks for emphasis -- single quotes within a direct quote, double quotes if not. In the AP Stylebook, examples are italicized. So both words are in italics in the "affect, effect" entry. However, italics can't be used in news stories because they can't be transmitted through all computer systems.

Q. I looked though many of the Ask the Editor responses and in the chapter on punctuation, but I could not find a clear answer about how punctuation should be used with quotations. I know that end punctuation should always be placed within the quotation marks, but if the quotation ends with a question mark or exclamation point, I wouldn't need an additional period, would I? In other words, if I'm correct, the period at the end of this sentence would be unnecessary: She exclaimed, "Take the children outside!". Also, if a quotation like this one were to appear in the middle of a sentence, how should it be punctuated? For example, When the fire started, she exclaimed, "Take the children outside!" but then she ran back upstairs in search of other students. Should there an a comma after the exclamation point? If the same quotation were in the same sentence but without an exclamation point, should a comma follow the word "outside"? In the previous sentence, should the question mark be placed within the quotation marks? Thank you for helping me. – from Charlotte, N.C. on Sat, Nov 21, 2015

A. In the "quotation marks" entry, see the section on PLACEMENT WITH OTHER PUNCTUATION. That should cover your questions.

Q. Should the response to "We have more turkeys," be "more than who?" or "more than whom?"? Thanks. – from medina, Minn. on Fri, Nov 20, 2015

A. ... more than whom?

Q. Is the proper demonym for Mali (Africa) Malian or Malinese? – from lincoln, ne on Fri, Nov 20, 2015

A. Malian.

Q. Is saying "morning time" redundant? In this instance, I'm talking about "morning-time indulgences" – from Scottsdale, Ariz. on Fri, Nov 20, 2015

A. It's fine in that usage.

Q. You don't support the use of the oxford comma, indicating in a simple series, a comma before the last item isn't essential for clarity, In series with more complexity, a comma may be needed for clarity/ Can you specifically define the terms simple and complex when used above? I've always used the rule taught to me that states,"Three items described, no comma between two and three; more than three items described, add commas after the third and subsequent items." Are we saying the same thing? Thanks! – from Bakersfield, Calif. on Fri, Nov 20, 2015

A. See the Stylebook's IN A SERIES section of the "comma" entry for a three-item sentence with lengthy wordage and detail meriting a comma before the last portion for clarity. Also, a simple series may have four or more items that do not require a comma before the last. Here's an example: The store stocks paint in black, white, gray, tan and brown.

Q. Would this be the correct way to punctuate this question? The punctuation at the end is tricky. %uFFFDAfter all, what true baseball fan can avoid the intense feeling of excitement when the umpire finally yells out %uFFFDPlay ball!%uFFFD?%uFFFD – from Carrollton, Texas on Fri, Nov 20, 2015

A. In this rhetorical phrasing, let the exclamation point stand without adding a question mark: After all, what true baseball fan can avoid the intense feeling of excitement when the umpire finally yells out, "Play ball!"

Q. Is help desk one word or two? – from Lanham, MD on Fri, Nov 20, 2015

A. It's help desk in common usage.

Q. What is the correct format for industries? For example, if you are listing industries, would you list them as "food and beverage, oil and gas..." Or would you list them as "Food & Beverage, Oil & Gas?" In addition, if you were using them in a list, would you lowercase the industries? And would you capitalize them if you were using them in a sentence. – from Cinnaminson, N.J. on Fri, Nov 20, 2015

A. Lowercase the generic descriptions of industries using and, not the ampersand. AP would capitalize only company names in a list or in a sentence. Industry types in a list or sentence are lowercase.

Q. In this situation, would the number 5 be spelled out or not? A new 5-year contract was signed. And...a minimum of 5 years is required... – from Englewood, Colo. on Fri, Nov 20, 2015

A. Spell out five in those constructions.

Q. Which is correct: Springfield Baroque Players presents "Music from the Bach Family" OR Springfield Baroque Players present "Music from the Bach Family"? (Although "Players" is a plural noun, could "Springfield Baroque Players" be considered a singular noun because it is one performing group--in which case, "presents" should be used?) Thanks! – from NJ on Fri, Nov 20, 2015

A. The sense of the name is plural so use the plural verb for agreement.

Q. When using the abbreviation for a medical degree FCCP is it with or without periods. FCCP or F.C.C.P. Is there a rule when the abbreviation is four or more characters? – from Alexandria, Va. on Fri, Nov 20, 2015

A. AP doesn't use this abbreviation, which isn't well-known to general audiences. Rather, spell it out with fellow lowercase: She is a fellow of the American College of Chest Physicians.

Q. Should there be a space before and after an em dash in an offset phrase? – from Scottsdale, Ariz. on Fri, Nov 20, 2015

A. In the ANPA specifications AP follows, there is no en or em dash. AP stories use an underscore with spaces on each side for a thick dash. The en is equivalent to a hyphen, which links two words without spaces. Some publications use a double hyphen with spaces on either side to indicate a thick dash.

Q. Does AP have a guide for outlines or instructions? I'm editing a training manual and need to know if it's OK to have only one bullet under an instruction. – from Royal Oak, MI on Fri, Nov 20, 2015

A. See IN LISTS section of the Stylebook's "dash" entry. Though unusual, it should be OK to do what you propose.

Q. I sent this message to customer service, but they told me to send it to "Ask the Editor" instead. It's not a question; just an observation. Just a head's-up: I found a typo in the dictionary's online entry for "change." In the synonym passage at the end, the word "after" (in bold) should actually be "alter." I'm a copyeditor; I can't help but notice these things. – from Pensacola, Fla. on Fri, Nov 20, 2015

A. The synonym passage looks fine in the posted dictionary I'm reading, with "alter" instead of "after." Here's the passage in the "change" entry: SYN%u2013 1 change denotes a making or becoming distinctly different and implies either a radical transmutation of character or replacement with something else [I'll change my shoes]; alter implies a partial change, as in appearance, so that the identity is preserved [to alter a garment]; var y suggests irregular or intermittent change [to vary one's reading]; mod ify implies minor change, often so as to limit or moderate [to modify the language of a report]; transform implies a change in form and now, usually, in nature or function [to transform matter into energy]; convert suggests more strongly change to suit a new function [to convert a barn into a house]

Q. In an article with both M.D.s and Ph.D.s Do we use Dr. Smith only when referring to a MD and then on first reference use John Jones, Ph.D. and then Jones on second reference or Dr. Jones – from New Haven, Conn. on Fri, Nov 20, 2015

A. Our preference is to avoid the abbreviations and use descriptions instead. e.g., Harold Smith, a physician, and Robert Jones, who holds a doctorate in biology, ... In follow-ups, AP would use the surnames alone without Dr.

Q. In the following sentence, should "music-making" be changed to "music making" (that is, changed to no hyphen and two words)?: The biography sheds light on the music-making in the Bach family. Thank you. – from NJ on Thu, Nov 19, 2015

A. Yes.

Q. On May 20, 2010, an answer in this section said that troubleshoot is one word. But Webster's does not list troubleshoot as one word, and the word does not have a listing in the AP Stylebook. Why would this be one word? – from Camarillo, Calif. on Thu, Nov 19, 2015

A. It's troubleshooter, one word, in Webster's New World College Dictionary, Fifth Edition, the Stylebook's primary reference.

Q. When the word walkout is used in real estate copy (e.g., "there's also a fully finished walkout basement"), is it one word, two words or hyphenated? I've seen multiple usage of all three. – from Toronto, ON on Thu, Nov 19, 2015

A. The dictionary entry for the noun "walkout" doesn't give this meaning. I don't find your usage in AP stories. You might check with a real estate association to get a spelling recommendation.

Q. Should a mobile app titled "Grasshoppers of the Western U.S." appear in quotation marks or not? – from Chadron, Neb. on Thu, Nov 19, 2015

A. No quotes around app titles in AP usage.

Q. What is the correct reference for the upcoming UN climate talks in Paris? – from Washington , District of Columbia on Thu, Nov 19, 2015

A. Within texts, the U.N. climate change talks Nov. 30-Dec. near Paris.

Q. Which preposition, "to" or "on," is correct in the following sentence? The policy would further limits to/on headphone use in America. Based on my reading of the OED definitions, I think "to" would be preferred, but I'm still unsure. – from Hattiesburg, Miss. on Wed, Nov 18, 2015

A. The policy would place further limits on headphone use in America.

Q. When abbreviating Japanese pop: J-Pop, J-pop or something else? Thanks! – from Palo Alto, Calif. on Wed, Nov 18, 2015

A. AP stories have used J-pop, sometimes enclosed in quotes on first reference.

Q. Is "mastermind" really the appropriate word to describe the role of Abdelhamid Abaaoud in the Paris attacks? It has a positive connotation of one with high intelligence and creativity. Wouldn't ringleader, architect, organizer, instigator be better choices? – from , Ala. on Wed, Nov 18, 2015

A. Mastermind is used frequently in news stories to describe perpetrators of criminal or notorious actions involving meticulous planning. Another example: Austria accused Serbia of masterminding the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914. That said, accused ringleader or instigator would also be accurate descriptions.

Q. French President Francois Hollande calls the terrorists responsible for the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris "Daesh," and there is apparently some talk of using this Arabic acronym instead of "Islamic State" or ISIS. The general argument appears to be that calling the group a "state" is legitimizing their claim. Is AP Stylebook considering a change to its style over ISIS/Daesh? – from Tokyo on Wed, Nov 18, 2015

A. That acronym has been used in AP stories only in direct quotes. The Stylebook recommends Islamic State group because it isn't given international recognition.

Q. Do periods always go inside the quotation marks? What about in this sentence? Sybil took it upon herself to read the 4 printer manuals to identify possible causes of the error. She is always willing to test the fixes to the Invoicing Application even during the evening or over the weekend. She thoroughly reviews tests and samples until she is satisfied with the %uFFFDfix%uFFFD. – from , Jefferson City, Mo. on Wed, Nov 18, 2015

A. Yes, periods always go inside quotation marks, including in your example.

Q. bee keeper or beekeeper bee keeping or beekeeper – from MT. PLEASANT, Texas on Wed, Nov 18, 2015

A. The dictionary spellings are beekeeper, beekeeping.

Q. Plural abbreviations: When defining an abbreviation in a plural usage, is it necessary to add the "s"? Ex: "The liquefied petroleum gases (LPG) ..." I'm running into some awkward subject/verb agreements when using the abbreviation in later references "The LPG were transported ..." Any rules or recommendations to mitigate this or is this correct as excerpted? – from Houston, Texas on Wed, Nov 18, 2015

A. Yes, add "s" for the plural abbreviation. Spell out the term singular on first in line with the dictionary definition, but without the parenthetical. Simply use LPGs in plural follow-ups.

Q. Can lunch be used as a verb? Lunch With Your Colleagues to Celebrate the Holidays... – from Herndon, Va. on Wed, Nov 18, 2015

A. Yes, lunch is both a noun and a verb by the dictionary definition.

Q. With regard to social media, how do you credit a photo once it's confirmed by the photographer and permission given for use? For example, is it John Smith-Twitter?... Or is it just John Smith [since more than likely the photographer will route a high-res version of the image himself]? – from Arlington, Va. on Wed, Nov 18, 2015

A. See the PHOTO CAPTIONS section of User-Generated Content in the Stylebook's Social Media Guidelines.

Q. Law enforcement here are routinely using tased and tased as a verb. Also, Merriam Webster's dictionary has this definition: tase transitive verb, often capitalized ?t?z tased tas%uFFFDing Definition of TASE: to shoot with a Taser gun Is AP style still not to use as a verb? – from Stockton, Calif. on Wed, Nov 18, 2015

A. The Stylebook guidance stands unchanged. Verb form used only in a direct quote and spelled lowercase.

Q. Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex OR Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex? Slash or hyphen? Thank you! – from Des Moines, Iowa on Wed, Nov 18, 2015

A. Hyphen.

Q. Re: the semicolon question for a list of four people and their job titles, your answer to begin a new sentence would introduce a fragment. For example, "Gathered before a meeting at the corporate headquarters in Dubuque." is a fragment. In this simple caption, can you advise whether to punctuate the last job title with a semicolon or comma if the sentence continues briefly with what those pictured did (gather before a meeting)? – from Dallas on Wed, Nov 18, 2015

A. The basic guidance is two sentences for an AP caption. So, avoiding the fragment: They gathered before a meeting ...

Q. Do we put in quotation marks the name of a Facebook page? For example Third Intifada's Facebook page. – from Orysia, New York City, N.Y. on Wed, Nov 18, 2015

A. No quotes.

Q. "soldier of the quarter" when describing a soldier who received the award, would you say: "Sgt. X X. X. was named the post Soldier of the Quarter." or " " " '' '' '' soldier of the quarter." Thank you. – from , Fort Meade, Md. on Wed, Nov 18, 2015

A. Use the spelling on the award accompanying the title. If capitalized on a certificate or plaque, cap it in your story.

Q. Is it "nosebleed" or "nose bleed"? As in, he suffered a nose bleed after the ball hit him in the face. Thanks! – from Clinton Township, MI on Tue, Nov 17, 2015

A. Deferring to the dictionary's spelling: nosebleed.

Q. I can't seem to find any entries on how to punctuate the title of a Web page. Do you capitalize and put the title in quotes? Or do you just capitalize the name? – from Erie, Pa. on Tue, Nov 17, 2015

A. It's covered in the "Internet" entry: Follow the spelling and capitalization of the website owner. In stories, try to use the name of the website rather than the Web address, the way you'd refer to the Empire State Building in the physical world and not 350 Fifth Avenue. So it's Facebook, not

Q. When using a person's last name on second reference at the beginning of a sentence, when that last name begins with a lowercase letter, do you capitalize the letter that is usually lowercase? For example: Bin Laden was captured. bin Laden was captured. – from Fort Worth, Texas on Tue, Nov 17, 2015

A. Yes, capitalize Bin Laden starting a sentence. Elsewhere, the family name is bin Laden in all references, per the family preference.

Q. What's your latest spelling for Hanover/Hannover? I found this FAQ response but I'm told that your stories today have all used NN. – from Washington on Tue, Nov 17, 2015

A. The traditional AP spelling is Hanover, the English spelling, and listed in the dictionary. The German spelling, Hannover, seems to have crept into usage in stories from Germany, though.

Q. Should semicolons or commas separate these list items comprising names and job titles -- especially after the last job title? I have commas here just as an example. From left: Tom Orange, senior technical professional engineer, Grace Green, teacher, Jay Lemon, information specialist, and Allen Brown, chief registrar, gather before a meeting at the ... – from Dallas on Tue, Nov 17, 2015

A. Use semicolons to clarify the series, with a period after registrar, to start a new sentence: Gathered (or Pictured) before a meeting at the ...

Q. Writing about the future earthquake predicted in California, is the big one capitalized? – from Yucca Valley, Calif. on Tue, Nov 17, 2015

A. More likely in quotes and spelled lowercase. However, a recent AP story about the 600-mile fault line off the Pacific Northwest coastline did cite the title of a New Yorker magazine article, "The Really Big One."

Q. Would "It was time for a heart-to-heart," in a direct quote, take hyphens (like a French t%uFFFDte-%uFFFD-t%uFFFDte)? Or "heart to heart"? Cannot recast. – from Salt Lake City on Tue, Nov 17, 2015

A. Include the hyphens using the dictionary spelling.

Q. OK, now I'm really confused. I just asked about Brazilian currency and the answer given was "Under a Brazil dateline, AP stories typically give the dollar figure first, then follow up with the Brazilian currency equivalent: $1.32 billion ... 5 billion reals." BUT here's where it gets weird: Under the "currency conversion" entry in the AP stylebook, it says: For all other currencies, following the amount, spell out the name of the currency followed in parentheses by the equivalent in U.S. dollars. Example: Japan approved a 1.8 trillion yen ($18 billion) extra budget to partially finance an economic stimulus package. ... This is ESPECIALLY confusing because if you look in that entry, the first example is datelined Amsterdam and it's the way your answer was; the second answer is datelined Paris and has euros first then (US$). Then it says what I copy/pasted above. Help? – from Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. on Tue, Nov 17, 2015

A. Correct, and you can also write it: 5 billion reals ($1.32 billion).

Q. How would I write out Brazilian currency? I checked the currency conversion entry but didn't see it there. The story is about Rio's airports preparing for the Olympics. The currency is called real. Would this be accurate? Or should we take out (Brazilian real)? We started the operation of the airport with a well-structured improvement program, including qualification, resources and total investments of around (Brazilian Real) R$ 5 billion (US$1.32 billion) – from Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. on Tue, Nov 17, 2015

A. Under a Brazil dateline, AP stories typically give the dollar figure first, then follow up with the Brazilian currency equivalent: $1.32 billion ... 5 billion reals.

Q. Should business departments be capitalized, such as Human Resources Department or Tire and Rubber Unit? – from The Woodlands, Texas on Tue, Nov 17, 2015

A. AP generally spells such department names lowercase.

Q. Why are we using the name that Islamic State prefers? It confers legitimacy that isn't warranted. Has any consideration been given to the discussion now raging over what it should be called? – from , Pennsylvania on Tue, Nov 17, 2015

A. AP stories generally use Islamic State group to indicate that it's not a recognized country.

Q. I was taught that a time span in a news story should be expressed as "the event is set from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m." or "the event is set for 9 a.m.-4 p.m." and that we should not mix time-span styles ("the event is set from 9 a.m.-4 p.m."). I even have some little sing-song reminder in my head about "a 'from' must have a 'to,'" though I can't recall where it originated. I've searched the stylebook and the Ask the Editor questions many times for a resolution without success. Can you advise? Thank you very much for your help. – from Nashville, Tennessee on Tue, Nov 17, 2015

A. Examples in the "times" entry include 9-11 a.m. and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Your initial examples are correct: 9 a.m. until 4 p.m." or "the event is set for 9 a.m.-4 p.m."

Q. How do you know when "ensure" should be singular or plural – from Erie, Pa. on Tue, Nov 17, 2015

A. In agreement with a nouns or a pronoun, ensure may be singular or plural depending on the phrasing.

Q. Does the AP prefer "real estate agent" or "real estate broker?" – from Washington , District of Columbia on Tue, Nov 17, 2015

A. By the "Realtor" entry, real estate agent is preferred.

Q. Is it acceptable to use SCADA and HMI on first reference in a technical news release or should they be spelled out on first reference (supervisory control and data acquisition/human machine interface)? – from Albany, N.Y. on Tue, Nov 17, 2015

A. If you use the abbreviations initially for a specialized audience, spell out the terms in a follow-up reference. For general readers, AP would use the full terms first.

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