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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. Can you please tell me if the ellipses and comma are used properly in the following sentence (for context, we're referring to dogsledding)? "Let your mind turn to mush ... mushing, that is." – from Jackson, Wyo. on Thu, Apr 24, 2014

A. Correct.

Q. I am currently writing a press release for one of our teams of doctors. The performed there 2,000th procedure. That being said, do you use 2,000th or 2,000? I have it in another spot as well that starts "For the 2,000th procedure..." – from St. Paul, Minn. on Thu, Apr 24, 2014

A. 2,000th is correct.

Q. A previous note (from July 12, 2012) recommended %uFFFDfishermen and women%uFFFD for nonsexist term for fishermen. What about "angler" or "anglers"? It's a common term here in Minnesota, and fishing folks who prefer gender-neutral pronouns often use it. – from St. Cloud, Minn. on Wed, Apr 23, 2014

A. Yes, anglers covers both genders. Good idea.

Q. Thanks for your rapid response. What rule describes this use of the comma, please? Q. If this sentence in body copy must stand as written, is the comma correct, or should we use a semicolon? *Check and sign off on vital signs every 30 minutes for first hour, every hour thereafter* Thanks. %uFFFD from Dallas on Wed, Apr 23, 2014 A. Comma works. – from Dallas on Wed, Apr 23, 2014

A. The comma stands for a coordinating conjunction in what reads like a condensed instruction.

Q. In answer to a spelling question in 2008, singalong was given as the correct answer. Now, in 2014, Webster's spells it sing-along, with a hyphen. Is that also AP style? – from Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. on Wed, Apr 23, 2014

A. The entry in Webster's New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition, is singalong, a compound without a hyphen. We'll stick with that spelling.

Q. I know certain cities can stand alone in datelines, but what about in body copy? Ex: " MD Andersen Cancer Center in Houston, Texas." – from Parker, Colo. on Wed, Apr 23, 2014

A. Houston stands alone both in AP datelines and within stories if no confusion would result. See DATELINES entry for domestic and international lists.

Q. Any truth to the reporting of May 1 being the day that state names will be spelled out in AP copy? – from KC, Missouri on Wed, Apr 23, 2014

A. That's correct. An AP wire advisory transmitted today said: Effective May 1, the AP will spell out state names in the body of stories. Datelines will continue to use abbreviations. The change is being made to be consistent in our style for domestic and international stories. International stories have long spelled out state names in the body of stories. State abbreviations will continue to be used in lists, agate, tabular material, nonpublishable editor's notes and credit lines. They will also be used in short-form identification of political party affiliation. Photo captions will continue to use abbreviations, too.

Q. What is the AP style to format an editor's note within a story? Is it, "Ed. - xxx" or "xxx. - Ed." or "Editor's note: xxx" Also, is the reference italicized and set off in parenthesis? Thanks. – from Memphis, Tenn. on Wed, Apr 23, 2014

A. See PUBLISHABLE EDITOR'S NOTES section of Sending Text Stories entry in the Stylebook. No italics or parentheses.

Q. In the credit card vernacular, which is preferred: magnetic strip or magnetic stripe? – from San Antonio on Wed, Apr 23, 2014

A. AP stories have used either term in news about data breaches or other credit card topics. However, magnetic strip is probably used more often.

Q. What is the appropriate punctuation for the invitation wording below? Should there be a period at the end? Does spacing the lines out on an invitation impact punctuation? President John Doe, Chairperson Jane Smith, Vice President Jim Doe Cordially invite you to attend the Excellence Awards Ceremony rcognizing outstanding individuals at the University of x. – from Kingston, R.I. on Wed, Apr 23, 2014

A. The AP Stylebook doesn't offer specific guidance on an invitation format. I see it's one sentence. However, in this format, you could drop the comma after Smith and capitalize Cordially. Below, you'll probably add the time and place and RSVP by a certain date.

Q. How should I abbreviate satellite communications on second reference? SATCOM or satcom? I'd also like to apply the guidance to geospatial intelligence (GEOINT or geoint) and signals intelligence (SIGINT or sigint). Thanks. – from Springfield, Va. on Wed, Apr 23, 2014

A. AP stories occasionally use such abbreviations in context. For example, NSA's National Sigint Requirement List in a story about surveillance of foreign politicians. A story about the launch of the fifth Wideband Global satcom spacecraft. And a story about Geospatial intelligence _ known as "geoint" _ using imagery from above to determine activity on the Earth.

Q. If this sentence in body copy must stand as written, is the comma correct, or should we use a semicolon? *Check and sign off on vital signs every 30 minutes for first hour, every hour thereafter* Thanks. – from Dallas on Wed, Apr 23, 2014

A. Comma works.

Q. I am copy editing an article about wine. I know riesling is lowercase but I can't seem to find a definitive answer for elbling and kerner grapes. – from Orysia, New York City, N.Y. on Wed, Apr 23, 2014

A. Per the "wines" entry, wine names for grape varietals are lowercase.

Q. I see the example of "3 ounces," but I don't see a general rule for measurements. The phrase I'm looking to confirm is "...less than 2 inches long to an average weight of 200 pounds and length of 3 feet." Should "2" and "3" be written out instead? Thank you. – from Washington on Wed, Apr 23, 2014

A. Use figures for these measurements.

Q. Hi, for software development methodologies like Agile, Waterfall, Scrum, etc., should they be initial capped or lowercase? – from Batangas City on Wed, Apr 23, 2014

A. An AP story capped Agile in an item about software IPOs. The other names don't appear in an archive search.

Q. In stories, it OK to use the term "mudslide," or is "landslide" the definitive term? – from San Diego on Tue, Apr 22, 2014

A. AP stories report the terms used by authorities. In the case of the Washington state disaster, mudslide predominates but landslide is also used in descriptions.

Q. Hello - When referring to members of an association or company would the word get capitalized? For example, currently as an association we have 82 members who are city utilities. We refer to them in print capitalized as XYZ Member. I have also seen large companies, who instead of referring to their employees as employees, say "Member" or "Partners" and then capitalize the reference. Another example are members of a conduit. In the bylaws we refer to them generally as "Friends of Public Power Members" or "the Member". Hope this makes sense, any advice is appreciated. – from WI on Tue, Apr 22, 2014

A. AP news stories wouldn't capitalize member.

Q. How would you refer to a retired military person and the branch of service he or she served in? Is this correct: "Retired Army Capt. Thomas Jefferson addressed university students today." Thanks. – from Austin, Texas on Tue, Apr 22, 2014

A. Correct. See RETIRED OFFICERS section of the "military titles" entry.

Q. For patented products, would you capitalize first letters, like a book title? Ex: Al "Bubba" Baker pitched his patented De-Boned [his hyphen] Baby Back Rib Steak on ABC's "Shark Tank." – from Cleveland, Ohio on Tue, Apr 22, 2014

A. Yes, using "brand names" and "trademarks" guidance.

Q. Am I correct to consider the food combinations in the following recipe titles noun phrases that do not require a hyphen? I am editing a cookbook that includes many recipe titles similar to these. Strawberry Basil Shake Veggie Herb Flax Crackers Spinach Vegetable Soup Coconut Quinoa Pilaf – from Milwaukee on Tue, Apr 22, 2014

A. No hyphens but only the first word would be capitalized in a listing. See Food Guidelines section of the Stylebook.

Q. I see in the AP Stylebook that we have co-signer. Webster's New World has it cosigner and also cosign (verb). Does AP follow Webster's for cosign? – from Orysia, New York City, N.Y. on Tue, Apr 22, 2014

A. Using the co- guidance, co-sign is also hyphenated as a verb indicating status.

Q. Does AP offer any guidance on the use of a comma before "such as"? I see it both ways within AP entries: tablet (Source: AP Stylebook) A touch-screen device, such as an iPad or Kindle Fire, that can be connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi or cellular data networks. (with comma) social networks (Source: AP Stylebook, Social Media section) Online networks such as Facebook or Twitter where people share personal and professional information and content, and connect with friends and colleagues. (no comma) Please advise. Thanks! – from Oshkosh, Wis. on Tue, Apr 22, 2014

A. Phrases introduced by such as, meaning for example, are often set off with commas. But no comma preceding essential examples as in the second definition.

Q. Should quotation marks go around onomatopoeias? In this sentence, for example: "When you're shopping, it's easy get caught up in the sound of cha-ching, cha-ching and the excitement of new purchases." – on Tue, Apr 22, 2014

A. Quotation marks aren't needed.

Q. Hi, I have a question in regards to the AP style for a press release of a quote. Where does the "said" go. I read that the "said" should come before the name and title for a public relations release. I was told that the the last example was a sign of an inexperienced writer. Please help! I have gotten myself really confused on which way is proper in AP style. Thank you so much for your help. Example sentence: %uFFFDThis is a great opportunity to bring the community together,%uFFFD said David Richard, American Cancer Society Executive Director. %uFFFDEveryone knows someone and has somehow been touched by cancer and Relay is an opportunity to fight back.%uFFFD --or-- %uFFFDThis is a great opportunity to bring the community together,%uFFFD David Richard, American Cancer Society Executive Director,said. %uFFFDEveryone knows someone and has somehow been touched by cancer and Relay is an opportunity to fight back.%uFFFD – from Pass Christian, Miss. on Tue, Apr 22, 2014

A. Use the first example, but lowercase executive director. In a followup quote, Richard said.

Q. Does "a host of" take a singular or plural verb? "A host of doctors was/were awaiting him." – from , Gary, Indiana on Tue, Apr 22, 2014

A. Plural verb.

Q. To conduct a financial check up ... is it check up, check-up or checkup? – on Tue, Apr 22, 2014

A. It's checkup (n.).

Q. Is it acceptable to include the connecting words when the subject's job title is a sentence fragment? For example, if Jon Smith's title was "vice president public affairs,government relations," would it be written as "Jon Smith, vice president for public affairs and government relations...?" – from Washington on Tue, Apr 22, 2014

A. Yes, it's acceptable for clarity.

Q. Which is correct? On the contrary, I am quite well OR On the contrary; I am quite well. Please advise. Thank you much. – from Kansas City, Mo. on Tue, Apr 22, 2014

A. Use a comma instead of a semicolon.

Q. What is the correct abbreviation for W.Va. in headlines? – from Washington on Tue, Apr 22, 2014

A. As you have it: W.Va.

Q. Can you please clarify an apparenty descrepancy? A 2009 response regarding a question about "best-in-class" vs. "best in class" states that hyphens are appropriate when the word is used as a modifier. However, a February 2014 response states that this word is usually used without hypes in that it is a judging award. Please clarify. – from Austin, Texas on Mon, Apr 21, 2014

A. As a compound modifier: best-in-class solutions. As a stand-alone award: Best in class.

Q. Please help clarify the use of "of" and "from" in the following context: Which one is the correct headline? "Statewide awareness week announced to highlight public health dangers of mosquitoes" or "Statewide awareness week announced to highlight public health dangers from mosquitoes" – from Santa Fe Springs, Calif. on Mon, Apr 21, 2014

A. Both are correct, though dangers of mosquitoes seems better in the headline.

Q. For a headline, what is the possessive of US? Is it US's? US'? – from Chicago on Mon, Apr 21, 2014

A. The second is correct: US' ...

Q. I am unsure about how to apply hyphens to the phrase: "customer owned and operated." In context: designed for one specific application dependent on customer owned and operated equipment for normal operation. Is it customer-owned-and-operated? Thank you. – from Portland, Ore. on Mon, Apr 21, 2014

A. ... customer-owned and -operated equipment ...

Q. Snap-on Inc. or Snap-on Incorporated? Normally I would follow the AP rule to use the abbreviation, but the NYSE website has the company name listed both ways. Plus, our foundation staff is under the impression that the company prefers the "Incorporated" spelled out. – from Leesburg, Va. on Mon, Apr 21, 2014

A. AP business stories use Snap-on Inc.

Q. The "company names" listing does not provide a definitive answer for this question, in my opinion. My co-workers are confusing the actual spelling of a brand with its brand mark, for example: IRWIN (all caps) for Irwin Industrial Tools. I've found the AP rule for company names (do not use all-capital letter names unless the letters are individually pronounced), but is there any listing that directly covers brands and this problem? In the case of Irwin, it's a subsidiary of another company and thus doesn't have a listing on the stock exchange sites, so I can't check it there. My co-workers get doubly confused because in its news releases, Irwin tends to place its name in all caps to make it stand out (even the last name of its founder, Mr. Irwin). So, all caps or upper- and lowercase? – from Leesburg, Va. on Mon, Apr 21, 2014

A. Capitalize the first letter of a brand name and, in some cases, a second letter, as in AstroTurf. Otherwise, lowercase other letters unless pronounced individually. See "brand names" and "trademarks" entries, in addition to "company names" guidance.

Q. The context of a recent article I edited is that a soccer player was injured and received treatment, and has finally decided that he will do his rehab in his home country. This is the sentence I had trouble with: Brown has been expected to stay in Scotland for treatment and rehab. Is the present perfect tense (has been expected) correct in this sentence? Half of the expectation can definitely be confirmed as he did his treatment in Scotland, but he has not started his rehab yet, although he did confirm he will start it later in Scotland. Thanks. – from Virginia, XX on Sun, Apr 20, 2014

A. Yes, the phrasing should be more nuanced on the rehab. He underwent treatment in Scotland and confirmed he would stay on there for rehab.

Q. I am editing a short piece in which a photographer mentions having shot in "Israel/Palestine." What would be AP's suggestions for treating this? Thank you! – from Brooklyn, N.Y. on Sun, Apr 20, 2014

A. He took photos in Israel and Palestine ... or, in Israel and adjacent Palestinian territories.

Q. Your listing on "team" indicates that a team is always singular, since it refers to a unit. Does that mean you can never use it to simply indicate several or "a lot"? "A team of bees are buzzing around us," for example. What about "a host of...," would that be plural? – from Gary, Indiana on Sun, Apr 20, 2014

A. Yes, or a swarm of bees are buzzing around us.

Q. The entry for Easter begins this way: "Christian holy day commemorating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christians believe Jesus was raised from the dead three days after his Crucifixion." But doesn't the capitalization of "Resurrection" and "Crucifixion" contradict the AP entry on religious references, which says: "LIFE OF CHRIST: Capitalize the names of major events in the life of Jesus Christ in references that do not use his name. ... "But use lowercase when the words are used with his name: The ascension of Jesus into heaven took place 40 days after his resurrection from the dead."? Also, if the cutline reads "Fausto Gonzalez, as Jesus, is fastened to a wooden cross during a re-enactment of the crucifixion at St. Patrick's Catholic Church ... ," should "crucifixion" be uppercase or lowercase? Thank you. – from Fort Wayne, Ind., on Fri, Apr 18, 2014

A. The spellings in the "Easter" entry will be amended to conform. Thank you.

Q. Just checked the Stylebook, and there is no entry for military occupational specialty, or MOS. Questions: 1) Is MOS acceptable on first reference, or should one start with military occupational specialty? 2) Lower-case or capitalize the first letter of each word? 3) MOS or M.O.S.? Thanks! – from Sarnia, XX on Fri, Apr 18, 2014

A. On first reference, spell out lowercase military occupational specialty. On second reference, MOS could be used, though military job or assignment work just as well.

Q. You advised me to hyphenate "Pre-workout" used in a heading. Does this mean "Post workout" should be hyphenated also? Each word stands alone as a heading (no nouns follow). – from Chesterfield Townshi, MI on Fri, Apr 18, 2014

A. Yes, see the Stylebook's "post-" entry.

Q. There's no specific entry for Kharkov, so we have been using that per the NW dictionary. But I'm told your wire stories have been spelling it Kharkiv instead. Is the latter official style? – from Washington, D.C. on Fri, Apr 18, 2014

A. AP stories from Ukraine have been using the Kharkiv spelling for several years. I'm not aware of any announcement.

Q. AP notes laws Capitalize legislative acts but not bills: the Taft-Hartley Act, the Kennedy bill; what about city ordinances? – from Seattle on Fri, Apr 18, 2014

A. In AP stories, ordinance is invariably spelled lowercase with a brief description of the action.

Q. How would you type "Pre Workout" when using as a heading to list foods to eat prior to weight training? Hyphenate, one word or two words? – from Chesterfield Townshi, MI on Fri, Apr 18, 2014

A. Make it Pre-workout using guidance in the Stylebook's "pre-" entry for a word not in Webster's NWCD, Fourth.

Q. I know that I shouldn't capitalize a title that comes after a person's name in body text, but does that rule apply to bylines of submitted pieces? Example: "Written by ____ _____, president of _______" – from San Francisco on Fri, Apr 18, 2014

A. The title is correctly lowercase in your byline format, which differs from AP's format.

Q. In this sentence, would it be house-made or housemade? "We%uFFFDre now serving two housemade meal options each week." – from Atlanta on Fri, Apr 18, 2014

A. AP culinary references generally hyphenate the modifier. However, the term may be trending toward a compound, along the lines of homemade.

Q. Semicolons are used to separate items in a series if the items themselves require commas. Is this still true if the commas occur within parentheses? E.g., The team brought fruit (apples, oranges, and grapes); silverware and plates; music; and chairs. Should the sentence use commas or semicolons? – from Washington on Fri, Apr 18, 2014

A. The team brought fruit (apples, oranges and grapes), silverware and plates, music and chairs.

Q. What is AP style for the name of the breakaway region of Moldova east of the Dneister River, Transnistria or Trans-Dneister? – from Washington on Fri, Apr 18, 2014

A. Trans-Dniester in AP stories.

Q. Hi -- I saw the Ask the Editor regarding "ramp up" as a verb; as a noun, can I assume it is hyphenated? Thanks! – from Washington on Fri, Apr 18, 2014

A. I see only two-word, no hyphen spellings in the AP story archive. Some dictionaries may hyphenate the noun and adjective forms.

Q. I see in copy these days the use of "noted" to avoid "said." Is that an acceptable use of the word in news? – from Anna Maria, Fla. on Fri, Apr 18, 2014

A. One dictionary definition of note, the verb, is to mention particularly. But as a variation for said in an attribution, noted shouldn't be overused.

Q. When describing multiple types of cancer - should one use cancer in plural as "cancers" (it sounds wrong) For example: "....mortality resulting from multiple types of cancer" or "...mortality resulting from multiple types of cancers". Thanks. – from Tzoran, Israel on Fri, Apr 18, 2014

A. I'd go with multiple types of cancer. Do you also mean mortality rates?

Q. What is the correct style for the code term for marijuana use: 420, 4:20 or 4/20? – from Bristol, Conn. on Thu, Apr 17, 2014

A. The slang term is 420.

Q. When a composition title starts with the number 10, should I use figures or spell it out? Example: "Ten Tips for Public Speaking" or "10 Tips for Public Speaking" – from San Francisco on Thu, Apr 17, 2014

A. Starting figure generally spelled out, as in "Ten Days that Shook the World" and "Five Easy Pieces."

Q. Since Jay Carney is the only press secretary for the White House, and thus somewhat a formal position, would his position be capped or lower-cased in this sentence: White House press secretary/Press Secretary Jay Carney said the president would be unavailable for comment. – from Washington , District of Columbia on Thu, Apr 17, 2014

A. Lowercase press secretary in all uses, per the Stylebook entry.

Q. Is it "high-resolution" or "high resolution"? And is it the same with "Low resolution"? – from Austin, Texas on Thu, Apr 17, 2014

A. These modifiers are generally hyphenated preceding nouns, as in high-resolution image.

Q. Would you use upstate of South Carolina, upstate South Carolina or Upstate South Carolina? – from India on Thu, Apr 17, 2014

A. In a story datelined from South Carolina, Upstate alone suffices. Otherwise, Upstate South Carolina

Q. In the past you've explained that the phrase, "Just say no" needn't be enclosed in quotes in informal references. But what about VOTE yes/no? Does the same rule apply, and if so, does voting count as a formal reference? And in that case would it be "Vote 'no' on Measure ____?" – from Portland, Ore. on Thu, Apr 17, 2014

A. If the sentence advocates a "yes" or "no" vote, enclose the word in quotes: Vote "no" on Measure XYZ.

Q. Is emoji singular AND plural? – from Cupertino, Calif. on Thu, Apr 17, 2014

A. Singular emoji, plural emojis ... per the Stylebook entry.

Q. I am still unsure of AP guidelines after my previous Q&A. "Q. At the college where I work, we have a Center for Experiential Learning. Would this be considered a widely used generic term that could be written using lowercase (similar to "history department"), or is this a formal name that should be capitalized every time it appears? A. Use the spelling on the building or area that uses this name." There is no relevant signage on the building or area. The center's page on the college website capitalizes "Center for Experiential Learning"-- but our college's history department webpage also capitalizes "History Department," which is contrary to AP style. – from Boston on Thu, Apr 17, 2014

A. For comformity with the department spellings used by the school, capitalize the formal name of the center.

Q. I'm trying to figure out how to list questions in quotation marks. This is the sentence my office is having trouble with. It is within a commentary and we just want to correctly AP style it, without changing the authors voice. It involved answering questions like %uFFFDWhat is the size equivalent of this shoe in Kazakhstan?%uFFFD, %uFFFDCan we go back to Walmart for three hours?%uFFFD and %uFFFDI saw this thing on the internet and I want you to take me to as many stores as possible until I find it?%uFFFD – from Goodfellow AFB, Texas on Thu, Apr 17, 2014

A. Try a list without quotation marks. Also, the third is more an imperative. Among the requests: What is the size equivalent of this shoe in Kazakhstan? Can we go back to Walmart for three hours? I saw this thing on the Internet, and I want you to take me to as many stores as possible until I find it.

Q. I haven't been able to find this on the site. When referencing a college class and it's dimension (This class is a social science.), would you capitalize "social science?" – from Stillwater, Okla. on Thu, Apr 17, 2014

A. Without number, social science is lowercase. See the "course numbers" entry for elaboration.

Q. We always use the term backcountry to reference a remote area in a national park. Is it appropriate to use the opposite - "frontcountry" to reference the area that's more populated and where there are more roads and structures? If not, what term should be used instead? – from Boise, Idaho on Thu, Apr 17, 2014

A. AP stories use front country (two words) for less remote areas of national parks, including camp grounds.

Q. I am wondering do we capitalize French Enlightenment or is enlightenment lowercase? – from Orysia, New York City, N.Y. on Thu, Apr 17, 2014

A. Capitalize references to this recognized era of the 18th century.

Q. Is there a correct way to reference a gift card to Amazon ( in copy? (Amazon Gift Card, Amazon gift card, Gift Card, gift card)? – on Thu, Apr 17, 2014

A. Amazon gift card.

Q. I understand music genres are lower case in AP style. In the case of specific genres though, such as: Leon Russell's music is referred to as "Tulsa Sound." Would that be capitalized, or lower case as a genre? Additionally, red dirt? – from Tulsa, Okla. on Thu, Apr 17, 2014

A. AP music stories capitalize Tulsa Sound. The same for Red Dirt, which may be enclosed in quotes preceding music on first reference to distinguish it from other uses of the term.

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