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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 you say a congregation who or should it be a congregation that? Thanks for responding. – from LAKE MARY, Fla. on Fri, Mar 27, 2015

A. A congregation that ...

Q. Is it appropriate to put a comma after the word preceding the word "by"? For example, "The leaders facilitated discussion, by partnering with local government officials in advance." Someone uses this very frequently in their writing, but it seems inappropriate to me. – from Chicago on Fri, Mar 27, 2015

A. No comma after by in that sentence.

Q. When referring to a job promotion, would you say, "....has been promoted to xx from xx" or "from xx to xx"? – from Chicago on Fri, Mar 27, 2015

A. Often the new development is placed first in such sentences: ... has been promoted to xxx ... from xxx.

Q. When you include a question in quotes within the middle of a sentence, do you capitalize the first word? Example sentence (should the "S" in So be capitalized?): When someone asks, "So what does your company do?" you want to be able to have a clear, consistent response and make a good impression. – from Radnor, Pa. on Fri, Mar 27, 2015

A. Correct. And make the response a separate sentence: You want to be able ...

Q. When a transgender person prefers the pronouns they/them, should editors use singular or plural conjugations? Example: Smith, who uses the pronouns they and them, says some strangers assume they (is/are?) a teenage boy, others that Smith is female. – from Boston on Wed, Mar 25, 2015

A. Try rephrasing. Smith, who uses the pronouns they and them, says some strangers assume they means (or refers to) a teenage boy, others that Smith is female.

Q. Is there a AP preference between the use of "cellphone" and "mobile phone"? If so, under what circumstances? – from Los Angeles on Wed, Mar 25, 2015

A. No stated preference, though cellphone has become the commonly used term.

Q. In using consecutive years, which usage is correct, 2014-15 or 2014-'15? – from , San Antonio, Texas on Wed, Mar 25, 2015

A. The first.

Q. Wanted to outpoint possible conflicting information. I was trying to figure out whether we need to hyphenate %uFFFDridesharing%uFFFD when describing Uber, Lyft, etc. One entry says to use one word, but then the other entry says not to use the wording at all -- and that similar descriptions should be hyphenated. What%uFFFDs the correct style? Thanks much! Erin, CER Ask the Editor results: Q. Do you write "ridesharing program" or "ride-sharing program"? Thom, Oklahoma City A. Different localities use one or the other spelling, based on AP stories. The trend seems to be to the one-word compound ridesharing. Q. What is current AP style for ride-sharing, car-sharing and bike-sharing programs? The following story uses both "ridesharing" and "ride-hailing" to describe Lyft: lyft-cheated-new-drivers-out-1000-bonuses My understanding is that car sharing (hyphenated as a modifier) is correct, so I would style ride sharing and bike sharing in the same way. But the following Ask the Editor reply implies that "ridesharing" is trending: What is current AP style, two words or one? A. Ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft let people use smartphone apps to book and pay for a private car service or in some cases, a taxi. They may also be called ride-booking services. Do not use ride-sharing. – from Chicago on Wed, Mar 25, 2015

A. The Stylebook's "Uber" entry hyphenates ride-sharing, ride-booking and ride-hailing. However, some localities have used the one-word spelling for ridesharing.

Q. It's OK to say this: ... someone who's been there before Instead of: ... someone who has been there before – from Encinitas, Calif. on Wed, Mar 25, 2015

A. Yes, the contraction who's can mean who is or who has. Also, see the Stylebook's "contraction" entry for guidance.

Q. How do I make U.S. possessive? – from Washington on Wed, Mar 25, 2015

A. Write out United States' ... or use the abbreviation U.S. as a descriptive rather than possessive: the U.S. team.

Q. Subcommittee on Surface Transportation is not the full name of the panel. Should initial letters of Subcommittee on Surface Transportation be lower-cased? – from Arlington, Va. on Wed, Mar 25, 2015

A. Lowercase spelling looks right for the shortened name. See the "subcommittee" entry for elaboration.

Q. Does early onset dementia need a hyphen? – from Chicago on Wed, Mar 25, 2015

A. No hyphen in that term.

Q. I've seen the entry for FORMER as in "former President Bill Clinton." But is the use of the word "then" also appropriate, for example when referring to an action a former official took while in office. "In 2013, then Mayor Jane Doe issued an executive order." I'm worried that using the word "former" suggests that Jane Doe was not the mayor when that happened, but leaving out "former" or "then" may seem to some people that Jane Doe is still the mayor. – from Seattle on Wed, Mar 25, 2015

A. In 2013, then-Mayor Jane Doe issued an executive order. Or: In 2013, Jan Doe, then the mayor, issued an executive order.

Q. In a sentence with a parallel list, is it okay to imply parts of a phrase after the first phrase in the list? For example, is the following correct: "California will have 1,234 fewer dentists than are needed, Florida 1,152 fewer and New York 1,024." – from Washington on Wed, Mar 25, 2015

A. Yes, but better to write ... and New York 1,024 fewer.

Q. What would AP do with the section of the Appalachian Trail called the Hundred-Mile Wilderness? – from Farmington, Maine on Wed, Mar 25, 2015

A. As a formally named area on the trail, the Hundred-Mile Wilderness.

Q. A quick check of the government website,, indicates the correct name of the federal student loan for undergraduates and graduates is Direct PLUS Loan. When referencing this loan, please clarify whether it's correct to lowercase the "f" in "federal" in a sentence like this: "ABC Bank's DEF Loan offers a better rate than the federal Direct PLUS Loan." Your response is very much appreciated. – from Bridgeport, Conn. on Wed, Mar 25, 2015

A. It's correct to lowercase federal when used as an adjective to distinguish something from state or other program. See "federal" entry for details.

Q. I was searching for the word, "Teamwork," and read the following entry in the "Ask the Editor" section: Ask the Editor results: Q. Which is correct? Team work, Teamwork or team-work? from St. Peters, Mo. on Apr 09, 2012 A. It's one work, teamwork. Did you mean to say "It's one word, teamwork."? Sorry, I just thought I should ask. – from Naperville, Ill. on Wed, Mar 25, 2015

A. Yes, it should be one word, not one work.

Q. Is the adjective form for duty free hyphenated? Ex: Duty-free chain Thank you – from Virginia, XX on Tue, Mar 24, 2015

A. Yes, hyphenate the adjective duty-free.

Q. Would you say "the countries with the highest pace of life" or "the countries with the highest paces of life"? And what about "cost of living" vs. "costs of living"? – from Tokyo on Tue, Mar 24, 2015

A. ... countries with the fastest pace of life ... countries with the highest cost of living.

Q. Should foreign currencies in similar constructions as the following one be hyphenated? A 10-billion-yen plan to ... Or should it be -- a 10 billion yen plan Thank you – from Virginia, XX on Tue, Mar 24, 2015

A. ... a 10 billion-yen plan.

Q. I've seen AP use antiretrovirals and antimalarial drugs, but then anti-epileptic drugs. Which are correct please? – from Bethesda, MD on Tue, Mar 24, 2015

A. AP medical writers don't hyphenate antiretroviral, using the Webster's dictionary spelling. Using the Stylebook's "anti-" guidance, hyphenate anti-malarial and anti-epileptic.

Q. Is it Lunar New Year or Chinese New Year? – from Baton Rouge, La. on Tue, Mar 24, 2015

A. Both capitalized spellings are used.

Q. Handpainted figurine or hand-painted figurine? Thanks! – from Las Vegas on Tue, Mar 24, 2015

A. AP stories prefer the hyphenated spelling.

Q. I cannot find an entry for the proper use of the noun for businesses organized under sub-chapter S of the IRS code. Is it S corporation or S-corporation? – from Trenton, N.J. on Tue, Mar 24, 2015

A. A recent AP story from Washington used S-corporation.

Q. Is it correct to use "individuals" in this sentence, or should the word "people" be used: Skills training will be provided to individuals caring for older adults in the home. – from Little Rock, Ark. on Tue, Mar 24, 2015

A. Either works or perhaps caregivers.

Q. When preparing a report, if you have included as part of the report header "Report Prepared For: Mr. Smith, Homeowner," do you need to qualify Mr. Smith as the homeowner the first time he is referenced in the body of the report? – from thornton, Pa. on Tue, Mar 24, 2015

A. Yes, and this suggested rephrasing of header: Report prepared for Mr. Smith, homeowner

Q. Should the term "assets under management" be capitalized? – on Tue, Mar 24, 2015

A. An AP story wouldn't capitalize this description.

Q. Is it correction officer, corrections officer, or correctional officer? – from Johnson City, N.Y. on Tue, Mar 24, 2015

A. Various governmental websites use correctional officer, corrections officer and correction officer. Use the spelling that prevails in a specific jurisdiction.

Q. Does the title "Federal Reserve governor" take the abbreviation "Gov." before an individual's full name on first reference? – from Charlotte, N.C. on Mon, Mar 23, 2015

A. See this link for the titles:

Q. Can you please settle this? Should we write "University of California, Los Angeles," (or Berkeley, or Irvine) or "University of California at Los Angeles?" Part of my question also is about the comma AFTER the city, if the rule is to just use the city without at. – from Eugene, Oregon on Mon, Mar 23, 2015

A. Generally written University of California, Berkeley without a comma after the city unless followed by a subordinate clause or phrase: The University of California, Berkeley is a member of the Pacific-12 Conference. The University of California, Berkley, which belongs to the Pacific-12 Conference, ...

Q. Is it "requester" or "requestor"? Your answer of "correct" to a 2011 question asking "Should requester/requestor be -er just like adviser/advisor?" makes no sense. I tried a word ending pattern (e.g., -st), but I can make both "protester" and "investor." I work for a government agency using plenty of legal language, so I'd like the answer to be firmly one spelling or the other. – from Pittsburgh on Mon, Mar 23, 2015

A. Is this clearer? Requester, which is the first spelling in Webster's New World College Dictionary, the Stylebook's main reference.

Q. Do academic and policy journals need to be italicized, left alone or need quotes around them? – from HARRISONBURG, Va. on Mon, Mar 23, 2015

A. AP news stories don't enclose the titles of academic and policy journals in quotes. No italics in news stories, though other publications may italicize titles in their own style.

Q. Marsala is a capitalized when it comes to wine. Does that mean it's also capitalized when used in a dish like chicken Marsala? I didn't see a reference in the Food Guide. Thanks! – from Chicago on Mon, Mar 23, 2015

A. Marsala is capitalized as the proper name of the Sicilian seaport associated with those culinary specialties.

Q. As a noun, sneak peek or sneak-peek? Thanks! – from Dallas on Mon, Mar 23, 2015

A. Generally spelled without a hyphen.

Q. While I would use "put the device in the palm of their hand," others are leaning toward one of the phrases below. Which is correct if we use the plural (hands)? Put the device in the palm of their hands. Put the device in palms of their hands. – from Albany, N.Y. on Mon, Mar 23, 2015

A. In the sense of sharing one device: Put the device in the palm of their hands.

Q. I sense some inconsistency on the name of the president of Afghanistan. The listing uses Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai but the most recent response to a question about use of his name lists only Ashraf Ghani. – from Tacoma, Wash. on Sun, Mar 22, 2015

A. His preference recently expressed to AP is Ashraf Ghani, without Ahmadzai. We're updating the online Stylebook pronouncer entry.

Q. Should official player of the year winners be capitalized? Ex: He was named Big Ten Player of the Year. – from East Lansing, MI on Sun, Mar 22, 2015

A. AP stories capitalize recognized awards like Big Ten Player of the Year.

Q. In the phrase "bright green, piercing eyes," would there be a hyphen between "bright" and "green" because they are used as a single adjective? – from Portland, Ore. on Sun, Mar 22, 2015

A. No comma after bright.

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