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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. For an honorary doctorate, I found a recommendation for wording that can be used in text. However, is a Ph.D. placed after their name, if their name is at the top of a bio? I assume not, since it was not an earned degree, but I couldn't find confirmation of this anywhere. – from Reseach Triangle Par, N.C. on Fri, Oct 21, 2016

A. No. See "honorary degrees" entry.

Q. Test bed or testbed? One or two words? – from San Diego on Fri, Oct 21, 2016

A. The preference in AP usage is test bed, two words.

Q. Are abbreviations used within spoken quotes (e.g. Sen. Kaine or Senator Kaine? Gov. Pence or Governor Pence? No.1-selling record or number 1-selling record?) If quoting from the text of a speech, should we conform to AP style, or use the style of the text? – from , Washington on Thu, Oct 20, 2016

A. The guideline in "quotations in the news" says to follow basic writing style and use abbreviations where appropriate, as in No. 1, St., Gov., Sen. and $3.

Q. Q. Dear David, The "county court'' entry in my AP Stylebook says to capitalize all references to a specific county court, not just when the full, proper name is given. Based on that, my paper capitalizes (after the specific county or municipality is established) County Court, City Court, Family Court, Town Court, Village Court. Are we wrong to do so? from Syracuse, NY on Nov 06, 2007 A. Your capitalization style is on solid ground. Those specific courts -- well-known in a local context -- are properly uppercase in shortened form. not favorite Q. Am I correct to assume that terms like family court, juvenile court, and municipal court are lower case unless they are used in a full, proper name? (Ramsey County Family Court) from Eagan, Minn. on Nov 02, 2007 A. That's correct. Hello, the two answers appear to be contradictory. Did the editor mean to extend the second answer by saying something like, "Each subsequent reference to a specific, fully named family court may be shortened to Family Court?" What if a subsequent reference to that same specific court is written as only %uFFFFthe court?' Would %uFFFFcourt%uFFFF have to be capitalized? – from Rensselaer, N.Y. on Thu, Oct 20, 2016

A. In a shortened reference for a follow-up, the court is spelled lowercase.

Q. How would you handle a company called ghd (all lowercase letters), especially at the beginning of a sentence? Various news sources use ghd, GHD and Ghd. – from Wayne, Pa. on Thu, Oct 20, 2016

A. The "company names" guidance says to capitalize the first letter of a company name in all uses. So for the company using a lowercase spelling, it would be Ghd.

Q. When referring to supercomputing (HPC), should I use "high-performance computing" or "high performance computing"? – from Escondido, Calif. on Thu, Oct 20, 2016

A. The generic term is often hyphenated in AP stories, though a number of facilities that incorporate the term in their formal name don't hyphenate it.

Q. What is the rule for using "carbon" when referring to carbon dioxide emissions? – from , Denver on Thu, Oct 20, 2016

A. AP stories use both carbon dioxide emissions or carbon emissions.

Q. Is is churchwide or church-wide? Webster's New World College Dictionary has it as churchwide, but one of our writers insists that it is church-wide due to spellcheck in every program (including this submission box) not accepting churchwide. – from Madison, Miss. on Wed, Oct 19, 2016

A. No hyphen in churchwide by the Stylebook's "-wide" guidance.

Q. Should the acronym DARPA be written out as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency on first reference? – from Portland, Ore. on Wed, Oct 19, 2016

A. Correct.

Q. Seeing conflicting responses for the word "prerecession." Multiple answers say "By the Stylebook's 'pre-' entry, hyphenate words formed with that prefix if not listed in the Stylebook entry or the dictionary. Hence, it should be pre-recession"%uFFFFimplying that "prerecession" does not appear in either. But it is indeed listed in Webster's, as "prerecession" without a hyphen. Can you clarify/correct previous responses? Thanks. – from Chicago on Wed, Oct 19, 2016

A. It's not an entry in Webster's New World College Dictionary, Fifth Edition. Did you see the spelling in another reference?

Q. For schedules, are "vs." and "at" interchangeable? Dallas Cowboys vs. St.Louis Rams. Who is the home team? – from Henderson, Nev. on Wed, Oct 19, 2016

A. According to AP sports, versus and at are two different things, and the order doesn%u2019t matter when using a vs. format. In general, with schedules, AP says %u201Cat%u201D when saying one team is playing another team. But when AP uses vs., AP lists the most logical team first depending on the situation, not necessarily the home team. Schedules that are simple lists generally use %u201Cat,%u201D while schedules mentioned in stories depend on the needs of that story.

Q. Should it be Fintech or FinTech. I see in some uses the capital T and F? – from Dublin, on Wed, Oct 19, 2016

A. It's Fintech in the name of a hedge fund and a separate business based overseas. AP news archives don't show other spellings. However, this website may be helpful:

Q. Should "early voting" be capitalized ... Early Voting starts Monday? – from Wylie, Texas on Wed, Oct 19, 2016

A. Capital E to start a sentence: Early voting starts Monday. Within a sentence, it's early voting.

Q. Would it be appropriate to refer to a landfill as a "dump" on later reference, or does that have too bad of a connotation, even though most people call it that? – from Norfolk, Va. on Tue, Oct 18, 2016

A. By dictionary definitions, there's a distinction between a dump, or rubbish pile, and landfill, where rubbish is covered by layers of soil. AP stories of recent years generally adhere to the difference.

Q. The Communication program students will be attending a seminar. or is it: The communication program students..... what about: The Communication students or The communication students because of the reference to communication program. The English and Communication Department has 100 students in the Communication program. – from Harrisburg, Pa. on Tue, Oct 18, 2016

A. While Communication may be capitalized in the formal name of a university department, it's lowercase as a course of study in the other formulations you list. Proper nouns such as English are always capitalized, though.

Q. Please, which is correct: I waited outside the house OR I waited outside OF the house. Thank you. – from Alexandria, Va. on Tue, Oct 18, 2016

A. I waited outside the house.

Q. An interview subject wishes to be described as "Army National Guard Infantry Officer." AP would lowercase "Infantry Officer," but should "Army National Guard" specify a state? – from Chicago on Tue, Oct 18, 2016

A. Army National Guard infantry officer is correct. Adding the state is helpful: Army National Guard infantry officer in Illinois.

Q. hi, I work at a hospital system and am looking for the correct way to talk about water births -- one word "waterbirth" or two? I see both out there. – from Portland, Ore. on Tue, Oct 18, 2016

A. Spelled water births in AP medical stories.

Q. Potpie or pot pie? – from Birmingham, Ala. on Tue, Oct 18, 2016

A. The preference is pot pie in AP stories, even though the dictionary entry is potpie.

Q. When might AP drop the hyphen in on-site and off-site? Do you wait for the dictionary to take the first step or do you sometimes take the lead? – from San Ramon, Calif. on Tue, Oct 18, 2016

A. We have no plans to change those spellings.

Q. Is it correct to place a comma after the word and? – from Itasca, Ill. on Tue, Oct 18, 2016

A. A nonessential phrase or clause placed directly after the conjunction would be set off by commas. More commonly, a comma precedes and when it links two independent clauses.

Q. What's the style for Rice Krispies treats? Should we use the generic "rice crispy treat" when unsure of the brand used? – from Crystal Lake, Ill. on Tue, Oct 18, 2016

A. AP stories have occasionally used rice crispy treat as a generic term.

Q. Does AP capitalize "Summer of Love" when referring to the infamous 1967 summer in San Francisco? – from San Francisco on Tue, Oct 18, 2016

A. Yes, and the term is often enclosed in quotes.

Q. It the weather term "King Tide," "King tide" or "king tide"? We're seeing in different ways in different publications. Thanks! – from FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. on Tue, Oct 18, 2016

A. The term is generally lowercase and not enclosed in quotes in AP stories.

Q. When the words WHY, WHAT, HOW etc. are used as nouns, should they be enclosed in quotes? Single or double? Below are a few examples: One change that has already taken place because of the %uFFFFwhy%uFFFF is the 691st COS itself. %uFFFFThe %uFFFFwhy%uFFFF is so much more important than the %uFFFFwhat%uFFFF and the %uFFFFhow,%uFFFF%uFFFF Hyten said. %uFFFFThe %uFFFFwhy%uFFFF means everything, and I hope like me, every time you realize the %uFFFFwhy,%uFFFF you realize we%uFFFFve changed warfare.%uFFFF – from Kaiserslautern, XX on Tue, Oct 18, 2016

A. You could enclose each word in quotation marks on first uses, but the repetitions can stand without quotes.

Q. Which is correct: Officers responded to New Leaf Community Market on Fair Avenue for a disturbance call approximately 3:30 a.m. or Officers responded to New Leaf Community Market on Fair Avenue for a disturbance call at approximately 3:30 a.m. – from Vista, Calif. on Mon, Oct 17, 2016

A. Go with the second example using at.

Q. Down and distance in football. Fourth and goal, third and 10, or fourth-and-goal and third-and-10? – from Corpus Christie, Texas on Mon, Oct 17, 2016

A. These formulations are usually hyphenated in AP football stories.

Q. When writing about legal cases, which would be correct, with regards to "city"? "She represented the City of New York in federal court" or "She represented the city of New York in federal court." Thank you. – from New York on Mon, Oct 17, 2016

A. Go with the second example spelling city lowercase. All city of formulations are lowercase as noted in the "city" entry.

Q. When referring to "big data" in the context of what companies are able to gather about users, are the words capitalized, as in: Big Data? Or lower cased with quotation marks? Or maybe italicized? The paragraph begins, "And then there's big data." The phrase seems to warrant special typographic treatment. – from Parker, Colo. on Mon, Oct 17, 2016

A. Within a sentence, AP uses big data spelled lowercase without quotes or italics.

Q. When it is necessary to capitalize "e-learning," how do you do so? – from Seattle, Washington on Mon, Oct 17, 2016

A. E-learning to start a sentence or as the first word in an AP headline. Otherwise, it's e-learning spelled lowercase.

Q. Is it: He's a walking testament TO what%uFFFFs possible or a testament OF what's possible? – from Encinitas, Calif. on Mon, Oct 17, 2016

A. The customary formulation is a testament to.

Q. We are trying to determine if the use of the word "throughout" is correct in the following headline "Female Farmers Prosper Throughout Ohio" or if it is more correct to use the word "across". defines across "from one side to another" and throughout as "in every part". I do not see an entry in the AP Stylebook and since this question comes up often, I wanted to verify which was correct. – from Reynoldsburg, Ohio on Mon, Oct 17, 2016

A. Both are correct in news stories to convey a widespread situation. In a headline where space is an issue, across may fit better.

Q. Should collegewide be treated the same as campuswide, or should it be hyphenated as college-wide (same question for building-wide, department-wide, etc.)? – from Morrisville, N.Y. on Mon, Oct 17, 2016

A. No hyphen in such formulation. See the "-wide" entry.

Q. I asked this earlier today, and your answer seems to contradict what's listed in the "transgender" entry: My question: Q. Hi. If using a person's preferred pronoun of "they," would you then use "continues" -- since the "they" is referring to one person? Or would you go with "continue"? Thanks much. %uFFFF from Chicago on Mon, Oct 17, 2016 A. A news story might note an individual's use of that pronoun. However, AP uses they for third person plural. transgender Use the pronoun preferred by the individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth. If that preference is not expressed, use the pronoun consistent with the way the individuals live publicly. See LGBT and transsexual. – from Chicago on Mon, Oct 17, 2016

A. Rather than using the third person plural pronoun for an individual, AP generally uses the person's surname and the singular form of the verb for grammatical agreement.

Q. Is "acoustic music" or "acoustical music" the preferred term for music played without electronic amplification? – from Salinas, Calif. on Mon, Oct 17, 2016

A. The preference in AP stories is acoustic music.

Q. Would AP hyphenate the use of "city-area" in constructions such as this? "He is a Baltimore-area resident." We use this construction for residents of areas outside municipal limits of various local towns. – from Rehoboth Beach, Del. on Mon, Oct 17, 2016

A. In AP stories, locations with -area modifying a noun are generally spelled with a hyphen: Baltimore-area resident.

Q. Hi. If using a person's preferred pronoun of "they," would you then use "continues" -- since the "they" is referring to one person? Or would you go with "continue"? Thanks much. – from Chicago on Mon, Oct 17, 2016

A. A news story might note an individual's use of that pronoun. However, AP uses they for third person plural.

Q. What is current AP style for referring to the city of New York? New York City or just New York? Or does it depend on context/application? – from Orlando, Fla. on Mon, Oct 17, 2016

A. AP uses NEW YORK (AP) in a dateline. Within a story, New York City and New York are both used.

Q. Once a state name is given on first reference for a city outside the state of the datelined city, is it acceptable to drop the state name on second reference? – from St. George, Utah on Mon, Oct 17, 2016

A. Yes.

Q. At the end of a story, we often have this one line. Information: or 555-555-5555. ... Should we put a period after the phone number? On the one hand, it's obviously not a complete sentence. But on the other hand, it looks odd to end a story without a period. – from Santa Ana, Calif. on Sun, Oct 16, 2016

A. AP doesn't use a period in information placed under a story. A typical example on a separate line: Online: For more information: or call toll-free at 877-248-6922

Q. Editor, I have used your online service for years, and I have relied on your advice for capitalization of formal commissions consistent with the 2007 entry on "City Council" capitalization for all that time. I recently spot-checked "Planning Commission," and it appears that in 2014 the rule changed somehow. Either that, or perhaps I am misconstruing your response. Please clarify: Why would Planning Commission not be capitalized in all uses when referring to a specific commission ("commission" lowercase on second reference) consistent with the rule on City Council? They are both statutory bodies in my state. Thanks for the help. – from Hugo, Minn. on Sat, Oct 15, 2016

A. At the city's website, it's the Hugo Planning Commission as a formal name, so a news story could use that capitalized spelling. In news follow-ups, the commission spelled lowercase should suffice. With the exception of City Council, we tend toward lowercase spellings of generic bodies, especially for shortened versions.

Q. Is "Shariah law" redundant, or does "law" need to be added to provide context? – from Las Vegas on Fri, Oct 14, 2016

A. AP stories generally use Shariah law on first reference to the Islamic practices.

Q. What's the style for the skydiving discipline known as freeflying? Is it one word, two words or hyphenated? – from Portland, Ore. on Fri, Oct 14, 2016

A. The U.S. Parachute Association website uses freefly and freeflying.

Q. Hello, I'm still unclear after searching the stylebook on how to style general and specific references to U.S. Bankruptcy Courts. Do I capitalize U.S. Bankruptcy Court, or is it U.S. bankruptcy court? What about U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of California, and the like? Thank you! – from New York on Fri, Oct 14, 2016

A. AP business stories capitalize those court names in both uses.

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