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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. I found many references to the use of in- or -in but nothing related to the following. At my work, we reference promotional items sometimes as being received "in hand" - for example, "Donors will receive a ticket in-hand" to differentiate it from other promotions that involve going online to redeem points for the particular item referenced. Is it in-hand or in hand? – from Mather, Calif. on Fri, May 29, 2015

A. The dictionary entry for in hand, unhyphenated, says it means in order or in control; in possession. I believe your usage conforms with in possession: Donors will receive a ticket in hand.

Q. Members of the Democratic Party Leadership Council will meet during the Party%uFFFDs annual convention. Would Party's be lower cased? – from Maryville, Mo. on Fri, May 29, 2015

A. Yes, lowercase spelling: the party's annual convention.

Q. In this sentence "Governor Jones of North Dakota declared an emergency after the fire destroyed a large part of the forest." Would governor be abbreviated or would North Dakota be abbreviated? – from Maryville, Mo. on Fri, May 29, 2015

A. Use the abbreviation Gov. preceding the full name of the officeholder. North Dakota is correctly spelled out.

Q. Fintech is the abbreviation for financial technology. Should the abbreviation "fintech" be lowercase, when not used in a proper name? For example, "This annual listing recognizes banks and fintech providers using cutting-edge technology." – from Pittsburgh on Fri, May 29, 2015

A. It's lowercase in such uses.

Q. Sports question: When referring to multiple instances of the final game of a playoff series, is it Game 7s or Games 7? – from Evansville, Ind. on Fri, May 29, 2015

A. It looks like a casual use to be spelled out: ... in various seventh games of a playoff series, etc.

Q. What is the proper case for the abbreviation for financial technology, fintech? fintech, Fintech, or FinTech? I see it used many ways. – from Pittsburgh on Fri, May 29, 2015

A. In a rare use in an AP story, the spelling was Fintech Advisory Inc., a New York investment fund.

Q. The entry on "runup" is contradicted by the answer to the subsequent question. See Since there's a separate entry for "runup," I assume that's the correct style (no hyphen). – from Englewood Cliffs, N.J. on Fri, May 29, 2015

A. The Stylebook's "-up" entry says to follow Webster's NWCD, where the spelling is run-up (n.) for the largely British term. However, we recommended runup in a topical Style guide, so I'm inclined to endorse the one-word compound.

Q. What is AP stance on using IEEE and ANSI as stand-alone, industry-standard acronyms in technical papers and press releases? Do they need to be spelled out on first reference? – from Albany, N.Y. on Fri, May 29, 2015

A. If the abbreviations are used on first reference, the full names should be spelled out promptly in a news story.

Q. How should you address a couple (or two family members with the same last name) when one of them has "Rev." in their title? For example, you'd say "Joe and Jill Smith," but what if Joe is a reverend? Is it "Rev. Joe and Jill Smith" or would you need to say "Rev. Joe Smith and Jill Smith"? Would it be acceptable to say "Jill and Rev. Joe Smith"? I know it would be easier and more clear to say "Rev. Joe Smith and his wife, Jill" but I'm unable to do that for this situation so I'm curious what the correct alternative would be? Any help is much appreciated! – on Fri, May 29, 2015

A. Probably clearer as the Rev. Joe Smith and Jill Smith.

Q. How would you handle this military title, as given in a press release by the Department of the Army? "Brig. Gen. (Promotable) James E. Rainey" – from Statesboro, Ga. on Fri, May 29, 2015

A. AP would use Brig. Gen. preceding the full name without the term in parentheses. If promotable is relevant to a news story, add a phrase or sentence explaining the status.

Q. The online fiscal year entry includes "fiscal 2007, for example, ran from Oct. 1, 2006, to Sept. 30, 2007." I had always seen and heard such constructions as "fiscal year 2007," but since reading the entry realize that the word "year" might be considered redundant. Is it standard AP practice to not use the word "year" when citing a fiscal year? Also, would "FY 2007" be acceptable on second reference? Thanks. – from , Oklahoma City on Fri, May 29, 2015

A. AP stories often use fiscal year on first reference, fiscal with the year thereafter or even FY plus the year. In tight space uses, such as headlines or graphics, the abbreviation is used frequently.

Q. Should we capitalize "Big Data"? – from , on Fri, May 29, 2015

A. In AP stories, big data is lowercase, though sometimes enclosed in quotes on first reference.

Q. Does AP italicize newspaper names? – from Atlanta on Fri, May 29, 2015

A. AP doesn't use italics in news stories, per the explanation in the Stylebook. You will see italicized terms used in examples in the printed Stylebook, such as in the "newspaper names" entry.

Q. The use of "that" in this title: The man who doesn't know that he's a giant. -or_ The man who doesn't know he's a giant. – from seattle, Wash. on Thu, May 28, 2015

A. See "that (conjunction)" entry.

Q. We are trying to abbreviate private equity firm (after second reference) Would it be PE or P.E.? Our style is to hyphenate private-equity firm. – from Chicago on Thu, May 28, 2015

A. On second reference, the firm.

Q. I checked AP and Webster's dictionary, but there doesn't seem to be an official ruling in either place. Would you hyphenate off-course or not? – from Chicago on Thu, May 28, 2015

A. In the "course" entry, Webster's NWCD lists the unhyphenated on (or off) course, moving or not moving in the intended direction.

Q. Should it be "first things first" or "first thing's first"? – from University City, Mo. on Thu, May 28, 2015

A. No apostrophe in first things first.

Q. Is a user on, at, or in an app store? Is the rule the same regardless of platform (for example, would a user be in the Apple Store but on Google Play, or do they take the same preposition)? – from Albuquerque, N.M. on Thu, May 28, 2015

A. Use the preposition that is natural for the context.

Q. Should we capitalize "L" in "Librarian of Congress" if it's not directly preceding the individual's name? – from Portland, Ore. on Thu, May 28, 2015

A. Lowercase "l" for librarian of Congress.

Q. Why would you say: Always start URL with http:www This is very outdated. – from Rochester, N.Y. on Thu, May 28, 2015

A. While we may have advised using www in the past, the current Stylebook's "URL" does not use it. In general, our advice is to render the URL as written by the site.

Q. I have come across a new term for me, deep web. Should web be capped or considered part of the compound deep web? – from Orysia, New York City, N.Y. on Thu, May 28, 2015

A. If referring to the World Wide Web, capitalize the short form and lowercase the modifier: deep Web.

Q. Are there any rules on how to correctly write a sequence of paragraphs, each with a heading? I have five paragraphs that I need in a list, but each paragraph is about 7-10 lines long. – from West Lafayette, Ind. on Thu, May 28, 2015

A. See the Stylebook's section on "Social Media Guidelines for AP Employees" for a possible model.

Q. Why don't you have entries for "honey bee" and "bumble bee"? In fact when you were asked: "honeybee" or "honey bee" you gave the wrong answer. As with "yellow jacket" and "bumblebee", no informed person would ever use "honeybee"! College entomology professors, scientists at the Smithsonian and the Entomological Society of America (ESA) all know it's "yellowjacket", "bumble bee" and "honey bee". It's a strange thing that all major dictionaries have these three insects common names spelled wrong and no dictionary editor I've spoken to knows the rules for spelling insects. In fact they have no rules! This is shown by the fact that they go with "bumblebee" and "honeybee" and also "carpenter bee" and "sweat bee"??? The ONLY place I've found that has rules for spelling the common names of insects is the ESA. They use strict logical rules and have "bumble bee", "honey bee", "carpenter bee" and "sweat bee". So how did it come about that nobody informed dictionary editors in all these years? Entomologists have told me they've been fighting with newspaper/magazine editors forever! I told them, "You've presented your case to the wrong editors! Of course they're going to go by the dictionary. It's the dictionary editors you should've been trying to convince. So anyway none ever thought to do that. This discussion never took place. That's why I'm here now. Type in "Bumblebee or Bumble Bee?/Poughkeepsie Journal" (search) for a good grip on how this all came down. Thanks! Mike Riter – from Hudson, N.Y. on Thu, May 28, 2015

A. The spellings you dispute -- honeybee, bumblebee and yellow jacket -- are straight out of Webster's New World College Dictionary, Fifth Edition, the Stylebook's primary reference. Take your complaint to that reference.

Q. Good morning. Would you capitalize Dumsor, the popular African term for the Ghanaian energy crisis? Thank you. – from Annapolis, MD on Thu, May 28, 2015

A. The term hasn't come up in AP news stories. See the "foreign words" entry in the Stylebook for general guidance.

Q. Does Arlington National Cemetery require an additional state identifier (Virginia,) or can it stand alone? – from AP, AP on Wed, May 27, 2015

A. AP stories concerning the cemetery often use the dateline Arlington, Va., to specify the location. When Washington is the dateline, and the topic is the Arlington cemetery, the story may explain that it's located in Virginia across the Potomac River from the capital.

Q. Why are state names abbreviated in photo cutlines provided by the AP? It seems inconsistent to your guidance to spell out state names in the body of a story that would accompany the photos. Thank you. – from Marietta, Ga. on Wed, May 27, 2015

A. It's a space-saving decision in the tight wordage restriction of a photo caption.

Q. Hi. I checked AP and Webster's and can't seem to find an answer. Would you hyphenate cross-utilization or not? Thanks! – from Chicago on Wed, May 27, 2015

A. Probably. It would be difficult to decipher without a hyphen. Is there a less bureaucratic term that might be substituted?

Q. Hi- Does AP have a preference on usage of "Tree of Life," specifically referring to the project with a goal of recording information on every species and for each group of organisms, living or extinct? Should the full name capped be used on first reference as in the "Tree of Life Web Project?" And on second reference, the project? I'm being asked to use "Tree of Life" on first reference and "Tree" on second, which obviously I'm questioning.:) Thank you! – from Gainesville, Fla. on Wed, May 27, 2015

A. The term doesn't show in AP news reports. The losest is family tree, which is lowercase in a science story.

Q. In the phrase "local English-speaking guide," do you think "local" and "English-speaking" are equal adjectives, which would take a comma? I'm of the inclination they're unequal %uFFFD%uFFFDthat "English-speaking guide" is a noun phrase modified by "local," thus no comma. Thoughts? – from , on Wed, May 27, 2015

A. I wouldn't use a comma after local.

Q. Is it tickborne disease, tick borne or tick-borne disease? – from Oklahoma City on Wed, May 27, 2015

A. In AP stories, tick-borne.

Q. Would one release the name in a juvenile suicide? The case is somewhat publicly disruptive because of a body found in the woods. The entire surrounding communities were waiting on updates. After a day or so it was determined that it was a juvenile and a suicide. – from Port Charlotte, Fla. on Wed, May 27, 2015

A. AP probably would not use the name.

Q. For the adjective and noun, ironmaking , iron making or iron-making? Thank you – from Virginia, XX on Tue, May 26, 2015

A. Probably hyphenated: iron-making.

Q. Is it to correct to hyphenate low water-demand plants? By low water-demand, I mean to describe plants that are successful during a drought because they need little watering. – from Palo Alto, Calif. on Tue, May 26, 2015

A. Better to use straight-forward phrasing: plants that require little watering.

Q. Our publication is in a hyphenated metropolitan area (Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale MSA). Is it proper to simply identify the area, when referring to the MSA, as the Phoenix metro? Alternatively, should it be identified with the full metro name in the first reference -- even if it is awkward and cumbersome? – from Scottsdale, Ariz. on Tue, May 26, 2015

A. I had to look up MSA to determine what it means. My advice is to avoid this bureaucratic abbreviation for metropolitan statistical area. It's just officialese. Instead, call it the Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale area if it's locally known that way.

Q. Would you say, "One-fourth of the population were able to..." or was able? – from Raleigh, N.C. on Tue, May 26, 2015

A. ... was able ...

Q. Got questions? Acceptable use of "got?" – from Jefferosn City, Mo. on Tue, May 26, 2015

A. No, got is awkward and informal. Try: any questions? Or ... Questions?

Q. Would you hyphenate out of the box if it's not a compound modifier? For example, It inspired her to do something out-of-the-box and to solve a problem. – from Chicago on Tue, May 26, 2015

A. What is out of the box? Does it mean she was inspired to do something original? Creative? Unusual? Out of the ordinary? Outrageous?

Q. The District of Columbia entry says "In datelines Washington doesn't take D.C. " Can you explain what that means? – from Dallas on Tue, May 26, 2015

A. It means that in AP datelines, WASHINGTON stands alone without D.C.

Q. Is it to correct to hyphenate low water-demand plants? – from Palo Alto, Calif. on Mon, May 25, 2015

A. Do you mean low-demand water plants?

Q. Airlines often rename and capitalize their seat classes as a branding exercise. Do we follow their capitalization when referring to these seat classes? E.g. business class branded as Travel Class; or Premium Economy Class for a higher-priced version of economy class. – from Tokyo on Mon, May 25, 2015

A. AP news stories don't capitalize airline seat classes.

Q. When do you use a comma after the word "please"? For example, would you say, "Please share your experience ..." or "Please, share your experience ..."? – from Portland, Ore. on Mon, May 25, 2015

A. The adverb please modifying share isn't set off with a comma: Please share your experience.

Q. For former heads of state and others (such as Cabinet members), is the person's title uppercase or lowercase when preceding the name? For example, is it former Prime Minister Tony Blair or former prime minister Tony Blair? Former secretary of defense Robert Gates or former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates? – from Pittsburgh on Mon, May 25, 2015

A. Per the Stylebook's "former" entry, it's always lowercase. But retain capitalization for a formal title used immediately before a name: former Prime Minister Tony Blair, former Secretary of State Robert Gates.

Q. Would AP capitalize the noun Choice Card when referring to the Veterans Affairs program of giving veterans cards to use at civilian medical locations? Thank you. – from Miami on Mon, May 25, 2015

A. No, but "choice card" is often enclosed in quotes on first reference in AP stories.

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