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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. When writing about a university that uses "The" as part of its name, is it proper to capitalize The in the middle of the sentence? Example: She earned her degree at The George Washington University. – from Allentown, Pa. on Fri, Jun 24, 2016

A. AP doesn't use the capitalized article in such names: She earned her degree at George Washington University.

Q. Is it acceptable to begin a sentence with "And"? – from Lafayette, Colo. on Fri, Jun 24, 2016

A. Yes, occasionally.

Q. Now that we're on the boring everyday internet instead of the sparkly exciting Internet, do smart homes use the internet of things, the internet of Things, or the Internet of Things? Thanks! – from Chicago on Fri, Jun 24, 2016

A. It's the internet of things by extension.

Q. Is this punctuated properly: mid-to-late summer? Thanks! – from New York, New York on Fri, Jun 24, 2016

A. Yes.

Q. RE: grassroots. Your last "Ask the Editor" answer to this was in 2012, and it's now 2016. Are we still using "grass-roots" instead of grassroots? – from Hagatna, Guam, Ala. on Thu, Jun 23, 2016

A. The dictionary spellings are unchanged: grass roots (n.), grass-roots (adj.).

Q. Masters or Master of Jurisprudence – from Renton, Wash. on Thu, Jun 23, 2016

A. A master's degree (or master's) in jurisprudence.

Q. Life-change or life change? Example: Get a tour, ask questions and hear stories of life-change. – from Grand Rapids, MI on Thu, Jun 23, 2016

A. AP stories don't hyphenate life change.

Q. I've researched AP Stylebook and have come to several conclusions, which have brought me to question all solutions. So, in a title, would all words be capitalized for "Side-By-Side Meetings" and "One-On-One Meetings?" Although "by" and "on" are less than four letters, they are part of a bigger phrase. Your guidance is greatly appreciated. – from Bloomington, Ill. on Thu, Jun 23, 2016

A. These look like labels rather than composition titles, which are capitalized and enclosed in quotes. If you use an all-caps style, all the words could be capitalized. Alternatively, cap only the first word: Side-by-side meetings

Q. Should "smart manufacturing" be capitalized? – from Arizona, Ariz. on Thu, Jun 23, 2016

A. The common term is spelled lowercase in AP usage.

Q. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards ( has a process for teachers to become certified. The organization's website refers to these teachers as National Board Certified Teachers (NCBTs). Would the capitalization be correct in all uses? Or would it be correct to say National Board certified teachers? – from Royal Oak, MI on Thu, Jun 23, 2016

A. AP stories often capitalize National Board Certified Teacher. If the plural is used, National Board Certified teachers. The abbreviation is avoided. In a shortened form, stories sometimes hyphenate and lowercase the modifier: a board-certified teacher.

Q. Your section on composition titles covers the use of Facebook (capitalized without quotes), but what about the names of Facebook pages? For example: The runner updates on her Facebook page, "Running Running." – from Omaha, Neb. on Thu, Jun 23, 2016

A. Facebook page names are sometimes capitalized but not enclosed in quotes. Often a generic description spelled lowercase suffices. She updates her running page.

Q. Are you planning to publish topical guides on the Rio Olympics and the 2016 US election? – from Kansas City, Mo. on Thu, Jun 23, 2016

A. Yes. In the works.

Q. We're getting a lot of questions on the "no fly/no buy" list. My thinking is that no-fly should be hyphenated, since there's already a no-fly list, but if there's not an actual "no-buy" list, the second one shouldn't be hyphenated. – from St. Paul, Minn. on Thu, Jun 23, 2016

A. AP stories refer to proposals to strengthen background checks and prevent people on the no-fly list from getting guns.

Q. Which is correct? " a helpful, cost-saving solution." or " a helpful, cost-savings solution." Thank you – from Brentwood, Tenn. on Wed, Jun 22, 2016

A. The first.

Q. When someone uses the phonetic alphabet in a quotation, how does one handle it? Example: "...they%uFFFFll use our 88 Mike truck driver video." Should it be 88M or 88 Mike, since the military uses Mike to designate the letter M. – from New Market, MD on Wed, Jun 22, 2016

A. In a direct quote, render the words as spoken -- either 88 M or 88 Mike.

Q. After-hours' deliveries or after-hours deliveries? – from Portland, Ore. on Wed, Jun 22, 2016

A. Deferring to the dictionary spelling: after-hours (adj.) modifying deliveries.

Q. Triathlete - Can you provide any guidance on usage of this term, which is used by the race industry? Should it be "triathlon athlete," or is "triathlete" acceptable. – from 28270, N.C. on Wed, Jun 22, 2016

A. AP stories prefer triathlete for a competitor in a triathlon.

Q. In business writing, what is the correct spelling of the informal abbreviation used for "recommendation", reco or recco? – from Austin, Texas on Wed, Jun 22, 2016

A. I've never seen either form. AP uses recommendation.

Q. Does AP prefer combatting or combating? – from Gilbert, Ariz. on Wed, Jun 22, 2016

A. The Stylebook spelling is combating.

Q. Just FYI, as of today you've corrected the entry names for "internet TV" and "internet radio," but the word "internet" is still capitalized in the body of these entries. Thanks – from Washington, D.C. on Wed, Jun 22, 2016

A. Those spellings have been updated. Thank you.

Q. How would you capitalize/abbreviate the following: former general and president U.S. Grant; former General and President U.S. Grant; former Gen. and President U.S. Grant or something else entirely? – from Malone, N.Y. on Wed, Jun 22, 2016

A. Civil War general and former President Ulysses S. Grant.

Q. When writing about articles in the Constitution, is it Article V? – from Monroe, Ga. on Wed, Jun 22, 2016

A. Correct.

Q. A friend and I are having a debate regarding quote attribution. I was taught SAID should be placed after the person's name to which the quote is being attributed. The rule he has is the word SAID goes before the name IF the name has not been listed, but the word SAID goes after, if the name has already been referenced. I have seen some references to placement of SAID when a name is followed by an appositive. Would you please give me a few examples of both as this is for high school journalism teaching purposes. Thank you so much. – from Las Vegas on Tue, Jun 21, 2016

A. Generally in an attribution, the identification comes before the verb: Smith said. Occasionally, an appositive follows the name, so the verb starts the attribution: said Smith, who witnessed the crash.

Q. Hi AP. A course instructor will be taping an instructional video that will be available for customers to view online after purchase. What is the specific term for this? Is this a webinar or a web video? – from Madison, Wis. on Tue, Jun 21, 2016

A. In this case, a web video looks right.

Q. In headlines, AP's rule is to use numerals for all numbers except in casual cases. Does the rule apply to proper nouns that include spelled-out numbers such as the Fourth of July? When referring to the holiday, should a headline say July 4 or July Fourth? – from Washington on Tue, Jun 21, 2016

A. Fourth of July, July Fourth and July 4 are all acceptable by the Stylebook entry.

Q. Which is correct -- states parties, states-parties, or states party? Tony – from Washington on Tue, Jun 21, 2016

A. Without the context, can't tell how it's used.

Q. How does one refer to multiple acts (as in a series) of intentional decapitation? "Beheadings" is common parlance in American English; the term is defined in OED but not M-W. – from , Washington on Tue, Jun 21, 2016

A. Webster's New World College Dictionary, the Stylebook's main reference, lists behead (vt.) to cut off the head of, decapitate. The dictionary entry for decapitate (vt.) include decapitation (n.).

Q. When do we get a ruling on calling animals he/she vs "it" – from Boston on Tue, Jun 21, 2016

A. See the Stylebook's "animals" entry: Don't apply a personal pronoun to an animal unless its sex has been established or the animal has a nickname: The dog was scared; it barked. Rover was scared; he barked.

Q. When used to modify a noun like software, is it ad-blocking or ad blocking or adblocking? – from New York on Tue, Jun 21, 2016

A. As a modifier, it's ad-blocking software in AP stories.

Q. Should the word 'are' be capitalized in the headline of a press release? Thanks! – from Irvine, Calif. on Tue, Jun 21, 2016

A. In AP's headline style, are wouldn't be capitalized. See "headlines" entry for guidance.

Q. How do I describe an employee's pay? Is the job salaried or salary-based? – from Blair, Neb. on Tue, Jun 21, 2016

A. Better check with your human resources people to determine the precise term for the situation.

Q. Should "new hire" be hyphenated? I think it should be. It's a compound type of word, in my estimation, and "hire" isn't exactly a noun by itself. I can't seem to find anything on this. I hyphenate it. – from Enola, Pa. on Tue, Jun 21, 2016

A. AP stories don't hyphenate new hire or new hires.

Q. Do you hyphenate re-shape or is it reshape? – from St. Paul , Minn. on Tue, Jun 21, 2016

A. It's reshape (v.).

Q. Pre-trial or pretrial? Whichever your preference, please add it to the list of examples under the pre- entry. – from Fort Wayne, Indiana, on Mon, Jun 20, 2016

A. The "pre-" entry says to use the spelling in Webster's New World College Dictionary: pretrial. AP stories use that unhyphenated spelling.

Q. For the Olympics, is it torchbearer or torch-bearer? – from Elkhart, Ind. on Mon, Jun 20, 2016

A. AP stories use the dictionary spelling: torchbearer.

Q. Clarification, please, on proper hyphenation practices in phrases such as %uFFFFall too common,%uFFFF (or all too any-adjective), both as after a copula and as a compound modifier. That is, %uFFFFThat phenomenon is all too common,%uFFFF and %uFFFFThat%uFFFFs an all too common phenomenon.%uFFFF Where should the hyphens go in those cases? With the compound modifier usage, I suspect there should be two hyphens in that phrase. With the usage after a copula, I have no idea. Also, are the rules the same for %uFFFFfar too common,%uFFFF etc.? Thanks. – from Washington on Mon, Jun 20, 2016

A. AP stories hyphenate the modifier preceding a noun: an all-too-common occurrence (or phenomenon). But placed after the noun, hyphens aren't required: the phenomenon is far too common.

Q. When referring to an act (e.g., the Taft-Hartley Act), should the name of the act be italicized or placed in quotes, or remain in plain text? – from St Petersburg, Fla. on Mon, Jun 20, 2016

A. In AP news stories, it's the Taft-Hartley Act -- in plain text and capitalized, as you have it.

Q. Thorne believed here was a need for a community college to be close at hand. I could not/cannot agree more. Which use would be correct-Could not or cannot? – from Houston , Texas on Mon, Jun 20, 2016

A. The usual express is could not (or couldn't) agree more.

Q. I am wondering if the phrase, "including, but not limited to," is now out of conventional use. The phrase itself seems legalese and unclear. Should this language be avoided and shortened to just "including"? – from Columbus, Ohio on Mon, Jun 20, 2016

A. That phrase would be unusual in a news story. Including should suffice for most uses.

Q. Two questions: 1) Where is your guideline for the spacing around numerals and symbols, as in "121%uFFFF C" (or "121 %uFFFFC" or even "121%uFFFFC"). I always find it hard to put my finger on the guideline I am looking for. 2) Does AP Stylebook make any adjustments regarding writing for the web? People reading on the web scan pages quickly to look for what they need. My employer is a manufacturing company, and much of our online information is technical in nature. Case in point: Temperatures. Readers are looking for numerals and degree symbols to quickly find a technical reference, yet AP Stylebook indicates this information should be written out. I feel this would bog down anyone doing a quick scan for information which, in turn, may lead them to another company's website to find what they need. But I digress... – from Elkton, MD on Mon, Jun 20, 2016

A. 1). See the "Celsius" entry for examples with spacing: e.g., 40 C for the temperature. 2). If degrees is understood in the context, 40 C is acceptable. See also "Fahrenheit" entry, which uses the abbreviation F, as in in 86 F, for the short form. There are other shorter measurement forms throughout the Stylebook. However, many symbols aren't used due to transmission issues.

Q. I am looking at the prefix auto- and I am wondering if all combinations are written without a hyphen. There is nothing in the Stylebook that I can see. Would it be auto-response or autoresponse. – from Orysia McCabe, Middletown, N.Y. on Sun, Jun 19, 2016

A. That word isn't in the dictionary or in AP news archives. Instead, AP stories prefer automated response.

Q. Is it rubberwood, rubber-wood or rubber wood? Could not find it in the AP Stylebook database. Thanks. – from San Francisco on Sat, Jun 18, 2016

A. It's rubber wood in AP news archives of recent years.

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