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 -- 18,787 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 composition title starts with the number 10, should I use figures or spell it out? Example: "Ten Tips for Public Speaking" or "10 Tips for Public Speaking" – from San Francisco on Thu, Apr 17, 2014

A. Starting figure generally spelled out, as in "Ten Days that Shook the World" and "Five Easy Pieces."

Q. Since Jay Carney is the only press secretary for the White House, and thus somewhat a formal position, would his position be capped or lower-cased in this sentence: White House press secretary/Press Secretary Jay Carney said the president would be unavailable for comment. – from Washington , District of Columbia on Thu, Apr 17, 2014

A. Lowercase press secretary in all uses, per the Stylebook entry.

Q. Is it "high-resolution" or "high resolution"? And is it the same with "Low resolution"? – from Austin, Texas on Thu, Apr 17, 2014

A. These modifiers are generally hyphenated preceding nouns, as in high-resolution image.

Q. Would you use upstate of South Carolina, upstate South Carolina or Upstate South Carolina? – from India on Thu, Apr 17, 2014

A. In a story datelined from South Carolina, Upstate alone suffices. Otherwise, Upstate South Carolina

Q. In the past you've explained that the phrase, "Just say no" needn't be enclosed in quotes in informal references. But what about VOTE yes/no? Does the same rule apply, and if so, does voting count as a formal reference? And in that case would it be "Vote 'no' on Measure ____?" – from Portland, Ore. on Thu, Apr 17, 2014

A. If the sentence advocates a "yes" or "no" vote, enclose the word in quotes: Vote "no" on Measure XYZ.

Q. Is emoji singular AND plural? – from Cupertino, Calif. on Thu, Apr 17, 2014

A. Singular emoji, plural emojis ... per the Stylebook entry.

Q. I am still unsure of AP guidelines after my previous Q&A. "Q. At the college where I work, we have a Center for Experiential Learning. Would this be considered a widely used generic term that could be written using lowercase (similar to "history department"), or is this a formal name that should be capitalized every time it appears? A. Use the spelling on the building or area that uses this name." There is no relevant signage on the building or area. The center's page on the college website capitalizes "Center for Experiential Learning"-- but our college's history department webpage also capitalizes "History Department," which is contrary to AP style. – from Boston on Thu, Apr 17, 2014

A. For comformity with the department spellings used by the school, capitalize the formal name of the center.

Q. I'm trying to figure out how to list questions in quotation marks. This is the sentence my office is having trouble with. It is within a commentary and we just want to correctly AP style it, without changing the authors voice. It involved answering questions like %uFFFDWhat is the size equivalent of this shoe in Kazakhstan?%uFFFD, %uFFFDCan we go back to Walmart for three hours?%uFFFD and %uFFFDI saw this thing on the internet and I want you to take me to as many stores as possible until I find it?%uFFFD – from Goodfellow AFB, Texas on Thu, Apr 17, 2014

A. Try a list without quotation marks. Also, the third is more an imperative. Among the requests: What is the size equivalent of this shoe in Kazakhstan? Can we go back to Walmart for three hours? I saw this thing on the Internet, and I want you to take me to as many stores as possible until I find it.

Q. I haven't been able to find this on the site. When referencing a college class and it's dimension (This class is a social science.), would you capitalize "social science?" – from Stillwater, Okla. on Thu, Apr 17, 2014

A. Without number, social science is lowercase. See the "course numbers" entry for elaboration.

Q. We always use the term backcountry to reference a remote area in a national park. Is it appropriate to use the opposite - "frontcountry" to reference the area that's more populated and where there are more roads and structures? If not, what term should be used instead? – from Boise, Idaho on Thu, Apr 17, 2014

A. AP stories use front country (two words) for less remote areas of national parks, including camp grounds.

Q. I am wondering do we capitalize French Enlightenment or is enlightenment lowercase? – from Orysia, New York City, N.Y. on Thu, Apr 17, 2014

A. Capitalize references to this recognized era of the 18th century.

Q. Is there a correct way to reference a gift card to Amazon (Amazon.com) in copy? (Amazon Gift Card, Amazon gift card, Amazon.com Gift Card, Amazon.com gift card)? – on Thu, Apr 17, 2014

A. Amazon gift card.

Q. I understand music genres are lower case in AP style. In the case of specific genres though, such as: Leon Russell's music is referred to as "Tulsa Sound." Would that be capitalized, or lower case as a genre? Additionally, red dirt? – from Tulsa, Okla. on Thu, Apr 17, 2014

A. AP music stories capitalize Tulsa Sound. The same for Red Dirt, which may be enclosed in quotes preceding music on first reference to distinguish it from other uses of the term.

Q. According to Merriam's New World College Dictionary, it's suntan as a noun, and sun-tanned as an adjective, but there's no entry for suntanning. Would you say 'to sun-tan' or 'to suntan'? (Or 'to sun tan'?) – from Tokyo, on Wed, Apr 16, 2014

A. ... to suntan in California; to be suntanning in Florida.

Q. Semicolon versus comma. AP suggests, Use semicolon when a coordinating conjunction such as and, but or for is not present: *The package was due last week; it arrived today.* Is there a rule that guides the use of the comma in these headline-style constructions? *Committee approves measure, considers rules* and *Programs improve health, increase access to education* Thank you. – from Dallas on Wed, Apr 16, 2014

A. In headlines, a comma is used in place of and, as in your two examples. A semicolon is used to separate two thoughts.

Q. If "Eastern Europe" is to be used "only in a historic sense" to a political bloc, would we use "eastern Europe" when referring geographically to NATO's and the European Union's easternmost members? – from Tampa, Fla. on Wed, Apr 16, 2014

A. Correct by the Stylebook guidance.

Q. I've always tended to use *advances* rather than *advancements* in sentences like this: *Advances in technology will play a critical role in meeting the challenges of the future.* But many writers use *advancements.* What's your recommendation? Thanks. – from Dallas on Wed, Apr 16, 2014

A. Either noun is acceptable for progress or moving forward.

Q. in a ppt do you use the trademark symbol on first page or on each page since the slides in deck could be used separately – from Herndon, Va. on Wed, Apr 16, 2014

A. AP doesn't use the trademark symbol in news stories. If it's needed for a slide presentation, once should suffice.

Q. Now that telephones no longer have dials, do we still "dial" a number? – from Washington, D.C. on Wed, Apr 16, 2014

A. Dial or call a phone number.

Q. The Stylebook says it's appropriate to include race when describing the suspect in a crime based on "police or other credible, detailed descriptions." How detailed is detailed? Can we say police are seeking a black man if that's all we know? Or does it have to be a black man who's 5-foot-5 and wearing a green sweatshirt, for example? – from Utica, N.Y. on Wed, Apr 16, 2014

A. Race alone is insufficient for describing a wanted person.

Q. Should the title of a musical composition, such as an Easter cantata, be italicized, and/or placed in quotes? – from Mesquite, Texas on Wed, Apr 16, 2014

A. The formal name of a musical composition is enclosed in quotes, with certain exceptions as outlined in the "composition titles" entry. Easter cantata is a generic description, rather than a formal name, and thus lowercase without quotation marks.

Q. How does AP Style treat 'no left turn' and other traffic signs? – from Portland, Ore. on Wed, Apr 16, 2014

A. The sign said no left turn. Police said the driver ran a stop sign.

Q. Since it is a brand name, would the words "Solo Cup" be capitalized in this sentence? They passed a barrel-sized trash container painted to resemble a red Solo Cup. Thanks. – from Austin, Texas on Wed, Apr 16, 2014

A. Correct.

Q. A Human Resources employee informs me that "hi-potential" is an accepted term in HR circles. Our employee newsletter adheres to AP style (except on technical terms for our company's industry, which is the energy industry). Do i use the official HR term, or spell it out as "high-potential"? – from , Houston on Wed, Apr 16, 2014

A. Some online links to HR issues refer to high-potential employees. The abbreviated hi is an informal spelling of high, according to Webster's. AP would use the conventional form.

Q. I am copy editing an article about a new restaurant in New York City By Suzette that is serving French crepes. The names of dishes are in French. Should we be putting the names on quotation marks as well as capping them? An example is La Classique and we are listing the ingredients in English. – from Orysia, New York City, N.Y. on Wed, Apr 16, 2014

A. On a menu, first letters might be capitalized on a line-by-line list. Otherwise, lowercase the dishes without quotation marks within a story. An exception would be regional names. See the Stylebook's food guidelines for examples.

Q. Would you add a comma in a sentence similar to this? "Thanks, NAME." or "I'm sorry, NAME"? – from San Francisco on Wed, Apr 16, 2014

A. Yes, see IN DIRECT ADDRESS section of the Stylebook's "comma"

Q. Can a subhead in an article take "%" instead of "Percent"? Thanks. – from Flagstaff, Ariz. on Wed, Apr 16, 2014

A. AP doesn't use the percent sign.

Q. I have heard of and seen a wide variety of headline capitalization styles. The AP news site avoids the question by using all caps. What is AP style concerning capitalization of words in headlines? – from Loveland, Ohio on Wed, Apr 16, 2014

A. Only the first word and proper nouns are capitalized. See the "headlines" entry for details.

Q. Would it be correct to say 12-17-year-olds or 12-17 year olds? – from Kennesaw, Ga. on Wed, Apr 16, 2014

A. Make it 12- to 17-year-olds ... or, ages 12 to 17.

Q. Any thought of updating your style on lower-case millennials and baby boomers? Seems they should be upped, given that AP does it with Generation X – from , Chicago on Tue, Apr 15, 2014

A. We'll stick with dictionary spellings, which lowercase millennial and baby boomer. Generation X and Gen X are capped for clarity.

Q. Question about the proper article to use before an abbrevation. Statement of Work, for example, is abbreviated as SOW. If I want to talk about a single SOW, is it "an SOW" or "a SOW"? I can argue that either way. Thanks! – from San Francisco on Tue, Apr 15, 2014

A. Hmm ... an SOW looks or sounds right.

Q. At the college where I work, we have a Center for Experiential Learning. Would this be considered a widely used generic term that could be written using lowercase (similar to "history department"), or is this a formal name that should be capitalized every time it appears? Would it also be correct to refer to it informally as an "experiential learning center"? – from Boston on Tue, Apr 15, 2014

A. Use the spelling on the building or area that uses this name. Less formal variations of the name could be lowercase.

Q. To the Editor: In a simple list of three or more items, the comma is left off on the last item. However, what about a complex list of two items? For example: Some company is deploying next generation firewall systems and Identity and Access Management (IAM) solutions. Also, what is there is a conjunction in the first part as well? Some company is deploying next generation firewall systems and solutions and Identity and Access Management (IAM) solutions. Thank you and have a nice day. – from Raleigh, N.C. on Tue, Apr 15, 2014

A. No commas in this sentence. Also, check "parentheses" entry for the AP Stylebook guidance on enclosed abbreviations.

Q. Is it life jacket or lifejacket? For example, she always wears her life jacket while boating. – from Lexington, Ky. on Tue, Apr 15, 2014

A. Two words, life jacket.

Q. If a sentence begins with a brand name that begins with a lowercase letter, do you forsake the branding or the capital rule? E.G. iPhones make up a significant portion of the smartphone market. – from Salem, Ore. on Tue, Apr 15, 2014

A. Capitalize the brand name starting a sentence: IPhones make up ...

Q. Is it me or myself, or either, in this sentence? It seems reflexive but I'm not sure: "That%uFFFDs why the doctors and lawyers %uFFFD myself (or me?) included %uFFFD are so invested in this piece of legislation." – from , Gary, Indiana on Tue, Apr 15, 2014

A. Use me in this construction.

Q. Hello, We will be submitting a marketing piece for print. In the piece, we have included quotations that spell certain words as two words. We are following the AP Stylebook and spelling these words throughout our content as one word. Is it acceptable to alter the two words in the quotations to one word? – from Morrisonville, N.Y. on Tue, Apr 15, 2014

A. Yes, using the Stylebook guidance in the "quotations in the news entry.

Q. Hi, would you use an apostrophe to talk about two letter U's? Or would it be two letter Us? – from Tokyo on Mon, Apr 14, 2014

A. Two U's written with an apostrophe.

Q. In AP style, is there a comma before "too" (e.g. "She chased after the dog, too."). If not in all instances, when, if at all, is it used? Thanks! – from San Diego on Mon, Apr 14, 2014

A. Generally too isn't set off with commas when used to mean also. Commas suggest a slight pause for emphasis, so the punctuation may be appropriate in some phrasings.

Q. I rcvd this question: "Does 'most highly proprietary projects' make sense in any context? I can appreciate that [Acme] has 'highly proprietary projects' and that some are more so than others, but it looks odd. My inclination would be '[Acme's] highest proprietary projects,' but that might be changing the meaning. Pls advise. Thanks! – from Flagstaff, Ariz. on Mon, Apr 14, 2014

A. Acme seems to be stretching terminology with modifiers. Are these proprietary projects of highest importance to Acme? Something along those lines?

Q. Does the AP Style have any rules pertaining specifically to online universities? – from Overland Park, Kan. on Mon, Apr 14, 2014

A. No, but the INTERNET ADDRESSES section of the "Internet" entry may be helpful.

Q. Which is correct, provide or provides, in the following sentence? Each of these tests provides different methods to determine deficiencies, toxicities and hormonal status. – from Chesterfield Townshi, MI on Mon, Apr 14, 2014

A. Each ... provides ...

Q. I was taught to use brackets [ ] to denote an insertion that is not a part of an original quote. Nowadays, it seems people use parenthesis. Which is preferred/correct? Thanks. – from Charleston, Miss. on Mon, Apr 14, 2014

A. Per the Stylebook's "brackets" entry, AP doesn't use them because of transmission problems. Use parentheses instead or rephrase the sentence.

Q. What is the correct use of M4 carbine? – from Camp Pendleton, Calif. on Mon, Apr 14, 2014

A. Per the "carbine" section of the Stylebook's "weapons" entry, M4 carbine is correct.

Q. What is AP Style's stance on uppercase letters used within a URL? I know uppercase letters are not necessary, but they do sometimes aid in reading a longer URL. – from Forest Grove, Oregon on Mon, Apr 14, 2014

A. Write the URL as used by the site, including capital letters.

Q. How does the AP treat companies and brands who style their trademarked names in lowercase letters? For example, the aviation company e-volo. My instinct is to respect the lowercase but use an initial cap when the name begins a sentence. I usually ignore contrived capitalization and punctuation schemes (e.g., "Clif Bar" rather than "CLIF Bar"), but the ubiquity of medial capitals in tech products like the iPhone has me rethinking that decision. – from Columbia, S.C. on Sun, Apr 13, 2014

A. Yes, e-volo in a text, E-volo to start a sentence. Generally, follow the spelling and capitalization preferred by the company. Do not use all-cap names unless the letters are individually pronounced.

Q. Regarding pickup trucks. AP says use simply pickup. But once the first reference to the vehicle is established, must it be called a pickup each and every time? All trucks are not pickups, but all pickups are trucks, so it would seem OK to use truck on a secondary or tertiary reference. What say you? – from Corpus Christie, Texas on Sun, Apr 13, 2014

A. The Stylebook entry is pickup (n. and adj.), meaning it is spelled as one word. AP stories generally specify pickup truck on first reference, then use pickup in subsequent references. Truck may be OK in follow-ups to pickup truck, especially if truck is widely used locally.

Q. When do I use a comma before the word "including," and when do I not? – from Rochester, N.Y. on Sun, Apr 13, 2014

A. Use a comma before a partial list or an example introduced by including.

Q. What is the proper use of the word "friar" when applied to a faculty member of a Catholic university who refers to himself as a Franciscan friar? Would it be, "...," said Friar Warner. Or, "...," said Rev. Warner. Or something else. Thank you. – from Stockton, Calif. on Sun, Apr 13, 2014

A. In AP stories about Franciscans or other Catholic orders, friar or brother usually follows the individual's full name. If the individual is an ordained priest, the Rev. would precede his full name on first reference.

Q. Hi, I was hoping to get some clarification on festivalgoers as a noun. Is it festivalgoer or festival-goer? – from Nashville, Tenn. on Fri, Apr 11, 2014

A. Using the online Stylebook's "-goer" guidance, festivalgoer as a compound.

Q. Concerning the "death, die" entry and avoiding euphemisms. Does this include burial? (such as laid to rest vs. buried) Thank you. – from Minneapolis on Fri, Apr 11, 2014

A. Laid to rest is an acceptable alternative for buried. Stories often use both terms in describing a funeral or burial.

Q. When a Mexican national is quoted speaking in English, and uses the term "mexicanos" -- is the word capitalized? i.e. "Mexicanos"? – from BAINBRIDGE ISLAND, Wash. on Fri, Apr 11, 2014

A. Yes, capitalize Mexicanos.

Q. Thank you for this helpful explanation. Is it correct then that numerals 0-9 should be used with units of measure that describe length, width, height, volume, and weight and with those used in chemistry, physics, and other sciences? Several of us are eager to nail down specifics. Q. Do you recommend writing "She has seven years of experience" or "She has 7 years of experience"? Between AP's "numerals" comments regarding units of measure and age, I'm confused. Please clarify this and cite the units of measurement that come into play here. Thanks. %uFFFD from Dallas on Fri, Apr 11, 2014 A. Spell out seven years of experience. In times, spell out numbers less than 10 standing alone and in modifiers. – from Dallas on Fri, Apr 11, 2014

A. Yes, use figures for exact measurements.

Q. Would AP take issue with a sentence like this? "Paul and his mom helped his brother with the dishes." Though it is generally clear that the second "his" refers to Paul, it seems to have a tendency to refer to the whole compound subject... that is, until we see that gender specificity dismisses the mom. Is it okay to have a possessive pronoun refer to just one of the subjects in a sentence, as long as there is no ambiguity? Or, is presenting two equal, parallel subjects then paying mind to only one of them with a pronoun something we should generally avoid? Thanks – from Tucson, Ariz. on Fri, Apr 11, 2014

A. If the phrasing raises questions, better to rewrite the sentence to make the relationships clearer using possessive pronouns. For example, Paul and his brother helped their mother with the dishes.

Q. What does AP use as a second reference for North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh? – from Alexandria, Va. on Fri, Apr 11, 2014

A. Ho Chi Minh in all uses.

Q. When describing power plants or other things related to the fuel, would it be "natural-gas-fired generation" or "natural gas-fired generation"? – from Rapid City, S.D. on Fri, Apr 11, 2014

A. The second example is correct.

Q. What is the AP Style for proper nouns (names of government bodies, universities, NGOs, awards, etc.) that are in foreign languages for an English-language publication? Should we include both the name in the original language and the English translation? Or just the English translation? Or does it depend on how unique the name is (for example, a government ministry's name may be considered less unique than an NGO's name and so perhaps the local language name of the organization is more pertinent to include than the local language name of the ministry). Also, does a proper noun, such as the award name listed below, in a foreign language follow the rule for foreign words and therefore needs quotation marks? Or no quote marks because it is a name? EXAMPLE: The city government%uFFFDs legislature declared "fileteado" a %uFFFDPatrimonio Cultural de la Ciudad,%uFFFD or a %uFFFDCultural Patrimony of the City%uFFFD in English, in 2006. Thank you! – from San Francisco on Fri, Apr 11, 2014

A. AP stories use English translations of names of foreign government bodies, schools, groups, awards, etc. Generally the foreign name isn't included in quotes unless there's a need to amplify the translation. In your example, AP would translate fileteado, as well as the award name.

Q. Football coaches and players use the terms O-line and D-line all the time in reference to the offensive and defensive lines. What is the suggested proper style? O-line, O-Line, hyphen or no hyphen? This one is not covered in sports. – from Gainesville, Fla. on Fri, Apr 11, 2014

A. Within texts or in quotations, AP football stories use O-line and D-line.

Q. Is it call to action or call-to-action? – from Minneapolis on Fri, Apr 11, 2014

A. It's a call to action.

Q. I just submitted a question for which the answer did not work. I am trying to find the AP Guide the section that deals with the precise protocol for citing an article, as for a footnote as as, for example (to make one up): Smith, P, Rules to Live by. American J Spiritual Affairs 2004. Vo 4: 456-480. Where do I find guidance on this sort of citation? Peter – from woodstock, Vt. on Fri, Apr 11, 2014

A. AP news stories don't use footnotes. Check The Chicago Manual of Style for footnote formats.

Q. I am now to the AP Style Book. I have not been able to find the section dealing with citation of published material, such as corporate reports, research journal articles, etc. Where is it? – from woodstock, Vt. on Fri, Apr 11, 2014

A. AP stories attribute information where cited in the story, including the names of publications and authors. Direct citations are enclosed in quotes, per the Stylebook's "quotations in the news" entry. The Stylebook's "composition titles" is helpful for spelling names of publications.

Q. AP is pretty clear Ukraine does not take an article. But what if Ukraine is not being used as a noun? For example: In the wake of the Ukraine crisis, the two sides face difficult decisions. For comparison you would use an article in this sentence (similar structure): Obama is winding down the Afghanistan war. We are having this discussion in our newsroom now and would appreciate thoughts. – from Washington , District of Columbia on Fri, Apr 11, 2014

A. Ukraine as a country isn't preceded by the definite article. However, the definite article is correct in such constructions as the Ukraine crisis, a noun phrase.

Q. With the recent change in the more than, over entry, has the less than, under entry also changed? – from Arnold, MD on Fri, Apr 11, 2014

A. The Stylebook guidance on "fewer, less" remains. Check the dictionary definition of "under" for acceptable uses in numerical contexts.

Q. Do you recommend writing "She has seven years of experience" or "She has 7 years of experience"? Between AP's "numerals" comments regarding units of measure and age, I'm confused. Please clarify this and cite the units of measurement that come into play here. Thanks. – from Dallas on Fri, Apr 11, 2014

A. Spell out seven years of experience. In times, spell out numbers less than 10 standing alone and in modifiers.

Q. A $5 thank-you or $5 thank you? Also, as a thank-you or as a thank you? – on Fri, Apr 11, 2014

A. A $5 thank you. Hyphenate as a compound modifier: thank-you note.

Q. northern pike eggtake and stocking program In this instance, is "eggtake" one work or two? – from St. Paul , Minn. on Fri, Apr 11, 2014

A. AP member newspaper stories hyphenate the term as a modifier: egg-take and stocking program.

Q. We have a question about some legal jargon. Is it: flow-down clause or flowdown clause? Both appear online, with flow-down slightly more common. Thanks. – from Kansas City, Mo. on Fri, Apr 11, 2014

A. The term doesn't show in an AP archive search. Publications specializing in legal matters should have a preference.

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