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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. Would you hyphenate "chemical free" in the following sentence? This product is chemical free. Thanks! – from Faribault, Minn. on Mon, Jul 27, 2015

A. This product is chemical-free.

Q. I am copy editing an article about different teas grown in Taiwan, and I am having difficulty determining what gets capped. I know oolong is lowercase but there a name of a tea Light Oolong, but I don't know if it is the name of the tea leaf or a tea blend. Some of the names are after places like Wenshan so that would be capped. But what about something like Oriental Beauty? Oh help. – from Orysia, New York City, N.Y. on Mon, Jul 27, 2015

A. Looks like a fanciful name for retailing and thus lowercase in a news story.

Q. Should we write "after-school program" or "afterschool program?" I've seen it written as one word, so am curious. Thank you. – from Columbia, S.C. on Mon, Jul 27, 2015

A. As a compound modifier, hyphenate "after-school program." See the "after" entry for details.

Q. Is it acceptable to use "interactive" as a noun these days? Such as in a Web tease that says "View an interactive with this story at" – from Austin, Texas on Mon, Jul 27, 2015

A. Yes, interactive is widely used that way.

Q. When speaking of music from a particular decade, would it be: '70s music? '70's music because we are omitting the "19" and making the decade possessive? – from Portland, Ore. on Mon, Jul 27, 2015

A. It's '70s music as a descriptive, not a possessive. See "decades" entry for models.

Q. I realize that "dwarf" is the preferred word, not "midget." Should longtime descriptions such as "midget football" or "midget racers" be avoided -- or at least confined to proper names of organizations? – from Chicago on Mon, Jul 27, 2015

A. The term is used in names of some organizations. However, generic descriptions like youth football would be used in a news story.

Q. What is the correct way to use the following words in a sentence: Right-of-way/right of way On-Site/on site Thank you! – from Corpus Christi, Texas on Mon, Jul 27, 2015

A. The Stylebook hyphenates on-site. The dictionary entry is right of way.

Q. AP style calls for no accent marks on "naive." How about "na%uFFFDvet%uFFFD"? Thank you. – from New York on Mon, Jul 27, 2015

A. For technical reasons, AP doesn't use accent marks in English-language copy: naivete.

Q. You answered the first part of this question but not the second. When "mom and pop" stands alone %uFFFDwithout modifying "store" or "shop" %uFFFD would you hyphenate it? The dictionary doesn't have this usage. Q. Would you say a mom-and-pop store? Or mom and pop store? And then, would you say: She worked at a mom-and-pop, or no hyphs? Thank you! %uFFFD from North Palm Beach, Fla. on Thu, Jun 04, 2015 A. The dictionary doesn't hyphenate mom and pop store. – from NY, N.Y. on Mon, Jul 27, 2015

A. Ditto. She works at a mom and pop.

Q. Which is correct: "The project is being developed through a "50 percent-owned joint venture" or "The project is being developed through a "50-percent-owned" joint venture?" Thanks. – from Reston, Va. on Mon, Jul 27, 2015

A. ... a 50 percent-owned joint venture.

Q. Is it the Defense Department or the Department of Defense? – from Ft Meade, MD on Mon, Jul 27, 2015

A. Department of Defense is the first choice, but many stories use Defense Department on first reference, and that's also acceptable.

Q. Is this sentence correct? Can the words supply chain technician be capitalized? The e-book focuses on the skill sets Supply Chain Technicians must possess to be successful in an automated warehouse or distribution center. – from Riverside, Calif. on Mon, Jul 27, 2015

A. AP would lowercase supply chain technicians as an occupational description rather than a capitalized title.

Q. What is the correct reference? He received his M.D. degree from Yale? OR He received his medical degree from Yale? – from , Kansas City on Mon, Jul 27, 2015

A. If the individual is identified as a physician on first reference, it's OK to write in a follow-up that he received his M.D. degree from Yale. Otherwise, better to specify initially that he received his doctor of medicine from Yale.,

Q. I am copy editing an article for business that has a Chinese company name and while the name itself doesn't go in quotation marks I don't think the English translation should either%uFFFDXiaomi, whose name translates to little rice, is the exact phrase used. Now the reporter never refers to this again in the article, so my question is do I put quotation marks around the English little rice, and if so why? – from New York City, N.Y. on Mon, Jul 27, 2015

A. No quotes needed around the translated name.

Q. Should lines in a document be single or double-spaced? How much space should be between paragraphs? – from Salt Lake City on Mon, Jul 27, 2015

A. There's no absolute rule on this. However, the AP Stylebook text uses single spacing, with an open line of space between individual items, which are indented.

Q. When a letter to the editor of a publication requires a reply, we generally italicize the reply and place it within parentheses. What about the "credit" for the reply (Joe Author or %uFFFDEd.)? Does that get printed in italics also? Thank you. – from Belmont, MI on Mon, Jul 27, 2015

A. AP doesn't use this format. However, it would seem sufficient to place a dash after the text, followed by the name of the person who responded, then a close parenthesis.

Q. I thoroughly enjoy the AP Stylebook Online. As writer for my church, we need guidelines for writing articles and would like to use your style. May I have permission to formulate a guideline specific for my church writers using AP Stylebook? What are the qualifications. Thank you. Shelley O. – from Lansdale, Pa. on Sun, Jul 26, 2015

A. Thanks for the praise. It's fine to use AP Style as a basis for your church guidelines. However, any deviations from AP Style should be briefly noted, so that users of your guidelines are clear on the exceptions.

Q. What is the correct spelling for Common Core, the educational standard, particularly within the body of a sentence? Should it be Common Core, Common core or common core? ie The Common Core standards are to help improve learning or The Common core standards are to help improve learning or The common core standards are to help learning. – from Stockton, Calif. on Fri, Jul 24, 2015

A. It's Common Core in all uses.

Q. In addresses, does "18 E. Avenue A" follow the same style rule as "18 E. K St." to become "18 E. Ave. A"? – from Corpus Christie, Texas on Fri, Jul 24, 2015

A. Correct.

Q. When referring to the IRS and a form, such as 1099-C, do I need to first spell out "Internal Revenue Service (IRS)" .. like this, or it is OK to just say IRS and not spell out, even if this is the first mention. – from Louisa, Va. on Fri, Jul 24, 2015

A. IRS is acceptable in all references for Internal Revenue Service, as noted in the Stylebook entry.

Q. When using the construction "types of ," is the thing plural or singular? For example: "Many types of animal make up the phyla." Or "Many types of animals make up the phyla"? – from Herndon, Va. on Fri, Jul 24, 2015

A. Many types of animals make up the phyla.

Q. Sportfisherman or sport fisherman? – from Farmington, Maine on Fri, Jul 24, 2015

A. Generally it's sport fishing. By that model, sport fisherman.

Q. When referring to agencies within the Department of Defense, is Defense capitalized in this example? "...DCMA and other Defense agencies." vs. "...DCMA and other defense agencies." – from FORT LEE, Va. on Fri, Jul 24, 2015

A. ... Defense Contract Management Agency and other DOD agencies ... (assuming you spell out Department of Defense or Defense Department on first reference.)

Q. Is mealparts one or two words? Thanks. – from Chicago on Fri, Jul 24, 2015

A. In conventional phrasing, meal parts.

Q. I have a few questions: I need some help researching "left-aligned" text and "justified" text and which one is usually preferred. Could I please be directed to the appropriate search page? When submitting information for a professional engineer, is it required to put "P.E." or is "PE" acceptable? Is storm water one word (stormwater) or two words (storm water) when referencing in engineering terms? Same for wastewater/waste water. If both are acceptable, which one is preferred? Thank you. – from Corpus Christi, Texas on Fri, Jul 24, 2015

A. The customary phrasing is copy justified left. AP doesn't use that abbreviation; instead, professional engineer is spelled out if needed in a news story. Both stormwater and wastewater are one word using the dictionary spellings.

Q. I'm sorry if this question has already been asked -- I have searched the archives and am having trouble finding the answer to it doing simple searches. Question is: Should the names of an online magazine/publication (such as Quanta, for instance, which is a website but not published in print) have quotations around their name when written in text? Also, where should I look for the answer to this in the book and/or on your website? – from Denver on Thu, Jul 23, 2015

A. Titles of online magazines or blogs are capitalized, as in the Stylebook's newspaper and magazine guidance, but not enclosed in quotes unless there's a highly unusual name that might otherwise be misunderstood. For previous Q&A's on this topic, check this archive using the search terms online publications.

Q. Please settle a debate: digital-minded or digitally minded? – from San Antonio on Thu, Jul 23, 2015

A. Go with digitally minded, in which the -ly adverb modifies the adjective minded, but without a hyphen as you have it.

Q. Would 'years of age' be hyphenated? For example: "Our mission is to provide health care to youth 13- to 25-years-of-age." It is a quote, so rephrasing is not really an option. – from Houston on Thu, Jul 23, 2015

A. No hyphens: "Our mission is to provide health care to youth 13 to 25 years of age." Alternatively, make it an indirect quote because the range exceeds ages 13-18 defined as youth. The mission is to provide health care for youths and young adults, ages 13 to 25.

Q. Help others get their life on track, or help others get their lives on track? – on Thu, Jul 23, 2015

A. ... help others get their lives on track.

Q. Good afternoon, I would like to know how and who can I talk to in order to get something changed. I am a spokesperson for a public agency Tacoma WA. Today I was quoted in the paper as I usually am and the paper list me as "Spokesman". When I asked to be refer to me as spokesperson (gender neutral) he refused saying they follow AP Style and cant change it. Now the offensive part was "well you are a man right". In the 21st century and if you are really understanding today age - gender is a spectrum and you may or may not be asking someone who is transitioning and maybe offended them. So with that said - How do I get your language a little more flexible? Please dontrespond with "it cant be changed" because everything can. Thank you Justin D. Leighton Tacoma, WA 253-677-9448 – from Tacoma , Wash. on Thu, Jul 23, 2015

A. Your suggestion is under consideration.

Q. How would you hyphenate constructions like "third highest grossing" and "second best selling"? Would it be, say, "third-highest-grossing" or "third highest-grossing"? I was thinking the former, since you would write "second-best." – from New York on Thu, Jul 23, 2015

A. In AP cinema business stories, it's third highest-grossing film.

Q. In a sentence that discusses "single-student and student-family housing," is it correct to hyphenate "single student" and "student family"? – from East lansing , MI on Thu, Jul 23, 2015

A. Based on Internet searches of these terms, single student housing and student family housing are generally spelled without hyphens.

Q. I know that ratios are always figures: "The study found that 1 in 3 companies ..." but what about at the beginning of a sentence? "One in three companies ..." or "One in 3 companies ..."? – from Tokyo on Wed, Jul 22, 2015

A. One in 3 companies ...

Q. In baseball stories, does WHIP stand on first reference? – from , Peoria, Ill. on Wed, Jul 22, 2015

A. If you start with the acronym, definite it promptly. His WHIP, or walks plus hits per inning pitched, was xxx.

Q. What is the correct way to punctuate one-third-pound burgers? Would you hypenate one-third or one-third-pound? Thanks! – from Chicago on Wed, Jul 22, 2015

A. Probably as one-third-pound burgers. But it looks odd, as opposed to quarter-pound burgers. Have you thought of writing it as 1/3-pound burgers?

Q. There's a reference to oil spill fines (no hyphen between oil and spill), but should there be a hyphen in the phrase oil-drilling equipment? – from St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wed, Jul 22, 2015

A. Oil drilling equipment isn't hyphenated in AP stories.

Q. In this title, is the semi-colon in the proper place? 2Q Headline Beat, but Miss "Above the Line"; Lowering 2H15 Estimates – from Saint Petersburg, Fla. on Wed, Jul 22, 2015

A. It doesn't look right. Also, references such as Headline Beat and Miss "Above the Line" aren't clear. AP wouldn't use the abbreviation 2H15.

Q. What is the proper way to punctuate a series of emphatic expressions that are in quotation marks? For example: Master the all-important commands of "Hike!" "Gee!" and "Haw!" – from Cathedral City, Calif. on Wed, Jul 22, 2015

A. As you have it, but without "of."

Q. Comment: Hi - Should I use onsite, on-site or on site? Also, will the hyphenation depend on if it's modifying something? I have found conflicting answers in the past FAQ on Ask the Editor. Some say ONLY use on-site. Some say it depends on how it's used. How would you write it in these sentences? -She needs on-site training. -At the music festival, they will eat dinner on site. -She's going to be onsite all day on Friday. Thanks for your help and time! – from Fairfiled, Conn. on Wed, Jul 22, 2015

A. The stylebook entry is on-site for all uses as an adjective or adverb.

Q. To comply with the Roman numerals entry, should United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket be changed to United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket? – from Daytona Beach, Fla. on Wed, Jul 22, 2015

A. Launching rockets use Roman numeral sequences. Stick with Delta IV if that's the official designation.

Q. I will be using AP stylebook for a new publication that I am helping to launch. My question is: Does AP have a 1-2 page summary/cheat sheet of the most common usages/questions about AP style? Thanks! – from Denver on Wed, Jul 22, 2015

A. AP Style quizzes available by subscription at cover key points.

Q. What's AP style on negative numbers ... can't find it in search and want to double check. "Earnings per share (EPS) of -$0.10" I think the - sign should be replaced with words, but am wondering if there is a circumstance where the - sign is used. – from Cleveland on Wed, Jul 22, 2015

A. Earnings per share of minus 10 cents.

Q. Can you please clarify for me this entry from the AP Stylebook regarding firm vs. company: A business partnership is correctly referred to as a firm: He joined a law firm. Do not use firm in references to an incorporated business entity. Use the company or the corporation instead. Here is my question: If I am writing "Apple Industries Inc. was founded in 1972. The firm has 60 employees." Should I be writing "The company has 60 employees" or is firm acceptable? – from , Austin, Texas on Wed, Jul 22, 2015

A. For an incorporated entity, the phrasing should read: The company has 60 employees.

Q. Is it "fast-casual restaurant" or "fast casual restaurant" in dining or business stories? – from DALLAS, Texas on Wed, Jul 22, 2015

A. I don't see the term in AP news archives. However, Internet references show it as fast casual restaurant.

Q. In references to school grade levels, is "Grade" singular or plural when used as an adjective? "Grade K-4 students will attend." OR "Grades K-4 students will attend." I could only find a reference to the noun form.We use this a lot referring to resources. Thanks. – from HUNTSVILLE, Ala. on Wed, Jul 22, 2015

A. Why not simplify and avoid this issue? Grades K-4 will attend.

Q. Would you change the following sentence? "You'll find us @CompanyTK." The "@" symbol is part of the address, so it can't function as a preposition. Would you insert the word "at" before the symbol? Thank you. – from New York on Wed, Jul 22, 2015

A. Why not rephrase? Our address is @CompanyTK.

Q. I checked the archive, but didn't find an answer. In a bullet list, should numerals be spelled out if part of a percentage? For example: 94 percent said this 86 percent said that Thank you. – from Eden Prairie, Minn. on Wed, Jul 22, 2015

A. Spell out numerals starting an item on a bullet list. --Ninty-four percent said this; --Eighty-six percent said that.

Q. I need some help with business terminology. Are shipments and unit sales the same thing? What's the difference between shipments and sales? Thank you – from Virginia, XX on Tue, Jul 21, 2015

A. Check a business reference for the generally accepted definitions and usage of those terms.

Q. When using KV in a document title, should KV be spelled out? Example: 92KV Transmission Line Upgrade – from Brawley, Calif. on Tue, Jul 21, 2015

A. Yes, spell out: 92-Kilovolt Transmission Line Upgrade

Q. An AP story yesterday had the headline: 35,000 gallons of oil spills after train derails. My editor said the verb should be 'spill.' Which verb is correct? – from Anderson, Ind. on Tue, Jul 21, 2015

A. In such formulations, defined units of measurement take singular verbs.

Q. I know the spelling rule on "3-D," but I haven't seen this question: What is the correct way to write it if it starts a sentence? "Three-D" – from Oklahoma City on Tue, Jul 21, 2015

A. Yes, but for clarity try spelling out both words to start the sentence: Three-dimensional ...

Q. I was told ages ago to use "hopeful" (or some such) until a person receives the party's nomination, at which time (but not before) s/he officially becomes a "candidate." Is that a necessary distinction? – from Mount Pleasant, S.C. on Tue, Jul 21, 2015

A. It's OK to use candidate for anyone with a legitimate chance of winning the office at stake. A person who has a party's nod for an office is a nominee or a candidate, usually running against others from different parties.

Q. Is "okie" and its derivatives ie "Okieville" considered pejorative terms that should be avoided? Or not? – from Stockton, Calif. on Tue, Jul 21, 2015

A. The dictionary says Okie is often a disparaging term. Usage depends on the context. For example, the original migrants might use the term with pride about themselves to underline what they overcame. Caution, though, if someone intends it as an insult.

Q. If we are writing mid-20th-century America, how would you punctuate it? Would you hyphenate everything modifying America and would you capitalize Mid or Century? Thanks! – from Chicago on Tue, Jul 21, 2015

A. As you have it, or America of the mid-20th century.

Q. What is AP style on the use of the verb "doxx" or "dox," the Internet-based practice of researching and broadcasting personally identifiable information? Is this an acceptable word to use in news stories, and if, so, how is it spelled? – from New York on Tue, Jul 21, 2015

A. AP stories have occasionally used "dox" or "doxing" in quotes to describe leaked personal information aimed at harassment or extortion.

Q. When an adjective comes before two nouns, does that adjective modify the second noun as well? For example, does "the room was full of tall men and women" imply tall men and tall women? Therefore, if you don't mean to say that the women are tall, too, you should stick to saying "the room was full of women and tall men," correct? – from West Palm Beach, Fla. on Tue, Jul 21, 2015

A. Correct.

Q. When it comes to the word lowcountry as in lowcountry cooking or lowcountry cuisine, would you capitalize it or leave it lowercase? Thanks! – from Chicago on Tue, Jul 21, 2015

A. The spelling in AP stories is low country, two words and lowercase, in reference to areas of South Carolina and the Netherlands.

Q. When is an editor's comment appropriate? I write for a local online newsletter. The amateur editor added a comment that is not relevant to the story. He made a statement that I know is not factual. I have asked the editor to remove the comment. Thank you. – from Montague, Calif. on Tue, Jul 21, 2015

A. Online publications generally allow readers to comment on articles within accepted boundaries. If the added statement is factually incorrect, it should be pointed out to the editor for a balancing comment. Discuss how to proceed with the editor involved. Your publication may have guidance covering such situations.

Q. In referring to the language Simplified Chinese, is simplified capped? – from Oakland, Calif. on Tue, Jul 21, 2015

A. Lowercase as in simplified Chinese characters.

Q. animal breeds are lowercase like bulldog and only capped when it is something like Irish setter, but what about shar pei? – from Orysia, New York City, N.Y. on Tue, Jul 21, 2015

A. The breed is spelled shar-pei in an AP story about the Westminster Kennel Club dog show.

Q. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services have an initiative program that they abbreviate as BPCI. Should this initiative be capitalized? They capitalize all words except initiative: Bundled Payments for Care Improvement initiate. Is this correct or should this all be lowercased when referring to it? – from Minneapolis on Tue, Jul 21, 2015

A. AP would no doubt paraphrase this bureaucratic term on first reference, then call it the payments program or initiative on follow-ups.

Q. Greetings. You still list "Hasan Rowhani" as the spelling for Iran's leader, but someone sent me a June news story from "The Definitive Source" in which AP supposedly changed the spelling. Has AP changed the spelling or not? If so, can you please update the Stylebook? Thanks. – from New York on Tue, Jul 21, 2015

A. President Hassan Rouhani, a spelling AP has used since midyear 2013 and noted in previous Q&A's in Ask the Editor.

Q. We are writing a piece about green tea and some of the antioxidants which include EGCg or EGCG. Do you know if it should be all caps or have a lower case g at the end? Thanks. – from Chicago on Tue, Jul 21, 2015

A. I don't find this abbreviation in the AP news archives, though we have stories referring to green tea antioxidants.

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