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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. We've been debating the use of "says" vs. "said" with quotes and with paraphrases in the narrative of a story. Does the writer have flexibility on which to use, or is "said" the only option? – from Elkhart, Ind. on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

A. Said is the customary attribution. Says is used in initial versions of AP stories for broadcast. Says is also used in some feature stories or narratives to express a sense of ongoing present or for mood.

Q. Would you hyphenate "built in" in this sentence? Reassurance is built in. – from Kansas City, Mo. on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

A. Yes.

Q. I saw all the questions about military chaplains, but what about the person who serves as the chaplain to the U.S. Senate? Is chaplain an official title in that case? (And in a caption, it's shorter to say Senate c[C]haplain Barry Black rather than turning it around). Cap or lowercase in front of the name? – from Washington on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

A. Recent AP stories from Washington have capitalized the title preceding the name: Senate Chaplain Barry Black.

Q. Hello, We are writing several articles for a newsletter, to be published in January, which will refer to someone who is now past president of the organization. However, the articles are about our December conference in which this person presided as president. When we refer to her, do we call her "past president" (her current title) or do we call her "president" since that was her title when she presided over events at conference? Or could we call her "then president?" – from West Sacramento, Calif. on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

A. Probably easiest to identify her as then-President Jane Smith, who completed her term at the conference or shortly afterward.

Q. Hi, I just wanted to alert you to a discrepancy within the stylebook as to whether to use periods in the name of the company U.S. Bancorp. Under "company names," the name is given as US Bancorp, while under "financial institutions," it's given as U.S. Bancorp. I'm not looking for clarification so much as I just wanted to let someone know. Thanks. – from Norwich, Conn. on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

A. Thank you. We'll make the the entries conform.

Q. I've reviewed other answers, but I don't understand why the correct style isn't Health Insurance Marketplace for the single federal marketplace (as it appears throughout and health insurance marketplaces for the multiple state marketplaces? – from Naperville, Ill. on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

A. Government entities tend to capitalize legislation, program names and the like for emphasis. For news stories using such terms, lowercase spellings suffice in most cases.

Q. Is there a hyphen with this phrase? 60 -person – from Chicago on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

A. As a compound modifier, make it 60-plus-person whatever.

Q. Should "rent seeking" be written with or without a hyphen? e.g. Rent seeking is the action of individuals and groups that pursue personal income via income transfers and other government favors rather than through production in exchange for income. – from Kigali, Rwanda on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

A. In an AP story about an economist's view of this practice, the term was spelled rent-seeking.

Q. Is the hyphen used correctly in this direct quotation? ...people within a 1.5-hour travel radius... Please advise; I cannot recast. Thank you much. – from Kansas City, Mo. on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

A. Yes.

Q. Would you hypenate this? "...providing day in and day out reliability..." – from West Chester, Pa. on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

A. No, because the dictionary spelling is day in, day out.

Q. Should I use hyphens in this sentence? Our evidence based services are person centered, culturally competent, recovery focused and trauma informed. – from Madison, Wis. on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

A. Hyphenate the combining form in evidence-based but not the other terms.

Q. When listing events for New Year's Eve, are events listed with the outgoing year or the upcoming, new year? – from Mechanicsburg, Pa. on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

A. It would depend on the name of the event -- whether the focus is on 2014 or looking ahead to 2015. From the New Year's Eve context, some event names should be obvious without requiring either year.

Q. Question about a comma in 'from-to' constructions. You wouldn't put a comma before 'to' in a phrase like this, would you? ...everything from prenatal care and screenings to diagnosis, treatment and counseling for high-risk pregnancies. – from Encinitas, Calif. on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

A. No, but the list of services is rather complex. Alternately, two shorter sentences could be used to convey the scope.

Q. Does best-seller still get hyphenated when using with New York Times? And, which of these would be accurate in this situation: Molly Smith celebrates daughter's New York Times Best-Seller Molly Smith celebrates daughter's New York Times best-seller Molly Smith celebrates daughter's New York Times Best Seller – from Layton, Utah on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

A. Molly Smith celebrates daughter's New York Times' best-seller. (note possessive)

Q. Which use of "continue" is correct in expressing an observation of an ongoing condition expected to continue in the future? "We see investment continue to trend upward," or, "We see investment continues to trend upward." – from Chicago on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

A. We see investment continuing to trend upward.

Q. I have this title coming after a name. Is the whole thing lowercase (except for China) or just program director%uFFFDLabor and Employment Law Counsel and China program director – from New York City, N.Y. on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

A. Formal titles and occupational specialties following a name are lowercase (except for China in this case).

Q. Does AP's guidance on the use of pronouns in reference to transgender persons -- "Use the pronoun preferred by the individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth" -- include the allowable use of plural pronouns in reference to an individual? – from Falmouth, Maine on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

A. A news story could directly quote a transgender person's preference to be described with a plural pronoun. On second or subsequent references, the person's name might be used for clarity.

Q. How would you write out a time element such as quarter past 4? As in, "It's a quarter past 4 and the house is full" – from Cleveland, Ohio on Wed, Dec 17, 2014

A. The clock time should be clear using the figure 4. However, it could be argued that this is a casual use of a numeral and thus spelled four.

Q. Ask the Editor results: favorite Q. What is AP style for a "third base coach" in baseball? Should it be "third-base coach"? from Los Angeles on Oct 31, 2007 A. Yes, with hyphen. favorite Q. How does AP handle base coaches in baseball? Is it third-base coach, third base coach or third basecoach? ó Chelsey, California A. We use third base coach. What os the current preference for third base coach? Hyphenate or not? – from st. paul, Minn. on Wed, Dec 17, 2014

A. It's third base coach without hyphens.

Q. Is the correct usage "The Navajo Nation" or "Navajo Nation"? – from Boston on Wed, Dec 17, 2014

A. The Navajo Nation starting a sentence. Within a sentence, lowercase the article preceding Navajo Nation.

Q. If the title, president and owner, follows the person's name, is it lowercase? And if it precedes, is it uppercase? This is in reference to a business owner. – from Stuart, Fla. on Wed, Dec 17, 2014

A. Lowercase president and owner following the individual's name. As a formal title, president is capitalized preceding the name and owner is lowercase.

Q. Good afternoon, Is there a policy on capitalization and proper usage for 'triads' (as in predominantly Asian gangs)? Would it follow the established guidelines for Mafia and Yakuza, for example? Thank you. – from Annapolis, MD on Wed, Dec 17, 2014

A. In AP stories, triad is lowercase as a generic term for underworld societies linked to organized crime. It's also lowercase when used with a group's name, such as the Hong Kong-based Wo Hop To triad.

Q. Current AP style is post-traumatic stress disorder, but there is some discussion at our military publications to drop "disorder" in consideration of the stigma related to it. See and What do you think? We're leaning toward dropping the "D" in generic references, but including it in cases when we need to refer to the disorder specifically, i.e. to mention a diagnosis. Thanks for your help. – from Virginia on Wed, Dec 17, 2014

A. Your question is the first I've heard of any discussion about that term. Apart from the PTSD entry, the AP Stylebook uses disorder in definitions of several other ailments. Also, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke is listed among the research units of the National Institutes of Health.

Q. What is the AP style for foster child? A child in foster care? – from Idaho Falls, Idaho on Wed, Dec 17, 2014

A. News stories generally use foster child, foster parents. There may be situations where the other term is appropriate.

Q. Is the proper second reference for Malala Yousafzai Malala or Yousafzai? – from , Tulsa, Oklahoma on Wed, Dec 17, 2014

A. In AP stories she's Malala on second reference.

Q. will likely be or likely will be? – from Winter Park, Fla. on Wed, Dec 17, 2014

A. The second is preferable. The first is more informal.

Q. The first entry in the 2014 holiday style guide is "A Visit From St. Nicolas." Is "Nicolas" a typo, or is that the spelling of "Nicholas" in the original poem? – from Scranton, Pa. on Wed, Dec 17, 2014

A. Should read "A Visit From St. Nicholas." Thanks for pointing it out.

Q. In some technical documents I'm editing, I've come across datalink and data link. So what would AP suggest: one word or two? – from , Tucson on Wed, Dec 17, 2014

A. AP stories use two words for the common term data link, which is often a plural.

Q. How does AP abbreviate fiscal year? Is it FY2014 or FY 2014? – from Raleigh, N.C. on Wed, Dec 17, 2014

A. The second with a space.

Q. I'm uncertain of how to use the verb 'repent' correctly. Is the standard pattern 'repent something' or 'repent for something' ? Thank you – from Seoul, XX on Tue, Dec 16, 2014

A. The dictionary entry says "of" is commonly used with repent, as in repent of one's sins. Repent for is another standard usage.

Q. Just stumbled on this entry in stylebook as I was looking for something else. And from what I was taught, it is flat-out wrong. The 66-year-old amateur photographer has pleaded not guilty to four counts of first-degree murder for the slaying of four women. It should be "in the slaying of four women" -- "for the slaying" means the photographer did it. Right? We convicted him ahead of time. Did this change at some point as becoming acceptable, using "for" rather than "in," and I missed it? Regardless, I won't be using "for." – from Boise, Idaho on Tue, Dec 16, 2014

A. No, using "for" in this context does not mean the individual is being prejudged. However, "in" is the customary preposition in such phrasings. I'll look into updating the example. Thanks for pointing it out.

Q. Capitalized title or not - (note comma): "....optimism related to the country's pro-business prime minister-elect, Narendra Modi." Thanks! – from , Manchester, N.H. on Tue, Dec 16, 2014

A. Correct as written with name set off. Otherwise, Prime Minister-elect Narendra Modi.

Q. IS it correct to use hyphens in the statement "first-of-its-kind?" Why or why not? – from McLean, Va. on Tue, Dec 16, 2014

A. Hyphenate as compound modifier preceding noun: a first-of-its-kind water plan.

Q. Couldn't find this in the stylebook. When talking about a branch campus, would there be a hyphen used? For example: The student attended NOC-Stillwater OR The student attended OSU-Tulsa. – from Stillwater, Okla. on Tue, Dec 16, 2014

A. AP stories from Oklahoma spell out the university or college name on first reference: Northern Oklahoma College-Stillwater initially, then NOC-Stillwater on follow-ups. Same for Oklahoma State University on first reference, including a hyphenated Tulsa for that campus when applicable, then OSU-Tulsa on second reference.

Q. Is it correct to use e-receipts? – from Mississippi State, Miss. on Tue, Dec 16, 2014

A. Yes.

Q. Is it "Happy Birthday" or "happy birthday"? – from Madison, Wis. on Tue, Dec 16, 2014

A. "Happy birthday!" We wish you a happy birthday.

Q. You mentioned in a recent FAQ that a brand name could include a second capital letter, i.e. AstroTurf. Is this acceptable with a company name, as well, or should the name always be initial cap and lower case, even if the company itself uses a second cap in the name? – from Jefferson, Wis. on Tue, Dec 16, 2014

A. See the "company names" entry for various examples, including ConocoPhillips, MasterCard Inc. and PepsiCo Inc.

Q. How should we treat free fall? At first glance at the dictionary, it's free fall, two words as a noun and hyphenated as a verb. But then there's a separate entry hypenated that makes this confusing. – from Centreville, Va. on Tue, Dec 16, 2014

A. Yes, these dictionary entries seem inconsistent. My interpretation, based on the examples, is that noun forms are primarily unhyphenated. AP stories often hyphenate the term as a modifier for parachuting, as in free-fall formations or free-fall jumps.

Q. Is it "cromnibus," "CRomnibus" or "Cromnibus" as the nickname for the 2015 "continuing resolution omnibus" budget agreement just passed by Congress? – from Washington on Tue, Dec 16, 2014

A. Haven't seen that term. AP stories refer to the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill passed by Congress.

Q. A July answer on midcontinent/mid-continent/Mid-Continent in reference to U.S. oil-services companies suggested a lowercase and hyphenated "mid-continent," which seems to conflict with AP's entry on "mid-": no hyphen unless a capitalized word follows. Can you clarify? – from Chicago on Tue, Dec 16, 2014

A. Right. The common term is midcontinent without a hyphen. Correcting the July Q&A. Thanks.

Q. I'm seeing the word "assure" crop up a lot in company documents I edit. Is it used correctly in this sentence: "And we must assure that customer expectations around cost and service are met if our company is to grow, be profitable, and maintain its competitive position." I thought it should be ensure but I'm seeing it so often now in sentences like this that I'm starting to wonder if I'm mistaken. Thanks. – from Duluth, Minn. on Tue, Dec 16, 2014

A. The usage seems to be OK based on the example in the Stylebook's "ensure, insure, assure" entry.

Q. What would AP do with the term Red Scare, as in the 1950s? – from Farmington, Maine on Tue, Dec 16, 2014

A. Generally capitalized in AP references, such as Sen. Joe McCarthy's Red Scare of the 1950s.

Q. "Cromnibus" is quickly entering the lexicon. Should the term always first be placed in quotes, with a brief description following? – from Arlington, Va. on Tue, Dec 16, 2014

A. In AP stories, it's the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill passed by Congress.

Q. When talking about more than one certificate of deposit (CD) would it be certificates of deposit or certificate of deposits? – on Tue, Dec 16, 2014

A. The first is correct: certificates of deposit.

Q. Which is correct: Guy wire or guide wire when referring to wires attached to utility poles? – from Levittown, Pa. on Mon, Dec 15, 2014

A. A guy (n.) is a rope, chain, rod or wire attached to something to guide or steady it.

Q. "At risk for" or "at risk of"? – from , Palo Alto, Calif. on Mon, Dec 15, 2014

A. Usually, at risk of. However, at risk for fits certain phrasings.

Q. Should the term "utility patent" be capitalized? – from Stockton, Calif. on Mon, Dec 15, 2014

A. No.

Q. AP style puts periods in academic degrees (B.A., M.S., Ph.D.)--except for MBA. Just curious as to why no periods in MBA? – from Washington on Mon, Dec 15, 2014

A. MBA is the first spelling in Webster's NWDC. Also, it's in wide usage without periods.

Q. I would like to know the proper formatting of the second "In" in the quotes, should it be capitalized or not? In addition, "in principle, it is possible to..." – from College Park, MD on Mon, Dec 15, 2014

A. Yes. In starts the sentence in quotes.

Q. Do I capitalize the term "genderqueer" when referring to them it as a gender, like male and female? In context, "Sam Smith identifies as genderqueer/Genderqueer." – from Maplewood, N.J. on Mon, Dec 15, 2014

A. Within a sentence, the term is lowercase.

Q. I know 'family' is collective noun, but because the predicate, do I use 'have been' or 'has been'? The family have been loyal donors and advocates for the University for many years. – from houston, Texas on Mon, Dec 15, 2014

A. Using family as a collective noun, keep the references singular: The family has been a loyal donor and advocate for the university for many years. As family individuals, the references should be plural: The family members have been loyal donors and advocates for the university for many years.

Q. When including 800 numbers in text, is it appropriate to say "toll-free" before the number? For example, "Call us toll-free at 855-123-4567." And, should "toll-free" be hyphenated? – from Portland, Ore. on Mon, Dec 15, 2014

A. Yes and yes.

Q. When listing states that are abbreviated via AP style guide specifications, are the states separated by comma or semicolon? For ex: Ark.; Iowa; Kan.; La.; and Texas? or Ark., Iowa, La., and Texas? – from , on Mon, Dec 15, 2014

A. Use commas as in the examples in STATES IN HEADLINES section of the Stylebook's "state names" entry.

Q. In reference to an educational degree. Which is correct? M.Phil. in Economics at Oxford MPhil in Economics at Oxford – from Studio City, Calif. on Mon, Dec 15, 2014

A. For a news story, it's master's degree in economics from Oxford University. As an exception, the abbreviation might follow the individual's name in a list of people with academic degrees: John Smith, M.Phil. in economics, Oxford, University.

Q. I'm writing about a tool created for peer review. Is it a peer review tool or peer-review tool? – from Columbus, Ohio on Mon, Dec 15, 2014

A. Make it peer review tool, no hyphen in the noun phrae.

Q. AP does not cap border collie. Would the same be true for border terrier? – from Farmington, Maine on Mon, Dec 15, 2014

A. Yes.

Q. Is it "mumps" or "the mumps?" – from Pittsburgh on Mon, Dec 15, 2014

A. It usually depends on the phrasing. He came down with the mumps. The hospital provides vaccinations against polio, mumps and measles.

Q. Should Leading Economic Indexes (plural) be capitalized in a sentence such as: The Leading Economic Indexes for the U.S. and U.K continue to improve, according to reports from The Conference Board. – on Mon, Dec 15, 2014

A. Use lowercase spelling.

Q. What are the rules for "for example" or "in other words" and their latin abbreviations - e.g. and i.e.? Should they be written out? And if abbreviated, does AP require a comma following them before the list or explanation? – from Cincinnati, Ohio on Mon, Dec 15, 2014

A. See "e.g." and "i.e." entries in the Stylebook. In brief, both are acceptable followed by commas.

Q. Washington is one of the cities that can stand alone in the dateline. However, the "District of Columbia" entry states it should be abbreviated only rarely, such as in datelines - and it lists the example of Washington, DC. Can you clarify? – from Cincinnati, Ohio on Mon, Dec 15, 2014

A. Only rarely to avoid confusion with another U.S. locality would the story dateline be WASHINGTON, D.C.

Q. I submitted a question about this earlier, but can I have confirmation? "We wish you a happy new year" or "We wish you a Happy New Year" or "We wish you a happy New Year"? – from Tokyo on Sun, Dec 14, 2014

A. Referring to the Jan. 1 holiday, "We wish you a happy New Year."

Q. Writing about baseball: Is spring training capitalized? – from st. paul, Minn. on Sat, Dec 13, 2014

A. Spell spring training lowercase.

Q. I saw in a search recently that while all works of art, titles of books, movies, poems, songs, classical music titles (but not Symphony No. x) and photos as art are inside quotes, titles of sculpture (The Thinker by Rodin) were not in quotes. Since this seems extremely inconsistent since sculpture is a work of art as much as a painting, I'd like to know if this has been reversed or if not what the reasoning is. Thanks. – from Manchester , Mo. on Sat, Dec 13, 2014

A. Sculpture also comes under the "artworks" entry. The longtime AP Stylebook guidance of not enclosing sculpture titles in quotation marks originated before my time. The likely intention was to differentiate sculpture with its three-dimensional effects from other artworks -- writing, music, painting, etc. -- the titles of which are enclosed in quotes.

Q. When would a writer use woken vs. awoken - if they are both past participles and both mean to cease sleeping? – from Atlanta on Sat, Dec 13, 2014

A. Your preference on using one or the other since the meanings are identical.

Q. There is a museum in New york City called the Museum of the City of New York. I have an article that uses City Museum as a short version of the name. Is this acceptable? Actually the deck reads Two City Museum exhibits speed and slow the city. Looking at it I had no idea what the author was trying to say. Anyway is City Museum acceptable in a deck? – from Orysia, New York City, N.Y. on Fri, Dec 12, 2014

A. AP stories use Museum of the City of New York on first reference, which becomes the museum in follow-ups. The official website uses City Museum on second reference after the full name initially. In the headline, try this: NYC museum shows city's tempo in two exhibits

Q. Would "new year" be capitalized in either of the following instances: "... agenda set through the beginning of the new year" OR "The first session for the new year will be on Jan. 6"? – from Rosemead, Calif. on Fri, Dec 12, 2014

A. Both are lowercase. The Stylebook limits the capitalized spelling to the Jan. 1 holiday. Other uses of new year are down. Alternatively, you could substitute 2015 in both sentences.

Q. Hi, is it "in the best interest of shareholders" or "in the best interests of shareholders"? Thanks – from Flagstaff, Ariz. on Fri, Dec 12, 2014

A. Generally singular in AP business stories.

Q. How would cite the European Council, European Commission and European Parliament in a series? Can we write is as the European Council, the Commission and the Parliament? Thanks. – from , on Fri, Dec 12, 2014

A. AP stories use the full names capitalized on first reference as written in your first sentence. In follow-ups, the shorthand terms are lowercase council, commission and parliament.

Q. Regarding the word cyber. I understand cyberattack, cyberterrorism etc. These are nouns and become one word. The question concerns insurance that covers a variety of these things/events. Can cyber stand alone as an adjective when referring to a host of cyberthings or cyberevents. Is it cyber liability insurance (or cyber insurance) or would it become cyberliability insurance or cyberinsurance. My thinking is the insurance itself is not "cyber" -- it is protection for things or events that are cyber, so maybe it should stand alone. – from New Jersey on Fri, Dec 12, 2014

A. The newly released Webster's New World College Dictionary, Fifth Edition, added cyber as a stand-alone adjective, as in cyber shopping. By that definition, cyber liability insurance would be correct. The dictionary also retains the cyber- combining form for noun formations.

Q. I'm listing off companies who have authored an article in our publication. NOAA is one. In a comma separated list, do I refer to just the administration name (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) or do I include "the" and should "the" be capitalized? Thank you – from Portland, Ore. on Fri, Dec 12, 2014

A. You don't need the article in list of names.

Q. It would make sense to eliminate descriptors for Martin Luther King Jr. There should be no question about his identity. I think his name could stand alone. The words "slain civil rights leader" are almost ludicrous in this context. KOKOMO, Ind. (AP) %uFFFD Supporters of a planned monument in Kokomo honoring slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. say they%uFFFDre nearing their goal of raising $150,000 for the project. – from Nashville, Tenn. on Fri, Dec 12, 2014

A. The descriptor, if needed at all, would be better placed as a follow-up reference.

Q. We want to use the phrase anytime-anywhere (e.g. Consumer now have anytime-anywhere access to the money) in a sentence. Is it anytime, anywhere or anytime-anywhere. I've seen it both ways. – from Raleigh, N.C. on Fri, Dec 12, 2014

A. AP news stories use a comma for anytime, anywhere.

Q. Can you confirm the following is correct? The holiday will occur on Sun., Dec.25 When I look under months, it appears as if it should be: The holiday will occur on Sunday Dec. 25 – from Wayland, MA on Fri, Dec 12, 2014

A. The holiday is Sunday, Dec. 25. (Actually it's Thursday, Dec. 25.)

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