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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. In numerical ranking, of say, students, for example, should we follow the usual rules for numerals? "The top students who finished first and second received awards, but the ones who placed 10th and 11th were recognized, too." – from St. Louis, Mo. on Wed, May 25, 2016

A. Correct.

Q. I'm confused about the noun for time-share ... or is it timeshare or time share? Webster's seems to say it should be time-share -- which conflicts with what you've recommended in the past. Am I reading Webster's definition wrong? Thanks! – from Centreville, Va. on Wed, May 25, 2016

A. In the absence of a Stylebook entry, we generally defer to the dictionary. Previous Q&A's here were based on Webster's New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition, which listed time sharing and time share as nouns and time-share as the adjective. In the Fifth Edition, published in 2015, Webster's NWCD changed to time-share (n.) and added hyphenated verb forms: time-shared, time-sharing. This edition also has a separate entry for the American noun: time sharing.

Q. Is there any rule for how to abbreviate a plural with (s) [e.g., fellowship(s)] when the word ends in a -y [e.g., residency(s)]? Should is be residency(s), residency(ies) or just spell them out, residency/residencies? – from Orlando, Fla. on Wed, May 25, 2016

A. The plural is residencies using WORDS ENDING IN Y guidance of "plurals" entry.

Q. Is making descriptors parallel writer's preference or an English rule? For example: "The girl was fetching, daring and full of charm" should be corrected to "fetching, daring and charming" to match present participle? Also, "Mary likes hiking, swimming and to bicycle" should be "hiking, swimming and bicycling." – from Atlanta on Wed, May 25, 2016

A. Use the form that's clearest for the context. In the first sentence, "full of charm" seems more expressive than "charming." In the second example, the parallel form "bicycling" seems more natural than "to bicycle."

Q. Could I shorten "... are adding 35 million to 40 million Takata inflators to the recall" to "... are adding 35-40 million Takata inflators to the recall"? Or perhaps "35 to 40 million"? – from Tokyo on Wed, May 25, 2016

A. OK to express this range as 35-40 million ...

Q. Should it be "Farm to Table" or " Farm-to-Table" as a stand-alone subhead in an article? – from Orysia McCabe, Middletown, N.Y. on Wed, May 25, 2016

A. The Stylebook entry is farm-to-table.

Q. Does AP recommend deep-seated or deep-seeded (as in, "take on deep-seated social issues")? – from Waltham, MA on Tue, May 24, 2016

A. Deferring to the dictionary listing: deep-seated.

Q. Why don't you just remove the Ask the Editor question about punchline (answer for which says two words) when below it says it should be solid per the dictionary? – from Chicago on Tue, May 24, 2016

A. In the only Q&A, it's punch line, two words, as spelled in the dictionary.

Q. Is self-published hyphenated as a verb? In Webster's New World College Dictionary it has the term hyphenated but does not specify whether thats as a verb or as an adjective. – from AE, AP on Tue, May 24, 2016

A. Yes, the adjective and verb forms are hyphenated.

Q. Are teams capitalized or not? Should it be "The Thunderbird Rodeo Team is proud to compete." OR "The Thunderbird rodeo team is proud to compete."? What about the Thunderbird Women's Basketball Team OR the Thunderbird women's basketball team? – from Casper, Wyo. on Tue, May 24, 2016

A. An AP story would capitalize Thunderbird, the team name, but generally lowercase the sports type, such as rodeo team or women's basketball team.

Q. Is AP OK with HQ in a hed? – from Mount Pleasant, S.C. on Mon, May 23, 2016

A. Yes, HQ is a frequent abbreviation in AP headlines.

Q. In the sentence "Two-time Academy Award winner Jessica Lange has been cast in a new series," is a hyphen between Award and winner necessary? – from Portland, Ore. on Mon, May 23, 2016

A. No hyphen needed in that particular usage.

Q. In the following sentence, individuals need to do one thing, then another. Which of the following is the proper punctuation? 1. Clear your responses, then try again. 2. Clear your responses; then, try again. 3. Clear your responses; then try again. Thank you for your help. – from Bloomington, Ill. on Mon, May 23, 2016

A. Go with the first example per the dictionary entry: following the comma, then (adv.) with conjunctive force.

Q. In describing types of pollution, experts refer to "point-source pollution" and "nonpoint-source pollution." Have I punctuated these correctly in AP Style? – from Midland, MI on Mon, May 23, 2016

A. Those spellings look right, although AP news stories have varied in the past.

Q. Different dictionaries list correct spelling as either night-light or nightlight. Which is AP style? – from Jackson, MI on Sun, May 22, 2016

A. It's night light, two words, in Webster's New World College Dictionary, Fifth Edition, the Stylebook's primary reference.

Q. I am working on a list of undergraduate degrees, and after reviewing the "academic degrees" listing as well as the "Ask the Editor" files, I still cannot determine what to do. Here is the list: bachelor of business administration, bachelor of fine arts, bachelor of music in music education, the bachelor of social work. Are any of these words capitalized? The only one I think should be is Bachelor of Music. Is this correct? Also, should they be listed as bachelor's (bachelor's of business administration, etc.)? – from Huntington, Ind. on Fri, May 20, 2016

A. These academic degrees with specialties are correctly lowercase, including bachelor of music in music education. AP also writes these degrees as bachelor's in business administration, bachelor's in fine arts, etc. However, Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science are capitalized.

Q. Does AP distinguish between "bathroom" and "restroom"? Bathroom seems like it refers to private homes, that have bathtubs, while restroom seems more appropriate for public places like restaurants and gas stations. – from New York on Fri, May 20, 2016

A. The Stylebook doesn't have entries for these terms, but AP stories generally follow the dictionary distinctions as you outline. However, in common parlance, bathroom is frequently used in referring to a public toilet and washroom.

Q. When discussing when grand juries decline to indict, is it "no-bill" or "no bill?" – from Dallas on Fri, May 20, 2016

A. AP stories from Texas on grand juries have used no-bill.

Q. Hi. I note the "state of New York" construction, but what if you need to include "state" in e.g., "New York State"; is it lowercase or initial-capped? Thanks. – from Flagstaff, Ariz. on Fri, May 20, 2016

A. Lowercase state using guidance in the MISCELLANEOUS section of the "state names" entry.

Q. For the bracero program, which brought farm workers from Mexico to the U.S., is Bracero Program capitalized? – from Seaside, Calif. on Fri, May 20, 2016

A. In some AP stories, both words are capitalized. In others, it's Bracero program or bracero program. Various online references also use different spellings. The term refers to a collection of agreements between the U.S. and Mexico during World War II and the postwar years allowing migrant agricultural workers into the U.S. on a temporary basis.

Q. Would you write: "The truck held 20 80-pound pallets" or add a comma: "The truck held 20, 80-pound pallets." Thank you. – from Arlington, Va. on Fri, May 20, 2016

A. The first sentence is literally correct but it would be clearer rephrased to avoid abutting figures. The truck held 20 pallets weighing 80 pounds apiece.

Q. Why does "Western New York" (uppercase W) differ from "upstate New York" (lowercase u)? – from , Arlington, Va. on Fri, May 20, 2016

A. In AP stories the area is spelled western New York, with a lowercase w.

Q. We would like your input on whether we need to continue to use www. on our company URLs within global publications. We have some of our internal customers who would like to eliminate the www. within the publications. What are the AP rules? Thank you. – from Hickory, N.C. on Thu, May 19, 2016

A. AP uses the shorter address form in some cases. However, the full URL address with http:// may offer more protection in linking to a website by some accounts.

Q. I'm looking for guidance on capitalization for events held as part of a university's graduation weekend. The University of Virginia holds several ceremonies, including valedictory exercises and final exercises, as part of the weekend. Based on an Ask the Editor answer from 2013, since commencement exercises should be lowercase, shouldn't valedictory exercises and final exercises be lowercase as well? UVA capitalizes these events so it has become a subject of debate in our newsroom. – from Charlottesville, Va. on Thu, May 19, 2016

A. AP doesn't capitalize valedictory exercises and final exercises in graduation events.

Q. Should it be "Sit-down Restaurants" or "Sit-Down Restaurants" in title case? – from DeKalb, Ill. on Thu, May 19, 2016

A. Capitalize both parts as in the U.S. national anthem example in "composition titles."

Q. Once you reference a NCAA bylaw, do you keep saying NCAA bylaw 15.01.3 or can you just say bylaw 15.01.3 on subsequent entries? – from Indianapolis on Thu, May 19, 2016

A. It should be sufficient to use the full bylaw reference once, then simply the bylaw in follow-ups. If more than one bylaw comes into the text, repeat the numbers or use shorthand terms for each to differentiate.

Q. Is there a rule about using "most" in modifying adjectives? How would one do "most valuable player award"? Would it be "most-valuable player award" or "most-valuable-player award" or "most valuable player award"? Is this different from "most-decorated player"? – from New Haven, Conn. on Wed, May 18, 2016

A. The AP Stylebook listing in the Sports Guidelines: MVP Acceptable in all references for most valuable player. (No difference in spelling the other term.)

Q. How would you write out an acronym of an acronym? For example, I need to spell out the abbreviated industry term: SAS RAID. SAS = "Serial Attached SCSI;" SCSI = "Small Computer Systems Interface;" RAID = "Redundant Array of Independent Disks." Would you write "Serial Attached SCSI (Small Computer Systems Interface) Redundant Array of Independent Disks (SAS RAID)? – from San Diego on Wed, May 18, 2016

A. Writing for general audiences, AP doesn't follow the abbreviation or acronym with a parenthetical definition. Instead, for technical terms, we sometimes start with the abbreviation and follow with the definition in apposition: SCSI, or small computer systems interface. In a follow-up with an added term, try this: Serial attached SCSI with redundant array of independent disks, or RAID.

Q. Which is the preferred spelling of the word used to describe the tool or action of drawing liquid (or some other subtance) out of a reservoir? Is it siphon or syphon? – from Chicago on Wed, May 18, 2016

A. Use siphon, the dictionary's primary spelling.

Q. Hi AP. If a real estate practitioner has a brokerage license, do they have a real estate broker's license? (Like driver's license.) Or do they just have a real estate broker license? – from Madison, Wis. on Wed, May 18, 2016

A. See your state licensing regulations for a definitive answer. According to, a real estate broker has passed a broker's license exam.

Q. Hi there, I have a transportation agency as a client. Should it be paratransit or para-transit? – from Austin, Texas on Wed, May 18, 2016

A. The dictionary spelling is paratransit.

Q. I see references to Oceania, but is Australia also considered, perhaps more traditionally, to be part of Asia or not? – from west palm beach, fl on Wed, May 18, 2016

A. Australia is a continent and part of the Oceania region.

Q. I need to quote text from articles or published studies that are quoted in other sources or studies. For example, this is the sentence I wish to quote: "Attraction of nocturnal moths to light may be due to a shift in orientation response from moonlight to artificial light (Baker and Sadovy 1978)." The quote comes from this article: Insect Vision: Ultraviolet, Color, and LED Light Marianne Shockley Cruz Ph.D. and Rebecca Lindner University of Georgia Department of Entomology November 2011 and is using information from Baker RR & Sadovy R. Distance and nature of light-trap response of moths. Nature. 1978. 276: 818-821. How should I quote this within my story? Which article or author do I quote? Do I need to cite the information at the end of the article as you would see with APA style? – from Earth City, Mo. on Wed, May 18, 2016

A. A news article would confirm the quote in the 1978 Nature magazine, citing the two researchers. For elaboration, cite the 2011 article and its two authors, noting they used information from Baker and Savody. Rather than footnoting the references, AP might include weblinks to the articles below the story.

Q. Is "state" capitalized in a courtroom context, such as "the state must prove ... " ? – from Wylie, Texas on Wed, May 18, 2016

A. The state is lowercase.

Q. I couldn't find a Q&A directly on point, so here is a question; thanks in advance for your help. Would "" require a capital "C" if this URL began a sentence such as: " is a great place to find information related to ..."? – from Bloomington, Ill. on Wed, May 18, 2016

A. Yes, capital C to start the sentence.

Q. Is something manufactured by one company, then rebranded and sold by another a white label product, white-label product, white labeled product or white-labeled product? – from Chicago on Wed, May 18, 2016

A. The term doesn't appear in AP news archives. Online references generally don't hyphenate white label product.

Q. Can you please resolve the name to use for the TSA pre-clearance program? PreCheck or Pre-Check? The issue has been addressed by Ask the Editor in May 2013 and October 2013, alas with conflicting guidance. – from Chicago on Wed, May 18, 2016

A. AP stories now generally favor the TSA PreCheck spelling.

Q. Having trouble trying to figure out what to do about the formal title Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes. We note that you say to spell adviser with an e except in formal titles where it happens to be spelled with an o, and you also say to lower case national security adviser and spell it with an e. But what to do with the above formal title? – from Tel Aviv, XX on Wed, May 18, 2016

A. AP uses a lowercase and shortened title with the adviser spelling: deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes. The title can also follow the name: Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security adviser.

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