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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 (spelled out) six-week-old tree or (numeral) 6-week-old tree? Thanks. – from Rosemead, Calif. on Wed, Nov 25, 2015

A. Use a numeral in that phrasing: 6-week-old.

Q. In the phrase "Old Masters paintings" (or "Old Masters "), how should "Old Masters" be treated? Should it be capped or lowercased? Should it retain the noun-form plural or revert to the standard adjectival style ("Old Master paintings")? And if it retains the "s," should that "s" be followed by an apostrophe? %uFFFD I am seeing every variation possible in credible, edited materials. (I see the one query here, from 2013, with respect to the cap. No reference to the other two matters.) – from Redwood City, Calif. on Wed, Nov 25, 2015

A. Deferring to the dictionary's lowercase spelling: old master. The term applies to a distinguished painter or a work of the period from 1500 to 1700.

Q. How should a list of women, some of whom use maiden and married last names, be alphabetized. For example, should Jane Smith Jones fall under 'S' or 'J'? – from Chicago on Wed, Nov 25, 2015

A. Alphabetize by the first of the two surnames.

Q. When quoting lines of poetry, such as "If we're not willing to do what he's doing / with one another..." should there be a space before and after the slash than indicates a line break? – from Montgomeroy, Ala. on Wed, Nov 25, 2015

A. Usually in AP stories, there's one space after the slash indicating a line break in a poem or song lyric.

Q. Dear Mr. Minthorn, I notice in the news relative to politicians who are fact-checked to be telling untruths, falsehoods, hoaxes, and fabrications that the term "lying" is never used. Why is this? Is the term "lying" never to be used in the AP Stylebook? Best Regards, Craig Smith Arlington, TX – from Arlington, Texas on Wed, Nov 25, 2015

A. The term is used quite frequently in news reports with attribution or direct reference to a legal ruling or allegation. One example in an AP headline: Leading NY lawmaker found guilty of lying to FBI

Q. Crumb rubber turf or crumb-rubber turf? – from St. Paul, Minn. on Wed, Nov 25, 2015

A. A quick check online doesn't show the hyphenated spelling.

Q. On second reference, the Sterling Heights Nature Center would be the nature center, right? Not the Nature Center. Same for the Troy Family Aquatic Center? Second reference would be the aquatic center? Shelby Township Senior Center would be the senior center? Just trying to find verification that these do not follow the rule of city hall, but I wasn't sure where to look. – from Warren, MI on Wed, Nov 25, 2015

A. Correct, or the center alone on second reference.

Q. Is the capitalization and punctuation correct in the following sentence: An assistant professor of biology and his team are looking to answer fundamental questions: How do creatures coexist and thrive in colonies numbering in the tens of millions?; What are the mechanisms that underlie the coordination of these large animal groups?; and How does %uFFFDintelligent%uFFFD group behavior emerge as information is exchanged and transformed during interactions among members of the group? – from New York on Wed, Nov 25, 2015

A. The questions are separate sentences without semicolons after the first two question marks. Start the last question with a capital A, setting off the conjunction: And, how does "intelligent" group behavior ...

Q. Mother of two, or mother-of-two, as in: "The mother of two is just happy the ordeal is over." – from Tokyo on Wed, Nov 25, 2015

A. No hyphens in the mother of two.

Q. Please explain where the hyphens be placed in this text: "in the low to mid single digits." – from St. Petersburg, Fla. on Tue, Nov 24, 2015

A. As you have it, without hyphens.

Q. What is the proper usage of #blacklivesmatter in a paragraph? Should we employ the hashtagged format, or encapsulated in quotes ("Black Lives Matter") or? – from Bellevue, Wash. on Tue, Nov 24, 2015

A. AP stories refer to the Black Lives Matter movement or group. The hashtag format is also used if part of the story. For example, a restaurant worker came under criticism for writing #blacklivesmatter on a policeman's coffee cup.

Q. Hopefully you can clear up a question about the use of Old World as an adjective. Websters says that Old World is capped when it refers to European culture. But then when used as an adjective, it's lower-case and hyphenated. So, for example, would it be "old-world charm" or "old-world elegance," or "Old World charm/elegance"? – from Phoenix on Tue, Nov 24, 2015

A. By the dictionary's adjective entry, old-world charm, old-world elegance.

Q. To comma or not to comma? How would you punctuate this sentence? We several major feature stories in the works, from the latest in flex design strategies, to LaGuardia%uFFFDs revamp, to the increase in construction of luxury airport hotels. -OR- ARN has several major feature stories in the works, from the latest in flex design strategies to LaGuardia%uFFFDs revamp to the increase in construction of luxury airport hotels. – from Boca Raton, Fla. on Tue, Nov 24, 2015

A. Because "from ... to" usually indicates a finite range, try alternative phrasing with a conjunction: ... in the works, from the latest in flex design strategies to LaGuardia's revamp and the increase in construction of luxury airport hotels.

Q. First come, first served basis or first-come, first-served basis? – on Tue, Nov 24, 2015

A. It's first-come, first-served basis.

Q. I am looking for help with the AP guide as a whole -- I can never seem to put my finger on precisely what I am looking for. Current example: Where is your rule on the spacing between a numeral and an unit of measure abbreviation? When looking for information on 1) capitalization of, and 2) spacing between "127 KB" I found only a comment to someone else's question -- I did not find the section in the guide that explains the general rule. (That comment said only "The explanation is AP usage" without linking back to the actual usage page which would help train people on how to find answers themselves.) Please help me understand where to this answer within the Stylebook itself. Thanks! – from Elkton, MD on Tue, Nov 24, 2015

A. See the "byte" entry for examples of how such measurements are used on first reference in AP stories: e.g., 1,024 bytes, 1,000 kilobytes, 1,000 gigabytes. The entry also lists the abbreviations, though without examples. The practice -- meaning AP story usage -- has been to combine the figure and abbreviation without a space: 4KB, 1,000GB, etc. I'll look to getting such examples added to this entry.

Q. Would you provide the AP guide to bullet lists? (capitalization, commas, periods). Thank you! – from Parker, Pa. on Tue, Nov 24, 2015

A. The closest we come is the IN LISTS section of the "dash" entry.

Q. In a press release should professional liability insurance be capitalized when used in this context: Protx Risk Management LLC, a managing general agency ("MGA") that underwrites professional liability insurance for community banks – from Denver on Mon, Nov 23, 2015

A. No, it's lowercase. Also, AP doesn't follow a description with an abbreviation in parentheses because it's jarring to readers.

Q. How do I use a number in this context: "This is the 22nd DreamCourt basketball court that has been openened..." or "This is the twenty-second DreamCourt..." – from Dallas on Mon, Nov 23, 2015

A. The first is correct. Use figures for ordinal numbers 10th and above.

Q. Apologies if I'm overlooking this in the archives. When describing an approximate time, is the word "at" used? As in, "The crash happened at around 7 p.m." or, "The crash happened around 7 p.m." Thanks! – from Long Island, N.Y. on Mon, Nov 23, 2015

A. The crash happened around 7 p.m. Or, the crash happened at 7 p.m.

Q. Greenlit or green-lit? Example: The show got greenlit/green-lit for a full season. – from Liverpool, N.Y. on Mon, Nov 23, 2015

A. Use the dictionary's first spelling of the verb's past tense, greenlighted.

Q. I came across a type of grape for wine%uFFFDGew%uFFFDrztraminer and am wondering if it should be capped or lowercase. The grape comes from Alsace France, so unless there is a town or region by that name I can't figure out why it is capped. – from Orysia, New York City, N.Y. on Mon, Nov 23, 2015

A. Wine grape varietals are lowercase.

Q. Would subsequent references to the U.S. Mint be to the "Mint" or "mint"? The governmental agencies and census entries imply simply "mint." – from Cincinnati, Ohio on Mon, Nov 23, 2015

A. Usually it's the mint on subsequent reference.

Q. "Two-and-a-half hour drive" or "2 12/ hour drive"? – from New York, New York on Mon, Nov 23, 2015

A. Use figures for mixed numbers: a 2 1/2-hour drive.

Q. When referring to a blog post headline, is the headline treated like a composition title and placed in quotes? – from Sterling, Va. on Mon, Nov 23, 2015

A. Enclose the blog headline in quotes when citing it.

Q. Does AP prefer 3D or 3-D? – from Monterey, Va. on Sun, Nov 22, 2015

A. The Stylebook entry is 3-D, found in the T section.

Q. National Capitol Region, when referring to Washington D.C., is the term capitalized or lowercased. – from Alexandria, Va. on Sun, Nov 22, 2015

A. It's National Capital Region, a federal government term for the Washington metropolitan area.

Q. In copy, can you abbreviate "page" to "pg." or "p." or should you write it out? – from Scottsdale, Ariz. on Sat, Nov 21, 2015

A. See "page numbers" for the recommended style. AP wouldn't abbreviate the term standing alone.

Q. Would you put quotes around a book or movie series? Would it be "Hunger Games" series/books or Hunger Games series/books; "Harry Potter" enthusiasts vs. Harry Potter enthusiasts? – from Atherton, Calif. on Sat, Nov 21, 2015

A. Enclose the title name in quotes: "Hunger Games" series, "Harry Potter" enthusiasts.

Q. According to the MLA, one would italicize a word when referring it as a word. For example, in this sentence, the words affect and effect would be italicized: "Students often confuse the word affect with effect." How would the same sentence be formatted according to the AP Stylebook? – from Charlotte, N.C. on Sat, Nov 21, 2015

A. In a news story, the two terms could be enclosed in quotation marks for emphasis -- single quotes within a direct quote, double quotes if not. In the AP Stylebook, examples are italicized. So both words are in italics in the "affect, effect" entry. However, italics can't be used in news stories because they can't be transmitted through all computer systems.

Q. I looked though many of the Ask the Editor responses and in the chapter on punctuation, but I could not find a clear answer about how punctuation should be used with quotations. I know that end punctuation should always be placed within the quotation marks, but if the quotation ends with a question mark or exclamation point, I wouldn't need an additional period, would I? In other words, if I'm correct, the period at the end of this sentence would be unnecessary: She exclaimed, "Take the children outside!". Also, if a quotation like this one were to appear in the middle of a sentence, how should it be punctuated? For example, When the fire started, she exclaimed, "Take the children outside!" but then she ran back upstairs in search of other students. Should there an a comma after the exclamation point? If the same quotation were in the same sentence but without an exclamation point, should a comma follow the word "outside"? In the previous sentence, should the question mark be placed within the quotation marks? Thank you for helping me. – from Charlotte, N.C. on Sat, Nov 21, 2015

A. In the "quotation marks" entry, see the section on PLACEMENT WITH OTHER PUNCTUATION. That should cover your questions.

Q. Should the response to "We have more turkeys," be "more than who?" or "more than whom?"? Thanks. – from medina, Minn. on Fri, Nov 20, 2015

A. ... more than whom?

Q. Is the proper demonym for Mali (Africa) Malian or Malinese? – from lincoln, ne on Fri, Nov 20, 2015

A. Malian.

Q. Is saying "morning time" redundant? In this instance, I'm talking about "morning-time indulgences" – from Scottsdale, Ariz. on Fri, Nov 20, 2015

A. It's fine in that usage.

Q. You don't support the use of the oxford comma, indicating in a simple series, a comma before the last item isn't essential for clarity, In series with more complexity, a comma may be needed for clarity/ Can you specifically define the terms simple and complex when used above? I've always used the rule taught to me that states,"Three items described, no comma between two and three; more than three items described, add commas after the third and subsequent items." Are we saying the same thing? Thanks! – from Bakersfield, Calif. on Fri, Nov 20, 2015

A. See the Stylebook's IN A SERIES section of the "comma" entry for a three-item sentence with lengthy wordage and detail meriting a comma before the last portion for clarity. Also, a simple series may have four or more items that do not require a comma before the last. Here's an example: The store stocks paint in black, white, gray, tan and brown.

Q. Would this be the correct way to punctuate this question? The punctuation at the end is tricky. %uFFFDAfter all, what true baseball fan can avoid the intense feeling of excitement when the umpire finally yells out %uFFFDPlay ball!%uFFFD?%uFFFD – from Carrollton, Texas on Fri, Nov 20, 2015

A. In this rhetorical phrasing, let the exclamation point stand without adding a question mark: After all, what true baseball fan can avoid the intense feeling of excitement when the umpire finally yells out, "Play ball!"

Q. Is help desk one word or two? – from Lanham, MD on Fri, Nov 20, 2015

A. It's help desk in common usage.

Q. What is the correct format for industries? For example, if you are listing industries, would you list them as "food and beverage, oil and gas..." Or would you list them as "Food & Beverage, Oil & Gas?" In addition, if you were using them in a list, would you lowercase the industries? And would you capitalize them if you were using them in a sentence. – from Cinnaminson, N.J. on Fri, Nov 20, 2015

A. Lowercase the generic descriptions of industries using and, not the ampersand. AP would capitalize only company names in a list or in a sentence. Industry types in a list or sentence are lowercase.

Q. In this situation, would the number 5 be spelled out or not? A new 5-year contract was signed. And...a minimum of 5 years is required... – from Englewood, Colo. on Fri, Nov 20, 2015

A. Spell out five in those constructions.

Q. Which is correct: Springfield Baroque Players presents "Music from the Bach Family" OR Springfield Baroque Players present "Music from the Bach Family"? (Although "Players" is a plural noun, could "Springfield Baroque Players" be considered a singular noun because it is one performing group--in which case, "presents" should be used?) Thanks! – from NJ on Fri, Nov 20, 2015

A. The sense of the name is plural so use the plural verb for agreement.

Q. When using the abbreviation for a medical degree FCCP is it with or without periods. FCCP or F.C.C.P. Is there a rule when the abbreviation is four or more characters? – from Alexandria, Va. on Fri, Nov 20, 2015

A. AP doesn't use this abbreviation, which isn't well-known to general audiences. Rather, spell it out with fellow lowercase: She is a fellow of the American College of Chest Physicians.

Q. Should there be a space before and after an em dash in an offset phrase? – from Scottsdale, Ariz. on Fri, Nov 20, 2015

A. In the ANPA specifications AP follows, there is no en or em dash. AP stories use an underscore with spaces on each side for a thick dash. The en is equivalent to a hyphen, which links two words without spaces. Some publications use a double hyphen with spaces on either side to indicate a thick dash.

Q. Does AP have a guide for outlines or instructions? I'm editing a training manual and need to know if it's OK to have only one bullet under an instruction. – from Royal Oak, MI on Fri, Nov 20, 2015

A. See IN LISTS section of the Stylebook's "dash" entry. Though unusual, it should be OK to do what you propose.

Q. I sent this message to customer service, but they told me to send it to "Ask the Editor" instead. It's not a question; just an observation. Just a head's-up: I found a typo in the dictionary's online entry for "change." In the synonym passage at the end, the word "after" (in bold) should actually be "alter." I'm a copyeditor; I can't help but notice these things. – from Pensacola, Fla. on Fri, Nov 20, 2015

A. The synonym passage looks fine in the posted dictionary I'm reading, with "alter" instead of "after." Here's the passage in the "change" entry: SYN%u2013 1 change denotes a making or becoming distinctly different and implies either a radical transmutation of character or replacement with something else [I'll change my shoes]; alter implies a partial change, as in appearance, so that the identity is preserved [to alter a garment]; var y suggests irregular or intermittent change [to vary one's reading]; mod ify implies minor change, often so as to limit or moderate [to modify the language of a report]; transform implies a change in form and now, usually, in nature or function [to transform matter into energy]; convert suggests more strongly change to suit a new function [to convert a barn into a house]

Q. In an article with both M.D.s and Ph.D.s Do we use Dr. Smith only when referring to a MD and then on first reference use John Jones, Ph.D. and then Jones on second reference or Dr. Jones – from New Haven, Conn. on Fri, Nov 20, 2015

A. Our preference is to avoid the abbreviations and use descriptions instead. e.g., Harold Smith, a physician, and Robert Jones, who holds a doctorate in biology, ... In follow-ups, AP would use the surnames alone without Dr.

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