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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. Please clarify inconsistencies in time ranges. In the time entry 1-5 p.m. say is preferred. In a very recent Q&A answer 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. is given as the proper format. Also, as the entry for midnight states that it is part of the current day not the upcoming one. How is this? Midnight = 12 a.m. As the clock strikes 12 a.m. a new day begins and the previous one ends, no? – from Washington, D.C. on Fri, Jan 13, 2017

A. I don't find the 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. reference you mention, but it wouldn't be wrong, even though 1-5 p.m. is preferred for news copy. See other examples at "times" entry. As for midnight, we'll stick with the definition in the Stylebook entry for news purposes.

Q. What is the proper capitalization for the state office in this sentence..."It was presented to the State Attorney's office for prosecution." Thanks! – from Maitland, Fla. on Fri, Jan 13, 2017

A. In AP stories from Florida, state attorney's office is usually spelled lowercase, unless part of a formal name, such as Dade County State Attorney's Office. Within your quote, the lowercase spelling of the shorter form looks right.

Q. Would "border adjusted tax" and "border adjustment tax" get a hyphen? – from Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey on Fri, Jan 13, 2017

A. The term border adjustment tax wasn't hyphenated in the single usage so far in the AP news report. The other version doesn't show in an archive search.

Q. The term NGL stands for natural gas liquids, but is the acronym NGL singular or plural? NGL is or NGL are? – from Houston on Fri, Jan 13, 2017

A. AP business stories use the plural abbreviation, as in these examples: NGLs include propane, butane and ethane. The NGLs would be transported from the gas fields in Ohio and Pennsylvania to Louisiana for processing. But NGL without an "s" is often used as a modifier: NGL market, NGL suppliers, NGL reserves.

Q. What is the correct format for the phrase "yes or no questions"? – from Dayton, Ohio on Fri, Jan 13, 2017

A. Usually written in AP stories as yes or no questions. Variations sometimes enclose the words in quotation marks: He answered "yes" or "no" to various questions that were posed.

Q. When discussing the region of the U.S. (rather than a sports conference), is it Mountain West, mountain West or mountain west? – from Jackson, Wyo. on Fri, Jan 13, 2017

A. These eight states are referred to as the Rocky Mountain states or the Mountain West: Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

Q. Is this an acceptable method when listing health care providers with varying degrees who would like to include their specialty as well? Example: The health center recognized Dr. John Doe, OB-GYN, Dr. Kelly Brown, dentist, Susan Smith, psychologist, and Sam Li, licensed professional counselor and social worker, for their 20 years of service. – from Huntington, W.Va. on Fri, Jan 13, 2017

A. Yes, or use articles with the descriptions: Dr. John Doe, an OB-GYN, Dr. Kelly Brown, a dentist, Susan Smith, a psychologist, and Sam Li, a licensed professional counselor and social worker, for their 20 years of service.

Q. When is the word "International' capitalized, barring the beginning of a sentence. For example, in the following sentences: ... International privacy law...; ... international product portfolio...; ... in the area of international public law. – from FLA on Fri, Jan 13, 2017

A. AP would spell international lowercase in your examples as generic descriptions rather than capitalized nouns.

Q. Brian Ewing here, first time, long time. Where are we at on Internet-of-Things, internet-of-things, Internet of Things, internet of things, or some other combination? And how do we feel about "IoT"? Thanks for all the hard work. – from Greensboro, N.C. on Fri, Jan 13, 2017

A. Our preference is to spell out internet of things in all uses, all words lowercase in line with the 2016 Stylebook change to internet.

Q. We're seeking an answer for how to treat "cut and dry" when it isn't a modifier. Searching on Google for its appearance in AP stories, we found "cut and dried" and "cut and dry" --- some of them hyphenated and others not. Could use your advice. Thanks. – from Clemmons, N.C. on Fri, Jan 13, 2017

A. Deferring to the dictionary spelling, which is cut and dried -- meaning prepared and arranged beforehand or routine.

Q. Would a military call sign be Bravo Six or Bravo 6? Thanks. – from Alexandria, Va. on Fri, Jan 13, 2017

A. Probably the second: Bravo 6.

Q. Is "pussy hat" supposed to be one word or two. Or hyphenated? – from New Milford, Conn. on Thu, Jan 12, 2017

A. Check the organizers website for their preference.

Q. We use stepgrandchild, per AP style, so next generation would be great-stepgrandchild? – from Oconto Falls, Wis. on Thu, Jan 12, 2017

A. In a rare use in AP news, it was written step-great-grandchild.

Q. Our office conducts compliance reviews, on all school food authorities participating in the National School Lunch Program, on a three-year cycle. These review is called an Administrative Review. Should Administrative Review be capitalized? I feel like this is similar to any of our national programs and should be capitalized, but there is debate in our office about this. – from Denver on Thu, Jan 12, 2017

A. AP news stories use the lowercase spelling for administrative review.

Q. Hi AP. Do you have a preference between using unbeknown vs. unbeknownst? Thank you! – from Madison, Wis. on Thu, Jan 12, 2017

A. The dictionary's primary spelling is unbeknownst.

Q. Hello, I've been looking through Ask the Editor archive for guidelines about using registered/copyright marks in headlines. I remember seeing it, but can't find the reference. Please point me in the right direction. Thanks, Karen W., Orlando, FL – from Orlando, Fla. on Thu, Jan 12, 2017

A. AP headlines and news stories don't use these symbols. Trademarks and copyright names are capitalized.

Q. Which is correct: "The dog can often be found leaning against volunteers and staff to be pet," or "The dog can often be found leaning against volunteers and staff to be petted"? I say it's "petted," but has this usage become archaic? – from Westerville, Ohio on Wed, Jan 11, 2017

A. Agree that it's to be petted.

Q. Hi - to follow up on the main lands vs. mainlands question, the quote is "One of the points that I%uFFFFve made in other publications is that mainlands are really composed of a lot of different islands." – from Gainesville, Fla. on Wed, Jan 11, 2017

A. Correct as mainlands when referring to the principal parts of countries.

Q. In this quote, which is correct? "We've brought thousands of kids to our games (that, who) wouldn't otherwise get to participate." – from Syracuse, N.Y. on Wed, Jan 11, 2017

A. ... kids ... who ...

Q. When you are referring to a company, should you always use "its" instead of "their"? or what is the AP style for that? – from Omaha, Neb. on Wed, Jan 11, 2017

A. The singular guidance for a company comes under the "collective nouns" entry: Nouns that denote a unit takes singular verbs and pronouns.

Q. Hyphens or no hyphens: Plans for deploying collaboration tools can quickly become out-of-date ... or is out of date? – from Washington on Wed, Jan 11, 2017

A. The dictionary hyphenates out-of-date (adj.).

Q. Hello - I don't see this in AP, Ask the Editor or Websters and wanted to be sure. Mainland is one word, but we have a quote using main lands. Would AP style be mainlands, one word or two? Thanks for your help! – from Gainesville, Fla. on Wed, Jan 11, 2017

A. Can't say without knowing the context.

Q. Hi, I was wondering if you have had a change of policy regarding using "renminbi" versus "yuan" in stories about the Chinese currency and economy. When might it be appropriate to use one versus the other? Thanks. – from Tokyo, Japan on Tue, Jan 10, 2017

A. In AP financial and political stories, yuan is the primary term for the Chinese currency. However, these stories may also acknowledge the other name in an appositive: the yuan, also known as the renminbi, ...

Q. Can I begin a sentence with a percentage? Would I spell out or would it be a numeral? – from Chicago on Tue, Jan 10, 2017

A. Spell the figure to start a sentence in a news story.

Q. I respectfully submit the request for AP editors to consider revising the stance on "green space" two words to "greenspace" one word. Like "cellphone" and "website" have been truncated to one word because of universal usage, we find our readers are highly desirous of more "greenspace" and always spell it as one word. Thank you. – from Marietta, Ga. on Tue, Jan 10, 2017

A. In AP news story usage, green space is strongly preferred as a two-word term.

Q. Similar questions, different answers. Please tell me which answer I should go by: Q. I've reviewed the stylebook and Ask the Editor archives and am still confused on when "committee" when used in reference to local government is considered a "formal name." For example, each of our local governments (city, village, school district) has a Finance Committee, Buildings and Grounds Committee, Administrative Committee, etc. Are these considered generic or formal? Thanks. from Oconto Falls, Wis. on Feb 26, 2015 A. AP stories generally lowercase generic committee names on a local level. In a legislature or in Congress, the formal names are capitalized: the Senate Finance Committee. Q. When you are referring to a Conference Committee, as in a specific one not the process in general, should both words be capitalized? from Sacramento, Calif. on May 12, 2014 A. If it's an officially named body, it could be capitalized with the definite article. – from Williamsport, Pa. on Tue, Jan 10, 2017

A. AP stories generally lowercase generic committee names on a local level. In a legislature or in Congress, the formal names are capitalized: the Senate Finance Committee.

Q. If we are interviewing someone whose first language is not English, but he answers in English, is it okay to slightly edit his answers so that they follow English syntax (order of words) and grammar (agreement of subject and verb)? – from Gaithersburg, MD on Tue, Jan 10, 2017

A. AP does not change direct quotes even to correct grammar.

Q. Will you be publishing a 2017 inauguration guide similar to the 2013 guide that's still here? – from Fort Meade, Md. on Tue, Jan 10, 2017

A. Yes.

Q. I see from its website that the U.S. Post Office has trademarked ZIP Code. Will AP be changing its guidance to include the new uppercase "C" and the trademark symbol (in this case, "TM")? – from Tallahassee, Fla. on Tue, Jan 10, 2017

A. We're sticking with Stylebook guidance for lowercase spelling of code. However, ZIP is spelled with all caps. AP doesn't use the trademark symbol.

Q. I work for a law firm. Here's an example: ABC Law firm recently elected Jane Doe a shareholder. She has worked at the FIRM for eight years. Would FIRM in the second sentence be capitalized (it's obviously not bolded)? Some people in our organization do capitalize it, but I'm not sure. Thanks! – from South Central, Pa. on Tue, Jan 10, 2017

A. AP would spell firm lowercase on second reference. It would also be lowercase on first reference unless part of the ABC Law formal name.

Q. In the example for graduation year following the name of an alum, where should the degree letters be placed in the sequence? Before or after the graduation year? – from Cincinnati on Tue, Jan 10, 2017

A. Generally before. John Doe, B.A. 1973, or Jane Smith, M.A. '75.

Q. If a person's last name ends in an apostrophe, would you simply add an "s" to make it a possessive? Example: Jane Lene's house was featured on a new television show. Also, how would you turn that name into a plural form? Would you keep the apostrophe and add an "s" or would you get rid of the apostrophe altogether? Example: The Lene's gathered for a family reunion in the park. The Lenes gathered for a family reunion in the park. – from Cranberry Township, Pa. on Tue, Jan 10, 2017

A. For the possessive, add s after the apostrophe: Jane Lene's house. For the plural, better ask Jane Lene' for her preference. Surely it has come up before. Otherwise, rephrase the reference: The Lene' family gathered for a reunion in the park.

Q. Sorry I'm not finding precisely this: how do I present $1 billion? That looks odd to me for some reason. Would one billion dollars be a better choice? The context is quoting a man who says his company racked up that much in capital investments last year. Thanks. – from Warrenton, Va. on Tue, Jan 10, 2017

A. The figure is correctly written. The company made $1 billion in capital investments last year.

Q. Can you tell me the most current ruling on the spelling of sitemap? Is it 1 word or 2 words? the most recent entry I can find is from 2013 and it shows it as 2 words. Thank you. – from Omaha, Neb. on Tue, Jan 10, 2017

A. AP stories prefer site map. Some website references or links make it one word, though.

Q. I've searched previous entries but am unable to find a clear definition of a "complex phrase" to determine exceptions to the "no serial comma" rule. Does a list item with four or more words count, or is there another set of guidelines you use to determine whether something is a complex phrase? I've read the examples in the comma entry in the stylebook and in previous Ask the Editor entries, but I'm still confused. – from Gaithersburg, MD on Tue, Jan 10, 2017

A. Here's an example: Our clients are universities, researchers, emergency managers, and private and public entities.

Q. Dear Mr. David Minthorn, Kindly let me know which is (are) the correct one(s) of the following : 1A) a student cafetaria 1B) a student's cafetaria 1C) a students' cafetaria 1D) a students cafetaria 2A) a guy apartment 2B) a guy's apartment 2C) a guys' apartment 2D) a guys apartment I would appreciate your prompt reply. Thanks so much. B.Rgds, Melvin – from Surabaya, XX on Mon, Jan 09, 2017

A. 1A) and 2B). However, cafeteria is the correct spelling.

Q. Mr. Minthorn: Is using the day of the week acceptable in a headline, as in "Community parade to be held Friday?" Or should it read "Community parade to be held Jan. 16?" – from , St. George, Utah on Mon, Jan 09, 2017

A. The day in the current week should be clear for a headline of a preview story. Beyond that time frame, use the date in a headline.

Q. Would we use numerals for figures this sentence? "Youth with rejecting caregivers are nearly eight times more likely to attempt suicide, six times more likely to be depressed, and three-and-a-half times more likely to engage in risky sex associated with HIV infection than those youth with accepting caretakers." – from Austin, Texas on Mon, Jan 09, 2017

A. The first two numbers -- eight times and six times -- are correctly spelled out. For the fraction larger than 1, use 3 1/2 times for the third figure.

Q. We're looking at this sentence and I'm having trouble determining where to put the comma in respect to the quotation marks: John Smith recorded another %uFFFFdouble-double," notching 10 points and 10 rebounds. Should it be "double double", or "double double," ? Thanks! – from San Jose, Calif. on Mon, Jan 09, 2017

A. AP sports stories don't enclose the hyphenated term in quotation marks: John Smith recorded another double-double, notching 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Q. How should you handle a quote that was submitted in writing with typos/misspellings? Do you include the quote as-is with the typos, or do you correct them if you're 100 percent positive what the intended word was? – from Jacksonville, Fla. on Mon, Jan 09, 2017

A. AP doesn't alter quotes, even to correct a spelling or grammar. See "quotations in the news" for our basic policy and the "(sic)" entry for added guidelines.

Q. Webster's New World College Dictionary lists reexport (no hyphen). Since the AP entry for re- doesn't list re-export as an exception, and your entry says to otherwise follow Webster's, is reexport correct? Or does the prefixes rule to use a hyphen if the prefix ends in a vowel and the word that follows begins with the same vowel trump the Webster's listing? Thanks. – from New York on Mon, Jan 09, 2017

A. AP stories spell it re-export, using the prefix guidance to hyphenate a double vowel.

Q. In this sentence, should "state" be capitalized? "Former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver leaves federal court ..." Should "state" be capitalized when referring to legislative titles as a whole? – from Syracuse, N.Y. on Mon, Jan 09, 2017

A. In AP stories using that formulation, state is spelled lowercase.

Q. Redeye appears two different ways in previous Ask the Editor submissions, both hyphenated (red-eye) and as one word (redeye). When it comes to redeye gravy, any preference? – from Birmingham, Ala. on Mon, Jan 09, 2017

A. The dictionary entry is red-eye gravy. The previous Q&A has been corrected to conform to red-eye for the overnight flight.

Q. How would AP do hyphenate numerals with a common second element? Example sentence: The recall covers syringes in 5-, 7- and 11-milliliter capacities. – from Minneapolis on Mon, Jan 09, 2017

A. While correct as written, the formulation would be unusual. AP would more likely write out each measurement: The recall covers syringes with capacities of 5 milliliters, 7 milliliters and 11 milliliters.

Q. I'm not clear on when individual letters should be placed inside quotation marks. For example: Peer-reviewed publications are assigned a four-digit number followed by a "P." Quotes or no quotes? Thanks! – from Blacksburg, Va. on Mon, Jan 09, 2017

A. You may enclose the letter for emphasis.

Q. Seems like class-action suit should take the hypen, but I almost never see it that way. Is there a definitive style on this? – from Washington on Mon, Jan 09, 2017

A. As a modifier, the term is generally hyphenated in AP stories: class-action suit.

Q. The response to the question regarding the following sentence says it is correct as written: In the sentence, "I'm still in shock," Riche said, "All I know is my wife is going to be very happy. It's the best investment I've ever made." (Thu, Jan 05, 2017) Shouldn't there be a period after said instead of a comma since "All" starts a new sentence? – from Rochester, Minnesota on Mon, Jan 09, 2017

A. Good catch. I have corrected that Q&A. Thanks.

Q. Is it acceptable to use a colon in a tag line? – from Altamonte Springs, Fla. on Mon, Jan 09, 2017

A. Yes, presumably for emphasis as described in the "colon" entry.

Q. Dear Editor, if jihadi/jihadis is the noun, is jihadist correct as the adjective (jihadist fighter)? What about Salafist? Is it Salafist for both noun and adjective (i.e., Salafi is never used)? Thank you. – from New York on Mon, Jan 09, 2017

A. The Stylebook entry says do not use jihadist. However, AP stories use Salafi for the ultraconservative branch of Islam. An adherent is a Salafist.

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