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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. Is it man-hunt or manhunt? – from Bahama, N.C. on Wed, Aug 26, 2015

A. One word: manhunt.

Q. Wal-Mart calls its charitable entity Walmart Foundation. How would AP refer to it? – from Santa Ana, Calif. on Wed, Aug 26, 2015

A. A recent AP story referred to Wal-Mart's charitable foundation.

Q. I understand avoiding the use of the word murder until after there is a conviction. Using that reasoning, one of our editors argued that a local death investigation should not be called "an apparent murder-suicide," but instead a "slaying-suicide." Any thoughts on use of the word murder in similar instances? – from Tampa, Fla. on Wed, Aug 26, 2015

A. Strictly speaking, homicide-suicide or slaying-suicide would be more accurate until theres's an official ruling on the deaths. However, initial statements from police or other authoriteis usually use the other formulation, so that should be attributed.

Q. In reference to the position one holds a steering wheel, how would you format 10 and 2? Use numerals for both? Enclosed in quotes? Hyphenate as a modifier in "10-and-2 method?" – from Crystal Lake, Ill. on Wed, Aug 26, 2015

A. Envisioning the face of a clock, novice drivers are taught to hold the steering wheel at 10 and 2 for optimum control of the vehicle.

Q. Our department uses AP. I don't see this in what I thought would be the comma: nonrestrictive phrase section. I'm hoping you can settle a MAJOR debate I've long had with one of our licensees as well as my coworkers. Which of the following uses the comma correctly? The material introduced earlier constitutes the basis for the subsequent unit, and as a result allows pupils to proceed to the next learning stage easily. The material introduced earlier constitutes the basis for the subsequent unit and, as a result, allows pupils to proceed to the next learning stage easily. MOST IMPORTANT, WHY? Which APstylebook section can I point to? I'd like to enlarge that section and plaster it all over the walls! – from Los Angeles on Wed, Aug 26, 2015

A. The "essential phrases, nonessential phrases" could be of interest. Rather than choose, I'd tighten the sentence for clarity: The material introduced earlier is the basis for the following unit, allowing pupils to proceed easily to the next learning stage.

Q. May "the" precede the following series even though MLB should not be preceded by "the"? "The NCAA, NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB." Or should it be "The NCAA, the NBA, the NFL, the NHL and MLB"? – from New York on Wed, Aug 26, 2015

A. Yes, it may.

Q. Would it be acceptable to capitalize the day and month designations in the following examples? These will appear in a newsletter for acupuncturists and chiropractors. Oct. 24 is Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Day. October is National Chiropractic Health Month. – from Milwaukee on Wed, Aug 26, 2015

A. Correct.

Q. I know AP doesn't use figures for Ten Commandments, but what about in headlines? Should I go by headline rules and use 10 Commandments? – from Hypoluxo, Fla. on Wed, Aug 26, 2015

A. The Stylebook's "Ten Commandments" entry says do not abbreviate or use figures. So that holds for a headline, too.

Q. Is Third Party Administrator (TPA) capitalized or lowercase? – from Elmwood Park , N.J. on Wed, Aug 26, 2015

A. You can lowercase third party administrator as a job descriptive. On second reference, the administrator would be clear.

Q. My Canadian counterparts are complaining about applying AP Style to our writing. Is there a Canadian version of the AP Stylebook, or are the same styles applied there as well? – from Chicago on Wed, Aug 26, 2015

A. Check with the Canadian Press, the country's multimedia press association:

Q. Is there any reason to capitalize terms like online banking, checking plan or overdraft line of credit? Others I work with are quite fond of capitalizing common nouns like these in customer-facing communications. – from Bridgeport, Conn. on Wed, Aug 26, 2015

A. These are generic banking terms and are spelled lowercase in news stories.

Q. Is it "re-regulation" or "reregulation"? – from New York, N.Y. on Tue, Aug 25, 2015

A. Probably better with a hyphen.

Q. Is it megachain or mega chain? – from Chicago on Tue, Aug 25, 2015

A. It's not in the dictionary, and it's not widely used, so probably better to hyphenate.

Q. Here's one that's causing quite a stir at my office: We run a page that features multiple items with a descriptive list for each one. For the list items, if a full sentence is used, we end in a period. If it's a fragment, there's no period. What is your suggestion for this? "Soil: Not particular, but good drainage is necessary" Period or no period? Thanks! – from Phoenix on Tue, Aug 25, 2015

A. See IN LISTS section of the "dash" entry. It's as close as we come to your issue.

Q. Is Westerner capitalized? As in "This part of Vietnam doesn't see many Westerners." – from Tokyo on Tue, Aug 25, 2015

A. Yes.

Q. Is it trust-building for both the noun and adjective forms? – from Seoul, XX on Tue, Aug 25, 2015

A. Yes.

Q. Writing about an organization that helps veterans. Some programs are for disabled veterans and others are not. They are all veterans, but we need to distinguish between the two groups because of the different offerings. I don't like "veterans and disabled vets" because to me it sounds like the disabled vets are not veterans. Or a sentence such as "helps disabled veterans, vets, military spouses etc." Or is vets/veterans and disabled vets/veterans OK to use in the same sentence? Or heading such as "programs for veterans" and then "programs for disabled veterans." – from New Jersey on Tue, Aug 25, 2015

A. To underline the distinction, try "programs for all veterans" and "separate programs for disabled veterans."

Q. Pronoun question: Roughly 1 in 4 workers will delay retirement to maintain medical coverage through their employer. Or: Roughly 1 in 4 workers will delay retirement to maintain medical coverage through his or her employer. – from CO on Tue, Aug 25, 2015

A. If the ratio represents a large sampling of workers, with numbers on those surveyed, the plural possessive pronoun is correct, with plural employers to show multiple companies are involved: ... through their employers.

Q. When it comes to event names, would you put quotes around "Welcome Back Lobster Bake" in this sentence: In terms of the best campus dining, College of the Atlantic joined the top five, while Bowdoin College must be doing something right with its annual "Welcome Back Lobster Bake." – from Chicago on Tue, Aug 25, 2015

A. As an annual or recurring event, known at least locally, the name doesn't quotes

Q. To follow up on my previous question, we follow AP style for product flyers that list product features in bullet points. We also do not spell out the numbers for millimeters for technical reasons. Since we do not spell out the numbers and they must be stated 15 mm, would we capitalize the word following 15 mm? – from Leesburg, Va. on Tue, Aug 25, 2015

A. No.

Q. When creating content for a PowerPoint presentation, should abbreviations be spelled out upon first use in the presentation agenda or can abbreviations be used in the agenda but spelled out upon first use in the actual presentation content? – from Norman, Okla. on Tue, Aug 25, 2015

A. It depends on the abbreviations. If they are known to your audience, and space is tight for the presentation agenda, you could probably use option two.

Q. What is AP's position on using "zen" to describe calm or tranquil, as in a moment of zen or 5 zen tips for panicked parents? And would it be capitalized when used colloquially? – from Centreville, Va. on Tue, Aug 25, 2015

A. As headlines: "A moment of Zen" and "Five Zen tips for panicked parents"

Q. Please help me settle a modest bet: Is the Paul Goodman book titled "Growing Up Absurd" or "Growing up Absurd" in AP Style? Up is not a preposition or conjunction in this usage, so I say Up is, well, Up. Thanks! – from Evanston, Ill. on Tue, Aug 25, 2015

A. Yes, capitalized as part of the verb, a principal word.

Q. In Georgia, a variety of institutions, including high schools, are named for one of our major rivers, the Chattahoochee. Chattahoochee High School in Johns Creek shortens that to "Hooch" for all sports and news stories. Hooch Football, Hooch Baseball, etc. Is 'Hooch or just Hooch correct? And if it's 'Hooch, which way should the apostrophe be facing? – from Johns Creek, Ga. on Tue, Aug 25, 2015

A. If the school spells it Hooch, stick with that spelling.

Q. If I have a sentence beginning with a number do I capitalize the next word instead? The current sentence reads: %uFFFD15 mm lateral offset connectors are now available for lateral offset extension%uFFFD.%uFFFD Since it%uFFFDs referring to an implant and not an instrument, we wouldn%uFFFDt normally capitalize it, but I wasn%uFFFDt sure in this case. – from Leesburg, Va. on Tue, Aug 25, 2015

A. Fifteen millimeter lateral offset connectors ...

Q. When using a quoted sentence or phrase as a title, I know to use single quotes, and I believe we are to use sentence case for capitalization. If the quote was a sentence in the story, should it end with a period? Two examples: %uFFFDI need to be more like Joseph%uFFFD and %uFFFDHe%uFFFDs in terrible pain%uFFFD – from Hagerstown, MD on Mon, Aug 24, 2015

A. Within a story, the sentence quote includes a period. Used as a story title or headline, no period in the quote: "I need to be more like Joseph" and "He's in terrible pain"

Q. Which is correct: "nine species of bird" or "nine species of birds"? – from 20036 on Mon, Aug 24, 2015

A. The second.

Q. I had a question about the AP style for subject-verb agreements, specifically for singular subjects followed by plural prepositional phrases, and vice versa. Please see the following example: "An onslaught of bills affecting employers (was/were) introduced during the 2015 legislative session." Since the subject is "onslaught," would the verb used be "was?" Or since the object of the prepositional phrase (of bills) is plural, would the verb be "were?" – from , Portland, Oregon on Mon, Aug 24, 2015

A. Singular subject, singular verb. But the overheated subject is awkward. Why not rephrase? Numerous bills affecting employers were introduced during the 2015 legislative session.

Q. Since backyard is one word and front yard is two, when mentioning both in the same sentence, would it be appropriate to say "transform the front and backyard," or is it better to say "transform the front and back yards?" Thanks! – from Phoenix on Mon, Aug 24, 2015

A. Transform your yards -- front and back.

Q. The "whiskey, whiskeys" entry says: "Use the spelling whisky only in conjunction with Scotch whisky and Canadian whisky." Should we use the "whisky" spelling in reference to Japanese labels as well? Most, if not all, major Japanese distillers (e.g., Suntory, Nikka, etc.) use this spelling in their company and product names. – from New York, N.Y. on Mon, Aug 24, 2015

A. Stick with the Stylebook spelling guidance for generic references to whiskey and whisky. The latter spelling could be used in directly quoting a Japanese label that uses whisky.

Q. Is it a or an before a dollar figure with a vowel sound -- such as $86 million? – from Bayside, N.Y. on Mon, Aug 24, 2015

A. For example, it's an $86 million deal. He proposed a $300 billion budget.

Q. Is there a past tense for "ex or x" out? Would it be hyphenated (x-ed) or hyphenated (x'd)? – from Missouri City , Texas on Mon, Aug 24, 2015

A. The dictionary entry for "x" gives both spellings for the past tense. Your call.

Q. Some adjectives are in the dictionary and some aren%uFFFDt. Let%uFFFDs take long-term and laid-back. Both are listed in Webster%uFFFDs New World College Dictionary as hyphenated. Does that mean we should always hyphenate them? I've also been told modifiers like these should only be hyphenated as a compound modifier when they follow the noun. – from Charlotte , N.C. on Mon, Aug 24, 2015

A. By the dictionary entries, these modifiers are always hyphenated: long-term (adj., adv.) and laid-back (adj.).

Q. Do you capitalize "e" and "c" in a headline about e-cigarettes? Or only the "e"??? – from Madison, Conn. on Mon, Aug 24, 2015

A. E-cigarettes to begin a headline. Inside a headline, e-cigarettes.

Q. When using number ranges in a sentence, is this phrase accurately written: "...from 3-25 tons." – from Coconut Creek, Fla. on Mon, Aug 24, 2015

A. ... from 3 tons to 25 tons.

Q. AP's statement about hyphens says hyphenate modifiers such as small-business man, but not phrases such as health care center. We've gone back and forth in the office, but given that, would you hyphenate social-media posts? It seems to fit into the health care center thinking, but there is some debate here. Suggestions? – from Chicago on Mon, Aug 24, 2015

A. It's social media posts.

Q. Would you hyphenate "two and a half years?" – from San Antonio on Mon, Aug 24, 2015

A. No hyphens in two and a half years.

Q. What is the plural of master's when you are referring to multiple degrees or programs? "I have two master's and a bachelor's" or "The university's master's programs are...." – from Placentia, Calif. on Mon, Aug 24, 2015

A. Correct as written.

Q. Are online publication titles such as SuckerPunch Daily and Dezeen handled just like print publications such as The Dallas Morning News, etc.? Are they also in italics?... What determines whether an "online publication" is more than a website that probably wouldn't be put in italics? – from Van, Texas on Mon, Aug 24, 2015

A. Titles of online magazines or blogs are capitalized, as in the Stylebook's newspaper and magazine guidance, but not enclosed in quotes unless there's a highly unusual name that might otherwise be misunderstood. AP doesn't use italics in news stories.

Q. Some of my colleagues contend that the "up" with "team up" is not necessary. But to my ear, it sounds awkward without it. Example: The association will team with its chapter in Sofia, Bulgaria, to host an international symposium. – from Fairfax, Va. on Mon, Aug 24, 2015

A. The dictionary definition of team, the verb, says it means join in a cooperative effort, often written with up, as in team up.

Q. Should there be a hyphen in a phrase like "more seasoned" when used like this: ... for young advisers to meet with each other and ask questions of more seasoned veterans. – from Des Moines, Iowa on Mon, Aug 24, 2015

A. No hyphen in more seasoned veterans.

Q. If wide is hyphenated as a prefix, would it also be hyphenated as a suffix in district-wide, when it's not compound modifier? – from Chicago on Mon, Aug 24, 2015

A. See the Stylebook's "-wide" suffix entry.

Q. The university places high in recent rankings, or highly? – from Madison, Wis. on Mon, Aug 24, 2015

A. Places high is correct.

Q. Would you hyphenate decision-making if it's not a compound modifier? It's unclear. – from Chicago on Mon, Aug 24, 2015

A. AP stories hyphenate decision-making in all uses.

Q. Is "wishlist" or "wish list" correct? – from Chapel Hill, N.C. on Mon, Aug 24, 2015

A. The dictionary spelling is wish list.

Q. Good morning! Is this sentence correct without a second "have"? I can't recast. Thank you! "Witch doctors have cured more cases of cancer than medical doctors." – from Kansas City, Mo. on Mon, Aug 24, 2015

A. Factually, this sentence is nonsense.

Q. As a matter of capitalization, is the verb "is" (and others like it) considered a "principal word" in a composition title if it is fewer than four letters. – from Canton, Conn. on Sun, Aug 23, 2015

A. Yes, any verb is a principal word.

Q. If I want to say, "The DOD's programs are..." I'm not sure if its DODs or DOD's. – from Bremerton, Wash. on Sun, Aug 23, 2015

A. Use the possessive with an apostrophe: The DOD's programs ...

Q. If a colon follows "M.D." should there be a period after the "D"? Should it be "M.D.:" or "M.D:"? – from North Myrtle Beach, S.C. on Sat, Aug 22, 2015

A. Include a period after the D. followed by the colon.

Q. The term freely associated states is used to refer to three countries -- the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau and the Marshall Islands -- each of which has a Compact of Free Association with the United States. Citizens of those countries are sometimes referred to, collectively, as FAS citizens (as an example of usage). Should freely associated states be capitalized? – from Yona, XX on Sat, Aug 22, 2015

A. A recent AP story from the Pacific region referred to COFA citizens after capitalizing the full term on first reference. If FAS were to come up in a news story, we'd probably spell out the full term lowercase as a form of the formal name.

Q. Is it "subject to" or "subjected to"? – from Los Angeles on Sat, Aug 22, 2015

A. The context largely determines the correct form. The agreement was subject to approval by the members. He was subjected to harsh punishment.

Q. So, this is correct: "A. It's flame retardant-free furniture or furniture without flame retardant chemicals." Isn't flame retardant hyphenated if it's modifying chemicals? – from Eden Prairie, Minn. on Sat, Aug 22, 2015

A. Consider it a noun phrase without hyphens, the usual spelling: flame retardant chemicals.

Q. When discussing overtime pay rates, which is correct: "time and a half" or "time-and-a-half"? – from Bedford, N.H. on Fri, Aug 21, 2015

A. It's time and a half (n.) in the dictionary.

Q. Would you spell it cyber incident or cyberincident? Thanks. – from Rosemead, Calif. on Fri, Aug 21, 2015

A. Two words in the Department of Homeland Security website:

Q. I don't see it in AP or Webster's, but would high-touch be hyphenated since high-tail, high-rise and high-priced are in Webster's, but high tech is not. (This is not being used as compound modifier, otherwise it would be clear.) – from Chicago on Fri, Aug 21, 2015

A. Internet uses seem to prefer high touch.

Q. Based on previous answers, I know you don't hyphenate top 10, but when it's written within a sentence would you capitalize top in Top 10, or leave it lowercase? (Example: ..hurled its revamped app into iTunes' top 10 list of drink apps.) – from Chicago on Fri, Aug 21, 2015

A. The generic term is lowercase. Formally named lists capitalize Top 10.

Q. If full-service is hyphenated according to AP's recommendation to see Webster's, would limited-service also be hyphenated. (It's not in AP or Webster's) – from Chicago on Fri, Aug 21, 2015

A. Yes.

Q. When referring to the name of a magazine, do I put it in quotes, italics or neither? In your FAQ section, you say not to put it in italics, but don't mention quotes. Is the name simply capitalized with no special style attributes? – from Dallas on Fri, Aug 21, 2015

A. Capitalize the initial letter of a magazine name but don't place it in quotes, per the Stylebook entry.

Q. If I have this following phrase in a sentence: "flame retardant free furniture" Should it be "flame-retardant-free furniture" or "flame retardant-free furniture"? Thank you. – from Eden Prairie, Minn. on Fri, Aug 21, 2015

A. It's flame retardant-free furniture or furniture without flame retardant chemicals.

Q. In "it may take up to five or even 10 years to recoup expenses," would AP style call for all numerals, all spelled out -- or is this OK as written? – from Chicago on Fri, Aug 21, 2015

A. It may take up to five years, or even 10, to recoup expenses.

Q. How do we spell the name of that new Greek political party, Popular Unity? Is it Leiki Anotita? – from New York on Fri, Aug 21, 2015

A. The BBC translation of Popular Unity party is Laiki Enotita.

Q. How would you treat the possessive in a construction like this: "The tool asks users questions about their company's needs."? Since the users presumably don't have the same company, would we say "...about their companies' needs"? – from Harrisburg, Pa. on Fri, Aug 21, 2015

A. Yes, plural possessive works fine.

Q. Geofencing is too new to be in Webster's. Some have it hyphenated, some don't. Based on geoeconomics and other words, I wasn't going to hyphenate it, but does AP have an official ruling on this? – from Chicago on Fri, Aug 21, 2015

A. By the dictionary entry, words using the "geo" combining form aren't hyphenated. Admittedly, some AP stories have spelled geofencing with a hyphen.

Q. Do we need a comma between a the Twitter account name and the hashtag? For example: Join the conversation on Twitter @CalWellness, #ACAinCA. – from Camarillo, Calif. on Fri, Aug 21, 2015

A. It should be fine without a comma.

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