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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 Swiss franc or Swiss Franc? In context, when uused without the modifier "Swiss", is it franc or Franc? E.g., the Franc dropped in value. – from Dulles, Va. on Mon, Jul 06, 2015

A. It's the Swiss franc. Currency names are lowercase -- dollar, mark, yen, rial, etc.

Q. Hi, Should a rhetorical question like 'Who knows' have a question mark? As in Who knows? – from 115953, XX on Mon, Jul 06, 2015

A. Correct with a question mark.

Q. Shouldn't Quranic be lower-case to be consistent with biblical? – from Tokyo on Sun, Jul 05, 2015

A. The dictionary caps Quranic (adj.). In a rare use in an AP story, it was capitalized: Quranic schools.

Q. I respectfully request you revisit your "foot and mouth" vs "hoof and mouth" style rule. You say don't use hoof and mouth. The disease is limited to cloven-hooved animals; such animals do not have feet. Experts in the cattle industry have pointed out that "foot and mouth" is a misnomer. http://livestocktrail.illinois.edu/dairynet/paperDisplay.cfm?ContentID=603 Can you explain the style rule in which a disease of hooved creatures should refer to feet? – from Corpus Christie, Texas on Sun, Jul 05, 2015

A. The hyphenated foot-and-mouth disease can sometimes be transmitted to humans. Hence, we use that term rather than limiting it to cloven-footed animals.

Q. Can I assume that, based on the Webster's entry for -sphere as a combining form, e.g. oosphere (whatever that is), that Twittersphere is one word, not hyphenated? – from Tokyo on Sun, Jul 05, 2015

A. Yes, but it's overused. Try another description.

Q. The entry for May Day vs mayday seems unclear. It indicates "mayday" is not upper-cased, yet in the description the term "Mayday" begins a sentence so it has to be upper-cased. It might be a bit more clear if the explanatory sentence did not begin with the word "mayday," for example, "The international distress signal mayday means...." – from Santa Barbara, Calif. on Sun, Jul 05, 2015

A. It's usually a capitalized exclamation: "Mayday! Mayday!" she shouted.

Q. "Grudgingly" and "begrudgingly" -- totally synonymous when describing something done reluctantly? If there's a difference, when it is appropriate to use one or the other? – from Charlotte, N.C. on Sun, Jul 05, 2015

A. It seems so, but check the dictionary entries for nuances pertaining to specific contexts.

Q. Is it incorrect grammar to use perfect tenses with %uFFFDafter%uFFFD? For example, He has/had been recovering at home after competing in the tournament. – from Virginia, XX on Fri, Jul 03, 2015

A. Use simple past tense with after.

Q. Would you abbreviate a state name in a direct quote, as in regular text? For example: "I was born in Baltimore, Md." Or does it seem more natural that a speaker would actually say, "I was born in Baltimore, Maryland"? – from Rehoboth Beach, Del. on Fri, Jul 03, 2015

A. AP no longer uses state abbreviations within news stories, just in story datelines, so spell out Maryland in the direct quote.

Q. Is the following punctuated correctly (no comma before the quote and capitalized first letter because it's a complete sentence)? He was pleased that "The charity had helped more than 5,000 children over its 10 years." Thank you – from Virginia, XX on Thu, Jul 02, 2015

A. He was pleased that the "charity had helped more than 5,000 children over its 10 years."

Q. Should it be "who to contact with questions" or "whom to contact with questions"? – from Chicago on Thu, Jul 02, 2015

A. Whom to contact with questions. See "who, whom" entry.

Q. Although I was taught decades ago in college that AP prefers "said" to "says" in quoted material, I can't find anything here to confirm that. Does AP have a rule on this? If so, what is it? – from Oak Ridge, Tenn. on Thu, Jul 02, 2015

A. In news usage, said is the customary attribution. However, says is used in initial versions of AP stories for broadcast. Says is also used in some feature stories or narratives to express a sense of ongoing present or for mood.

Q. You really didn't answer my question which involves a story that doesn't have a city/state in the dateline. We wouldn't post a story in Pensacola with a Pensacola dateline, so my original question is: Do we still have to put Florida, behind the city in the story? Especially if it involves local towns? Can you clarify the new policy on listing states in stories. For example, we're in Pensacola, Florida, so we wouldn't use a dateline, so if we mention Pensacola in the story, we have to add , Florida, ? And does that apply to every nearby city? %uFFFD from Pensacola, Fla. on Wed, Jul 01, 2015 A. If an AP story uses Florida city in the dateline, other Florida cities mentioned in the text don't need to have the state included unless confusion might arise -- say, with a city in another state with the same name. – from Pensacola, Fla. on Thu, Jul 02, 2015

A. No, don't add Florida after Pensacola in the story text or for other nearby cities understood to be within the state.

Q. It has recently come to my attention that the AP stylebook recommends not using the title "Dr." for people holding a PhD degree. I am an MD and recently won an award with two PhDs, equivalent award for equivalent stature all around, but the newspaper article refers to me as "Dr." and my colleagues as "Mr." This is frankly insulting to them and outdated. If it had gone the other way, referring to them as "Dr." and to me as "Mrs." I would have been outraged. This policy introduces inaccuracy in reporting, as it diminishes the perceived PhD academic contribution. Can this recommendation please be changed? – from Worcester, MA on Thu, Jul 02, 2015

A. See the appropriate entries in the AP Stylebook -- "academic degrees," "doctor," "Ph.D., Ph.D.s," "courtesy titles" -- to understand our guidance, which is not as used in the article. An AP story would specify that the two other individuals hold doctorates and their specialties. AP doesn't use Mr. and Mrs. as a title except in direct quotes, or Mrs. only if requested by a woman.

Q. I am editing this article and came across a phrase 10 cents per pound pickup cost. Your thoughts on hyphenating 10-cents-per-pound as a compound modifier. – from Orysia, New York City, N.Y. on Thu, Jul 02, 2015

A. My thought is to rewrite it to avoid an awkward modifier: a pickup cost of 10 cents per pound.

Q. Is "goal driven" always hyphenated regardless of whether it is compound modifier? Is it "I am goal driven" or "I am goal-driven."? And always "She is a goal-driven person."? – from Chandler, Ariz. on Thu, Jul 02, 2015

A. By the dictionary entry, hyphenate words with the combining form -driven: goal-driven.

Q. Is there a rule as to whether or not a professional title should use "of"? For example: Bob is the vice president, sales for Company A. versus Bob is the vice president of sales for Company A. – from Houston on Wed, Jul 01, 2015

A. A news story would favor the second: Bob Smith is the vice president of sales for Company A.

Q. I have seen conflicting answers in Ask the Editor regarding references to web pages, sections, links, buttons, etc. Capitalize titles, but not buttons? Use quotations or do not? Keep all punctuation inside quote marks? Click Submit. Click "Submit." Click "Submit". Click submit. Select Maps & Directions. Select "Maps & Directions." Select "Maps & Directions". Select maps & directions. Please clarify. Thank you! – from Elgin, Ill. on Wed, Jul 01, 2015

A. Word usages and instructions vary from website to website. Be guided by spellings on the link you're referring to. If a term is capitalized on the website, then cap it for the instruction. If lowercase, then use the same spelling in your reference. Terms such as "submit" are enclosed for emphasis in the answer. Keep punctuation inside quotes. Select maps and directions (or "maps and directions.")

Q. Should mobile health be abbreviated m-health or mHealth? – from San Francisco on Wed, Jul 01, 2015

A. Spell it out: mobile health.

Q. Punctuating indirect quotes. I need some help on when to use a comma in punctuating indirect quotes. Please see examples below and let me know when/if commas are needed. Thanks Kelderman said some of the lines had never..... Kelderman said, during th eprocess of locating... Kelderman said, the team worked closely.... – from Richmond, Va on Wed, Jul 01, 2015

A. Kelderman said some of the lines had never ...; Kelderman said that during the process of locating ...; Kelderman said the team worked closely ...

Q. Quick Question - I am looking for a rule about when to use a colon prior to a list. I have the rule in my head of "if there are three or more items use a colon to introduce the list." Is this correct? – from Athens, Ga. on Wed, Jul 01, 2015

A. A list introduced by a colon is generally three or more items.

Q. The Roman numerals entry doesn't make clear AP's stance on movies. Would it be "Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope" or "Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope" or "Star Wars Episode Four: A New Hope"? – from New York on Wed, Jul 01, 2015

A. Star Wars: Episode VIII

Q. Can you clarify the new policy on listing states in stories. For example, we're in Pensacola, Florida, so we wouldn't use a dateline, so if we mention Pensacola in the story, we have to add , Florida, ? And does that apply to every nearby city? – from Pensacola, Fla. on Wed, Jul 01, 2015

A. If an AP story uses Florida city in the dateline, other Florida cities mentioned in the text don't need to have the state included unless confusion might arise -- say, with a city in another state with the same name.

Q. Is it E-Pass or E-PASS for the electric toll collector? – from Orlando, Fla. on Wed, Jul 01, 2015

A. The generic term is e-pass. If it's a brand name, capitalize E-pass.

Q. In a sentence (not a headline or dateline), is it Washington, D.C., or Washington, DC? – from Washington on Wed, Jul 01, 2015

A. Washington, D.C.

Q. Dear AP eds, With all due respect, we're a little puzzled by your response to our question this week about whether you prefer the spelling "shahid" or "shaheed." You replied that you've only seen this word used as a given name and with both spellings. But many news stories, including your own, feature this word as a common noun -- it means "martyr" in Arabic and is used to glorify suicide bombers. Here is just one example I copied and pasted (from late April): BOSTON (AP) %uFFFD Testimony in the trial of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev zeroed in Tuesday on his late brother's wife, revealing searches done on her computer on the rewards of dying as a martyr's spouse and raising questions about what she knew before the 2013 attacks. Mark Spencer, a computer expert testifying for the defense, said a computer belonging to Tamerlan Tsarnaev's wife, Katherine Russell, contained searches done more than a year before the bombings for terms that included "rewards for wife of mujahedeen" and "If your husband becomes a shahid, what are the rewards for you?" We would guess from the above that your preferred spelling is probably "shahid," but would welcome a formal ruling for the sake of consistency.(And also, what would be the plural?)Thank you! – from Tel Aviv, XX on Wed, Jul 01, 2015

A. You are correct. New search of archive did turn up several uses with the spelling "shahid" for martyr.

Q. I know Gothic is capitalized (for the architectural movement), but what about Neo-Gothic? Or is neo-Gothic? – from Tokyo on Tue, Jun 30, 2015

A. It's neo-Gothic.

Q. Should singular nouns or plural nouns follow the word 'No.' We're reporting on a medical outbreak and are wondering if "No additional cases of the disease have been reported" or "No additional case of the disease has been reported" is better? Thank you. – from Virginia, XX on Tue, Jun 30, 2015

A. The verb should agree with the subject, which is cases (pl.) or case (sing.), depending the phrasing you use.

Q. Greetings, When referencing credit card bonus points, for example, would you use numerals or would you spell out numbers below 10? Example: Cardholders earn two points for every dollar spent. – from Washington , District of Columbia on Tue, Jun 30, 2015

A. Spell out points under 10.

Q. Hi: I submitted this question this week and just want to be sure about a comma or not in "Hi there." I wasn't clear on whether your answer, "comma," referred to everything in my original question. Thanks! Here are the original question and answer: "Q. Hi there. Is the lack of a comma in this salutation correct? What about in cases such as "Hi, Adrian" and "Dear Sir"? Comma or no? Thank you. %uFFFD from Tustin, Calif. on Mon, Jun 29, 2015 A. Comma." – from Tustin, Calif. on Tue, Jun 30, 2015

A. Hi, there: Hi, Adrian: Dear Sir, or Dear Sir:

Q. I'm struggling to find a term that encompasses both Native Americans in the U.S. and their Canadian counterparts, who are not called Native Americans or Indians. Do you have a preference or some guidance? Thank you. – from Portland, Oregon on Tue, Jun 30, 2015

A. Use First Nation for tribal people of Canada.

Q. How should we handle a headline in an instance where a colon already exists and we are adding something before it, such as the last name of an opinion columnist, to add clarification that the piece in question is opinion-oriented content, not a news story? Would a colon between the columnist's name and the headline be appropriate, and the second colon would be replaced with an em dash, or is a different treatment option better? Rewrites are not an option. – from Lakeland, Florida on Tue, Jun 30, 2015

A. Yes, that would work if The Ledger permits a dash in a headline.

Q. Is it appropriate to use U.S. on first reference? – from Lake Charles LA on Tue, Jun 30, 2015

A. Yes. See Stylebook entry.

Q. Which is it: to-do list, to do list or todo list? Using a hyphen would seem to confuse the meaning of "something yet to be done" with "a bustle, a stir, a fuss." – from Tokyo on Mon, Jun 29, 2015

A. It's to-do list, as in several Q&A's at this site.

Q. Could you clarify the correct spelling of "spellcheck" and "fact-check"? If these words are constructed differently, why is that so? – from Sydney, Australia on Mon, Jun 29, 2015

A. Deferring to Webster's NWCD, Fifth Edition: spell check (v.), spell-checker (n.). The same dictionary hyphenates both fact-check (v.) and fact-checker (n.). Other than usage, I have no explanation for the difference. However, I do see spellcheck (n.) often as a one-word compound, particularly in software references.

Q. When does one use tall vs high? For example, a tree is 10 feet tall or high? What about something like a wall or a sculpture? Is there a rule to help me remember when to use which one? Thanks! – from Phoenix on Mon, Jun 29, 2015

A. While these descriptives can be interchangeable in some contexts (a tree may be either tall or high), certain references or idioms require one or the other (a person is 6 feet tall, but not high as a measure of stature). Check the dictionary entries for examples, or search for both words in the AP Stylebook to see various uses.

Q. It's wildfire season. In the Ask the Editor archives, I find: %uFFFD "Hayman fire" lowercase (6/23/10) %uFFFD "Sam Hill fire" down but the historically significant "Yacolt Burn" up (7/21/14) %uFFFD Major burns like the "King Fire" and "2009 Station Fire" up (9/30/14) Does capitalization come with significance of a fire, and how big does a fire need to get to be a Fire? – from Vancouver, Wash. on Mon, Jun 29, 2015

A. No doubt the magnitude of the fire influences capitalization. News stories often follow the spellings of the U.S. Forest Service or other agencies that bestow or adopt names.

Q. I am unsure of whether to use the past tense or the present tense in the following example. Please help. Thank you. As of Sunday, 50 people had been released from hospitals. Of those diagnosed with the disease, 74 remain/remained hospitalized and 34 are/were currently in critical condition. – from Virginia, XX on Mon, Jun 29, 2015

A. Initial versions of AP news stories generally use forms of t he present, present perfect or future verb tenses favored by broadcasters. Follow-up versions or writethrus use past tense for print publication. In your example, don't use currently with the imperfect "were."

Q. We offer different types of programs and publications, and I'm always going back and forth what qualifies for quotation marks and what doesn't Any leads would be helpful. "Grass to Hawks" is a day-long field trip program for second and third graders. "You and the Food Chain" is the four-page handout students get when they show up for "Grass to Hawks." "Horse Sense" is our five-day summer camp. Riders 12 and older can sign up for our six week "Horsemanship I" lesson program. Before you leave, make sure to pick up a copy of our "Visitors Guide." – on Mon, Jun 29, 2015

A. "Grass to Hawks" is a daylong field trip program for second- and third-graders. "You and the Food Chain" is the four-page handout students receive when starting "Grass to Hawks." "Horse Sense" is our five-day summer camp program. Riders 12 and older can sign up for our six-week Horsemanship I lesson program. Before you leave, make sure to pick up a copy of our Visitors Guide. (Note spelling changes, including hyphenated terms. Program titles and publications are enclosed in quotes. Horsemanship I looks like a course title, so doesn't need quotes. Visitors Guide looks like a reference and doesn't need quotes.)

Q. In referring to Kevin Smith, DNR Wildlife's Pheasant Action Plan Coordinator, should there be caps on the first letters of the last four words? Thanks. – from medina, Minn. on Mon, Jun 29, 2015

A. No, and you probably will have spelled out DNR on first reference so everyone knows what the abbreviation means.

Q. Compound modifier question: 50-plus year career or 50-plus-year career? – from Phoenix on Mon, Jun 29, 2015

A. Better to use the exact number of years -- e.g., a 52-year career. If you must use with plus, make it a career of 50-plus years.

Q. Based on the Merriam-Webster dictionary entry, it is my understanding that it would be semiannual; as in a semiannual sale. Is this correct, or does AP handle this differently? Numerous companies are promoting Semi-Annual Sales. – from Charlotte, N.C. on Mon, Jun 29, 2015

A. Look up the the AP Stylebook entry to find semiannual, which isn't hyphenated. Our primary reference is Webster's New World College Dictionary, Fifth Edition, not the dictionary you cite.

Q. In a list of film titles and run times, should I include quotations around film titles and write out minutes? Example: NOON: Clouds of Sils Maria (124 min) 2:30 p.m. Manglehorn (97 min) – from New Orleans on Mon, Jun 29, 2015

A. Noon: "Clouds of Sils Maria" (124 min.) 2:30 p.m.: "Manglehorn" (97 min.)

Q. Hi there. Is the lack of a comma in this salutation correct? What about in cases such as "Hi, Adrian" and "Dear Sir"? Comma or no? Thank you. – from Tustin, Calif. on Mon, Jun 29, 2015

A. Comma.

Q. When talking about the depth of a topic and referring to one's knowledge of the topic, would you hyphenate: "They know the ins and outs of the project." – from NY, N.Y. on Mon, Jun 29, 2015

A. The dictionary doesn't hyphenate the ins and outs of ...

Q. In a church's name, is AME acceptable on first reference as an acronym for African Methodist Episcopal? – from Mount Pleasant, S.C. on Mon, Jun 29, 2015

A. Within a news story, AP generally spells out African Methodist Episcopal on first reference. AME may be used in a headline with church or another term to make the abbreviation clear.

Q. Are you now dropping the long-standing rule on comma use before the word including? Your answer certainly conflicts with a response from last year Q. Hi! Does including always have a comma before it? Or does that equal one too many commas? Rewording may be possible. Please see below. Thanks! In late June, four veteran Math Department faculty will work with 49 teachers from U.K. schools including Wellington College, a coed day and boarding school outside London, and Ark, a network of 31 high-achieving, nonselective schools in urban areas. from Exeter, N.H. on Jun 18, 2015 A. No, but it would be easier to understand written as two sentences: ... 49 teachers from U.K. schools. They include Wellington .... Q. When do I use a comma before the word "including," and when do I not? from Rochester, N.Y. on Apr 13, 2014 A. Use a comma before a partial list or an example introduced by including. – from Chicago on Mon, Jun 29, 2015

A. No, not dropping the guidance. But this complex sentence would be clearer written as two sentences, using a period instead of an added comma.

Q. Home improvement project or home-improvement project? – from Chicago on Mon, Jun 29, 2015

A. No hyphen in home improvement projects.

Q. While editing a release, I came across "glocal" used in a quote. I assumed this was a typo for "global" but later learned that this was intended, and that the word, to the speaker, meant "both global and local." It's in a quote, so my impulse is the provide a parenthetical definition, since it is a word that Google says is being increasingly used these days. What do you think? – from Northbrook, Ill. on Mon, Jun 29, 2015

A. The word doesn't show in the AP news archive. However, if it were to appear in a direct quote, AP would use it unchanged and add a separate sentence after the quote with a brief definition. We avoid parenthetical inserts as jarring to the reader.

Q. Has AP adopted a style for the rainbow flag? I've seen Rainbow flag and rainbow flag. – from Atlanta, Ga. on Mon, Jun 29, 2015

A. In AP stories, it's rainbow flag. Cap the R in starting a sentence, though.

Q. In stories about suicide bombings and similar, we sometimes need to use the Arabic word "shahid" or "shaheed." Your style guide currently doesn't have a ruling on the preferred spelling, so we'd like one, please. And what would be the plural? – from Tel Aviv, XX on Mon, Jun 29, 2015

A. AP stories have used Shahid and Shaheed as a given name. I don't find other references.

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