Ask the Editor: Highlights
Ask the Editor is a forum on writing, style and phrasing issues that go beyond the pages of the AP Stylebook. AP Stylebook editor Paula Froke fields questions posed by subscribers to AP Stylebook Online. Below is a sampling of recent questions Paula has answered.
Click on a topic below to learn more about AP style:
Question from Washington, District of Columbia, on March 23, 2023
LGBTQ+ (adj.) Acceptable in all references for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer and/or questioning. In quotations and the formal names of organizations and events, other variations such as LGBTQIA are also acceptable with the other letters explained. I generally stands for intersex, and A can stand for asexual (a person who doesn’t experience sexual attraction), ally (some activists decry this use of the abbreviation for a person who is not LGBTQ+ but who actively supports LGBTQ+ communities) or both. Use of LGBTQ+ is best as an adjective and an umbrella term: Walters joined the LGBTQ+ business association. Avoid it to describe individuals or, for instance, if the group you’re referring to is limited to bisexuals. Queer is often used as an umbrella term covering people who are not heterosexual or cisgender and is acceptable for people and organizations that use the term to identify themselves. Do not use it when intended as a slur. Follow guidelines for obscenities, profanities, vulgarities as appropriate. See sexual orientation; gender identity.
Question from Casper, Wyoming, on Feb. 21, 2023
I am writing a story that contains the address for people to send in donations. My question is how should I handle a C/O?
C/O John Smith
Would it be "Send donations to XYZ Corporation, C/O John Smith, 123 Whatever St., Casper, WY, 82601."
"Send donations to XYZ Corporation, in care of John Smith, 123 Whatever St., Casper, WY, 82601"
Question from London, on Feb. 20, 2023
FAQ Acceptable in all uses for frequently asked questions.
Question from London, on Feb. 02, 2023
Can we get an official ruling from the GOAT of style guides? ;-) Thanks!
Already considered the GOAT — greatest of all time — Brady finally walked away from the NFL on Wednesday following the most difficult, emotionally draining season in his life.
In a story about Messi: Competition is fierce when it comes to determining the greatest of all time, or the GOAT, as it has come to be known. It can come down to the smallest of margins that separate players of such brilliance.
The term GOAT has been known to show up in AP sports headlines, without an explanation immediately attached. Usually it's in the story but sometimes not.
We do love being the GOAT of style guides!
Question from Carmichael, California, on Jan. 30, 2023
Of course, if your audience is very familiar with ASD as shorthand, you certainly can use it.
Here's the abbreviations and acronyms entry.
Question from on March 22, 2023
- a satellite in low earth orbit
- a satellite in low Earth orbit
- a satellite in low-Earth orbit
Bonus: a low-Earth-orbit satellite?
That said, WNWCD doesn't list the term. So, on to M-W.
We'd default to our own style of capitalizing E when referring to the planet (and M-W does note that use). We'll go with low Earth orbit. While there certainly are arguments for hyphenating, that style isn't M-W's nor does it appear to be common usage (however "common usage" is defined with that term). Which takes me to: Define the term if at least some of your readers don't know what it is.
Question from Dundee, Michigan, on March 17, 2023
In our headline style, we capitalize only the first word, proper names/proper nouns, and the first word after colons. So with wouldn't be capitalized in our headline style unless if falls in one of those three categories. Other styles might capitalize all or most words in headlines.
You can choose which style you want to use. Then be consistent in using it.
You also can choose to use AP style on most points, but differ from our style on headlines (or on anything).
Question from Dover, Delaware, on March 08, 2023
thanks so much!
Question from Ohio, on March 01, 2023
FAMILY NAMES: Capitalize words denoting family relationships when they substitute for a person's name: I wrote Mom a letter. I wrote my father a letter.
Question from Williamsport, Pennsylvania, on Feb. 24, 2023
Question: does the r in roads need to be capped?
Question from Austin, Texas, on Nov. 15, 2022
I typically like to use "from" and "to" when I use one or another. But I also like sticking to your style and using a hyphen. The "from" in the first example seems to make the sentence flow better.
Use figures except for noon and midnight. Use a colon to separate hours from minutes: 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 9-11 a.m., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Question from on Oct. 19, 2022
Example: You are invited to attend the Christmas Pageant on Friday, December 16. or You are invited to attend the Christmas Pageant on Friday, December 16, 2022.
Question from Rochester, Michigan, on Sept. 15, 2022
Avoid such redundancies as last Tuesday or next Tuesday. The past, present or future tense used for the verb usually provides adequate indication of which Tuesday is meant: He said he finished the job Tuesday. She will return Tuesday.
So typically, if the time period is within a year, we would say simply He sold his goods at the show in January or She will sell her goods at the show in January.
If it's beyond a year in either direction, add the year. Or if there is any chance for confusion in the context, include last or next.
Question from Washington, District of Columbia, on July 22, 2022
She got sick with COVID-19 in March OF 2020? Or
She got sick with COVID-19 in March 2020?
Question from on June 10, 2022
Question from Waunakee, Wisconsin, on Feb. 21, 2023
The author is using the umbrella term 2-4 unit property to describe these properties.
Does the term 2-4 unit property fit with AP Style? Or would something like two-to-four-unit property or 2- to 4-unit property be more appropriate? Thanks!
Question from SYRACUSE, New York, on Feb. 21, 2023
Question from on Feb. 12, 2023
I am editing a long document that will cover the experience of multiple people. Is it okay not to spell 3 in the following sentence as it has another figure?
"He has over 10 years of experience in marketing and 3 years of experience in public relations."
Also, if the writers wrote short bios about themselves and some of them used abbreviations for their academic degrees while others used full terms, would you enforce consistency or would you leave them as they are?
Thank you very much!
IN A SERIES: Apply the standard guidelines: They had 10 dogs, six cats and 97 hamsters. They had four four-room houses, 10 three-room houses and 12 10-room houses.
On the other question, we much prefer consistency. And to the question that no doubt will follow: We don't have standard abbreviations for most academic degrees other than those listed in that entry. You can choose your own style and then stick with it.
Question from Atlanta, Georgia, on Feb. 10, 2023
Question from Chicago, Illinois, on Jan. 20, 2023
When quoting spoken words, present them in the format that reflects AP style: No. 1, St., Gov., $3. But quotes should not be changed otherwise for reasons of style. If the speaker says towards, do not change it to toward.
I don't know why you'd use mundane phrasing such as that as a direct quotation, though.
Question from Sacramento, California, on March 17, 2023
Question from Austin, Texas, on March 02, 2023
I'd go with the single concept and singular verb. The singular verb also is easier for the reader to grasp because there are a lot of words between the first of those subjects (consolidating) and the verb. By the time we get to the verb, the reader may well have lost track of the fact that there possibly are two subjects. The singular verb makes more sense here.
Question from Monsey, New York, on Feb. 28, 2023
I know "anything" and "everything" are singular, but what if both words are used? Which sentence is correct: "Anything and everything gets dumped here." OR, "Anything and everything get dumped here."
Question from Arlington, Texas, on Dec. 14, 2022
Question from GRAPEVINE, Texas, on Dec. 01, 2022
I am going to the store. Doris and I are going to the store.
The presents are for me. The presents are for Doris and me.
Question from Chula Vista, California, on March 21, 2023
Question from Reading, Pennsylvania, on March 17, 2023
Question from Tacoma, Washington, on March 14, 2023
And please note: We don't dictate that you do anything!
Question from on March 09, 2023
1) Anthony Trollope's Palliser novels include "Can You Forgive Her?," "Phineas Finn," and "The Eustace Diamonds."
2) Anthony Trollope's Palliser novels include "Can You Forgive Her?", "Phineas Finn," and "The Eustace Diamonds."
3) Anthony Trollope's Palliser novels include "Can You Forgive Her?" "Phineas Finn," and "The Eustace Diamonds."
As for the question you did ask, I'd go with Option 1. We generally don't combine the question mark with other punctuation. But in this case, I think it enhances clarity to use a comma there. Inside the quotation marks. (But that's not a serial comma. It's just a regular comma. The serial comma is the last comma in a series. In your case, the one after Finn.)
Question from Millburn, New Jersey, on March 09, 2023
Do you mean the friends are both fine and feathered (but perhaps coarsely feathered ...)? In that case, fine, feathered friends. Or perhaps fine feathered friends.
But I think you mean fine-feathered friends.
Question from Corvallis, Oregon, on July 19, 2022
Question from Longmont, Colorado, on April 08, 2022
Question from Kennesaw, Georgia, on March 16, 2023
Is there any chance AP will change "adviser" to "advisor?" As an editor, I want to follow AP style, but we have advertisers who are financial advisors and insist on having it spelled with an -or in their ads. Then I spell it with an -er in editorial copy, which causes inconsistency, and I hate inconsistency! Please consider. Thanks!
Question from Holmes Beach, Florida, on March 16, 2023
Question from on March 10, 2023
If that's that case, and if Webster's is your reference for things on which you don't have a style (and, being a dictionary, is a history book rather than a rulebook so can be used for reference rather than instruction)...why not have a style? A style that you – and so many others – prefer?
All that said, I see in Google Trends that general usage strongly favors standalone. So does the American Heritage Dictionary. So there's that to consider.
On the other hand, any time we change anything, there is outcry in the land.
Such is the Stylebook world. So many things to consider ...
Question from on March 06, 2023
How does AP use "gigaproject"? Should it be one word like "megaproject"?
If it's okay to close it, would it be okay to write "... the giga- and megaprojects," or would it be better to use the full forms in both instances?
Question from deep inside the hype machine, on Feb. 21, 2023
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