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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. What is the proper use of a register mark with the name of entity in an article? %uFFFD – from cincinnati, Ohio on Tue, Oct 13, 2015

A. Your example didn't come through. However, AP capitalizes trademark names without the registry symbol, which doesn't transmit through computer systems.

Q. Is this correct? "She finished the race in 1 hour, 45 minutes." Or is there no comma? Or some other way? Please help. – from Gary, Indiana on Tue, Oct 13, 2015

A. Correct with comma, though race times usually include seconds as well. See the "time sequences" example.

Q. Based on the text of the Polar Vortex entry, North Pole and South Pole are capitalized. I'm not sure, though, if that capitalization would apply in the following: "mountainous regions near the north and south poles." Should it stand as written or be changed to "near the North and South Poles." Thanks. – from Oshkosh, Wis. on Tue, Oct 13, 2015

A. Both North and South are capitalized, but poles is lowercase. See the PROPER NAMES guidance for common noun elements in plural uses in the "capitalization" entry.

Q. Is a comma required to offset the timezone from the time? For example: "We areopen Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Eastern time." – from Rhode Island on Tue, Oct 13, 2015

A. No comma. See the "time zone" entry for examples.

Q. Hi! With general lists, should everything be alphabetized first as well as separated by commas? Here is an example: He realized too late what he forgot to get at the store: oranges, bananas, grapes, cookies, apples and beer. – from Exeter, N.H. on Tue, Oct 13, 2015

A. There's no requirement for alphabetizing such a list. Your use of commas is correct.

Q. Is a comma necessary after the introductory "and" at the beginning of this sentence, "And, at the end of our time working together, you will receive a survey."? – from Providence, R.I. on Tue, Oct 13, 2015

A. That looks fine as punctuated.

Q. Disagreement in the office over the semicolon separating naems/titles when more than 2 people are listed. When listing names and titles in a photo caption, is the following AP Style proper?: John Doe, job title; Fred Public, job title; and Bob Doe, job title, were at the meeting. The version in debate is: John Doe, job title and Fred Public, job title, were are the meeting. – from Baton Rouge, La. on Tue, Oct 13, 2015

A. A caption includes an placement identifier and date. Using the second example: Pictured from left, John Doe, job title, and Fred Public, job title, at the meeting Tuesday, Oct. 13.

Q. "come to consensus" or "come to a consensus"? Thanks! – from Cleveland, Ohio on Tue, Oct 13, 2015

A. The expression is generally written or spoken with the indefinite article. Other uses vary, as in these dictionary examples: ... a clear consensus ... government by consensus.

Q. If you have a guarantee in which a reimbursement is made only if you fail to meet two specific requirements (in other words, if you meet one requirement, but not the other, no payment is needed), is it more accurate to say that the customer gets reimbursed: A) "if neither of these standards is met" B) "if neither of these standards are met" or C) "if both of these standards are not met?" Or if more than one of these is appropriate, which two? – from Chicago on Mon, Oct 12, 2015

A. A and C are correct in terms of pronoun-verb agreement. However, A and C seem to set different conditions. Better run this by your legal counsel for advice on proper wording.

Q. 1 in 3 people has (singular verb to agree with 1) or 1 in 3 people have (plural verb to agree with people)? – from Minneapolis on Mon, Oct 12, 2015

A. If the ratio represents a large group, use the plural verb: 1 in 3 people have ...

Q. Would AP style be 8-story or eight-story building, please? – from LAKE MARY, Fla. on Mon, Oct 12, 2015

A. It's an eight-story building, under the general guidance of spelling out numerals under 10.

Q. Greetings! Which usage of "who owe/owes" is correct?: "While I gratefully accept this honor, I want you all to know that it is I who owe you thanks." -or- "While I gratefully accept this honor, I want you all to know that it is I who owes you thanks." – from , on Mon, Oct 12, 2015

A. "... it is I who owes you thanks." Explanation: in this phrasing, the verb form is governed by proximity to the nearer pronoun. I owe (not owes) you thanks. Who owes (not owe) you thanks? Ergo: It is I who owes you thanks.

Q. Thoughts on capping the collective term for the the regalia and vestments worn by the sovereign of the United Kingdom during the coronation ceremony and at other state functions stored in the Tower of London? (In other words: crown jewels or Crown Jewels?) – from , on Mon, Oct 12, 2015

A. Lowercase crown jewels, as in the dictionary entry.

Q. Is it "first come, first serve?" Or, "first come, first served?" Or another variation. For example, "Registration is limited on a first come, first served basis." – from San Antonio on Mon, Oct 12, 2015

A. It's first come, first served. But as a compound modifier, it's hyphenated: a first-come, first-served basis.

Q. I assume this follows the login, logon, logoff entry but didn't see anything specific to sign in versus sign into. In these statements below, is it "sign in to" or "sign into"? "NEED HELP SIGNING INTO YOUR ACCOUNT?" and "In order to make a reservation using your corporate rate, please sign into your account." Thanks. – from St. Louis on Mon, Oct 12, 2015

A. Using the Stylebook's login (n.), log in (v.) as a model: Need help signing in to your account?

Q. What's the style on Indigenous Peoples' Day? Possessive? No? – from Tacoma, Wash. on Sun, Oct 11, 2015

A. Indigenous Peoples Day as a descriptive rather than possessive.

Q. When referring to multiple sporting events in a series format, that share the same enumerated modifier, is it proper to write "Games 3" or "Game 3s"? – from , on Sun, Oct 11, 2015

A. While it's Game 1, Game 2, Game 3, etc., by the Stylebook's "numerals" guidance, plurals aren't covered. More likely AP would stick with that form: e.g., Game 3 of the World Series, the Stanley Cup Final and the NBA Finals.

Q. When using an acronym for the first time I spell out the words followed by ( ). For example, we are employing 50 host local nationals (HLN) on this project. There is a disagreement that it should be (HLNs) because the word appears as plural. I disagree. – from Ashburn, Va. on Fri, Oct 09, 2015

A. AP doesn't follow a term with an abbreviation in parentheses because that form is jarring to readers. Instead, an abbreviation is used in follow-up reference to the full term. Often a shorthand term suffices: We are employing 50 host local nationals for this project. These hosts will be able to provide good advice about the community.

Q. Are quotation marks needed when saying "They discussed the why and what of..."? – from san francisco, Calif. on Fri, Oct 09, 2015

A. Don't use a question mark to indicate the end of a sentence with an indirect question.

Q. What is the proper capitalization and hyphenation of Skee Ball (the game normally played in arcades and the like)? – from Warren, MI on Fri, Oct 09, 2015

A. A trademark name would be capitalized. If not, use lowercase spelling for the generic term.

Q. I would appreciate your help on proper capitalization of this sentence: She received the 2013 Women of the Year Award from Nancy Skinner%uFFFDs Assembly District Office. Thanks!!! – from Camarillo, Calif. on Fri, Oct 09, 2015

A. Yes, if that's the formal name of the award. AP would capitalize Assembly and lowercase district office.

Q. Seedpod or seed pod? – from NY, N.Y. on Fri, Oct 09, 2015

A. The dictionary entry is seedpod.

Q. Is it correct to say, "You will be then taken to the correct page." – from Ballston Spa, N.Y. on Fri, Oct 09, 2015

A. Yes, but in conversational English then often comes earlier in the word order: You will then be taken ...

Q. I know we spell out percent in sentences. Does the rule apply for percentages in parenthesis? For example, "Today, one out of every 16 teams (6%) claims to have a fully-integrated marketing strategy." – from Gainesville, Fla. on Fri, Oct 09, 2015

A. Yes, percent is spelled out in all uses. The symbol is nontransmitting.

Q. Is it okay to use the second person in a story? Example: As you walk through the neighborhood, it becomes clear that something is amiss. – from Camden, Maine on Fri, Oct 09, 2015

A. Yes, to draw the reader into the situation. One or two repetitions of you should suffice for that effect.

Q. I'd like to appeal the ruling on "pricy." Webster%uFFFDs New World College Edition (online) also has %uFFFDpricey.%uFFFD "Pricy" looks like a typo, and I believe more people use "pricey." Thanks! (ms) – from Englewood Cliffs, N.J. on Fri, Oct 09, 2015

A. Indeed, pricey is the dictionary's primary spelling for the informal adjective meaning expensive or dear. The other spelling, pricy, is listed as an alternate for pricey.

Q. Is this written correctly? %uFFFD Chinese publication, Newspaper of Organization and Personnel, featured an interview with Trendlines CEO, Todd Dollinger, regarding Israel%uFFFDs innovation ecosystem. – from , on Thu, Oct 08, 2015

A. A Chinese publication, Newspaper of Organization and Personnel, featured an interview with Trendlines CEO Todd Dollinger about Israel's innovative ecosystem.

Q. Is the name of a medical illness written in lower case? e.g. chronic venous insufficiency – from , on Thu, Oct 08, 2015

A. Generally it is. See "diseases" entry.

Q. %uFFFD Endobetix received a U.S. patent for type 2 diabetes and obesity treatment device. Should there be hyphens in the above adjectives? "type-2-diabetes-and-obesity-treatment device". – from , on Thu, Oct 08, 2015

A. No hyphens. And it's Type 2 diabetes with a capital T. See "diabetes" entry.

Q. %uFFFD Eran Feldhay, Trendlines Medical CEO, in Israeli online publication %uFFFDnrg%uFFFD, addressed the importance of startup business models maximizing the possibility of a merger, acquisition or IPO. Not sure how to present nrg. in quotations marks?It is actually never sure how to refer to online magazines/newspapers/publications – from , on Thu, Oct 08, 2015

A. Eran Feldhay, Trendlines Medical CEO, in the Israeli online publication "nrg," addressed the importance of startup business models maximizing the possibility of a merger, acquisition or IPO.

Q. Trendlines Medical won the Israeli-government incubator tender to continue operating its Western-Galilee-based incubator for the next eight years. Have I written Israeli-government incubator tender correctly? – from , on Thu, Oct 08, 2015

A. Trendlines Medical won the Israeli government incubator tender to continue operating its Western Galilee-based incubator for the next eight years.

Q. I remember my journalism teacher telling me that one always uses 'said' when attributing quotes. I can't find written guidance, and to the contrary, see AP articles using different types of attribution like 'declared' and 'remarked.' – from Menlo Park, Calif. on Thu, Oct 08, 2015

A. In news usage, said is the customary attribution. However, other verbs of attribution may be used if the word accurately describes the speaker's tone or intent.

Q. In this sentence (about riding horses in a certain number of canter strides between fences), would you use "one less stride" or "one fewer strides"? "Try doing it in one less stride by riding with a softer arm." – from Jackson, Wyo. on Thu, Oct 08, 2015

A. For this direct quote, stick with the speaker's phrasing.

Q. Sorry if this question has been asked and answered, but the AP Stylebook search engine is challenged by this common phrase. I would like to change "as well as" to "and" in the following sentence but am meeting resistance: He ate apples, grapes as well as plums. Aside from being wordy, it jars my ear, but that might just be me. Is "as well as" interchangeable with "and" in this example? – from Oak Ridge, Tenn. on Thu, Oct 08, 2015

A. The conjunction "and" is more natural in that series.

Q. Webster's hyphenates IQ's and it seems odd. I know that AP does not hyphenate a lot of plurals that Webster's does, but could not find this anywhere. What is AP style for IQ's? – from Reseach Triangle Par, N.C. on Thu, Oct 08, 2015

A. By the MULTIPLE LETTERS section of the Stylebook's "plurals" entry, use "s" without an apostrophe" IQs.

Q. I didn't see this in the television program names section, or in the Ask the Editor section. I have a story with the phrase: Sesame Street's Elmo How do I punctuate Sesame Street? As a TV title, it should have quotation marks around it. Should the last mark go after the T of Street, or after the S of the possessive? Thanks. – from Eden Prairie, Minn. on Thu, Oct 08, 2015

A. Make it Elmo of "Sesame Street," rendering the title unchanged.

Q. Should data fix be with or without a hyphen? – from Washington on Thu, Oct 08, 2015

A. It's data fix or data correction.

Q. The person in charge of audio and visual production: Audio-Visual Director, Audiovisual Director, or Audio Visual Director? – from White Lake, S.D. on Thu, Oct 08, 2015

A. Use the second spelling, audiovisual director. As a formal title, capitalize directly preceding the full name. Following the name, it's lowercase.

Q. I know from 2010 it says Skype isn't used as a verb, but now that it is 2015, I thought I'd ask. Would it be "he skypes his family or he Skypes his family"? Thanks! – from Baltimore on Thu, Oct 08, 2015

A. As noted in the Stylebook entry, Skype is now used informally as a verb for using the service, particularly when communicating on video.

Q. Any special rules for stages of cancer? Stage four cancer, Stage IV cancer or Stage 4 cancer? – from Jacksonville, Florida on Thu, Oct 08, 2015

A. Generally written with lowercase stage and a number: stage 4.

Q. Does a comma mean "and" in the title of a heading? – from JTF-PAO-GTMO, AP on Thu, Oct 08, 2015

A. In a headline, a comma may serve as a conjunction.

Q. What are the rules for separating independent clauses on the front cover of a publication (think TIME magazine'esque layout)? I'm primarily concerned with the use of punctuation. – from JTF-PAO-GTMO, AP on Thu, Oct 08, 2015

A. Normal punctuation rules generally apply. But check various magazine covers to see how such clauses may be handled in that format.

Q. If there is more than one founder, should it be Founders Day or Founders' Day or Founder's Day? – from Rosemead, Calif. on Thu, Oct 08, 2015

A. Generally the descriptive Founders Day is used.

Q. Please advise how to use commas in a series of nouns joined by the word "and." Could not find this in search the questions feature. – from Ellicott City, MD on Thu, Oct 08, 2015

A. See IN A SERIES section of the "comma" entry in the Stylebook's Punctuation Guide.

Q. A performing arts school I edit for has listed a "lecture-recital" as one of its music events and a "lecture demonstration" as one of its dance events. I want to be consistent and correct. Should there be a hyphen between "lecture" and the following word, a slash, or just a space without any symbol? Thanks. – from NJ on Thu, Oct 08, 2015

A. Hyphenate both compounds to indicate nouns of equal importance.

Q. A vs. AN When referencing the name of an aircraft, such as the P-17, do you write a or an before the aircraft type. Ex. "...was the pilot of a/an P-17 aircraft." – from Arlington, Va. on Thu, Oct 08, 2015

A. ... a P-17 aircraft ...

Q. What is the difference in using nearly, barely, almost, (etc) when speaking about numerals? Ex. "The show had nearly/almost/barely 100 exhibitors." – from Lake Zurich, Ill. on Thu, Oct 08, 2015

A. It depends on the context. Almost or nearly 100 exhibitors suggests a satisfactory turnout. Barely 100 exhibitors implies a disappointing turnout or one short of expectations.

Q. Is it info graphic or infographic (one word or two)? – from Reston, Va. on Thu, Oct 08, 2015

A. It's one word, infographic.

Q. Endobetix received a U.S. patent for its %uFFFDpancreaticobiliary diversion device%uFFFD for use in the treatment of type 2 diabetes and obesity. Would you use quotation marks as I did above to specify the device that received a patent? – from , on Thu, Oct 08, 2015

A. You could enclose it in quotes as an unusual term. A follow-up sentence should briefly explain how the device works.

Q. Globes financial newspaper listed Fidmi Medical as the startup of the week Do I put startup of the week in exclamation marks? – from , on Thu, Oct 08, 2015

A. No exclamation marks! Probably no need for quotation (") marks, either.

Q. The news magazine program, "HOT Magazine in the North", featured several of the Trendlines Medical portfolio companies How do you write the name of a TV program? – from , on Thu, Oct 08, 2015

A. The name is enclosed in quotes. See "television program titles" entry for elaboration.

Q. The Korean Agriculture Ministry invited Trendlines Agtech , one of 15 Israeli companies, to exhibit at the sixth International AgriBio Expo in Seoul, South Korea. If I have 1 and 15 in the same sentence, do I spell 1 out and write 15 in numerals? – from , on Thu, Oct 08, 2015

A. Correct. But the reference isn't clear. One of 15 Israeli companies doing what?

Q. How do you write the phrase "red herring" (meaning the first prospectus on a company's IPO)? Do you use inverted commas or just write the word in lower case without changing anything? Also, how does one write the name of an online publication, e.g. The company was featured in the September issue of Informilo Thanks! – from , Jerusalem on Thu, Oct 08, 2015

A. ... a preliminary prospectus, or red herring, was issued in advance of the IPO.

Q. Would War on Drugs be in quotations? – from Santa Cruz, Calif. on Wed, Oct 07, 2015

A. In AP stories, war on drugs is lowercase and not enclosed in quotes.

Q. I checked several entries but couldn't find an exact answer to this: Do you spell out dollar amounts at the beginning of a sentence? I have it starting a quote, and it looks odd both ways (as $15 million and spelled out as Fifteen million dollars). Which way is correct? %uFFFD$15 million is still a significant investment for us.%uFFFD – from Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. on Wed, Oct 07, 2015

A. With the exception of years - e.g., 2015 -- spell out numerals starting a sentence. Another option is to reword the sentence so that $15 million falls within the text.

Q. AP's "transgender" entry clearly recommends use of a transgender individual's preferred pronoun. Recently, the subject of a story expressed a strong preference for "they." Even though singular "they" is bad grammar, is it acceptable (or even readable) in this context? And, if so, what about verb agreement? – from Salt Lake City on Wed, Oct 07, 2015

A. In such cases, if relevant to the news, an AP story might note that the individual expressed a preference for "they" as a personal pronoun. In follow-ups, the story might then use the individual's surname to avoid grammar or preference issues.

Q. My company often uses "mini" in our marketing materials as part of a 3-word phrase. One example: "Put a mini loan officer in your wallet" (advertising for a credit card). What is AP standard when using "mini" with a 3-word phrase? (The phrase cannot be recast.) – from Costa Mesa, Calif. on Wed, Oct 07, 2015

A. The Stylebook's "mini" entry says terms formed with the prefix are generally written without a hyphen. Thus, miniloan officer

Q. Which sentence is correct? The backup system failed. In the end, the newspaper's digital inventory of 15 years of stories and 7 years of photojournalism were gone forever. The backup system failed. In the end, the newspaper's digital inventory of 15 years of stories and seven years of photojournalism were gone forever. My colleague said he thought 7 should be a numeral so it fits with the 15 otherwise it might throw off the reader. I think it should be spelled out. What does AP say? – from Columbia, Mo. on Wed, Oct 07, 2015

A. AP would spell out seven in this sentence using the under 10 guidance. Also, for correct subject-verb agreement, inventory takes the singular verb was.

Q. Is it Safe Harbor Agreement, safe harbor agreement or Safe Harbor agreement? – from New York on Wed, Oct 07, 2015

A. The generic term is safe harbor agreement, which includes such topics as digital data and wildlife conservation.

Q. ETS is the military acronym for End of Tour of Service, so would End of Tour of Service be capitalized? – from Stafford, Va. on Wed, Oct 07, 2015

A. Lowercase the full term. The abbreviation could be used in follow-ups, particularly for readers who may have experienced the glorious day.

Q. Your entry on dog sledding says to refer to Webster's two-word spelling. However, Webster's website has it as one word, dogsled. Can you update your entry accordingly? – from St. Paul, Minn. on Wed, Oct 07, 2015

A. Mushing on with dog sled, two words, the primary entry in Webster's NWCD, Fifth, the printed edition.

Q. What's the correct usage for the hyphen in this example, and why? "six to nine months prior" vs. "six-to-nine months prior" – from Rolling Meadows, Ill. on Tue, Oct 06, 2015

A. ... six to nine months prior ... Not compound modifiers so don't hyphenate.

Q. Should than be lowercase in a headline? Or uppercase? – from Rosemead, Calif. on Tue, Oct 06, 2015

A. In an AP headline, the first word and proper nouns or names are capitalized. So than is lowercase. Other headline styles capitalize main words, which could include than.

Q. Should it be mac and cheese or mac-and-cheese? Ie. The person became angry over being denied mac and cheese. His mac-and-cheese quest ended with an arrest. – from NY on Tue, Oct 06, 2015

A. It's not hyphenated in online uses, such as recipes.

Q. When listing bullet point entries, do you capitalize the second part of a hyphenated word? For example: Each course is: - Self-Paced. - Fully facilitated. - 10 hours long. In this instance, should the first entry be "Self-Paced" or "Self-paced"? Thanks. – from Buffalo, N.Y. on Tue, Oct 06, 2015

A. Lowercase paced. Also, spell out ten as the first word in the bullet point.

Q. For dosages measured in tablets, capsules, or packets, would you recommend we use numerals or spell out numbers less than 10? Examples: Take two to four tablets twice daily. Take the contents of one packet twice daily. – from Milwaukee on Tue, Oct 06, 2015

A. Spell figures under 10 in this context.

Q. Is it "finely grained sandpaper," "fine-grained sandpaper" or "fine-grain sandpaper"? The fate of thousands of do-it-yourselfers hangs in the balance! – from Chicago on Tue, Oct 06, 2015

A. In online retail ads, fine grain or, for example, 220 grit fine advanced sanding sheets.

Q. Is energy-efficient always hyphenated as in "the house was energy-efficient" and as a modifier, the "energy-efficient house?" Thanks. – from Rosemead, Calif. on Tue, Oct 06, 2015

A. Correct by the dictionary spelling of the modifier.

Q. I just started working at a military school. For the first six weeks cadets are here they are referred to as "New Boys." Once they graduate from this training they are "Old Boys" for the rest of their lives. Should we use quotations and/or capitalization? – from Salina, Kan. on Tue, Oct 06, 2015

A. The school website uses New Boy and Old Boy without quotes.

Q. When using the name of an organization that is typically named by its acronym, it feels awkward to not include "the" prior to the full name, but normal with the acronym. For example: "The National Precast Concrete Association conducted a study ..." feels awkward without "the" leading the sentence. "NPCA conducted a study ..." feels right without "the." Which use is correct? – from Carmel, Ind. on Tue, Oct 06, 2015

A. NPCA is an abbreviation, rather than an acronym, which is a word formed from the first letters of the term. Use an article with the full name or the abbreviation in most instances.

Q. How does AP write the following in a singular reference: headquarter or headquarters? – from Atlanta on Tue, Oct 06, 2015

A. The Stylebook spelling of the noun is headquarters for both singular and plural uses.

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