Ask the Editor

Forgot your password? | Lost Username?

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.

Already a subscriber? Log in here.

Not a subscriber? AP Stylebook Online subscribers can:

  • View the entire archive -- 26,828 answered questions and counting!
  • Submit questions to Ask the Editor
  • Search the complete Ask the Editor archive
  • View listings by categories (such as abbreviations, capitalization, figures, numerals, titles, etc.)

Annual subscriptions start at $26/year for individuals. Subscribe now or learn more.

Ask the Editor questions from the past week:

Q. I have a question about using a comma after a year. I understand a comma is only used after a month day and year as in: Jan. 3, 1942, was when I was born. What I am unclear abou if a sentence starts with a word like "In" or "By" is a comma used after a year. For example is it "In 1972 I went to London." or "In 1972, I went to London." – from San Francisco on Sat, Jan 21, 2017

A. No comma needed for that short introductory phrase.

Q. Is Legoland all caps as in "LEGOLAND California Resort," which is how the company writes it? – from Bethesda, Md. on Fri, Jan 20, 2017

A. AP stories capitalize only the L in that name.

Q. I'm hoping you can clarify whether the word glycemic can be used as an adjective other than in the context of glycemic index. Webster's New World, Merriam-Webster and American Heritage only list glycemic index, but one of our writers has used it as follows: " . . . used as a glycemic boost for recovering athletes." It sounds good, but I don't know if it's accurate. Thank you. – from Montpelier, Vt. on Fri, Jan 20, 2017

A. An AP story summarized the term this way: The glycemic index is a rating of how quickly carbohydrates are digested and rush into the bloodstream as sugar. That would seem to sanction the phrasing you mention. But to be certain, check with scientists or medical specialists versed in the glycemic index.

Q. Hello, I was researching the United States' seven uniformed services and have not been able to find an official consensus. This might make for a good Stylebook entry. Both the Public Health Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say they are one of the nation's seven uniformed services, but the Department of Defense lists six additional services (Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, National Guard, Air Force) on its website. A clarification may be helpful for others. Thanks! – from Chicago on Fri, Jan 20, 2017

A. The seven U.S. uniformed services are the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps. The Army National Guard and the Air Force National Guard are reserve components of their services and operate in part under state authority.

Q. Is one word, two words or a hyphenate correct for the banking terms memo post and memo posting? – from Brookfield, Wis. on Fri, Jan 20, 2017

A. These terms aren't visible in AP news archives. There are a number of banking terminology websites that should provide guidance.

Q. When referencing a style of shoe, are Oxford and Chelsea capitalized? e.g. Oxford loafers, Chelsea boots – from Scottsdale, Ariz. on Fri, Jan 20, 2017

A. Yes, Oxford shoes and Chelsea boots are used in AP fashion stories.

Q. Days: Numerals or written I asked a question and received this answer. "The system primer is recoatable after three hours at ambient temperature. As such, the system can be applied in one day as opposed to competitor systems that take two days or more to be applied. Other untested systems can take more than 12 days." A. Figures under 10 with hours and days are spelled out, as in the TIMES examples in the "numerals" entry. My query regards the advice that days are spelled out when the answers to other questions below indicate that we should use numerals for 10 days and above? Can you clarify please? Q. When using a timeline of numerals in a sentence, should you say, for example, eight-to-ten days, eight-to-10 days or 8-to-10 days? from Harrah, Okla. on Aug 29, 2016 A. In AP usage, eight to 10 days. Q. I can't seem to find a definitive answer between using figures or spelling out numbers with periods of time. Is it six weeks or 6 weeks? Three days or 3 days? from San Francisco on Jan 15, 2016 A. Spell the numerals in both examples. For 10 or above, use figures. – from Clitheroe, XX on Fri, Jan 20, 2017

A. Use figures for 10 and above, so 10 days and 10 hours. But nine days and nine hours.

Q. If we need to refer to a company that uses one of the new generic top-level domains as part of its name, e.g., a company called MNestateplanning.lawyer LLC, would we capitalize the L in lawyer? – from Eagan, Minn. on Fri, Jan 20, 2017

A. By guidance in the "company names" entry, generally follow the spelling preferred by the company, capitalizing the first letter.

Q. Is Farm Bill capitalized in all references? – from Tulare, Calif. on Fri, Jan 20, 2017

A. Generally farm bill is lowercase, as in the most recent farm bill passed by Congress. It may be capitalized for a specific piece of legislation with the year: the 2014 U.S. Farm Bill.

Q. If a headline written in upper and lower case, such as "The Way to a Man's Heart," has to be broken into two lines, and the second line starts with a word that would normally be lower case (such as "a", should it be capitalized simply because it's starting the new line? – from Phoenix on Fri, Jan 20, 2017

A. For a break within a column of type, keep the "a" lowercase in the quoted headline.

Q. Can I include a copyright line without the year? – from Atlanta on Fri, Jan 20, 2017

A. A news story may refer to copyright material, without specifying the year, particularly if it's current information.

Q. "Cellphone" appears to have morphed into a synonym for smartphone, but I always thought e.g. an iPhone isn't strictly a cellphone. Am I wrong? – from Tokyo on Thu, Jan 19, 2017

A. A smartphone is a cellular phone with additional advanced features. So the terms shouldn't be used interchangeably.

Q. I have two questions about capitalizing titles. Though a preposition isn't capitalized in a title (when initial caps are being used), what about in verb phrases like "follow up" or "run down" and similar? Also, similarly, what about in the infinite of a verb "to be" or "to know"? – from Chicago on Thu, Jan 19, 2017

A. Capitalize both in titles.

Q. When I searched for "dozen" in Ask The Editor, the first item that comes up says to hyphenate four-dozen people. The last item that comes up says NOT to hyphenate two dozen people. Please clarify which one is correct. Thanks. – from Houston on Thu, Jan 19, 2017

A. No hyphen in two dozen people and similar formulations with dozen, based on check of AP news archives. I have corrected the previous Q&A to four dozen people. Thanks for pointing it out.

Q. Is it accurate to use the term -designate for someone who has been nominated but not yet confirmed? It's always been my understanding that someone remains a nominee until confirmation, but reporters and editors here have been sending stories about Trump's Cabinet picks that say things like Treasury Secretary-designate. I've been changing everything to nominee, but am I wrong in my thinking? – from Washington on Thu, Jan 19, 2017

A. In AP stories about Trump's cabinet choices, nominee is used more frequently with the name than -designate. The dictionary's definition of designate is someone who has been named for an office but isn't yet in it (ambassador designate). The definition of nominee is a person who is nominated, esp. a candidate for election. So the terms seem to be very close in meaning, if not synonyms.

Q. If a book title is used within a quote, would you use single quotation marks around the book title? For example: She said, "I think 'Pride and Prejudice' is terrible." – from Buffalo, N.Y. on Thu, Jan 19, 2017

A. Correct with single quotes around the title within a direct quote.

Q. Are semicolons are being phased out? I'm seeing fewer of them nowadays, and oftentimes the lists become quite confusing without them. Would you place a semicolon before the "or" in this sentence? For more information, contact Cultural Coordinator Jessi Jackson Smith at 386-736-5953, ext. 15872, or jjsmith@volusia.org. Are the semicolons in this sentence appropriate? (Many reporters are leaving them out.) Speakers include Jackson Bryer, president of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Society; Kirk Curnutt, chair of English at Troy University; and Karen Poulsen, activities project manager for the Volusia County Public Library. – from Port Orange, Fla. on Thu, Jan 19, 2017

A. The Stylebook entry summarizes several crucial uses of semicolons. In your first example, the comma is better before the email address because the contract information is for the same person. The semicolons are correct in your second example to clarify the series of names and titles.

Q. Numerals or Numbers Apologies if this has been explained before. I have checked various questions and the Numerals page but I'm still confused as to the usage for "hours" and "days" in the example below. Are these considered time measurements or modifiers? "The system%uFFFFs primer is recoatable after three hours at ambient temperature. As such, the system can be applied in one day as opposed to competitor systems that take two days or more to be applied. Other untested systems can take more than 12 days." Many thanks, JN – from Clitheroe, XX on Thu, Jan 19, 2017

A. Figures under 10 with hours and days are spelled out, as in the TIMES examples in the "numerals" entry.

Q. When listing a person with a title of Dr. what is the proper way to list? We are listing the keynote speakers for an upcoming event. Do we list as "Dr. Allyson Rose, MD" or "Allyson Rose, MD." And what about those with PhD titles? – from San Jose, Calif. on Wed, Jan 18, 2017

A. By guidance in the "academic degrees" entry, use such abbreviations only when there's a need to identify many individuals on first reference. So in a long list of people: Allyson Rose, M.D.; John Doe, Ph.D., ....

Q. A grammar question about plural/singular nouns when talking about ratios. A recent Oxfam executive said "It is obscene for so much wealth to be held in the hands of so few when 1 in 10 people survive on less than $2 a day." Should it be survive or survives? My feeling is survive is correct, since the 1 in 10 doesn't refer to a single individual but hundreds of millions of people. If it were really just one person, then we wouldn't use the figure 1, we'd spell it out. – from Tokyo on Wed, Jan 18, 2017

A. Yes, the plural verb survive in agreement with a large group of impoverished people.

Q. Should "cord cutter"/"cord cutting" be hyphenated. If so, in which usages? – from Portland, Ore. on Wed, Jan 18, 2017

A. AP stories use "cord cutter" as description for someone opting out of a cable TV subscription for a cheaper service, such as internet TV streaming.

Q. Micro drone? Microdrone? Micro-done? I can't find any solid precedence. – from Tyson on Wed, Jan 18, 2017

A. Words formed with the micro- prefix are generally unhyphenated, so microdrone should be right.

Q. Does AP Stylebook approve of the term "gender nonconforming?" – from Camarillo, Calif. on Wed, Jan 18, 2017

A. While not a Stylebook entry, the term has been used in AP stories to describe people who feel part male and part female.

Q. Is this hyphen usage in "ultra low-power operation" correct? Thank you. – from Irvine, Calif. on Wed, Jan 18, 2017

A. Generally no hyphen with the prefix, so ultralow-power operation.

Q. How do I write the second reference of a court decision? Do I still need to spell out the whole thing each time? (ie. Marbury v. Madison) or can I just use the first or second name of the case (ie. Madison)? – from Columbia, S.C. on Wed, Jan 18, 2017

A. In describing landmark rulings, AP stories sometimes use the first name in the court case on second reference. One example is Roe v. Wade, which may be called Roe in follow-ups.

Q. "America First" or "America first"? Seems to me we should lowercase "first" in the Trump slogan -- it's not a title and not a proper noun. – from Tokyo , XX on Tue, Jan 17, 2017

A. AP stories usually capitalize Trump's "America First" agenda.

Q. We are a regional publication with a Hmong community that prefers the RPA spelling, Hmoob. What do publications do under similar circumstances? Individual call? – from La Crosse, Wis. on Tue, Jan 17, 2017

A. AP stories use the Hmong spelling. The other term doesn't appear in AP news archives, nor does the abbreviation. It would need more research locally.

Q. Should home health and hospice always be capitalized? – from Bullhead City, Ariz. on Tue, Jan 17, 2017

A. Such terms are capitalized only as integral parts of named entities, such as companies and community services.

Q. How would I write "keyless" as in "keyless entry"? Would it be keyless or key-less? – from Bethesda, Md. on Tue, Jan 17, 2017

A. As you have it: keyless.

Q. Why is 911 the approved AP Style but the industry insists on 9-1-1? – from Schaumburg, Ill. on Tue, Jan 17, 2017

A. The emergency number is crystal clear as 911. In general, the fewer hyphens the better by Stylebook guidance.

Q. I noticed that "ride-sharing" is now a Stylebook entry. Can it be used interchangeably with "ride-hailing?" – from Austin, Texas on Tue, Jan 17, 2017

A. No, it's not to be used in the context of car services. See the "Uber" entry for the approved terms.

Q. Is it all-expense paid trip or all-expenses paid trip? Should there be a hyphen between expense/s and paid too? all-expense-paid trip or all expenses-paid trip? – from Houston on Tue, Jan 17, 2017

A. As a compound modifier, it's all-expenses-paid trip in AP stories. In other formulations, no hyphens in all expenses are paid.

Q. What is the proper AP Style on the surname of Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister%uFFFFAraqchi or Araghchi? – from Washington on Tue, Jan 17, 2017

A. AP stories from Iran use Abbas Araghchi for the deputy foreign minister.

Q. Would AP cap Library of Congress Subject Headings as a general term (not each of the headings, but the group of them)? – from farmington, me on Tue, Jan 17, 2017

A. In the one usage found in the AP news archive, it was Library of Congress subject headings.

Q. I see various styles on the web for the term: "Entrepreneur in Residence." Among them: Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Entrepreneur-In-Residence, entrepreneur-in-residence, Entrepreneur in Residence, Entrepreneur in residence, etc. The main issue seems to be whether the term uses hyphens or not. I prefer it without hyphens unless it's modifying a word: "Entrepreneur-in-Residence program," but I'd appreciate your verdict to settle this question! – from Tallahassee, Fla. on Tue, Jan 17, 2017

A. Agree, but AP stories don't capitalize the term unless it's used in a formal name.

Q. The stylebook used to include "words as words" in the "quotation marks" entry of the punctuation guide, indicating that words being used to refer to the words themselves should be in quotes. Is that still the AP rule? A site of the AP Stylebook website, including the archive, came up with nothing. Thanks! – from Athens, Ohio on Tue, Jan 17, 2017

A. That entry in the Stylebook's W section was dropped in 2008. The advice to enclose certain words in quotes for emphasis is covered in the IRONY and UNFAMILIAR TERMS sections of the "quotation marks" entry.

Q. In Westerns, the heroes always carry a gun - would that be a six gun, a six-gun, or a sixgun? – from farmington, me on Tue, Jan 17, 2017

A. Deferring to the dictionary's six-gun, also spelled six-shooter.

Q. Is it the River Danube and the River Thames, or the Danube River and Thames River? – from Tokyo on Mon, Jan 16, 2017

A. AP stories from England favor the River Thames. AP stories from the continent favor Danube River.

Q. Have you ever seen mosts' used as a plural possessive pronoun, as in, "Even a workmanlike Rick Harris draft is better than mosts' letter-perfect labors?" – from Atlanta on Mon, Jan 16, 2017

A. No.

Q. Have a question about alphabetizing names in a list: Rickey Smith Earl Smith Jr. Would the inclusion of Jr. put Earl Smith after Rickey Smith? Also: Rex Thompson Sir Charles Thompson Would the inclusion of Sir put Charles Thompson after Rex Thompson? – from Santa Monica, Calif. on Mon, Jan 16, 2017

A. Earl Smith Jr. before Rickey Smith. See BARONET, KNIGHT section of "nobility" for guidance on using an honorary title with a celebrity's name.

Q. What is the proper format for quoting a list? In this case, the list I am quoting uses bullet points, and each bullet point is multiple sentences long. – from Chicago on Mon, Jan 16, 2017

A. See first paragraph of the RUNNING QUOTATIONS section of the "quotation mark" entry.

Q. Is the plural of jerbait proper as jerkbaits, same with other bait, crankbait, etc. It sounds incorrect, as bait should be singular and plural, but I see a of of baits online. – from BREMERTON, Wash. on Mon, Jan 16, 2017

A. AP fishing stories have used the plural jerkbaits in references to bass lures.

Q. Dear Mr. David Minthorn, I have the Webster's New World College Dictionary, but I don't know how to look up correct words using apostrophes, like for instance whether it is "guy's apartment" or "guys' apartment", etc. Would you mind informing me how to look up the correct word using the apostrophe in the dictionary? Thanks so much. Best regards, Melvin – from Surabaya, XX on Mon, Jan 16, 2017

A. See Apostrophe section of RULES OF PUNCTUATION in the dictionary's Reference Supplement.

All contents © copyright 2017 Associated Press. All rights reserved.