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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. If I want to say that the company laid off workers twice this year. Once in February and once in May. Is this sentence correct %uFFFD The company laid off workers twice in February and May ? If it's incorrect, how could it be written? Thank you. – from Virginia, XX on Sun, Jun 28, 2015

A. The company laid off workers twice this year, once in February and again in May.

Q. Do you hyphenate groups of colors as an adjective? E.g. You say zebra prints are black-and-white stripes (http://www.apstylebook.com/online/?do=entry&id=5290&src=AE), but would this hyphenation principle extend to the American red-white-and-blue flag? Or is it red, white and blue flag? – from Tokyo on Sun, Jun 28, 2015

A. It's the red, white and blue American flag.

Q. If memory serves, the AP Stylebook used to have this entry: Named for should be used instead of named after. Why was it removed? I have been in this business for 42 years -- and every editor who taught me in my early years drilled it into my head that it's named for and not named after. – from Memphis, Tenn. on Sat, Jun 27, 2015

A. The current AP Stylebook includes definitions that use either named after or named for. I don't recall seeing Stylebook guidance against using named after.

Q. If it's proper style to set a TV show name in quotation marks, how do I handle possessives, as in "L.A. Law"'s cast and crew? Do I omit the quotation marks for sanity's sake? – from Rio Hondo, Texas on Sat, Jun 27, 2015

A. Rephrase to express the possessive without tweaking a formal title: the cast and crew of "L.A. Law."

Q. which is correct: "named after" or "named for"? – from Memphis, Tenn. on Fri, Jun 26, 2015

A. By dictionary definitions of these prepositions, both mean in honor of. Both are correct and synonymous.

Q. Hyphen or no hyphen? [Name] is a property-tax attorney in [town] . Thank you. – from New Jersey on Fri, Jun 26, 2015

A. No hyphen.

Q. Where would you put the comma after "outcomes" in this sentence? Or would you use one at all? %uFFFDUnless we start asking, %uFFFDWhat will this do for health outcomes?%uFFFD, the answers will never present themselves.%uFFFD – from Des Moines, Iowa on Fri, Jun 26, 2015

A. No comma after outcomes. The question mark replaces it.

Q. What is the correct way to punctuate "company owned and operated" as an adjective: "company owned and operated plants"? Is it hyphenated: "Company-owned and -operated plants"? – from Reston, Va. on Fri, Jun 26, 2015

A. Correct as company-owned and -operated plants.

Q. ...as Sun Tzu says in %uFFFDThe Art of War,%uFFFD %uFFFDHe will win who knows when t fight and when not to fight.%uFFFD Is the comma placement above correct? It looks wrong. – from Scottsdale, Ariz. on Fri, Jun 26, 2015

A. Yes, but rephrase to avoid abutting quotation marks: ... as written in "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu, "He will win ..."

Q. How do you write 20/twenty if a person refers to a $20 bill as "a twenty"? Same with "a ten." – from Des Moines, Iowa on Fri, Jun 26, 2015

A. You could spell out "a twenty" or "a ten" as a casual use of a number, per guidance in the "numerals" entry. But if you want to be precise, use the figure with dollar sign: He gave me a $20 ... he gave me a $10.

Q. When is it audience, and when audiences? AP seems to be using audiences uniformly and Merriam-Webster only has an entry for audience and does not mention audiences. – from New Delhi, XX on Fri, Jun 26, 2015

A. No, AP uses either form depending on the phrasing of the story. Singular: A chilly Pope Francis cheered the thousands of pilgrims who braved a cold snap belting Italy to attend his weekly general audience ... Plural: This Broadway season has been rich with roles for African-Americans and audiences are responding, from the packed Brooks Atkinson Theatre ... to the overfilled Circle in the Square.

Q. Government agencies have started using the term etool e tool, or eTool for an automated spreadsheet, available online, that helps their clients or the public perform certain tasks such as calculating their eligibility for grant funds. What is the correct capitalization for the etool and should it be used at all? Thanks. – from Gaithersburg, MD on Fri, Jun 26, 2015

A. Hyphenate e-tool. If starting a sentence, it's E-tool.

Q. When creating a formal invitation, is it preferable to use the date of the event in AP-style preference with the preferred abbreviations (e.g., Sept. 15, Nov. 10, June 5) or to not abbreviate any of the months (e.g., September 15, November 10, June 5)? – from Boise, Idaho on Thu, Jun 25, 2015

A. AP goes by the Stylebook entry.

Q. If a company does not use periods in "U.S." (for United States) in its name, should that style be maintained even though it is AP's style (and the style of the publication in which this will appear) to punctuate the abbreviation? – on Thu, Jun 25, 2015

A. Punctuate U.S. within a story, including in a company name.

Q. Past "Ask the Editor" entries have addressed "longtime" as a single-word adjective. What about "longterm"? – from Springfield, Ill. on Thu, Jun 25, 2015

A. Two words, hyphenated as a modifier: We will win in the long term. He has a long-term assignment.

Q. Stylebook says elected officials and ministers both take an abbreviated title before first reference. What about an individual who is both? "the Rev. Sen. Smith" or "Sen. Rev. Smith"? – from Charlotte, N.C. on Thu, Jun 25, 2015

A. Use one abbreviated title before the full name and spell out the second as an appositive: Sen. John Smith, an ordained minister, etc.

Q. Does AP prefer Dutch or Netherlander as the demonym for the Netherlands? – from Atlanta, Calif. on Thu, Jun 25, 2015

A. Dutch.

Q. Should "may you" ever be used in a request, as in: "May you please review the attached document, if possible." I'm suddenly seeing a lot of this, but it seems grammatically wrong. – from Hallandale, Fla. on Thu, Jun 25, 2015

A. Don't use "may you" as a request. It's sufficient to say: Please review the attached document.

Q. There is some discrepancy between editors at my company if per person is hyphenated. Which is correct: per-person basis or per person basis? – from Columbus, Ohio on Thu, Jun 25, 2015

A. Hyphenate per-person basis. However, it's wordy or even awkward. Try rephrasing with the indefinite article, as in: the fee is $40 a person.

Q. Hi Ask the Editor, our staff continues to be confused by the AP ratio rule. Which is correct? The combination produced complete remissions in 7 out of 8 patients, or the combination produced complete remissions in seven out of eight patients? I don't think this meets the definition of a true ratio but others disagree. – from Evanston, Ill. on Thu, Jun 25, 2015

A. Use figures for 7 out of 8 patients.

Q. I have seen calls for news media to omit or limit the use of the shooter's name in news stories following a high profile mass shooting (e.g. in Charleston last week). The argument is usually that a shooter's actions might in part be motivated by a desire for publicity for himself or his cause. Can you clarify AP policy on naming those accused of such crimes? – from Brooklyn, N.Y. on Thu, Jun 25, 2015

A. In such cases, AP uses the name of the alleged perpetrator as provided by police or other authorities.

Q. Should there be any hyphens in "new product innovation team" when we are not referring to a new team but to a team that develops new products? What about "new product development"? – from Milwaukee on Thu, Jun 25, 2015

A. Hyphens aren't needed for such terms.

Q. When referring to the American Flag, is it "Stars and Stripes" or "Stars n Stripes"? – from Stafford, Va. on Thu, Jun 25, 2015

A. Stars and Stripes.

Q. I've seen slight legal differences in 'kidnapping' and 'abduction.' Does AP differentiate or are the words interchangeable? – from Memphis, Tenn. on Thu, Jun 25, 2015

A. Use the term provided by police or other authorities as the primary description of a criminal case. In a kidnapping, abduction is sometimes used in a follow-up reference.

Q. "Wreak havoc" - what's the proper past tense of this phrase? – from Half Moon Bay, Calif. on Wed, Jun 24, 2015

A. In the past tense it's wreaked havoc.

Q. I have this article about children in China left behind in villages while their parent go to cities to find work. An NGO mentioned is the Caring Center for Children On Their Way to School. Then throughout the rest of the article the author wrote the Caring Center. Do I leave this partial name capped? – from Orysia, New York City, N.Y. on Wed, Jun 24, 2015

A. Sure.

Q. What are best practices for editing tweets themselves in a corporate business context? With a limitation of 140 characters, I'm finding it advantageous to take liberties such as removing spaces and periods when giving times (8pm instead of 8 p.m.), and it's also tempting to replace "and" with "&." I am also on the fence about using quotation marks around a direct quote since it takes up space, and if we follow with the name of the person being quoted, isn't it understood? Curious how others are handling these and other Tweet editing issues and if there is a good resource I can be referencing. Thanks! – from , Los Angeles on Wed, Jun 24, 2015

A. While AP doesn't drop the periods in p.m. and use the ampersand as space savers for tweets, there are other best practices suggestions in the Social Media Guidelines. See the "retweet" entry and the section titled Search for People and Their Photos and Videos.

Q. In the following sentence, should "Chapter #1" be Chapter 1, chapter 1, Chapter One, chapter one or left as is? Thank you. "Truckee-Tahoe Pet Lodge is teaming up with the US War Dogs Association, Chapter #1 on their effort to fundraise for their Postage for Paws campaign." – from Truckee, Calif. on Wed, Jun 24, 2015

A. AP would write it as Chapter No. 1.

Q. Is it "Dumbfounded" or "Dumfounded"? A CNN headline used the second spelling and many people called them out on Facebook. CNN responded by claiming there are "at least two ways to spell it." Every citation I found showed "dumbfound" as either the only correct spelling or the preferred spelling. – on Wed, Jun 24, 2015

A. The entry in Webster's New World College Dictionary, the Stylebook's primary reference, is dumbfound or dumfound. AP usually gives priority to the first spelling. Others may choose the second.

Q. what about someone who flies the flag? A Confederate flag FLYER, or Confederate flag FLIER ? – from Levittown, Pa. on Wed, Jun 24, 2015

A. A flag flier.

Q. A burglary was reported IN the 100 block of Main Street or ON the 100 block of Main Street? – from Walnut Creek, Calif. on Wed, Jun 24, 2015

A. The first is customary.

Q. How should we refer to Saudi Arabia's new deputy crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, on first and second reference? – from Washington on Wed, Jun 24, 2015

A. Use his full name, directly preceded by his government title, on first reference. He's Salman on second reference unless others with the same surname are included. In that case, he's Mohammed bin Salman in all references to avoid confusion.

Q. Is it launch pad or launchpad? – from Scottsdale, Ariz. on Wed, Jun 24, 2015

A. AP stories prefer launch pad.

Q. Do you hyphenate Stars and Stripes as a compound adjective? For example, "The hotel is hosting their first Stars-and-Stripes getaway."? – from Tustin, Calif. on Wed, Jun 24, 2015

A. No. And hotel takes the singular pronoun its.

Q. Is it bird's-eye view or bird's eye view? – from , Urbandale, Iowa on Wed, Jun 24, 2015

A. Use the hyphenated spelling

Q. I saw an older entry indicating that the adjectival form of "common sense" is "common-sense." Is this still the case? If so, on what basis? According to Merriam-Webster, it should be "commonsense." Thanks. – from Chicago on Wed, Jun 24, 2015

A. The hyphenated adjective was in Webster's New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition, the basis for the 2011 response. This dictionary's latest edition in 2014 changed to the unhyphenated compound spelling for the adjective: commonsense. Webster's NWCD is the Stylebook's primary reference, not the M-W dictionary.

Q. AP Stylebook's "lie in state" entry specifies the term can only be used for those entitled to a state funeral at the federal level. But could the term also apply to someone, such as Sen. Clementa Pinkney, whose body is lying in the Capitol Rotunda of South Carolina? – from , Montgomery, Ala. on Wed, Jun 24, 2015

A. Not by the Stylebook definition.

Q. What's the style for World Heritage Site and World Heritage List? All up, or with site and list down? – from Tokyo on Wed, Jun 24, 2015

A. In AP stories, World Heritage site and World Heritage list.

Q. "The buildings in the area date from the late 9th or early 10th century" -- or "... the late 9th or early 10th centuries"? – from Tokyo on Tue, Jun 23, 2015

A. ... the late ninth century or early 10th century.

Q. Would you capitalize Roma in Roma tomatoes? Thanks! – from Chicago on Tue, Jun 23, 2015

A. Yes.

Q. Would you ever use a colon at the end of an article's introductory paragraph? For example, for an article named "5 Unique Vegetables to Add to Your Diet," would you end the introduction with: "Here are five unique veggies you probably haven't eaten yet:"? – from Boston on Tue, Jun 23, 2015

A. Yes, and usually followed by five short capsules naming and describing the produce.

Q. Would the following terms be written as one word or a single word? Display Ware, Catering Ware, Service Ware. – from Charlotte, N.C. on Tue, Jun 23, 2015

A. Probably two words, lowercase for each. AP news archive doesn't show any one-word spellings.

Q. Would you punctuate the phrase /a culture of yes/ as (1) a "culture of yes" or (2) a culture of "yes"? I'm seeing it both ways in reputable sources. I tend to want to go with the latter, in parallel also with the several variations I've seen: %uFFFD a culture of "no" %uFFFD a culture of "yes means yes" %uFFFD a culture of "yes, and" %uFFFD a culture of "yes men" – from Redwood City, Calif. on Tue, Jun 23, 2015

A. A culture of "yes" looks right under the IRONY section of the Stylebook's "comma" entry.

Q. I know AP's definition of non, but since it says you shouldn't hyphenate unless it's awkward would you hyphenate non-siloed? It's sort of awkward if you don't, but it's not in AP or Webster's. Thanks. – from Chicago on Tue, Jun 23, 2015

A. Agree it's awkward. Also, it suggests a category of objects that may not exist. Try using unsiloed, rather than non-siloed. Better yet, rephrase along lines of objects not stored (or kept) in silos.

Q. Is Confederate capitalized when referencing the stars and bars flag? – from , St. Paul, Minn.. on Tue, Jun 23, 2015

A. AP news stories use Confederate flag (cap C, lowercase f).

Q. Does the AP Stylebook prefer arbiter or arbitrator (or neither)? – on Tue, Jun 23, 2015

A. The dictionary definitions for both terms use essentially the same language: a person selected to judge a dispute. The definition of each uses the other as a synonym. AP would use the term chosen by the parties in the specific situation.

Q. How should you pluralize winners of Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year awards? Would it be more correct to write "Freshmen of the Year" or "Freshman of the Year award winners?" – from Nashville, Tenn. on Tue, Jun 23, 2015

A. Stick with the formal name of the award and pluralize the accompanying description: Player of the Year winners.

Q. Rockstar or rock star? – from , London on Tue, Jun 23, 2015

A. Two words: rock star.

Q. Is it singer songwriter or singer-songwriter (this is in regards to a festival) – from Atlanta, Ga. on Tue, Jun 23, 2015

A. AP stories hyphenate singer-songwriter.

Q. Is the hyphenation in the following sentence correct? "Expand research and service, including civic-engagement opportunities for graduate students." Thank you. – from New York on Tue, Jun 23, 2015

A. The term civic engagement opportunities doesn't require a hyphen.

Q. Should I use a hyphen between "second" and "guessing" in the following headline? 9-1-1 Calls Without the Second Guessing – from Schaumburg, Ill. on Tue, Jun 23, 2015

A. Yes, based on the dictionary entry: second-guess.

Q. In this spoken quote from a Charleston, SC, reverend: "... it sends a message to every demon in hell and on Earth" it feels odd to capitalize Earth but not hell, yet that would seem to be AP style, yes? – from Tokyo on Mon, Jun 22, 2015

A. In religious texts, such as "The Lord's Prayer," earth and heaven are spelled lowercase. The Stylebook spells heaven and hell lowercase. For conformity, all three terms should be down in such contexts.

Q. I can't find this in the abbreviations or parenthesis section. If I have numerous places where medical abbreviations that are not common to an average reader will be used within a document, would it be more proper to have the first mention of the full term be in the parenthesis or outside it, and would the abbreviation come before or after the full mention of the term? For example, would it be more correct to say, "The person has PAI (primary Addison's disease)..." or would it be better to say, "The person has primary Addison's disease (PAI)..." – from Germantown, MD on Mon, Jun 22, 2015

A. Because parentheses are distracting, AP doesn't enclose an abbreviation immediately after the spelled term. Instead, spell it out and then use the abbreviation on second reference.

Q. Is 'half century' (n) and half-century (adj.) the correct style? Thanks – from Seoul, XX on Mon, Jun 22, 2015

A. Hyphenate half-century for both forms, based on guidance in the Stylebook's "half-" entry.

Q. How should I write Native Americans' Day, which is celebrated in South Dakota in place of Columbus Day? – from Lincoln , Neb. on Mon, Jun 22, 2015

A. The South Dakota state government website uses the same spelling as your question.

Q. I remain confused about the choice between "on board" and "onboard." Which would be correct in this sentence: "There is one place for solitude onboard this ship."? To me, "onboard" feels correct, in part because "aboard" would work as a synonym if I were able to substitute it. – from Clemmons , N.C. on Mon, Jun 22, 2015

A. In your sentence, the one-word onboard spelling is correct.

Q. Should you use a Preface, Forward or Introduction to a memoir – from Houston on Mon, Jun 22, 2015

A. Check the dictionary definitions and use the term that applies.

Q. Per AP, how would you hyphenate averaging 125 pounds per day or would you not hyphenate it? Thanks! – from Chicago on Mon, Jun 22, 2015

A. No hyphens in averaging 125 pounds per day.

Q. What is AP style on the usage of a comma before the word 'because'? Thank you. – from Edison , N.J. on Mon, Jun 22, 2015

A. See WITH CONJUNCTIONS section of the "comma" entry for guidance.

Q. In using Washington state in an article, followed by a department title would it be "Washington State Department of Ecology" or "Washington state Department of Ecology"? Thanks for the help. – from Seattle on Mon, Jun 22, 2015

A. Washington state Department of Ecology with lowercase "s" for state.

Q. Several Stylebook entries correctly locate firms or agencies in suburban Washington (NIH and Lockheed in Bethesda, Maryland; Northrop in Falls Church, Virginia), while other entries (AMVETS, NRA) incorrectly state that Washington is the headquarters. AMVETS is based in Lanham, Maryland; the NRA has its headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia. Perhaps this was an oversight? – from Washington on Mon, Jun 22, 2015

A. We'll change those locations in the online Stylebook. Thank you.

Q. Hi,I could have sworn AP once had an entry about the preferred use of "shot dead" over "shot to death," but now I can't find it, and it's cropping up a lot lately in copy. What is AP's take on this? – from Hyannis, MA on Mon, Jun 22, 2015

A. It was the other way around: shot to death preferred to shot dead. Rather than a Stylebook entry, it was more likely editing guidance within AP and no longer strictly enforced.

Q. Another editor and I have a question. She says to hyphenate high-school degree. I say not to. Who is right? Thanks. – from Chicago on Mon, Jun 22, 2015

A. No hyphen required in high school degree.

Q. What is the possessive form of "boss"? – from East Greenbush, N.Y. on Mon, Jun 22, 2015

A. See SINGULAR COMMON NOUNS ENDING IN S in the "possessives" entry: boss's or boss' depending on the following word.

Q. He serves on the campus advisory committees for Montgomery High School and Montgomery Intermediate School, and volunteers with the Montgomery Little League. Is the final comma needed here? Thanks for your help. – from Pflugerville, Texas on Mon, Jun 22, 2015

A. Final comma not essential.

Q. What is the correct spelling/punctuation (hyphens?) of "return to work" in this sentence? "The employee has signed a return to work agreement." – from Kingwood , Texas on Mon, Jun 22, 2015

A. Hyphens aren't needed.

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