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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 international and global be used synomynously? – from Houston, Texas on Tue, May 05, 2015

A. Probably in many cases, though global may suggest a wider presence or reach.

Q. Are executive actions capitalized, such as the Immigration Accountability Executive Action? Thanks. – from Camarillo, Calif. on Tue, May 05, 2015

A. Generally AP stories avoid these long monikers, rephrasing with lowercase spellings such as the president's execution action on immigration.

Q. In a 2011 answer, you said the usage of videoboard/video board was "still in a shakeout phase." Has that shaken out yet? – from Chicago on Tue, May 05, 2015

A. The one-word spellings seems to have taken hold in AP stories, as in the left-field videoboard at Wrigley Field.

Q. Sorry, don't know if this question came through before. Still on hyphens. Is it correct to use hyphens in class-action lawsuit and class-action settlement? – from Madison, Conn. on Tue, May 05, 2015

A. Yes, hyphenate as a modifier as in class-action lawsuit.

Q. Q. So I asked: Do you need a hyphen between direct and selling when you use refer to a direct selling company? You wouldn't use it if you wrote a dietary supplement company or consumer products company, right? You answered "correct." So does that mean, no, you don't need a hyphen between "direct selling" company? – from Madison, Conn. on Tue, May 05, 2015

A. AP stories generally refer to direct sales company without a hyphen. Neither of the other two formulations is hyphenated.

Q. Do you need a hyphen between direct and selling when you use refer to a direct selling company? You wouldn't use it if you wrote a dietary supplement company or consumer products company, right? Thanks for any help you can give! – from Madison, Conn. on Tue, May 05, 2015

A. Correct.

Q. I'm wondering how AP would handle honorable in the following: The guest speaker is the Honorable Frank Kendall, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. My thoughts are to delete both the and Honorable. But if we decide to keep the and Honorable, should it be The Honorable? – from , Tucson on Tue, May 05, 2015

A. Lowercase the ... and the title is also lowercase following the officeholder's name.

Q. How does AP write mega firm (one word, hyphenated, two words)? – from Raleigh, N.C. on Tue, May 05, 2015

A. It's megafirm using the dictionary guidance for the combining form.

Q. Would the phrase "two-decade low" be considered a noun phrase and, thus, be written without a hyphen between "two" and "decade"? – from New York on Tue, May 05, 2015

A. Better hyphenate two-decade modifying low.

Q. Should the second word in a hyphenated word be capitalized in titles? e.g., Real-World Data, versus Real-world Data – from Harpers Ferry, W.Va. on Tue, May 05, 2015

A. Yes, in a title.

Q. What is the style rule for an apostrophe when the proper noun is abbreviated, i.e. CBS? What would it be when periods are used, i.e. U.S.? – from Englewood Cliffs, N.J. on Tue, May 05, 2015

A. It's CBS' as a possessive. Consider U.S. a descriptive without an apostrophe: U.S. ambitions are ...

Q. When I asked a previous question about capitalizing the word pages, the answer was "Generally plural forms of capitalized nouns are spelled lowercase: Page 1, pages 18-19." In the NUMERALS entry, for Sequential designations lists "Rooms 3 and 4." Shouldn't it be "rooms 3 and 4"? And on a similar note, would it also be "Floor 3" but "floors 6 and 7"? – from Seattle on Mon, May 04, 2015

A. Probably, unless signage in a particular building caps the R or S in a plural.

Q. Datelines. If the dateline is Los Angeles, how would you refer to Los Angeles County within the body of the story? – from College Park, MD on Mon, May 04, 2015

A. As you have it: Los Angeles County.

Q. Just confirming "multistage, multicomponent vaccine" has no hyphens (spellcheck wants one in multi-component) The AP archive says to favor joined up words, but.... Thanks. – from Bethesda, MD on Mon, May 04, 2015

A. Both are correct spelled as compounds, no hyphens.

Q. Webster's New World College Dictionary defines "cost-efficient" as "cost-effective." As the latter is far more common, does AP use the former? And you'd advise us to avoid using both in a single document, right? Thanks. – from Richardson, Texas on Mon, May 04, 2015

A. AP usage would reflect the document or individual being quoted. It could be either. Makes sense to stick with one version.

Q. What is the appropriate use of single quotes, other than inside another quotation? I have seen them used for common words used in a coined phrase, but have found no reference to this in the Stylebook. Any advice on other uses? – from Concord Township, Ohio on Mon, May 04, 2015

A. Use single quotation marks for direct quotations within quotations or for quoted words in headlines. Use double quotes elsewhere.

Q. Income-tax deferred growth, income tax-deferred growth or income-tax-deferred growth? Which punctuation would AP suggest? – on Mon, May 04, 2015

A. This looks right: income tax-deferred growth.

Q. How is McDonald's spelled when it's possessive. I can't bring myself to use McDonald's's. – from Englewood Cliffs, N.J. on Mon, May 04, 2015

A. McDonald's ... spelling is same for possessive.

Q. Does the capitalization rule of "first word and all proper nouns" apply to a second headline that is a full quote (i.e., complete sentence)? I have an article with a main headline followed by a second headline, which is a direct quote taken from the article itself. How is this handled in terms of capitalization? Thank you. – from Stuttgart, Germany on Mon, May 04, 2015

A. Cap the first word of the second headline.

Q. When referring to the company Mars, is it Mars Inc. or Mars Incorporated? Is there a comma after the company name? – from LENOIR CITY, Tenn. on Mon, May 04, 2015

A. Mars Inc.

Q. Should "Day One" be capitalized? For example, Our staff is trained and ready to execute on Day One [or day one]. – from Fairfax, Va. on Mon, May 04, 2015

A. See "Day One" entry.

Q. In AP style game reviews, would it be mini-game, minigame, or mini game when describing a quick little challenge within the main game? – from Br%uFFFDgg, BE on Mon, May 04, 2015

A. Based on the Stylebook's "mini" prefix guidance, minigame.

Q. I know that periods go inside quotation marks and that the British rules are different. I was only wondering if there is any feedback on why I have seen peiods outside of quotation marks on at least two formal websites. (State office website). The material quoted was not computer technology based info. It was at least two full words. – from Alexandria, Va. on Sun, May 03, 2015

A. No idea, and no feedback. Our guidance stands on enclosing a period with the quotation mark.

Q. I am still not clear on if AP is actually saying that it is permissible to use a singular antecedent with a gender neutral pronoun (their, them, they). I have searched the book and someone said that you can only use the their when it is ambiguous. I did not see this entry in my hardback. I saw the samples that you had when I searched under the word "their." My question is very straight forward. Under your standards can I write. A client is on the phone. May I transfer them? Thank you. – from Alexandria, Va. on Sun, May 03, 2015

A. A client is on the phone. May I transfer him? (or her as the case may be.) A client is on the phone. May I transfer the call?

Q. The PGA writes its event THE PLAYERS Championship with the first two words in all capital letters. Does AP have a style for this? Do we run it that way too? – from Stuart, Fla. on Fri, May 01, 2015

A. In AP stories, it's the Players Championship. Only the P and C are capitalized and "t" is lowercase unless starting a sentence.

Q. Say the official name of a facility is the Tomah VA Medical Center. A colleague tells me it would be weird to call it the "Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center," since not even the facility itself uses that name. Is it OK to use "Tomah VA Medical Center" on first reference? Or would I need to say something along the lines of "... a Veterans Affairs medical facility in Tomah ..." before ever using the official name? – from Madison, Wis. on Fri, May 01, 2015

A. In AP news stories, Veterans Affairs Hospital, usually preceded by the city, is spelled out on first reference for clarity. VA is then used on second reference.

Q. My question pertains to the capitalization of the drug methedrine. I checked the "Ask the Editor" archives for guidance and found an entry stating that generic names are not capped. But is methedrine a generic drug or is it a brand name? – from Erie, Pa. on Fri, May 01, 2015

A. The dictionary describes it as a former trademark now used as the drug methamphetamine. Spell methedrine lowercase.

Q. Is wind related or wind-related correct? as in ...the damage is wind related – from Portsmouth, Va. on Fri, May 01, 2015

A. Doesn't require a hyphen based on the dictionary entry for related (adj.).

Q. In the sentence below, can I use the word THEIR instead of HIM AND HER? We take a holistic view of each student and focus on their development. – from Boca Raton, Fla. on Fri, May 01, 2015

A. If you want to use "their," tweak the sentence for noun-pronoun agreement: We take a holistic view of students and focus on their development.

Q. A Floridian asked a few days ago: Which is correct in sentences? Most important or most importantly? See example below: Before the start of the school year, our program managers will meet with all employees to share our plan and vision, provide key timelines and, most importantly, listen and answer any questions. You responded: The adverb form as written is customary in such sentences. I beg to differ. Importantly means in an important way, so following your guideline would make that sentence mean "... listen and answer any questions in an important way." It should be "most important," as shorthand for "what is most important is that ..." – from Hyannis, MA on Fri, May 01, 2015

A. Of course if you substitute "in an important way" for most importantly in the original sentence it makes little sense. Instead, check the dictionary example for adverb usage: He left and, more importantly, never came back.

Q. How should the term black market be presented? (Both lowercase, both uppercase, black only uppercase, etc.). Thank you. – from Indianapolis on Fri, May 01, 2015

A. Two words for the term, both spelled lowercase within a sentence.

Q. Is "oriental" appropriate as a generic term to describe decor, as in "Everything from an Alaskan totem pole to oriental pillows and handcrafted items %uFFFD including their own homemade quilts and woodcarvings %uFFFD complete their d%uFFFDcor and remind them of their adventures together." Thank you. – from Detroit on Fri, May 01, 2015

A. Probably acceptable as design term. However, it shouldn't be used for Asian people or countries. See the Stylebook entry.

Q. Regarding the 15-year-old survivor pulled from the rubble of the April 18 earthquake in Nepal: What is the correct spelling of his name? AP has used Pempa Tamang, but Los Angeles Time put an editor's note in stories that teen's name is Pemba Lama. Thanks. – from Edison, N.J. on Thu, Apr 30, 2015

A. AP using the name as provided by Nepalese rescuers, who got it directly from the youth.

Q. Is city capitalized when referring to a specific city? for example, The city expects an increase in tourism. – from Los Angeles on Thu, Apr 30, 2015

A. It's the city spelled lowercase.

Q. Is it acceptable/fair/accurate to refer to Israel as the Jewish State? A reporter is writing a story on Israel, but trying to avoid repeating the name of the country too many times. Any ideas for subsequent references? – from Arlington, Va. on Thu, Apr 30, 2015

A. Israel defines itself as the "Jewish state" %u2014 a term that was contained in the country's declaration of independence in 1948. However, a bill to make the Jewish state designation official stalled in the Israeli parliament because of opposition from the country's Arab citizens. Use the term with caution.

Q. If you are using semicolons to set off a complex series, and the sentence does not end with the series, should a semicolon or a comma be used after the last item? I am inclined to use a semicolon, as in this example: John Williams, M.D.; Michael Johnson, M.D.; and Robert Adams, M.D.; will begin operating at our new facility next month. – from Cincinnati on Thu, Apr 30, 2015

A. Try rewriting to avoid needless repetition: Surgeons John Williams, Michael Johnson and Robert Adams will begin operating at our new facility next month.

Q. I am wondering about the plural of Peabody Award. Here is the sentence. There are no set number of Peabodies awarded each year, and an award is only given when a panel of 17 judges unanimously agree. Would it be Peabodys like BlackBerrys or would it just be better to recast the sentence? – from Orysia, New York City, N.Y. on Thu, Apr 30, 2015

A. For plurals, use Peabody awards or honors.

Q. Would the Las Vegas strip be capped? – from Farmington, Maine on Thu, Apr 30, 2015

A. Yes, it's the Las Vegas Strip.

Q. Which is correct: May 4, 1-2 p.m. OR 1-2 p.m., May 4. Date first or time first? – from Oakbrook Terrace, Ill. on Thu, Apr 30, 2015

A. AP calendars of upcoming news generally list event, time, date and place in that order.

Q. What would be the best fix for current wording of "... led by Chief Surgeon Dr. John Doe%uFFFDand..."? I thought maybe: "the chief surgeon, Dr. John Doe%uFFFDand..." but something seems not quite right with that. Thank you. – from Richmond, Va. on Thu, Apr 30, 2015

A. An alternative would be Dr. John Doe, chief surgeon.

Q. Is this correct as written: "The Davis Mountains are one of three major sky island ecosystems in Texas, in which isolated mountains are surrounded by a %uFFFDsea%uFFFD of desert." I think 'are' in the first sentence is appropriate, since mountains is plural. My manager thinks it should be 'is' because it is a singular region. I counter that we would use 'is' if we were using a construction like 'Davis Mountains range' or 'Davis Mountains ecosystem.' Thoughts? – from Austin, Texas on Thu, Apr 30, 2015

A. I'm with you in using the plural verb with Davis Mountains.

Q. Which should be first in alphabetizing the follow company name: L'Orange Lombardini – on Thu, Apr 30, 2015

A. Better check with the company for its preference.

Q. A 2014 "Ask the Editor" says the term "old school" should not be hyphenated in any usage. According to Merriam Webster, however, old school should be hyphenated when used as an adjective: "That is an old-school dance move." "He's wearing a pair of old-school sneakers." Do you mind weighing in on this question again? Should Merriam Webster's recommendation be followed -- hyphenating the adjective use? Thanks. – from St. George, Utah on Wed, Apr 29, 2015

A. Webster's New World College Dictionary, Fifth Edition, changed the spelling to old-school (adj.). The previous edition spelled it unhyphenated in all uses. AP generally follows that dictionary when a spelling isn't in the Stylebook.

Q. Is it acceptable to have a headline such as -- Company A's net profit triples in March -- matched with a lead that says -- the profit NEARLY tripled in March? Or must the headline also say -- nearly triples in March? – from Virginia, XX on Wed, Apr 29, 2015

A. The headline shouldn't overstate what's in the story.

Q. Your answer on series of whole sentences and use of commas seemed to infer that they would be used at times before the 'and.' In this example, with the subjects being different, would it make sense to use the comma. The environment is unforgiving, the ship is in pieces, and the claustrophobic passageways are peppered with vicious sentry robots. – from Chicago on Wed, Apr 29, 2015

A. Better as two sentences: The environment is unforgiving. The ship is in pieces, and the claustrophobic passageways are peppered with vicious sentry robots.

Q. Hi--following up on the answer you gave about use of commas in a sentence that has three independent clauses. The phrases are too short to be using semicolons. Here is the sentence: "It%uFFFDs a good grid, it%uFFFDs level and there%uFFFDs a 6-mile loop around the island." So is a comma required after the "and" before "there's a 6-mile loop ..."? – from Chicago on Wed, Apr 29, 2015

A. In this compound sentence, you can leave out the second comma because the last two clauses are short and closely related.

Q. Is it ok to just say "millions" without referring to what the millions is? For ex. "He gave millions to the cause." Do I need to say millions of dollars? – from Smithtown, N.Y. on Wed, Apr 29, 2015

A. Yes, if it's clear from the context that the sentence refers to big bucks. It's a little informal that way, but common in conversational English.

Q. What is the correct way to address a letter - the same letter - that is going to two different people at the same place? – from Altamonte Springs, Fla. on Wed, Apr 29, 2015

A. Put both names on separate lines atop the actual address.

Q. Hi, I'm writing to ask about comma usage with conjunctions. The stylebook says that if you are linking two clauses that could each stand alone as separate sentences, use the comma. My question is, what if you are linking THREE clauses, each of which has a subject and verb (and could stand alone as sentences)? Do you use the comma in front of the last clause? That would seem to violate the "series" rule, but it would be in keeping with the independent clause rule. We are stumped as to which rule takes precedence here. – from Chicago on Wed, Apr 29, 2015

A. You might consider using semicolons to separate the independent clauses. Alternatively, three separate sentences might be clearer.

Q. Would it be, "It's a word of mouth initiative, giving people the chance to ..." or "It's a word of mouth initiative giving people the chance to ..."? – from Portland, Ore. on Wed, Apr 29, 2015

A. The phrasing doesn't require a comma. However, the dictionary hyphenates word-of-mouth (adj.).

Q. Why would "freshman" be acceptable when AP strives for gender-neutral language? Shouldn't "first-year" be standardized with that rule in mind? – from Bainbridge Island, Wash. on Wed, Apr 29, 2015

A. The dictionary defines freshman as a beginner, a novice, a student in the first year of college or a ninth-grader. Depending on the context, AP stories may use either freshman or first-year student.

Q. Is greywater one word or two? – from Oak View, Calif. on Wed, Apr 29, 2015

A. Webster's New World College Dictionary, Fifth Edition, favors grey water, two words, for household wastewater, one word.

Q. If I'm referring to a New York apartment in the east 60s, would I capitalize "east"? – from Chicago on Wed, Apr 29, 2015

A. Capitalize the East 60s based on the compass point guidance in the Stylebook's "addresses" entry.

Q. I need a clarification on an earlier submission. In July, I asked if the AP had a position on the trend to uppercase the "t" in "the" when using it as part of a proper name in the middle of a sentence. The answer was that the "t" should be lowercased in all usages. However, everything I've seen coming from the AP since then seems to contradict this. As an example, a story in January by religion writer Rachel Zoll referred to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and the AP itself is always referred to as The Associated Press in AP stories. Today's obituary for "Louie Louie" singer Jack Ely says he was the lead singer for The Kingsmen. Which is correct as per AP style? – from Findlay, Ohio on Wed, Apr 29, 2015

A. Exceptions are Stylebook spellings that capitalize The in formal names on first reference: The Associated Press, but AP or the AP in follow-ups. The New York Times, but the Times in follow-ups. Other entries with a capital T: The Church or Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The Walt Disney Co. Generally AP stories don't capitalize the definite article in names of music groups: e.g., the Beatles. Evidently, The Kingsmen is a usage exception, based on the obituary you cite.

Q. I can not find anything on capitalization of "the state" when it refers to a government body. It's confusing because in some of the examples i found, I'm not certain if "the state" is in reference to "the state of Flordia" or a government. In this sentence, would state be capitalized? The group should be commended for fulfilling their obligations towards the state. – from Brooklyn, N.Y. on Wed, Apr 29, 2015

A. Lowercase the state.

Q. The Stylebook states that all state names should be spelled out in the body of the text whether standing alone or with a town, village, or military base. However, the captions section of the Stylebook says to use state names in accordance with AP Stylebook guidelines (which is to spell out), but then provides examples of captions with the state name abbreviated, with no instruction provided to that effect. Please clarify which is appropriate. – from Ft Meade, Maryland on Wed, Apr 29, 2015

A. Because of space restrictions, state names are generally abbreviated with cities in photo captions. State names are spelled out in captions when standing alone.

Q. In a headline, should the first word following a semi-colon be capitalized if it is not a proper noun? – from Oklahoma City on Wed, Apr 29, 2015

A. Not in an AP headline, which caps only proper nouns or the first word in a full sentence following a colon.

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