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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. Under "some other punctuation and usage examples" the 2015 AP Stylebook indicates proper usage as "a pay increase of 12-15 percent." Under "percent" the book indicates proper usage as "for a range, 12 to 15 percent." Which is correct? – from Alpharetta, Ga. on Sun, Nov 29, 2015

A. Both are correct.

Q. I've seen "town-hall-style meeting" and "town hall-style meeting" in news stories. Since previous Ask the Editor responses (2008, 2010) indicate "town hall meeting" without a hyphen, is "town hall-style meeting" the best choice? Thank you as always. – from Andover, MA on Sun, Nov 29, 2015

A. Correct as town hall-style metting. Hyphenate terms formed with the -style suffix.

Q. I have this sentence that states a proverb. Would I put the proverb in quotation marks? This principle is embodied in the folktale behind the proverb Just as rain falls from the heavens, your mother must marry. – from Orysia, New York City, N.Y. on Sat, Nov 28, 2015

A. No need to use quotes. Introduce it with a colon after proverb.

Q. Can I use an acronym to start a sentence? – from Pittsburgh on Sat, Nov 28, 2015

A. Yes, or a familiar abbreviation. Be sure to look up the terms under A to note the difference.

Q. If a quote is translated to English, should the quote include the fact that it was originally in another language? Would it be necessary to say something like, "through a translator" within the sentence? – from San Antonio , Texas on Sat, Nov 28, 2015

A. Usually not in a routine news story. But mention of the original language and the words used, along with the English translation, might be needed in the story if the quote is at issue or somehow unusual.

Q. Is there a hyphen in "thank-you" when used as a noun? Or should the be a quote around the phrase in this example: "He owed everyone a big thank-you for all their hard work." – from Elkhart, Ind. on Fri, Nov 27, 2015

A. The dictionary hyphenates thank-you (n.). It doesn't require quotes in your sentence. It's also hyphenated as a modifier: a thank-you note. But the common expression isn't hyphenated: Thank you for your contribution.

Q. Is it (spelled out) six-week-old tree or (numeral) 6-week-old tree? Thanks. – from Rosemead, Calif. on Wed, Nov 25, 2015

A. Use a numeral in that phrasing: 6-week-old.

Q. In the phrase "Old Masters paintings" (or "Old Masters "), how should "Old Masters" be treated? Should it be capped or lowercased? Should it retain the noun-form plural or revert to the standard adjectival style ("Old Master paintings")? And if it retains the "s," should that "s" be followed by an apostrophe? %uFFFD I am seeing every variation possible in credible, edited materials. (I see the one query here, from 2013, with respect to the cap. No reference to the other two matters.) – from Redwood City, Calif. on Wed, Nov 25, 2015

A. Deferring to the dictionary's lowercase spelling: old master. The term applies to a distinguished painter or a work of the period from 1500 to 1700.

Q. How should a list of women, some of whom use maiden and married last names, be alphabetized. For example, should Jane Smith Jones fall under 'S' or 'J'? – from Chicago on Wed, Nov 25, 2015

A. Alphabetize by the first of the two surnames.

Q. When quoting lines of poetry, such as "If we're not willing to do what he's doing / with one another..." should there be a space before and after the slash than indicates a line break? – from Montgomeroy, Ala. on Wed, Nov 25, 2015

A. Usually in AP stories, there's one space after the slash indicating a line break in a poem or song lyric.

Q. Dear Mr. Minthorn, I notice in the news relative to politicians who are fact-checked to be telling untruths, falsehoods, hoaxes, and fabrications that the term "lying" is never used. Why is this? Is the term "lying" never to be used in the AP Stylebook? Best Regards, Craig Smith Arlington, TX – from Arlington, Texas on Wed, Nov 25, 2015

A. The term is used quite frequently in news reports with attribution or direct reference to a legal ruling or allegation. One example in an AP headline: Leading NY lawmaker found guilty of lying to FBI

Q. Crumb rubber turf or crumb-rubber turf? – from St. Paul, Minn. on Wed, Nov 25, 2015

A. A quick check online doesn't show the hyphenated spelling.

Q. On second reference, the Sterling Heights Nature Center would be the nature center, right? Not the Nature Center. Same for the Troy Family Aquatic Center? Second reference would be the aquatic center? Shelby Township Senior Center would be the senior center? Just trying to find verification that these do not follow the rule of city hall, but I wasn't sure where to look. – from Warren, MI on Wed, Nov 25, 2015

A. Correct, or the center alone on second reference.

Q. Is the capitalization and punctuation correct in the following sentence: An assistant professor of biology and his team are looking to answer fundamental questions: How do creatures coexist and thrive in colonies numbering in the tens of millions?; What are the mechanisms that underlie the coordination of these large animal groups?; and How does %uFFFDintelligent%uFFFD group behavior emerge as information is exchanged and transformed during interactions among members of the group? – from New York on Wed, Nov 25, 2015

A. The questions are separate sentences without semicolons after the first two question marks. Start the last question with a capital A, setting off the conjunction: And, how does "intelligent" group behavior ...

Q. Mother of two, or mother-of-two, as in: "The mother of two is just happy the ordeal is over." – from Tokyo on Wed, Nov 25, 2015

A. No hyphens in the mother of two.

Q. Please explain where the hyphens be placed in this text: "in the low to mid single digits." – from St. Petersburg, Fla. on Tue, Nov 24, 2015

A. As you have it, without hyphens.

Q. What is the proper usage of #blacklivesmatter in a paragraph? Should we employ the hashtagged format, or encapsulated in quotes ("Black Lives Matter") or? – from Bellevue, Wash. on Tue, Nov 24, 2015

A. AP stories refer to the Black Lives Matter movement or group. The hashtag format is also used if part of the story. For example, a restaurant worker came under criticism for writing #blacklivesmatter on a policeman's coffee cup.

Q. Hopefully you can clear up a question about the use of Old World as an adjective. Websters says that Old World is capped when it refers to European culture. But then when used as an adjective, it's lower-case and hyphenated. So, for example, would it be "old-world charm" or "old-world elegance," or "Old World charm/elegance"? – from Phoenix on Tue, Nov 24, 2015

A. By the dictionary's adjective entry, old-world charm, old-world elegance.

Q. To comma or not to comma? How would you punctuate this sentence? We several major feature stories in the works, from the latest in flex design strategies, to LaGuardia%uFFFDs revamp, to the increase in construction of luxury airport hotels. -OR- ARN has several major feature stories in the works, from the latest in flex design strategies to LaGuardia%uFFFDs revamp to the increase in construction of luxury airport hotels. – from Boca Raton, Fla. on Tue, Nov 24, 2015

A. Because "from ... to" usually indicates a finite range, try alternative phrasing with a conjunction: ... in the works, from the latest in flex design strategies to LaGuardia's revamp and the increase in construction of luxury airport hotels.

Q. First come, first served basis or first-come, first-served basis? – on Tue, Nov 24, 2015

A. It's first-come, first-served basis.

Q. I am looking for help with the AP guide as a whole -- I can never seem to put my finger on precisely what I am looking for. Current example: Where is your rule on the spacing between a numeral and an unit of measure abbreviation? When looking for information on 1) capitalization of, and 2) spacing between "127 KB" I found only a comment to someone else's question -- I did not find the section in the guide that explains the general rule. (That comment said only "The explanation is AP usage" without linking back to the actual usage page which would help train people on how to find answers themselves.) Please help me understand where to this answer within the Stylebook itself. Thanks! – from Elkton, MD on Tue, Nov 24, 2015

A. See the "byte" entry for examples of how such measurements are used on first reference in AP stories: e.g., 1,024 bytes, 1,000 kilobytes, 1,000 gigabytes. The entry also lists the abbreviations, though without examples. The practice -- meaning AP story usage -- has been to combine the figure and abbreviation without a space: 4KB, 1,000GB, etc. I'll look to getting such examples added to this entry.

Q. Would you provide the AP guide to bullet lists? (capitalization, commas, periods). Thank you! – from Parker, Pa. on Tue, Nov 24, 2015

A. The closest we come is the IN LISTS section of the "dash" entry.

Q. What is the proper way to format a news release? For Immediate Release (top left); date (underneath); Headline; Dateline (what is included here? and how is it formatted? CITY, State, Month Day, Year). Is the contact info at the top, above the headline or at the bottom after the ###? Everyone uses a different format. What is preferred? – from College Station, Texas on Tue, Nov 24, 2015

A. You might check this public relations website for a possible format:

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.

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