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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. Hi AP. I want to confirm the proper way to hyphenate age ranges. The sentence in question is: "The state will experience a drop of workers in the 25- to 54-year-old workforce population." Please advise. Thank you. – from Madison, Wis. on Mon, Sep 26, 2016

A. Ages correct as written.

Q. Would local national be hyphenated as a modifier? Ex: Local-national employees – from AE, AP on Mon, Sep 26, 2016

A. No hyphen in AP spellings of the term.

Q. What's the best term for when you take two or more photos and put them together to form a single photo, such as you take a photo of a person and use a different photo for the background? Also, what's the best term when you add computer-generated images to a photo, such as a graph next to a politician? – from Boston, XX on Sun, Sep 25, 2016

A. That's called alteration or manipulation of a photo, which is strictly banned in AP news images.

Q. When making reference to the issues regarding slave-owning and non-slave-owning states in U.S. history, would there be a hyphen between slave-state and free-state or are they two seperate words? – from Burlington, Vt. on Sun, Sep 25, 2016

A. No hyphen in slave state and free state.

Q. Why, out of the blue, are AP stories adding metric measurements that have to be taken out of stories for our readers? – from Williamsport, Pa. on Sun, Sep 25, 2016

A. AP stories transmitted internationally require metrics as standard measurements. See "metrics" entry in the Stylebook for elaboration.

Q. Should a comma be placed just before the quote in this text? At the time, E&P companies were preaching the mantra %uFFFFwe will spend within cash flows%uFFFF, so... – from Saint Petersburg, Fla. on Sun, Sep 25, 2016

A. ... companies were preaching the mantra of "We will spend within cash flows," so ...

Q. Is the name of the city of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, abbreviated as "TorC" or "T or C" (when appropriate to shorten)? Thank you! – from San Jose on Sun, Sep 25, 2016

A. Use the second with spaces, though the abbreviation would be rare in a news story, probably only in a direct quote.

Q. There is an editor's answer from 2009 very generally stating if there is no hyphen then go without it. Flash forward to 2016 and the overuse of the term "game changer." I am wondering if it would be considered a modifier (as it is a predicate adjective here), "Joining the U.S. Coast Guard was a game-changer for me." vs. "Joining the U.S. Coast Guard was a game changer for me." (Thank you for all your good work!) – from Mount Laurel, N.J. on Sun, Sep 25, 2016

A. The term is frequently hyphenated in AP stories in similar formulations. I agree it's overused, especially in sports contexts.

Q. Is it esports or e-sports? – from Portland, Ore. on Fri, Sep 23, 2016

A. It's hyphenated as e-sports.

Q. I see AP is still preserving hyphenated nationalities such as African-American, whereas the rest of the world seems to have dumped the hyphen, including the new National Museum of African American History and Culture. Ditto for Chinese-American, and so forth. Many people consider the hyphen demeaning and inextricably linked with the concept of "hyphenated Americans." Can you tell us whether such a change is in the offing in the near future? – from Washington on Fri, Sep 23, 2016

A. The Stylebook's long-time guidance is to use a hyphen to designate dual heritage. African-American is also the primary spelling in the dictionary.

Q. Which is correct: "We have been in negotiation with..." or "We have been in negotiations with..."? What about, "As a result of our (negotiation/negotiations)..."? – from Irving, Texas on Fri, Sep 23, 2016

A. While the dictionary entry is negotiation, the definition notes that the term is often plural.

Q. I need to provide a list of politically correct terms for a variety of ethnicities, sexual orientations, disabilities, etc. Can you lead me to where I might find those terms used? Much appreciated. – from Franklin, Ind. on Fri, Sep 23, 2016

A. You might check the various entries in the AP Stylebook. The terms and definitions aim for precision and balanced language rather than political correctness, though.

Q. Hello. Should the following numeric ruling be %uFFFFthe committee meets two to three times per semester%uFFFF or %uFFFF2-3 times per semester%uFFFF? Thanks – from Iowa City, Iowa on Fri, Sep 23, 2016

A. ... two to three times ... or, two or three times ...

Q. Is it acceptable to shorten "Cayman Islands" to "Cayman Island" when it's used as an adjective? For example: "A group of Cayman Island funds filed a lawsuit Friday..." Thank you! – from Brooklyn, N.Y. on Fri, Sep 23, 2016

A. Stick with the formal name of the group of three islands, which is Cayman Islands.

Q. Hello, Our staff has stumbled upon a bit of a conundrum. When shortening "St. Edward's University" to "St. Edward's" should the possessive drop from Edward's? It is right to say "Hannah teaches at St. Edward's University" with a possessive because the university belongs to St. Edward. But how should we handle possessives in an example like this: "Hannah, a St. Edward's teacher, is great" or is it "Hannah, a St. Edwards teacher, is great." Please help! 100% important question. Much thanks, Hilltop Views newspaper – from Austin, Texas on Thu, Sep 22, 2016

A. Retain the possessive in the shortened form of the formal name.

Q. When listing a time on a flyer or invitation, is it appropriate to list like this: 1:00 - 2:30 pm or 1 - 2:30 pm I'm trying to figure out if :00 is okay to list. Thank you. – from Riverside, Calif. on Thu, Sep 22, 2016

A. In AP usage, the clock range is 1-2:30 p.m. without :00 in the first time.

Q. We have interviewed two people with the same last name for an article. How do we refer to them upon second reference? Do we use both their first and last names throughout the article? – from Bay Village, Ohio on Thu, Sep 22, 2016

A. Use both first and last names throughout to avoid confusion.

Q. Merino wool %uFFFF capitalize Merino or not? Thanks! – from NY, N.Y. on Thu, Sep 22, 2016

A. It's merino wool in the dictionary spelling.

Q. If a newspaper name capitalizes "the," is the capitalization retained in shortened versions of the name? Eg. The Washington Post and The Post. – from Joplin MO on Wed, Sep 21, 2016

A. It's the Post in a shortened version of the full name.

Q. Is it "four-hour drive" or "four hour drive?" – from Norman, Okla. on Wed, Sep 21, 2016

A. It's a four-hour drive.

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