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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. How would AP spell the interjection for when something smells bad or stinks? The one that sounds like "pew" or "pyoo." – from Bloomington, Ind. on Wed, Aug 24, 2016

A. Go with the dictionary's spelling: phew.

Q. Hi, The George Washington Univeristy captitalizes "The" in its name. Should that be retained? For example: "...she is a professor at The George Washington Univeristy" or "...she is a professor at George Washington University." Thank you. – from Washington on Wed, Aug 24, 2016

A. AP doesn't use the capitalized article for schools: ... she is a professor at George Washington University.

Q. How would we hyphenate a two-word state that is part of a compound modifier? For example, "New Jersey-based nonprofit" versus "New-Jersey-based nonprofit." – from Sacramento, Calif. on Wed, Aug 24, 2016

A. The first is correct: New Jersey-based nonprofit.

Q. What's the style for counter space and countertop? One word or two? – from Portland, Ore. on Wed, Aug 24, 2016

A. AP news stories prefer countertop, counter space.

Q. When you are writing about the floors of a building, should you use "third" or "3rd"? – from MARION, Ark. on Wed, Aug 24, 2016

A. It's third floor, forth floor, etc., spelling ordinals under 10th.

Q. In the following sentence, is the use "their" correct? Or, should the sentence be reworked to avoid confusion with subject and verb agreement. Every one of our clients receives a customized program that meets their unique facility and budget needs, allowing you and your administration to focus on your core task of education. – from Charlotte, N.C. on Wed, Aug 24, 2016

A. Drop "their" and substitute "the" for the second "your": Every one of our clients receives a customized program that meets unique facility and budget needs, allowing you and your administration to focus on the core task of education.

Q. How do you write 3 and a half hours? What is spelled out and what isn't? Are there hyphens anywhere? – from West Palm Beach, Fla. on Wed, Aug 24, 2016

A. Use numerals for the mixed number: We needed 3 1/2 hours to drive home.

Q. helping provide or helping to provide? – from Winter Park, Fla. on Tue, Aug 23, 2016

A. The second is preferred.

Q. Can you start a headline with a numbers? Example: 872 citations for seat belt, child restraint in July – from Grafton, N.D. on Tue, Aug 23, 2016

A. Yes. The "headlines" entry says use numerals in headlines for all but casual uses, such as the word hundreds.

Q. The examples for using numbers does not give an example for "length of time" in years vs. age, that I could find. Would this "5" be spelled out, since it is below 10, or should I use a number: "Once we identify those partnerships greater than five years, ......" – from Lake Mary, Fla. on Tue, Aug 23, 2016

A. In AP usage, years under 10 in that context are spelled out: five years. However, use figures for ages: a 5-year-old girl and a boy, 7.

Q. Is it "SoCal" or "So Cal" and is it correct to lowercase "chief physician executive" in this example: He accepted the position of chief physician executive for the SoCal service area. – from Riverside , Calif. on Tue, Aug 23, 2016

A. It's Southern California as a region. The title is correctly spelled lowercase.

Q. Principle Display Panel (front label) requirements: Should this be Principal rather than Principle? What message do your current offerings send to your employees? Should this be "What message does your current offering send to your employees?" – from Charlotte, N.C. on Tue, Aug 23, 2016

A. It's principal display panel. What message does ...

Q. do you lowercase titles after name – from , on Tue, Aug 23, 2016

A. Correct, with only a few exceptions such as CEO.

Q. I am an EPA employee working on putting content up for the public website. Is there a certain citation format for citing research articles on a public EPA web page? – from RTP, North Carolina on Mon, Aug 22, 2016

A. This website should be of assistance:

Q. What is the correct usage for MRE, Meals Ready to Eat? – from Gainesville, Fla. on Mon, Aug 22, 2016

A. Generally AP stories precede the abbreviation with a brief definition: They sent military field rations, known as MRE or meals ready to eat, to the disaster zone.

Q. Good Day, One of our writers submitted a story listing some specific breeds of dog; one is called a Cane Corso. I have searched both the AP Stylebook and Webster's for this particular breed, but have come up with no answer. My question is, is this particular breed name capitalized or not? Thanks for your help! – from Phoenix on Mon, Aug 22, 2016

A. According to the "animals" entry, breed names derived from proper nouns are capitalized. That's not the case with cano corso. However, this breed is also known as Italian mastiff, spelled with a capital I.

Q. When referring to the A enclosed with a circle that's called the anarchy symbol, should "anarchy" be upper or lower case? – from Williston, N.D. on Mon, Aug 22, 2016

A. Use the capital A in your description.

Q. Please solve some confusion we are having. I understand that with "wide" at the end of a word, it becomes one word, such as citywide and statewide. Would the same be true with agency, as in agencywide? – from Zionsville , Ind. on Mon, Aug 22, 2016

A. Correct, though there are other ways to put it, such as throughout the agency.

Q. "When preparing a list of businesses, should those that include "the" in the title such as "The Ark" or "The Arts Alliance" be listed under "t" or "a"?" – from Ann Arbor, MI on Mon, Aug 22, 2016

A. List those under A as The Ark, The Arts Alliance. You can see a few examples of businesses with the definite article in the list of 125 major U.S. corporations under the "company names" entry.

Q. Should it be "the Obama public schools' bathroom directive" or schools without the the s-apostrophe? – from Los Angeles, California on Mon, Aug 22, 2016

A. As written in an AP story: The Obama administration's directive that public schools allow transgender students to use the restroom that matches their gender identity.

Q. Our collection boasts nearly 400,000 books, dvds, audiobooks, music cds and magazines%uFFFF Which is correct: DVDs or dvds? CDs or cds? – from Franklin, Ind. on Mon, Aug 22, 2016

A. By the Stylebook's guidance, DVDs, CDs.

Q. A question about a profanity that isn't covered in your Profanities section: Is "son of a bitch" considered a profanity, or can we spell it out in all references (in quoted material)? – from Tokyo on Sun, Aug 21, 2016

A. Yes, it comes under the guidance in "obscenities, profanities, vulgarities."

Q. Would you abbreviate the word Company in the name with & Company in the title? An example: Novagradac & Company LLP. – from Gaithersburg, MD on Sat, Aug 20, 2016

A. Yes, see "company, companies" entry.

Q. "To sign a visitor in for this date..." or "To sign in a visitor for this date..." ? – from San Francisco on Fri, Aug 19, 2016

A. The dictionary entry for the verb is sign in, so the second example is preferable.

Q. I work for a homeowners association. I often have to questions regarding what to capitalize when I refer to association-specific documents in our newsletter. I was under the impression that only government documents should be capitalized, so, we have association bylaws, not Association Bylaws. What about specific bylaws however? Also covenants and restrictions are often referred to as C&Rs. Is that incorrect to use the abbreviation? Finally, we have several committees. The finance committee, the general plan committee (which is commonly called the GPC) etc. Should they all be lower case? – from Truckee, Calif. on Fri, Aug 19, 2016

A. AP would use lowercase for generic or widely used names of internal elements of organizations or institutions, including committees. The abbreviations on second reference would be acceptable if understood within the membership.

Q. I'm currently writing some website descriptions for an aromatherapy business selling essential oils, and I cannot figure out if the the essential oil is wildcrafted or wild-crafted. Please help! – from Lolo, Mont. on Fri, Aug 19, 2016

A. The term doesn't appear in AP news archives. Nor is it in our primary dictionary. Online checks show both spellings. Your call on which to use.

Q. Hi AP. Do you have a preferred method of sentence construction that includes a list? IE: ''The court noted that (a) the doctrine did not apply in this situation, and (b) the regulations in effect deny the property owner right to economic use of the property. Are any of these styles %uFFFF (a) / (1) / a. / 1. %uFFFF correct? Or should this sentence be rewritten as a dashed list? Thanks! – from Madison, Wis. on Fri, Aug 19, 2016

A. See the "colon" entry and IN LISTS section of the "dash" entry for our preference on lists with three or more points. In your example, a sentence without the parenthetical letters would suffice: The court noted that the doctrine did not apply in this situation and the regulations in effect deny the property owner right to economic use of the property.

Q. I have searched online but did not see that it was ruled out. Is it acceptable to say "aged" in reference to a person's age (e.g., a man aged 50, women aged 40 and older, etc.) I did see through AP online examples that you can refer to the "aged" as segment of the population. I also saw "aged" was used to refer to food (such as cheese or ham). Please clarify for me. -Thank you! – from Falls Church, Va. on Fri, Aug 19, 2016

A. Yes, but try it this way: a man aged 50, women 40 and over.

Q. What is AP style for writing about the "alt right?" – from Santa Monica, Calif. on Thu, Aug 18, 2016

A. In AP stories, it's "alt-right" in quotes as used by certain white supremacy groups.

Q. Should the phrase -- internet of things -- take quote marks on first reference? – from Tokyo, Japan on Thu, Aug 18, 2016

A. Quotes not required.

Q. I see that "Pokemon Go" is enclosed in quotation marks. Is that the same for the Japanese trading card game Yu-Gi-Oh!? And do you keep the exclamation point? – from Salt Lake City, Utah on Thu, Aug 18, 2016

A. As a computer game and movie title it's enclosed in quotes, including the exclamation point. But as a children's card game, it's Yu-Gi-Oh! without quotes in AP stories.

Q. Do you take clothes to the dry cleaner, the dry cleaner's or the dry cleaners? – from , Gary, Indiana on Thu, Aug 18, 2016

A. AP stories prefer dry cleaner or dry cleaners.

Q. Hi, what is the proper AP Style spelling of "tossup"? The Webster's New World College Dictionary spells it as toss-up with the hyphen. And I've seen this spelling used in AP stories as well. However, two answers in your "Ask the Editor" section spelled it as tossup (without the hyphen). – from Washington, D.C. on Thu, Aug 18, 2016

A. Deferring to the dictionary's toss-up. The two earlier Q&A's will be amended. Thanks for noting it.

Q. Hi I have checked the book and the archives but have not be able to find the answer to my question... When writing a news article, I was always told to not include the year when it is the current year in a sentence such as: On July 26, Congress passed new legislature regarding the Affordable Care Act. as opposed to: On July 26, 2016, Congress passed... The rationale being that the overall publication includes the year in the header of the document. What is AP's stance in this? Thanks. – from Atlanta on Thu, Aug 18, 2016

A. While not expressly stated in the Stylebook, AP references to years conform with common usage in news stories. The year generally isn't needed when a date is within the current calendar year.

Q. I understand that AP doesn't prefer adding the "d" in combining forms such as "long-sleeve," "short-sleeve," "open-toe"; however, in the fashion section, under "sleeved," it uses "short-sleeved" in the example. Could you please advise whether it should be "long-sleeved T-shirt" or "long-sleeve T-shirt"? Thank you! – from Savannah, Ga. on Thu, Aug 18, 2016

A. By the guidance in the "sleeved" entry, long-sleeved T-shirt.

Q. Why is former president Jimmy Carter referred to as a peanut farmer and not his former title? Yes he was a peanut farmer at one time, however protocol would dictate you refer to him as the former President. – from , Fort Meade, Maryland on Thu, Aug 18, 2016

A. He's former President Jimmy Carter in AP stories. If his former vocation as a peanut farmer is mentioned in a news story, it's always as part of his varied background, and usually citing his stint as governor of Georgia and U.S. Navy service.

Q. How should be the capitalization in "Rockville Metro station?" – on Thu, Aug 18, 2016

A. As you have it.

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