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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. Can sustainability increase, or does it have to be the "level of sustainability" that increases? Example: "...further increasing sustainability." Including "level of" seems redundant. – from Portland, Ore. on Tue, Nov 25, 2014

A. Without knowing the context, can't give an opinion.

Q. Protestor or protester? – from Fairway, Kan. on Tue, Nov 25, 2014

A. It's in the Stylebook: protester

Q. In keeping with the "cyber" prefix rule, would cyberforensics be one word? Rewording is not an option. Thank you! – from Kansas City, Mo. on Tue, Nov 25, 2014

A. Yes.

Q. Could you please clarify what the style is for referring to a police officer. My colleagues and I, who are dealing with copy about Ferguson, Missouri, have sifted through various stylebook entries about this and remain confused. Is it Police Officer Darren Wilson? Or police Officer Darren Wilson? Or police officer Darren Wilson? – from New York on Tue, Nov 25, 2014

A. As a job description without a name, it's police officer. Preceding a name, the "O" is capitalized as a job title: Officer Darren Wilson. If police precedes the Officer title, it's usually lowercase.

Q. In there a hyphen between "results driven" in this sentence: The initiative is committed to identifying measures that are effective and results driven." – from Washington , District of Columbia on Tue, Nov 25, 2014

A. I fear so. But let's do readers a favor and help retire a vague term that's overused by politicians, businesses and other organizations.

Q. Are pronouns, such as this, that, etc, lowercase in headlines? – from Rosemead, Calif. on Tue, Nov 25, 2014

A. In an AP headline, only the first word and proper nouns are capitalized. If you use an all-caps format, pronouns would be uppercase.

Q. When referring to a User ID for online banking, should User be capitalized? Thanks in advance. – from Bridgeport, Conn. on Tue, Nov 25, 2014

A. Assuming it doesn't start a sentence, it's user ID within a text.

Q. We would like to find out the correct spelling of the following name: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (as per the reply to a question posed in 2007) or Abu Musab Zarqawi (per the pronunciation guide). Thank you. – from New York on Tue, Nov 25, 2014

A. AP stories from the Mideast use this spelling: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi

Q. Is there a reason why the AP puts periods in B.A., M.A., LL.D., and Ph.D., but not in MBA? – from Cambridge, MA on Tue, Nov 25, 2014

A. MBA is the first spelling in Webster's NWCD, the Stylebook's primary reference.

Q. Is "suit" acceptable to AP as a synonym for "lawsuit?" Meanwhile, is the term "filing suit" acceptable as well? – from Austin, Texas on Mon, Nov 24, 2014

A. Yes, the Stylebook includes this usage: co-respondent In a divorce suit. Dictionaries also allow suit as a short form of lawsuit.

Q. How does AP Style handle the phrase "buy in"? Should it be "buy-in" with a hyphen in the following phrase: "Gain internal buy-in for your digital strategy"? I've seen conflicting versions online but cannot find anything in Ask the Editor. Thank you! – from Woodbridge , N.J. on Mon, Nov 24, 2014

A. Often buy-in (n.), but two words in verb forms, buy in.

Q. I see that Webster's New World College Dictionary has coursework as one word. Does that change Ask the Editor's previous decision to stick with one word? Q. Is the standard still two words for "course work" - or should it be "coursework"...? Thanks! from San Antonio on Feb 27, 2013 A. I'd stick with course work, though the one-word spelling seems to be gaining usage. Webster's New World College Dictionary results: not favorite coursework (Source: Webster's New World College Dictionary) k%uFFFDrs %uFFFD w?rk n. the various assignments, exercises, examinations, etc. completed by a student to fulfill the requirements for passing a particular class or course of study – from Seattle , Wash. on Mon, Nov 24, 2014

A. Yes, I'll defer to the coursework spelling in Webster's NWCD. AP stories this year favor the compound.

Q. Which is preferred, Great Britain or United Kingdom. Or are they interchangeable? – from Thousand Oaks, Calif. on Mon, Nov 24, 2014

A. They aren't interchangeable. Great Britain consists of England, Scotland and Wales. For the United Kingdom, add Northern Ireland.

Q. Athens's or Athens' ? He was Athens's first leader OR He was Athens' first leader – from seattle, Wash. on Mon, Nov 24, 2014

A. He was Athens' first leader.

Q. How would AP refer to ALS or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis on first reference? Should it be ALS or should the full name be used? Thank you. – from Austin, Texas on Mon, Nov 24, 2014

A. In AP stories, Lou Gehrig's disease on first reference. Stories specify that Lou Gehrig's disease, also called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, attacks motor neurons, cells that control the muscles.

Q. We are debating the "And smiles" in this sentence after the quotation mark. It seems left hanging and incomplete. But what would make it right? "Boston," She says. "But it was not my Texas." And smiles. – from seattle, Wash. on Mon, Nov 24, 2014

A. It's not clear as a fragment. Try this tweak: "Boston," she says. "But it was not my Texas," she adds smiling.

Q. Up-market or up market as in people with some wealth? Same as high net worth individual -- no hyphens? Examples: The company serves up-market and high net worth customers. -- or -- People in that town are more up market. (Used in quote so don't want to eliminate the wording.) – from New Jersey on Mon, Nov 24, 2014

A. It's upmarket (adj.) in Webster's NWCD.

Q. What is the proper headline? Clinical Data Abstractors Staff Receive Team Award Clinical Data Abstractors Staff Receives Team Award – from Lewisburg, Pa. on Mon, Nov 24, 2014

A. The second example has correct agreement.

Q. I work with a lot of inexperienced journalists who like to begin stories with quotations. I hate it, as it looks abrupt and amateurish. Has AP weighed in on this? – from Prague, XX on Mon, Nov 24, 2014

A. Reserve that kind of lead for only the most memorable quotes.

Q. Continuing A Call To Action (A Call to Action italicized) - An Introduction or Continuing "A Call to Action" - An Introduction? – from Scranton, Pa. on Mon, Nov 24, 2014

A. See the Stylebook's "italics" entry. For that reason, the second option.

Q. We capitalize mayor and commissioner before a name. Should we also be capping city clerk and city attorney before a name? – from Anna Maria, Fla. on Mon, Nov 24, 2014

A. Both positions could be capitalized as formal titles rather than occupational descriptions.

Q. Fuel-cell car or fuel cell car? – from Seoul, XX on Sun, Nov 23, 2014

A. Usually fuel cell car in AP stories.

Q. What is the AP style rule for using a comma before "too" or "as well" (both at the end of a sentence)? – from Deerfield Beach, Fla. on Sun, Nov 23, 2014

A. These words of emphasis usually aren't set off at the end of a sentence: He promised to help you too. She's driving home as well.

Q. In reference to a series of nations, do "U.S." or "United States" require "the" (e.g., Belize, Russia, the U.S.)? – from Clarkston, MI on Sun, Nov 23, 2014

A. Correct.

Q. I see AP has moved to consistently hyphenless spellings of "pushup," "pullup," and "situp." When quoting a Briton who refers to a "pressup" (which Americans would call a pushup), do you recommend the hyphenless spelling for parallelism or keeping the British-preferred hypenated form, "press-up"? – from Columbia, S.C. on Sun, Nov 23, 2014

A. Deferring to press-up (n.) in Webster's NWCD.

Q. When talking about a style of food that's associated with a specific region, should I hypenate the modifier, i.e. New York-style food, or Chicago-style pizza? Thanks – from Racine, Wis. on Sat, Nov 22, 2014

A. Correct.

Q. Victory in Europe Day -- V-E Day, VE Day or something different? – from Farmington, Maine on Fri, Nov 21, 2014

A. The Stylebook entry is VE-Day.

Q. When you're using an acronym for second references, do you list that acronym parenthetically after the first reference for clarity, or is that outdated? – from Menasha, Wis. on Fri, Nov 21, 2014

A. AP does not list the abbreviation in parentheses directly after the name of the institution or group. However, the abbreviation, usually all caps, may be used on second reference. Alternately, the story may use a shorthand form of the full name on second reference, such as the association or the agency.

Q. Hyphen or no hyphen: extended care strategy / extended-care strategy – on Fri, Nov 21, 2014

A. That particular term doesn't appear in a search of AP story archives. However, similar terms in the archive such as extended care facility and extended care area are not hyphenated.

Q. "When attributing a quote, should you put the name (on second reference) before or after said." %uFFFDInstead of paying for an $8,000 paint job, you can do a wrap for about half of that,%uFFFD said Michaud. Or should it say Michaud said. – from Columbus, Ohio on Fri, Nov 21, 2014

A. Usually the name precedes the verb in an attribution. However, when an appositive follows the name, the verb comes first.

Q. Each of our representatives belongs to OR Each of our representatives belong to? – from NY on Fri, Nov 21, 2014

A. Each takes a singular verb, as noted in the Stylebook entry.

Q. Does the double prefix rule apply when two different prefixes are tied together? For example, "mini self-portraits" or "miniself-portraits." – from Lebanon, Pa. on Fri, Nov 21, 2014

A. In this phrasing, mini stands separately as a noun: mini self-portraits.

Q. Is it buzzword or buzz word? – from , on Fri, Nov 21, 2014

A. It's buzzword (n.) in the dictionary spelling.

Q. For a number range representing a period of time, such as a "5- to 10-year period," is there a more acceptable way to write it? – from Pickerington, Ohio on Thu, Nov 20, 2014

A. It's a five- to 10-year period, spelling the year figure under 10.

Q. I have one too many writers doing this and in the interest of not becoming "that bad ol editor" --- is "four-lane" a verb? "The Transportation Department want to four-lane less than a mile of highway" for instance. I've also seen "four-laning." It drives me a bit crazy, but more than one writer is doing this. I need a rule! – from Florence, Ala. on Thu, Nov 20, 2014

A. It's four lanes of highway or a four-lane highway in AP usage. Making it a verb sounds like bureaucratic language. The Transportation Department wants to build four lanes for less than a mile of highway.

Q. When predictions are made, should verbs such as expect, predict, forecast, be in the present or past tense? Ex: The analyst predicts/predicted the GDP will/would grow 3 percent on-year in 2015. – from Virginia, XX on Thu, Nov 20, 2014

A. In the initial APNewsAlert for a high priority news development, AP uses present tense for broadcast members and clients. For follow-up writethrus, past tense is customary. Headlines generally use present tense.

Q. How do you capitalize the word e-book when it occurs at the beginning of a sentence? Is it E-book or e-Book? When used in a title, is it E-Book? Thank you. – from Fleming Island, Fla. on Thu, Nov 20, 2014

A. E-book when starting a sentence or an AP headline. Based on the hyphenated example in "composition titles," E-Book. Within an AP headline, e-book.

Q. Is it ok to use "impact" as a verb to replace affect? For instance, "Your actions will impact children and families." – from Atlanta on Thu, Nov 20, 2014

A. Yes, but it's overused as a synonym for affect. Better to be specific about the expected results.

Q. Hello, how should statutes be written? Ex. 61 O.S. %uFFFD208 F. 2 or O.S. 62, %uFFFD 908 – from Oklahoma on Thu, Nov 20, 2014

A. That's beyond my ken. Better consult a specified reference. Rather than use such abbreviations, AP would briefly describe the statute in a news story.

Q. Would Dispensational Christianity be capped? Dispensational? – from Farmington, Maine on Thu, Nov 20, 2014

A. Lowercase "d" and uppercase "C" in that term, based on the American Heritage Dictionary entry.

Q. Has AP settled on a spelling for dreamer as it related to immigration? DREAMER? "dreamer"? Please advise. – from Phoenix on Thu, Nov 20, 2014

A. AP stories generally say that immigrants brought here illegally as kids are known as Dreamers or are called Dreamers by their advocates.

Q. How should we handle capitalization for hashtags? There doesn't seem to be a consistent style. I see capitalization in some instances and all lowercase in others, even with proper names. It's madness. – from Denver , Colo. on Thu, Nov 20, 2014

A. I would use the spelling of the hashtag's orginator or the spelling in current use.

Q. Should it be "each of you brings an important ingredient to the table" or "each of you bring an important ingredient?" My initial sense said 'brings' but now I'm leaning the other way. – from Austin, Texas on Thu, Nov 20, 2014

A. Each is singular, so go with your initial sense: each of you brings ...

Q. Why is it OK to use "OKs" without an apostrophe, which is the logical format since OK is not possessive, but not OK to use "OKd" or "OKing" - well, OK, in the last instance, it looks like "O King" - but still .... – from Deerfield, N.H. on Thu, Nov 20, 2014

A. OKs based on the MULTIPLE LETTERS section of the "plurals" entry. OK'd based on the OMITTED LETTERS section of the "apostrophe" entry and the "contractions" entry. OK'ing requires an apostrophe for clarity.

Q. Hi! Would this be considered a redundancy in the "times" category? The emphasis is that it happens every night. Each night at 10 p.m., he checks his Facebook status. Suggested edits/rewording is appreciated. Thank you! – from Exeter, N.H. on Thu, Nov 20, 2014

A. The word emphasis doesn't look right. Try condensing: It happens every night. At 10 p.m. he checks his Facebook status.

Q. Can I use a comma here, or must it be a semi-colon? Not only is it an important representation of your decor and color palette; it%uFFFDs dessert! – from Belleville, XX on Thu, Nov 20, 2014

A. Use a comma.

Q. Hello, Tip top shape or tip-top shape? Thanks – from Seoul, XX on Wed, Nov 19, 2014

A. The Stylebook entry is tiptop.

Q. Recent AP stories have used the "sheikh" spelling, which does not appear to be the preferred spelling in the stylebook. Which should it be? – from Gainesville, Fla. on Wed, Nov 19, 2014

A. In recent days, the online AP Stylebook amended the entry to the new spelling: sheikh A title for a religious or tribal leader. Also used as a term of respect. Sheikh is also used in certain Arab names, such as the Egyptian city of Sharm el-Sheikh .

Q. I don't think this is quite right, is it? "the region%uFFFDs workforce is slightly more educated than the national average." Should I change it to something like "The education level of the region's workforce is slightly higher than the national average"? On a related note, does this read OK? "A third of adults in our region have at least a bachelor%uFFFDs degree, compared to the national average of 29 percent." Thank you! – from Kansas City, Mo. on Wed, Nov 19, 2014

A. Your suggested phrasings should be fine.

Q. In writing about a recent case where they do not have numbers yet (i.e., Hernandez v. Siegel, (September 2014) ___ Cal. App. 4th ___), can we omit the "___"? – from Concord, Calif. on Wed, Nov 19, 2014

A. AP doesn't enclose the case details in quotes.

Q. Is a presidential administration capitalized? Truman Administration Truman administration – from Falls Church, Va. on Wed, Nov 19, 2014

A. No. See "administration" entry.

Q. Do I omit the question mark in an italicized section subtitle when the subtitle is referenced at the end of a sentence? For example, do I omit the question mark in the italicized title Can I Enroll? in this sentence: Refer to the section Can I Enroll. – from Katy, Texas on Wed, Nov 19, 2014

A. Refer to the section "Can I Enroll?"

Q. Bottle-fed or bottle fed? – from Falls Church, Va. on Wed, Nov 19, 2014

A. The American Heritage Dictionary hyphenates bottle-feed, bottle-fed. AP stories generally use that spelling.

Q. How would you label the remains of the dead? Is it bodies, remains, dead, corpse? It there a more correct way or is it a preference depending on context? – from Monrovia, Liberia on Wed, Nov 19, 2014

A. The context influences the term used to describe the dead, including the words you list.

Q. I apparently was not clear in my question about single or double quotation marks to designate direct quotes within the text of a Q&A format (which is without quotes and no italics). Here%uFFFDs the example I was referring to: T9: So he called me and he said, 'Hey, man, you want to buy this ticket for this seat at the World Series?' And I was like, 'Uh, yeah, I'll go.' – from Lincoln, Neb. on Wed, Nov 19, 2014

A. AP interviews in the Q&A format use double quotation marks within the texts to designate direct quotes, titles, etc.

Q. I am writing an article about holiday travel. When advising travelers on packing, should I write "pack light" or "pack lightly." – from Sulphur, La. on Wed, Nov 19, 2014

A. AP travel stories generally advise readers contemplating a trip to pack light. The adverb form is used with the past tense in some contexts: Police say if people must bring bags, they should be packed lightly and be kept in sight at all times.

Q. Should web series be treated like TV shows in terms of punctuation? We break from AP style by italicizing movies, books, plays and TV shows, so we're thinking web series should be handled consistently. (On that note: In the age of digital filing rather than over the wire, isn't the avoidance of italics outdated?) – from Seaside, Calif. on Wed, Nov 19, 2014

A. AP doesn't use italics in news stories because the typeface won't transmit through all computer systems.

Q. When writing about a high school speech and debate team's performance at a local competition, would the names of the events (such as impromptu speaking) be enclosed in single quotes or capitalized? And would 'Speech and Debate team' itself be capitalized if featured in conjunction with the name of the high school? – from Portland, Ore. on Wed, Nov 19, 2014

A. Lowercase speech and debate team as generic descriptions, just as a football team or basketball team are down in conjunction with the capitalized school name. Same for event names.

Q. How would you render bpm'online? Just as they do on their copyright page, or would you render it bpm-online? The ' symbolizes a triangle in their official name. – from Cambridge, MA on Wed, Nov 19, 2014

A. The name hasn't come up in AP news, but your suggestion of bpm-online would show the lowercase spelling of the product. AP doesn't use such symbols in news stories.

Q. Do you generally follow the "stock" name of a company/corporation? For example: is it "Petco" or "Petco Animal Supplies Inc."? – from Falls Church, Va. on Wed, Nov 19, 2014

A. AP stories use Petco for this company.

Q. In a Q&A format, which is run without quotation marks at the start nor in italics, do you use single or double quotation marks to designate direct quotes within the text? – from Lincoln, Neb. on Wed, Nov 19, 2014

A. For guidance, see the QUESTION-AND-ANSWER section of the Stylebook's "question mark" entry, and NOT-IN-Q-and-A section of the "quotation marks" entry.

Q. In video game reviews, is a game said to be side-scrolling, or sidescrolling, or side scrolling? This is a game where you move to the edge of the screen to progress through the level, e.g. Super Mario or Sonic the Hedgehog. – from Br%uFFFDgg, BE on Wed, Nov 19, 2014

A. An AP story about a video game used sidescroller, so the compound spelling seems right for other forms.

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