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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. Is it okay to use "our" or "ourselves"? For example: They are on a quest for knowledge about our universe. – from Washington on Mon, Oct 20, 2014

A. ... a quest for knowledge about our universe. Or, ... a quest for knowledge about ourselves.

Q. Would you need a comma when introducing a composition. Ex: Lane is the author of the book, "The Digital Divide." Shea presented a paper, "The Digital Divide," at the conference. – from , New Brunswick, N.J. on Mon, Oct 20, 2014

A. In the first sentence, the book title is essential information. Don't set it off with a comma. In the second sentence, the nonessential title of the paper is correctly set off with commas.

Q. Is it correct to say, "200 employees attended the town hall featuring the CEO"? Or is "town hall" used only as an adjective ("... attended the town hall meeting ...")? Thank you. – from Houston on Mon, Oct 20, 2014

A. The town hall meeting is more precise. If you start the sentence with the attendance figure, it should be spelled out: Two hundred employees ...

Q. We're having a discussion about whether this subject is singular or plural: Sense of taste and smell improve or improves? – from Orlando, Fla. on Mon, Oct 20, 2014

A. Better to use plural subject and verb: Senses of taste and smell improve ...

Q. Hello, I have a question and would like to know if someone can call me at 502.580.2990. Thanks. Best, Alex Kepnes – from Louisville, Ky. on Mon, Oct 20, 2014

A. Is it a style question or technical issue? If something else, please be more specific here.

Q. Are trademark symbols used in publications? Ex: Microsoft Word – from White Lake, S.D. on Mon, Oct 20, 2014

A. See the "trademark" entry for an explanation.

Q. What is the proper AP format for The ITU World Triathlon Series. I noticed many refer to it as ITU. What is the correct usage? – from Fort Lauderdale , Fla. on Sun, Oct 19, 2014

A. AP stories use ITU World Triathlon Series on first reference. International Triathlon Union should be spelled out lower in the story.

Q. Do you say Third-place podium result for triathlon results? – from Fort Lauderdale , Fla. on Sun, Oct 19, 2014

A. Placed third or finished third suffices.

Q. In a situation where a law enforcement agency is attempting to require that the officers involved in an arrest never be named %uFFFD not in a specific incident, but in all incidents involving the agency - would you agree and just cite, for example, a probable cause statement to the agency? Or would you insist on including the arresting officer's name who wrote and filed the probable cause statement? – from St. George, Utah on Sat, Oct 18, 2014

A. When relevant to the case, the arresting officer's name should be included in a news story.

Q. Would it be correct to say "fill in first and last name" or "fill in first and last names"? – from Kissimmee, Fla. on Fri, Oct 17, 2014

A. Second is probably a little clearer. To be more precise, fill in first name and last name.

Q. When issuing financial releases specifying a stock traded on the NYSE, is it preferred to list this as "(NYSE:ABC)" or with a space after the colon "(NYSE: ABC)"? – from Houston, Texas on Fri, Oct 17, 2014

A. AP business news stories generally spell out the company name on first reference. If the company's stock abbreviation is used, it doesn't follow NYSE: and isn't enclosed in parentheses.

Q. Would you capitalize Class II and Class III when describing the types of electronic games found in Native American casinos? – from , on Fri, Oct 17, 2014

A. Yes. AP stories capitalize the class designation of a casino.

Q. Should "Notable Books" be capitalized when mentioning that several of an author's books have appeared on various editions of the New York Times' annual lists of notable books? There are also other "Notable Books" lists. When should we capitalize those common words and when should we not? – from Towson, MD on Thu, Oct 16, 2014

A. Unless citing the full name of the list, it's sufficient to use the description as you have it, with notable books spelled lowercase.

Q. "The baby is three/3 weeks old." Which is it, three or 3? – from Gary, Indiana on Thu, Oct 16, 2014

A. Use figures for ages: The baby is 3 weeks old.

Q. My editor-in-chief told me that when using the word "however" in a sentence, it is semi-colon, "however", comma. Example: The worst flaw; however, is not found in the style of the writing or in the unlikeable citizens of Oz. Is this true? Also, is it okay to use "however" at the beginning of a sentence? – from Albuquerque, N.M. on Thu, Oct 16, 2014

A. In your sentence, however is set off with commas. The worst flaw, however, is not found, ... When however is used as a conjunctive adverb, its clause is either a separate sentence (as in your example) or follows a semicolon.

Q. What is AP's view on company names, specifically can you say, "Business Name Co. Inc."? Can both "Co." and "Inc." be part of a name? – from Fort Wayne, Ind. on Thu, Oct 16, 2014

A. AP stories use either Co. or Inc., depending on the preference of the business.

Q. Is it correct to say "5 feet 5 to 5 feet 7 inches tall" or "5 feet 5 inches to 5 feet 7 inches tall" to show range in descriptions of height? – from San Francisco on Thu, Oct 16, 2014

A. Using models in the "dimensions" entry, 5 feet 5 inches to 5 feet 7 inches tall.

Q. Would you capitalize "retina" when it is being used in reference to the retina display on tablets, smartphones and computers? – from Santa Ana, California on Thu, Oct 16, 2014

A. Yes, AP stories capitalize Retina in describing those products.

Q. How should capitalization be used in quotes with quotes? The examples given in the AP Stylebook include the letter "I" so it's tough to tell: She said, "I quote from his letter, 'I agree with Kipling that%uFFFD. When introducing a quotation within another quotation, should that first letter after the single marks be capitalized? For example, in this sentence should "we're" be capped? We looked at each other in surprise and said, %uFFFDwe%uFFFDre moving.%uFFFD%uFFFD And in this example, should "location" be capped: %uFFFDWhen you talk about real estate, people always mention %uFFFDlocation, location, location%uFFFD and this area had that.%uFFFD – from Simi Valley, Calif. on Thu, Oct 16, 2014

A. Capitalize and the first word of a quote within a quote if it's a separate sentence, even a short one as in your example. Otherwise, lowercase expressions or phrases like "... 'location, location, location' and this ..."

Q. Do you hyphenate Korean-American? – from Rosemead, Calif. on Thu, Oct 16, 2014

A. Correct.

Q. Are the terms gay marriage and same sex marriage interchangeable? Is one more correct than the other? – from Winston-Salem, N.C. on Thu, Oct 16, 2014

A. AP stories often use the terms interchangeably. Gay marriage may be used more frequently on first reference and same-sex marriage on follow-ups. Usage also reflects the word choice of the person or group being quoted.

Q. Is there currently any consensus on citation of car specs? I.E. Horsepower, HP, hp? Torque, lb-ft, foot-pounds, etc.? – from St. Petersburg, Fla. on Thu, Oct 16, 2014

A. AP stories spell out horsepower, torque, foot-pounds, etc. A few car specs are abbreviated, including mpg and mph.

Q. Would you put a comma after information in this sentence? For more information call the library at 386-555-1212. – from Port Orange, Fla. on Thu, Oct 16, 2014

A. Reads fine without a comma.

Q. Should you say "after one-and-a half years or 1 1/2 years?" – from new orleans, La. on Thu, Oct 16, 2014

A. The figures are preferred for mixed numbers.

Q. How would you recommend capitalizing 'Platinum Anniversary,' the occasion that marks a couple's 20 years of marriage? – from Portland, Ore. on Thu, Oct 16, 2014

A. Lowercase platinum anniversary, golden anniversary, etc.

Q. is binge watching hyphenated? – from Chicago, Illinois on Thu, Oct 16, 2014

A. Often hyphenated in AP stories.

Q. Is "third quarter" preferred over "3rd quarter"? – from Johnstown, Pa. on Thu, Oct 16, 2014

A. Yes, third quarter within a news story. Headlines use the abbreviation 3Q.

Q. Licenses and capitalization. Should it be: Licensed real estate broker John Doe, licensed real estate associate broker Agnes Smith and licensed real estate salesperson Jane Jones went to ...? Or should it be: Licensed Real Estate Broker John Doe, Licensed Real Estate Associate Broker Agnes Smith and Licensed Real Estate Salesperson Jane Jones went to ...? Initial caps for the license name? On the NY State Department of Licensing website, they use lowercase in the regulations. The individuals in the example above want the licenses written with initial caps, I'm arguing that's wrong. Who's right? – from Scarsdale, N.Y. on Wed, Oct 15, 2014

A. AP stories lowercase this job description. See the Stylebook's "Realtor" entry for an exception.

Q. Does AP use true freshman when referring to a first-year college student-athlete? – from Fort Wayne, Ind. on Wed, Oct 15, 2014

A. Yes, frequently in college football stories.

Q. Is a comma or exclamation point most appropriate after the word congratulations? i.e. Which of the following is correct? "Congratulations! You've passed the test." OR "Congratulations, you've passed the test!" – from Lanham, MD on Wed, Oct 15, 2014

A. I'd favor the first using the exclamation point for an emphatic word.

Q. Since cesarean section is now lowercase, will c-section become lowercase? It's still listed with a cap C. – from Lakeland, Fla. on Wed, Oct 15, 2014

A. The Stylebook spelling duplicates dictionary entries that capitalize the hyphenated first letter: C-section.

Q. community at large Would this be with or without hyphens? – from Houston on Wed, Oct 15, 2014

A. No hyphen with community at large.

Q. Is this sentence acceptable? "The event is slated for Friday, October 31, 6:30-9:30 p.m." I'm particularly wondering if I've used too many commas. – from Mesquite, Texas on Wed, Oct 15, 2014

A. Yes, but AP would abbreviate Oct. with a date.

Q. How would AP treat the term Red Menace? Capped? Quotes? – from Farmington, Maine on Wed, Oct 15, 2014

A. AP stories have capitalized Red Menace as a popular name for the period of the 20th century when the U.S. and Soviet Union were at loggerheads.

Q. Dear Editor, In medical literature, NICU nurses and neonatal intensive care units are named Level I, II III or IV. How should I refer to Level III NICU nurse in an article? Some opinions differ, but I think the Roman numerals should be used as they are designations assigned by that industry--the guide does advise that Roman numerals can be used sparingly. Also, it is described in the article heading as "Level 3 NICU Nurse." Please advise in both cases. Many thanks. – from Union , N.J. on Wed, Oct 15, 2014

A. AP stories spell out neonatal intensive care unit on first reference, including with nurse. It's NICU thereafter, along with level 2, level 3, etc.

Q. Hi. There's a dispute at work as to whether it should be "Mayo Clinic" or "the Mayo Clinic," as the company refers to itself as simply "Mayo Clinic." The former seems intuitively incorrect, however. Which is correct? – from Chulmleigh, XX on Wed, Oct 15, 2014

A. In AP stories, the name is written with or without the article, depending on the phrasing.

Q. This copy popped up in something I'm working on. Our rebate programs offer industry-specific solutions that help make energy efficiency affordable for all types of businesses. The results? Lower electric bills and a quick return on investment. Should it be "The result?", or is this correct, as two separate things follow in response? Does it matter that one of the items that follows is plural while the other is singular? I appreciate any help you can provide. – from Phoenix on Tue, Oct 14, 2014

A. It's fine as written with the plural results.

Q. Are commas necessary both before and after "including" and after "to" in the following sentence? We reserve the right to display our merchandise, including, but not limited to, books, toys, records and cards. – from Dallas on Tue, Oct 14, 2014

A. Comma before including to introduce the partial list of merchandise on display. It's understood that other items may be shown, so "but not limited to" isn't needed.

Q. Which is correct: If you are not sure who to ask or If you are not sure whom to ask – from , Norfolk, Va. on Tue, Oct 14, 2014

A. As the object, whom is correct.

Q. When is a hyphen required for use of in person? For example: Voting in person vs. in person voting. – from Los Angeles on Tue, Oct 14, 2014

A. In AP stories, it's voting in person, in-person voting.

Q. Sentence in question: In fact, a June 2013 article, titled %uFFFDWho Will Challenge Scott Walker in 2014?%uFFFD noted that Wisconsin Democrats appeared to be struggling to find someone willing to run against Scott Walker. AP, I know the question mark (part of the article title) falls inside the quotation marks. Where would the comma be placed after the article title? – from Madison, Wis. on Tue, Oct 14, 2014

A. The question mark supersedes a second comma in the title.

Q. Should a female band leader be referred to as a frontwoman or frontman? – from Lakeland, Fla. on Tue, Oct 14, 2014

A. AP stories use frontwoman for the female leader of a band.

Q. For stories such as car accidents the mention the vehicle name, such as a Toyota 4Runner, should the make or model be used on second reference? – from San Francisco on Tue, Oct 14, 2014

A. Use SUV on further reference, or other descriptive like sedan or coupe or pickup, as the case may be.

Q. Is this the correct style on phone numbers from agencies that include letters in them? Example: 800-TELL-CHP (835-5249) – from San Francisco on Tue, Oct 14, 2014

A. The format is fine, though good to include 800 in the second version in parentheses.

Q. We write centered on do we also write based on or is it OK to use based around? – from Orysia, New York City, N.Y. on Tue, Oct 14, 2014

A. Based on is far more common in AP stories. Based around is sometimes used in fashion and other contexts.

Q. AP doesn't use punctuation in company names (i.e., Yahoo). But what about other names, such as the band that spells its name "fun."? As in " was co-written with fun.'s Jack Antonoff." Does AP advise writing that as "....Fun's Jack Antonoff." – from Madison, Wis. on Tue, Oct 14, 2014

A. A fairly recent AP story put it this way: Jack Antonoff is spinning off from his chart-topping band fun., but he's recruited some big-time backup ...

Q. Is independently owned hyphenated? – from New York on Tue, Oct 14, 2014

A. No hyphen with the adverb, per the Stylebook's "-ly" entry.

Q. Hyphen or no hyphen with "as-is?" "Items at the event will be sold as-is." – from Crystal Lake, Ill. on Tue, Oct 14, 2014

A. Dictionaries don't hyphen as is when referring to objects in that condition.

Q. Throughline or through-line? – from Chicago on Tue, Oct 14, 2014

A. I've seen that compound used once in an AP story: Walters has served as a journalistic throughline for her viewers ...

Q. I have established an acronym, EHS, which is familiar to the audience for whom -- or should that be "which"? -- I'm writing. Now I need to use it in plural form. Should it be EHSs or EHS's? Thanks! – from Houston on Tue, Oct 14, 2014

A. That's an abbreviation, not an acronym. The plural would be clearer using a second word, EHS forms or EHS devices or whatever it stands for.

Q. How do you pluralize an IRS form? My example is Form 941 -- so, Forms 941 or Form 941s? Both look ick to me. – from Mount Pleasant, S.C. on Tue, Oct 14, 2014

A. Use 941 forms for plural.

Q. Should I keep or delete the quotation marks in the following sentence: Aaron Copland has been called the %uFFFDdean of American Composers.%uFFFD The writer didn't attribute the quote to anyone. – from Millburn, N.J. on Mon, Oct 13, 2014

A. Obits or profiles available online refer to Copeland as the "dean of American music" or the "dean of American composers." While it's no doubt accurate, better to include a solid attribution if you use the quoted description.

Q. When I search for 'crowdfunding,' I come across this: "UPDATE Nov. 1, 2013: AP Stylebook will soon add crowdfunding, one word, in line with common usage. Previously, I advised that the term is usually two words in AP stories." My colleague insists that we continue to use two words, crowd funding, until you actually update. Have you? Please advise, thanks. – from Boston on Mon, Oct 13, 2014

A. While not in the AP Stylebook, crowdfunding is generally used in AP stories, in line with the Stylebook's "crowdsourcing" entry.

Q. Is it barrow ditch or borrow ditch? In my research it seems like both are acceptable; wondering if AP has a rule. Thanks, Randy Bangert – from Greeley, Colo. on Mon, Oct 13, 2014

A. The one usage I found in the AP archive concerned a car in Wyoming that rolled in a barrow ditch.

Q. We were having an AP argument over the use of phrases like "140 characters of less" and "50 words or less." The only way I could reconcile the use of "less" was that they are being interpreted as an amount instead individual characters or words. Yes, we should probably get a life outside of grammar. – from Boise, Idaho on Mon, Oct 13, 2014

A. There are a number of common usage exceptions to the general guidance to use fewer for individual items and less for mass items or amounts. The two expressions you cite are among the exceptions.

Q. In the following list of where a company operates, would Singapore,Singapore correct? Bangalore, India Singapore, Singapore Hong Kong, China Beijing, China Paris, France – from Charlotte, N.C. on Mon, Oct 13, 2014

A. Singapore is among the cities that stand alone in story datelines and within texts if no confusion would result. Your list includes three other such citie: Singapore, Bangalore, India, Hong Kong, Beijing and Paris.

Q. Recent questions about smart something or other, say smartphone, smartwatch, but this question from 2012 says smart home. Does that still hold true? Q. smart home or smarthome for homes that are automated by remote control? from Chicago on Feb 22, 2012 A. Two words as spelled in a few AP stories, smart home. And the what about smart car or smartcar? – from New Jersey on Mon, Oct 13, 2014

A. Yes, two words for smart home and smart car in AP stories.

Q. Why are we capitalizing ebola? – from Quincy, MA on Mon, Oct 13, 2014

A. The disease is associated with a geographical name, Ebola River.

Q. I can't find any reference to this question anywhere in the Stylebook. When referring to a newspaper column, does it need quotes? For example, I have been writing "name of column" for six years. – from Shelbyville, Ind. on Mon, Oct 13, 2014

A. The newspaper column itself wouldn't be in quotes. But a reference to column name would be enclosed in quotes as in your example

Q. The play opened to standing-room-only crowds. Is the previous sentence punctuated correctly? – from Erie, Pa. on Mon, Oct 13, 2014

A. Make it standing room-only crowds, one hyphen in the modifier usage.

Q. When one is inducted into a hall of fame, should they be styled as "inductees to" or "inductees of" such-and-such hall of fame? – from North Little Rock, Ark. on Mon, Oct 13, 2014

A. Use the verb form: inducted into the hall of fame. Thereafter, the inductees suffices. Alternately, the new members of the hall of fame.

Q. I've seen some varying usage of "crude by rail"/"crude-by-rail." Is it appropriate to format this in the standard, hyphenate-when-used-as-a-modifier treatment? Examples: "Federal crude-by-rail regulations ..."; "The company is transporting crude by rail ..." – from Houston, Texas on Mon, Oct 13, 2014

A. AP stories hyphenate the term as a modifier. Standing alone it's crude by rail.

Q. When deciding whether to use the serial comma, how do you define "complex" in a series of complex phrases? – from New York on Mon, Oct 13, 2014

A. See the example in the "commas" entry illustrating complex phrasing.

Q. Is there a colon following cc at the bottom of a letter? – from Lincoln, Neb. on Mon, Oct 13, 2014

A. Correct.

Q. How do I punctuate a quote: "We experienced a three to four day delay due to rain." three- to four-day, 3-4, three-to-four day %uFFFD? – from Holmes Beach, Fla. on Mon, Oct 13, 2014

A. ... a three- to four-day delay ...

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