Ask the Editor

Last Seven Days

Answer

For reference, here's the quotations in the news entry. Note this part:  Use quotations only if they are the best way to tell the story or convey meaning. Often, paraphrasing is preferable.  For the clearest writing, it's generally best not to use what you refer to as complex quotes. No matter how you punctuate them, complex quote are bound to slow a reader down and put a barrier to comprehension or at least to enjoyment of reading the material. Unless, of course, you're aiming to be Hemingway. But I don't think that's at play here.

If you have to use the quote, and assuming  that you're talking about a spoken quote rather than a written quote: Use punctuation that best conveys the speaker's intent and doesn't distort the meaning. Often when someone speaks, it's hard to tell a "spoken comma" from a "spoken period." So use whichever makes the sentence clear while staying true to the intent and meaning.

If there was a pause or a special emphasis in part of a spoken sentence, a dash could work. Semicolons aren't a good option. I don't think people/readers associate semicolons with spoken words.

If you're quoting written words, see this part of the entry:  When quoting written words, retain the style used by the writer; do not alter the written words even if they don't match AP style. That also means you should retain the punctuation and grammar used by the writer.

Or paraphrase.



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UPDATE: See added info at the bottom.

Confounding indeed!

Your second option works best: Contains free-radical-fighting ingredients. Those hyphens link all elements of the compound modifier. It's not visually attractive, but it's the clear and accurate option.

This option indicates that the product has radical-fighting ingredients that are available for free: Contains free radical-fighting ingredients.

This option could be interpreted in a couple of ways and the reader doesn't know which is the right way.  Contains free radical fighting ingredients.

I can't resist adding an admonition to stay away from commas: Contains free, radical, fighting ingredients definitely is not what you want! You know that, of course, but it was fun to write.

ADDED INFO: Another subscriber made this suggestion, which is the best solution:

Regarding the question about the phrase Contains free-radical-fighting ingredients, I have an alternate suggestion: Contains ingredients that fight free radicals. If the questioner was stuck with the wording, your advice nailed it, but I always advise my co-workers to avoid long, awkward modifiers. 

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Your solution is the best! I agree. I was so wrapped up on the hyphenation excitement that my brain didn't work as it normally would. Thank you.

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... to gain a clearer picture of what lay ahead ...

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A company that produces ....

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I'm with you on that! No plans to change.

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Thanks for your thoughts. We're talking about these and related points this year. As you note, we have in recent years crafted some individual entries with wording aimed at reflecting balance, precision and empathy, a recognition that the words used in news reporting should account for human dignity. Some Ask the Editor responses from years past may reflect older thinking. We are working to update the older answers, but it's a very long process.

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Resisting the urge to AP-lingocize it to passthru, we'd make it pass-through if someone else uses it as a noun. We would avoid such a use on our own. And yes, also hyphenated as a compound modifier.

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Yes, we'd advise indentation.

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Generally I change any due to to because. Why? Just because. The phrase you note is so commonly used, though, that changing it probably would be more jarring than simply leaving the stilted language in place. 

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Commas generally are optional with short introductory phrases. Whether to use them depends on the flow of the sentence and on what you're emphasizing.

On Thursday, he resigned. On Friday, he flew to Bermuda. On Saturday, he bought a boat.
On Thursday he resigned, packed all his worldly belongings and headed off to Bermuda.


But, I'd always use a comma to separate two proper nouns:

On Thursday, Mike resigned.
In May, Mike resigned.




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The 30 mph winds and the 30-mile-per-hour winds. We'll expand the mph and miles per hour entries to note that. Thanks!

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Two words: key box and key lock.

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Thanks for pointing this out! After discussion, here's our approach in the future:
Tesla is treating the Semi as a model, similar to its Roadster or Model S. We capitalize vehicle model names, so we will capitalize Semi when we are referencing Tesla’s Semi.

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That construction is very common everywhere. I really don't think it's ambiguous; it echoes the way we speak: We decided Tuesday to take a quick vacation. To my ear and eye, adding an on makes it harder to read. It doesn't flow naturally. If the meaning is that the bill review would be Monday, we would say: The president said he would review the bill Monday. Or, the president said Tuesday he would review the bill Thursday.

This is fine: The president said Monday that he would review the bill. Sometimes the that is needed for clarity. But if it's not necessary, we tend to omit it.

We do add an on if a day is in conjunction with a proper name: We will start our trip to Vermont on Tuesday, not We will start our trip to Vermont Tuesday.

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The first choice seems fine. I don't think people would be confused by that.

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Either of these: Smoke only in designated areas. Smoke in designated areas only. 

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Yes, quotation marks work well for that purpose.

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Yes, resortwear, following the same model as the others.

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If V means "vintage" in this abbreviation, better to rephrase to avoid the hackneyed "may" formulation. The V in SVRA stands for "vintage," but that doesn't mean ...

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There's no specific rule. What you have works just fine.

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In a Washington Post commentary, new National Education Association President Jack Spratt ... 

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It's a little hard to tell without the context (namely, the full story). If you're confident it's entirely clear that all the quotes are from the same person, it may be OK to omit at least some of the attribution. I suspect, though, that omitting all the instances of he says or she says could look odd even if it's clear. 

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It may be old school, but we're old school in our view of this and would recommend retaining the comma. On a related point: We also like periods at the end of sentences.

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Double-chocolate cake is clearer, I think.

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