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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. In a headline, is the month spelled out when using a full date (January 1, 2015) or would it still be abbreviated (Jan. 1, 2015)? – from Colorado Springs, Colo. on Tue, Oct 21, 2014

A. Abbreviate the month in a headline.

Q. With all the news about the air bag recall, I've seen it spelled 'airbag' and 'air bag.' Which one is it? – from , Birmingham, Ala. on Tue, Oct 21, 2014

A. It's in the Stylebook: air bag.

Q. Should I capitalize "prosecco" since it is a location in Italy as well as a drink? – from Truckee, Calif. on Tue, Oct 21, 2014

A. The Stylebook entry is prosecco, lowercase, for the Italian sparkling wine produced in the regions of Veneto and Friuli Venezia.

Q. What is the correct job title for someone who died while holding his or her last position? Would he forever be CEO or should he be referred to as former CEO? – from Bellaire, Texas on Tue, Oct 21, 2014

A. Use the formal title in reporting the death and thereafter until a replacement is named. Thereafter, the person who died can be described as the late CEO or CEO at the time of his death.

Q. He will provide the 60 to 80 feet tall white spruce... Is this correct or would it be the 60 to 80 foot tall white spruce? – from St. Paul , Minn. on Tue, Oct 21, 2014

A. He will provide the 60- to 80-foot-tall white spruce...

Q. Hello. Does "the" need to be repeated in the names of the teams here? "The Giants and the Royals will compete in the World Series." What is the rule that would cover repeating (or not repeating) "the"? Thanks. – from Tustin, Calif. on Tue, Oct 21, 2014

A. Use the definite article when referring to the team as an entity: the Giants and the Royals squared off in the World Series. No article when the team name functions as a descriptive: Kansas City manager Ned Yost, Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner.

Q. Is "board of trustees" capitalized when following the name of the organization, e.g. Frisco ISD Board of Trustees? Or would it still be Frisco ISD board of trustees? – from Pflugerville, Texas on Tue, Oct 21, 2014

A. Lowercase board of trustees in all uses, according to the Stylebook entry.

Q. Is "before" and "after" photos in quotes? Example: Send us your "before" and "after" photos for a chance to win. – from Mesa, Ariz. on Tue, Oct 21, 2014

A. Correct.

Q. When (if ever) is it appropriate to follow a form of the verb "to be" (e.g., "is" or "are" with a colon, after which a list of bulleted points would appear ? – from Northridge, Calif. on Tue, Oct 21, 2014

A. Grammarians say a colon shouldn't separate a verb and its direct object. Thus, a colon shouldn't immediately follow a "to be" verb introducing a list.

Q. If you wanted to start a sentence with the number of touchdown passes Peyton Manning threw to break the NFL career record -- 509 -- would you spell it "Five-hundred nine"? No hyphen? – from Erie, Pa. on Tue, Oct 21, 2014

A. Five hundred and nine ...

Q. Is it "oil field" or "oilfield?" – from Brookline, MA on Tue, Oct 21, 2014

A. Two words for oil field.

Q. In a headline, should the second word of a hyphenated phrase be capitalized? (Example: "Two-headed Dog Born" or Two-Headed Dog Born?") – from Yardley, Pa. on Tue, Oct 21, 2014

A. In an all-caps headline style, the second word would likely be up. In AP headline style, it would be written: Two-headed dog born.

Q. Hello. Regarding proper identification of state lawmakers -- AP calls for the political party designation (typically D or R) and the lawmaker's actual hometown like this: Joe Blow, R-Anytown Correct? Thanks! – from Salinas, Calif. on Tue, Oct 21, 2014

A. In a short form title, state Rep. John Doe, D-Anytown.

Q. 1) Please provide at least a 24 hour notice. 2) Please provide at least a 24-hour notice. 3) Please provide at least a 24 hours' notice. 4) Please provide at least a 24-hours' notice. Also, is there any reason to use "advance notice"? Doesn't notice imply advance? Thanks. – from Webster Groves, Mo. on Tue, Oct 21, 2014

A. Please provide at least a 24-hour notice. Please provide at least 24 hours' notice. No need to add advance; notice suffices.

Q. What is the correct format for medical journals? For example, the American Medical Association%uFFFDs JAMA Internal Medicine. Should JAMA Internal Medicine be in quotes? Or italicized? – from Washington on Tue, Oct 21, 2014

A. As you have it without quotes: JAMA Internal Medicine. AP doesn't use italics in news stories.

Q. Why would communication, as a practice or field of study, have an "s" on the end? It's not the Finances Department; it's the Finance Department; so shouldn't it be Communication Department, instead of Communications Department? – from Saint Louis , Mo. on Tue, Oct 21, 2014

A. As a field of study, it's generally mass communications. Some universities have a department of communications, though others might use the singular spelling.

Q. Our agency hosts scores of programs and events for the public throughout the year. Some take place one time and last just an hour; some take place over one, two or three days and last five hours each day. When we refer to the names of these programs and events in news releases and stories, should they be in quotation marks, such as "Friday Forest Hikes," "Christmas on the Farm," "Wonders of Winter" or "Holiday Market"? What if one of them is a 5K? – from Wheaton, Ill. on Tue, Oct 21, 2014

A. Event titles or themes are generally enclosed in quotes, with primary words usually capitalized. Recurring events -- e.g., the Academy Awards -- are simply capitalized without quotes. To be enclosed in quotes, the race distance could use few words of explanation.

Q. Are there guidelines on how to list professors and/or staff on a (university) website? Should they be listed by rank or by last name? – from Omaha, Neb. on Tue, Oct 21, 2014

A. AP Stylebook doesn't have guidelines on this topic. Better check other university websites for possibilities.

Q. If a story quotes someone who is speaking in English but refers to a foreign body using its foreign name (i.e., the speaker switches to a foreign language), should the name of the organization be translated into English? – from Alexandria, La. on Tue, Oct 21, 2014

A. In a direct quote, use the speaker's words. Provide a translation of the name in a follow-up reference.

Q. The SUNY entries may be outdated because of name changes: Now that State University of New York (SUNY) at Albany has changed its name to University at Albany, State University of New York, what is the best way to refer to it? University at Albany--SUNY, or just University at Albany? Everyone still knows it as SUNY--Albany. – from Biddeford, Maine on Tue, Oct 21, 2014

A. AP stories from New York use several names on first reference, including the University of Albany and State University at Albany. SUNY Albany is another designation, with the acronym usually spelled out in a follow-up. So we haven't formalized one naming practice for all schools in the system.

Q. In relation to increased military construction on Guam, the government uses the phrase "Mamizu money" to refer to money provided by the government of Japan. We have been told "Mamizu" is Japanese for "clear water." Should Mamizu be capitalized? – from Yona, Hawaii on Mon, Oct 20, 2014

A. AP archives don't show the term. However, Guam news media reports, U.S. Navy announcements and Stars and Stripes, the U.S. armed forces newspaper, capitalize Mamizu Multiple Award Construction Contract.

Q. The roadside barrier: is it guard rail or guardrail? – from Barre, Vt. on Mon, Oct 20, 2014

A. AP stories use guardrail as spelled in the dictionary.

Q. Does AP have a style for chip and PIN standard for credit cards? – from , on Mon, Oct 20, 2014

A. PIN number, chip cards.

Q. AP style says to use Wal-Mart with a hyphen. But the company branding is Walmart without a hyphen. Is there a reason why AP says to include the hyphen? – from Washington , District of Columbia on Mon, Oct 20, 2014

A. It's the hyphenated Wal-Mart in the company's official spelling, Wal-Mart Stories Inc. The unhyphenated spelling on retail outlets proved difficult to apply in AP news stories.

Q. Jet Ski is capped as trademarked name. How about WaveRunner? Or is wave runner/wave-runner OK? If so, which one? Does AP use a generic for them? – from Chicago on Mon, Oct 20, 2014

A. The Yamaha trademark is WaveRunner as spelled in most AP stories.

Q. How do you determine the difference between a compound modifier and noun phrase? AP has many examples of noun phrases that could arguably be considered compound modifiers. – from Denver , Colo. on Mon, Oct 20, 2014

A. Dictionary and Stylebook spellings are primary determinants, along with common usage.

Q. Is "heavy duty" hyphenated when it does not precede a noun? In this case, we are listing attributes: "More heavy duty that competitors." I cannot recast. – from Mount Prospect, Ill. on Mon, Oct 20, 2014

A. Deferring to Webster's spelling: heavy-duty (adj.).

Q. Is it okay to use "our" or "ourselves"? For example: They are on a quest for knowledge about our universe. – from Washington on Mon, Oct 20, 2014

A. ... a quest for knowledge about our universe. Or, ... a quest for knowledge about ourselves.

Q. Would you need a comma when introducing a composition. Ex: Lane is the author of the book, "The Digital Divide." Shea presented a paper, "The Digital Divide," at the conference. – from , New Brunswick, N.J. on Mon, Oct 20, 2014

A. In the first sentence, the book title is essential information. Don't set it off with a comma. In the second sentence, the nonessential title of the paper is correctly set off with commas.

Q. Is it correct to say, "200 employees attended the town hall featuring the CEO"? Or is "town hall" used only as an adjective ("... attended the town hall meeting ...")? Thank you. – from Houston on Mon, Oct 20, 2014

A. The town hall meeting is more precise. If you start the sentence with the attendance figure, it should be spelled out: Two hundred employees ...

Q. We're having a discussion about whether this subject is singular or plural: Sense of taste and smell improve or improves? – from Orlando, Fla. on Mon, Oct 20, 2014

A. Better to use plural subject and verb: Senses of taste and smell improve ...

Q. Hello, I have a question and would like to know if someone can call me at 502.580.2990. Thanks. Best, Alex Kepnes – from Louisville, Ky. on Mon, Oct 20, 2014

A. Is it a style question or technical issue? If something else, please be more specific here.

Q. Are trademark symbols used in publications? Ex: Microsoft Word – from White Lake, S.D. on Mon, Oct 20, 2014

A. See the "trademark" entry for an explanation.

Q. What is the proper AP format for The ITU World Triathlon Series. I noticed many refer to it as ITU. What is the correct usage? – from Fort Lauderdale , Fla. on Sun, Oct 19, 2014

A. AP stories use ITU World Triathlon Series on first reference. International Triathlon Union should be spelled out lower in the story.

Q. Do you say Third-place podium result for triathlon results? – from Fort Lauderdale , Fla. on Sun, Oct 19, 2014

A. Placed third or finished third suffices.

Q. In a situation where a law enforcement agency is attempting to require that the officers involved in an arrest never be named %uFFFD not in a specific incident, but in all incidents involving the agency - would you agree and just cite, for example, a probable cause statement to the agency? Or would you insist on including the arresting officer's name who wrote and filed the probable cause statement? – from St. George, Utah on Sat, Oct 18, 2014

A. When relevant to the case, the arresting officer's name should be included in a news story.

Q. Would it be correct to say "fill in first and last name" or "fill in first and last names"? – from Kissimmee, Fla. on Fri, Oct 17, 2014

A. Second is probably a little clearer. To be more precise, fill in first name and last name.

Q. When issuing financial releases specifying a stock traded on the NYSE, is it preferred to list this as "(NYSE:ABC)" or with a space after the colon "(NYSE: ABC)"? – from Houston, Texas on Fri, Oct 17, 2014

A. AP business news stories generally spell out the company name on first reference. If the company's stock abbreviation is used, it doesn't follow NYSE: and isn't enclosed in parentheses.

Q. Would you capitalize Class II and Class III when describing the types of electronic games found in Native American casinos? – from , on Fri, Oct 17, 2014

A. Yes. AP stories capitalize the class designation of a casino.

Q. Should "Notable Books" be capitalized when mentioning that several of an author's books have appeared on various editions of the New York Times' annual lists of notable books? There are also other "Notable Books" lists. When should we capitalize those common words and when should we not? – from Towson, MD on Thu, Oct 16, 2014

A. Unless citing the full name of the list, it's sufficient to use the description as you have it, with notable books spelled lowercase.

Q. "The baby is three/3 weeks old." Which is it, three or 3? – from Gary, Indiana on Thu, Oct 16, 2014

A. Use figures for ages: The baby is 3 weeks old.

Q. My editor-in-chief told me that when using the word "however" in a sentence, it is semi-colon, "however", comma. Example: The worst flaw; however, is not found in the style of the writing or in the unlikeable citizens of Oz. Is this true? Also, is it okay to use "however" at the beginning of a sentence? – from Albuquerque, N.M. on Thu, Oct 16, 2014

A. In your sentence, however is set off with commas. The worst flaw, however, is not found, ... When however is used as a conjunctive adverb, its clause is either a separate sentence (as in your example) or follows a semicolon.

Q. What is AP's view on company names, specifically can you say, "Business Name Co. Inc."? Can both "Co." and "Inc." be part of a name? – from Fort Wayne, Ind. on Thu, Oct 16, 2014

A. AP stories use either Co. or Inc., depending on the preference of the business.

Q. Is it correct to say "5 feet 5 to 5 feet 7 inches tall" or "5 feet 5 inches to 5 feet 7 inches tall" to show range in descriptions of height? – from San Francisco on Thu, Oct 16, 2014

A. Using models in the "dimensions" entry, 5 feet 5 inches to 5 feet 7 inches tall.

Q. Would you capitalize "retina" when it is being used in reference to the retina display on tablets, smartphones and computers? – from Santa Ana, California on Thu, Oct 16, 2014

A. Yes, AP stories capitalize Retina in describing those products.

Q. How should capitalization be used in quotes with quotes? The examples given in the AP Stylebook include the letter "I" so it's tough to tell: She said, "I quote from his letter, 'I agree with Kipling that%uFFFD. When introducing a quotation within another quotation, should that first letter after the single marks be capitalized? For example, in this sentence should "we're" be capped? We looked at each other in surprise and said, %uFFFDwe%uFFFDre moving.%uFFFD%uFFFD And in this example, should "location" be capped: %uFFFDWhen you talk about real estate, people always mention %uFFFDlocation, location, location%uFFFD and this area had that.%uFFFD – from Simi Valley, Calif. on Thu, Oct 16, 2014

A. Capitalize and the first word of a quote within a quote if it's a separate sentence, even a short one as in your example. Otherwise, lowercase expressions or phrases like "... 'location, location, location' and this ..."

Q. Do you hyphenate Korean-American? – from Rosemead, Calif. on Thu, Oct 16, 2014

A. Correct.

Q. Are the terms gay marriage and same sex marriage interchangeable? Is one more correct than the other? – from Winston-Salem, N.C. on Thu, Oct 16, 2014

A. AP stories often use the terms interchangeably. Gay marriage may be used more frequently on first reference and same-sex marriage on follow-ups. Usage also reflects the word choice of the person or group being quoted.

Q. Is there currently any consensus on citation of car specs? I.E. Horsepower, HP, hp? Torque, lb-ft, foot-pounds, etc.? – from St. Petersburg, Fla. on Thu, Oct 16, 2014

A. AP stories spell out horsepower, torque, foot-pounds, etc. A few car specs are abbreviated, including mpg and mph.

Q. Would you put a comma after information in this sentence? For more information call the library at 386-555-1212. – from Port Orange, Fla. on Thu, Oct 16, 2014

A. Reads fine without a comma.

Q. Should you say "after one-and-a half years or 1 1/2 years?" – from new orleans, La. on Thu, Oct 16, 2014

A. The figures are preferred for mixed numbers.

Q. How would you recommend capitalizing 'Platinum Anniversary,' the occasion that marks a couple's 20 years of marriage? – from Portland, Ore. on Thu, Oct 16, 2014

A. Lowercase platinum anniversary, golden anniversary, etc.

Q. is binge watching hyphenated? – from Chicago, Illinois on Thu, Oct 16, 2014

A. Often hyphenated in AP stories.

Q. Is "third quarter" preferred over "3rd quarter"? – from Johnstown, Pa. on Thu, Oct 16, 2014

A. Yes, third quarter within a news story. Headlines use the abbreviation 3Q.

Q. Licenses and capitalization. Should it be: Licensed real estate broker John Doe, licensed real estate associate broker Agnes Smith and licensed real estate salesperson Jane Jones went to ...? Or should it be: Licensed Real Estate Broker John Doe, Licensed Real Estate Associate Broker Agnes Smith and Licensed Real Estate Salesperson Jane Jones went to ...? Initial caps for the license name? On the NY State Department of Licensing website, they use lowercase in the regulations. The individuals in the example above want the licenses written with initial caps, I'm arguing that's wrong. Who's right? – from Scarsdale, N.Y. on Wed, Oct 15, 2014

A. AP stories lowercase this job description. See the Stylebook's "Realtor" entry for an exception.

Q. Does AP use true freshman when referring to a first-year college student-athlete? – from Fort Wayne, Ind. on Wed, Oct 15, 2014

A. Yes, frequently in college football stories.

Q. Is a comma or exclamation point most appropriate after the word congratulations? i.e. Which of the following is correct? "Congratulations! You've passed the test." OR "Congratulations, you've passed the test!" – from Lanham, MD on Wed, Oct 15, 2014

A. I'd favor the first using the exclamation point for an emphatic word.

Q. Since cesarean section is now lowercase, will c-section become lowercase? It's still listed with a cap C. – from Lakeland, Fla. on Wed, Oct 15, 2014

A. The Stylebook spelling duplicates dictionary entries that capitalize the hyphenated first letter: C-section.

Q. community at large Would this be with or without hyphens? – from Houston on Wed, Oct 15, 2014

A. No hyphen with community at large.

Q. Is this sentence acceptable? "The event is slated for Friday, October 31, 6:30-9:30 p.m." I'm particularly wondering if I've used too many commas. – from Mesquite, Texas on Wed, Oct 15, 2014

A. Yes, but AP would abbreviate Oct. with a date.

Q. How would AP treat the term Red Menace? Capped? Quotes? – from Farmington, Maine on Wed, Oct 15, 2014

A. AP stories have capitalized Red Menace as a popular name for the period of the 20th century when the U.S. and Soviet Union were at loggerheads.

Q. Dear Editor, In medical literature, NICU nurses and neonatal intensive care units are named Level I, II III or IV. How should I refer to Level III NICU nurse in an article? Some opinions differ, but I think the Roman numerals should be used as they are designations assigned by that industry--the guide does advise that Roman numerals can be used sparingly. Also, it is described in the article heading as "Level 3 NICU Nurse." Please advise in both cases. Many thanks. – from Union , N.J. on Wed, Oct 15, 2014

A. AP stories spell out neonatal intensive care unit on first reference, including with nurse. It's NICU thereafter, along with level 2, level 3, etc.

Q. Hi. There's a dispute at work as to whether it should be "Mayo Clinic" or "the Mayo Clinic," as the company refers to itself as simply "Mayo Clinic." The former seems intuitively incorrect, however. Which is correct? – from Chulmleigh, XX on Wed, Oct 15, 2014

A. In AP stories, the name is written with or without the article, depending on the phrasing.

Q. This copy popped up in something I'm working on. Our rebate programs offer industry-specific solutions that help make energy efficiency affordable for all types of businesses. The results? Lower electric bills and a quick return on investment. Should it be "The result?", or is this correct, as two separate things follow in response? Does it matter that one of the items that follows is plural while the other is singular? I appreciate any help you can provide. – from Phoenix on Tue, Oct 14, 2014

A. It's fine as written with the plural results.

Q. Are commas necessary both before and after "including" and after "to" in the following sentence? We reserve the right to display our merchandise, including, but not limited to, books, toys, records and cards. – from Dallas on Tue, Oct 14, 2014

A. Comma before including to introduce the partial list of merchandise on display. It's understood that other items may be shown, so "but not limited to" isn't needed.

Q. Which is correct: If you are not sure who to ask or If you are not sure whom to ask – from , Norfolk, Va. on Tue, Oct 14, 2014

A. As the object, whom is correct.

Q. When is a hyphen required for use of in person? For example: Voting in person vs. in person voting. – from Los Angeles on Tue, Oct 14, 2014

A. In AP stories, it's voting in person, in-person voting.

Q. Sentence in question: In fact, a June 2013 article, titled %uFFFDWho Will Challenge Scott Walker in 2014?%uFFFD noted that Wisconsin Democrats appeared to be struggling to find someone willing to run against Scott Walker. AP, I know the question mark (part of the article title) falls inside the quotation marks. Where would the comma be placed after the article title? – from Madison, Wis. on Tue, Oct 14, 2014

A. The question mark supersedes a second comma in the title.

Q. Should a female band leader be referred to as a frontwoman or frontman? – from Lakeland, Fla. on Tue, Oct 14, 2014

A. AP stories use frontwoman for the female leader of a band.

Q. For stories such as car accidents the mention the vehicle name, such as a Toyota 4Runner, should the make or model be used on second reference? – from San Francisco on Tue, Oct 14, 2014

A. Use SUV on further reference, or other descriptive like sedan or coupe or pickup, as the case may be.

Q. Is this the correct style on phone numbers from agencies that include letters in them? Example: 800-TELL-CHP (835-5249) – from San Francisco on Tue, Oct 14, 2014

A. The format is fine, though good to include 800 in the second version in parentheses.

Q. We write centered on do we also write based on or is it OK to use based around? – from Orysia, New York City, N.Y. on Tue, Oct 14, 2014

A. Based on is far more common in AP stories. Based around is sometimes used in fashion and other contexts.

Q. AP doesn't use punctuation in company names (i.e., Yahoo). But what about other names, such as the band that spells its name "fun."? As in "....song was co-written with fun.'s Jack Antonoff." Does AP advise writing that as "....Fun's Jack Antonoff." – from Madison, Wis. on Tue, Oct 14, 2014

A. A fairly recent AP story put it this way: Jack Antonoff is spinning off from his chart-topping band fun., but he's recruited some big-time backup ...

Q. Is independently owned hyphenated? – from New York on Tue, Oct 14, 2014

A. No hyphen with the adverb, per the Stylebook's "-ly" entry.

Q. Hyphen or no hyphen with "as-is?" "Items at the event will be sold as-is." – from Crystal Lake, Ill. on Tue, Oct 14, 2014

A. Dictionaries don't hyphen as is when referring to objects in that condition.

Q. Throughline or through-line? – from Chicago on Tue, Oct 14, 2014

A. I've seen that compound used once in an AP story: Walters has served as a journalistic throughline for her viewers ...

Q. I have established an acronym, EHS, which is familiar to the audience for whom -- or should that be "which"? -- I'm writing. Now I need to use it in plural form. Should it be EHSs or EHS's? Thanks! – from Houston on Tue, Oct 14, 2014

A. That's an abbreviation, not an acronym. The plural would be clearer using a second word, EHS forms or EHS devices or whatever it stands for.

Q. How do you pluralize an IRS form? My example is Form 941 -- so, Forms 941 or Form 941s? Both look ick to me. – from Mount Pleasant, S.C. on Tue, Oct 14, 2014

A. Use 941 forms for plural.

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