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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. Is this hyphenated correctly: If you are first-aid- and CRP-certified ... – on Tue, Jul 29, 2014

A. No. If you are first aid- and CPR-certified ... Or: If you are certified to give first aid and CPR ...

Q. Is it six months salary or six months' salary? As in, "...he will be offered a severance payment of six months' salary." – from Eagle, Colo. on Tue, Jul 29, 2014

A. It's a quasi possessive: six months' salary.

Q. In this example, are the hyphens needed? "...before areas are closed-in or covered-up." – from Raleigh, N.C. on Tue, Jul 29, 2014

A. Correct.

Q. Is it correct to use the numerals the way I have in the sentence below? From a readability standpoint the 18 and 20-pound don't look right next to one another, even though I know to use numerals for numbers over 10. "Storage is limited to two cages, containing up to 18 20-pound propane cylinders in each cage (720 pounds total) without any separation from a structure." – from Broomfield, Colo. on Tue, Jul 29, 2014

A. It's correct as you have it, though you could rewrite the reference to avoid abutting numerals: Storage is limited to two cages holding up to 18 propane cylinders weighing 20 pounds apiece in each cage (720 pounds total), without any separation from a structure.

Q. Do you capitalize the word "institute" in this sentence: An interesting study was discussed by Dr. Smith, of The Jones Institute, during the Institute%uFFFDs 2014 Annual Research Conference. – from Maitland, Fla. on Tue, Jul 29, 2014

A. Lowercase institute on second reference.

Q. In a sentence like the one below, if "healthcare practices" is plural, should the phrase "their business and client base" also be plural? We work closely with healthcare practices to understand their business and client base and to determine the feasibility of the projects they are considering. – from Wilton, Conn. on Mon, Jul 28, 2014

A. The Stylebook spelling is health care, two words in all uses. Health care practices is vague. Try using health care companies or providers. Make it their businesses and client bases.

Q. It is the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, but the U.S. House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. Should we too be inconsistent with the apostrophe? – from Panama City, Fla. on Mon, Jul 28, 2014

A. It's the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the House Veterans' Affairs Committee.

Q. Does the same rule for chief financial officer apply to CEO as well? – from San Marcos, Texas on Mon, Jul 28, 2014

A. See "CEO, CFO, COO" entry in the online Stylebook.

Q. You have any guidance on abbreviating or shortening Central African Republic to fit in a newspaper headline? I've seen "C." used a couple of times in recent months, but I've never seen "C." used for Central anywhere else in my 32 years of journalism. – from Tampa, Fla. on Mon, Jul 28, 2014

A. AP short headlines occasionally use C. African Republic.

Q. Should the ampersand (&) be used for titles of political committees, for instance the House Energy & Commerce Committee, as it is titled? Or is "and" used in this instance? – from York, Pa. on Mon, Jul 28, 2014

A. The "ampersand" entry limits usage to company names, composition titles and a few abbreviations like B&B.

Q. We are writing about pillow-top mattresses at a local hotel. Some mattress sites show pillowtop as one word. Others show it as two, but no one seems to hyphenate it. How would you do pillowtop/pillow top/pillow-top mattresses? – from Dallas on Mon, Jul 28, 2014

A. In the only usage I could find in the AP archive, it's spelled pillow-top mattress.

Q. In the same vein, *three-year term* or *3-year term*? Thanks. – from Dallas on Mon, Jul 28, 2014

A. The first is correct, spelling the numeral.

Q. Can you please weigh in on whether hyphenation needs to be used with words beginning with multi-? (example: multigrip or multi-grip; multi-slot or multislot) Thank you. – from Hickory, N.C. on Mon, Jul 28, 2014

A. The Stylebook's "multi-" prefix entry says no hyphen in most cases.

Q. We will be unveiling a large bronze sculpture, which has been dubbed Essence of Rex. How should this be written on first reference:"Essence of Rex," 'Essence of Rex,' (italicized), or plain? And then, how should it be written on subsequent references? – from Casper, Wyo. on Mon, Jul 28, 2014

A. The Stylebook's "artworks" entry says names of sculptures are capitalized without quotes. AP doesn't use italics in news stories, though examples in the Stylebook are in italics. If you don't use the full name on second reference, synonyms like the sculpture or the artwork are fine.

Q. "Gamify" and "gamification" are used (predominately in technology contexts) to refer to the application of game-playing processes to business, social, academic and other pursuits. What is the AP style for this. For instance, "An app that gamifies goal-setting can help teens track progress toward better study habits." – from New Berlin, Wis. on Mon, Jul 28, 2014

A. In rare uses in AP stories, these terms are enclosed in quotes.

Q. Should court documents be initial capped or lowercased? Example: An Order Admitting Will to Probate will be required. (caps or not?) Also, what about initial caps or not on "last will and testament" in a similar sentence "A last will and testament was not received from the executor." Thanks so much for your help. Jean T – from Marietta, Ga. on Mon, Jul 28, 2014

A. AP spells such terms lowercase.

Q. What is the proper punctuation for plural possessives ending with ss? – from Addison, Texas on Mon, Jul 28, 2014

A. An example: cross. The simple plural: crosses. The plural possessive: crosses'

Q. Should "Donetsk People's Republic" be in quotes in any context? Should there always be the word "self-proclaimed" before it? What is the correct way to refer to the DNR, and is there a precedent in AP style for referring correctly to self-proclaimed groups? – from Highland Park, Ill. on Sun, Jul 27, 2014

A. In AP stories, it's the self-proclaimed or self-declared or self-styled Donetsk People's Republic. Follow-ups use pro-Russian rebels or insurgents rather than the three-letter abbreviation. This is not unprecedented in AP reporting. Similar cases in other countries are weighed separately.

Q. Which is more correct: "high functioning" or "high-functioning?" – from Chicago on Sun, Jul 27, 2014

A. He is high functioning. He's considered a high-functioning individual.

Q. In job description information how should the policy on evaluations be written? evaluated using school board's policy on Evaluation of Administrative Personnel evaluated using school board's policy on evaluation of administrative personnel evaluated using School Board's policy on Evaluation of Administrative Personnel – from Lexington SC on Sun, Jul 27, 2014

A. AP would write: evaluated using the school board's policy on evaluation of administrative personnel.

Q. Are all the commas necessary in this sentence? "From marketing, to HR, to estimating, to project management, and to accounting, the use of..." – from Raleigh, N.C. on Sat, Jul 26, 2014

A. From marketing to human resources, from estimating to project management and accounting, the use of ..."

Q. Previous question/answer settled the general issue of "computer numerical control" for CNC, but what if it's used as an adjective, e.g., CNC router? Still "computer numerical control" or should it be "computer numerically controlled" using adverb and past participle? Thanks. – from Minneapolis on Sat, Jul 26, 2014

A. Same guidance in spelling out the modifier form on first reference.

Q. Is the verb tense in the beginning of the following sentence correct? "Producing millions of widgets in 2013, the company is a leader in..." – from San Francisco on Fri, Jul 25, 2014

A. Assuming widget production is on-going, you might substitute annually for the year.

Q. Happy Friday, AP! Quick question: "injection-site reaction" or "injection site reaction"? Thank you, Andrea – from Kansas City, Mo. on Fri, Jul 25, 2014

A. Usually not hyphenated in AP stories on drugs. You might check medical websites for usage.

Q. Whis is right? Our staff of boys, girls, moms and others devise or devises? – from Darien, Conn. on Fri, Jul 25, 2014

A. ... staff ... devises.

Q. Should a comma always precede --no matter what--, even when the phrase is used alone? Two examples: Rules should be followed, no matter what. Your business will face risks, no matter what its industry is. Are the commas needed in both of those instances? Please advise. Thank you much. – from Kansas City, Mo. on Fri, Jul 25, 2014

A. You have to decide whether that phrase functions as essential or nonessential information. If so, no comma. If not, set it off.

Q. I know AP does not recognize a naturopathic as a doctor, but should the words "naturopathic doctor" be uppercase when used before the person's name, just like any other title? – from Chesterfield Townshi, MI on Fri, Jul 25, 2014

A. Make it naturopathic physician, lowercase before or after the full name.

Q. When using "guest star" as a verb - e.g. John Smith is guest-starring on Seinfield, should this be hyphenated? Or should it be John Smith is guest starring on Seinfield? – from Fort Worth, Texas on Fri, Jul 25, 2014

A. Correct.

Q. Which would be correct, a pick-up in sales or a pickup in sales? – from St. Petersburg, Fla. on Thu, Jul 24, 2014

A. The Stylebook entry is pickup (n. and adj.).

Q. Would you say: Virginia is one of 20 states that have/has opted out of Medicaid expansion. – from Arlington, Va. on Thu, Jul 24, 2014

A. ... one of 20 states that have opted out ...

Q. St. Barts: Can it stand alone in the context of a feature article? – from Santa Monica, Calif. on Thu, Jul 24, 2014

A. In AP stories on first reference, usually described the French Caribbean island St. Barts or the small Caribbean island St. Barts.

Q. Is it froyo, one word, or fro yo, two words, for the colloquial name for frozen yogurt. – from Tampa, Fla. on Thu, Jul 24, 2014

A. Probably one word. The only AP usage I could find is Froyo, an Android operating system.

Q. Is it %uFFFDnonjournalist%uFFFD or %uFFFDnon-journalist%uFFFD or %uFFFDnon journalist%uFFFD? – from Durango, Colo. on Thu, Jul 24, 2014

A. It doesn't require a hyphen.

Q. Is there a standard explanation of Internet of Things? Do we need to source it, for example Webopedia as noted below, or just explain it briefly? (The Internet of Things, according to Webopedia, is the "ever-growing network of physical objects that feature an Internet Protocol address for Internet connectivity, and the communication that occurs between these objects and other Internet-enabled devices and systems.") – from New Jersey on Thu, Jul 24, 2014

A. It may be defined as simply as Internet-connected devices and home appliances talking to each other.

Q. Is it acceptable to start a sentence with an acronym? – from East Lansing, MI on Thu, Jul 24, 2014

A. Sure, but see the Stylebook's "abbreviations and acronyms" entry for guidance on these terms.

Q. Humanitarian projects the Rotary Club of Boston have/has been instrumental in include....? also, The guiding principles set forth by Rotarians give/gives them direction and purpose? – from Chesterfield Townshi, MI on Thu, Jul 24, 2014

A. ... has been instrumental in ... give them ...

Q. Should you put quotations around inner dialogue? (e.g., I thought to myself, "why don't I go for a walk.") – from Portland, Ore. on Wed, Jul 23, 2014

A. Correct with a couple of changes: I though to myself, "Why don't I go for a walk?"

Q. My query is on the use of premise versus premises, which have two different meanings; premise - something assumed or taken for granted vs. premises(1) a tract of land with the building thereon, or (2) a building or part of a building. Which is correct, on-premise solutions or on-premises solutions? – from St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wed, Jul 23, 2014

A. Based on your definitions, on-premises would be correct.

Q. Just a quick clarification on in vs into: when using plug as the verb, would it be plugs into? – from Chicago on Wed, Jul 23, 2014

A. Correct by the Stylebook's "in, into" entry.

Q. Which, please, is correct? "including three who have gone on to earn Masters%uFFFDdegrees" or "including three who have gone on to earn Masters's degrees" – from , Menlo Park, Calif. on Wed, Jul 23, 2014

A. ... master's degrees ...

Q. Are slashes permitted when it comes to roadways with multiple names? (Eden Prairie Road/County Road 4) I have read the slash entry, but any other way of phrasing the information seems more disruptive to the flow of the sentence. Any ideas? Thank you. – from Minneapolis on Wed, Jul 23, 2014

A. A hyphen would work.

Q. What is preferred, gay pride or LGBT pride? GLAAD seems to avoid the use of gay pride in its news releases, but offers no clear guidance in its style guide. – from , Montgomery, Ala. on Wed, Jul 23, 2014

A. The first is often used in news stories as a generic description for parades or other events. The second may be perceived by some as more inclusive. We're open to both.

Q. Considering AP rules for serial commas, is the following sentence correctly punctuated or would there be a comma after %uFFFDMove IT Resource%uFFFD? Types of Space Requests include: New Employee, New Leased Resource, Move IT Resource and Resource Leaving IT (Vacate). – from Detroit on Wed, Jul 23, 2014

A. No comma there. By the way, AP would lowercase all those terms except the the first word and IT, which apparently is spelled out earlier.

Q. The document I'm updating contains the phrase " a volume of 5 feet by 5 feet by 5 feet (dimension requirements)." The customer doesn't like this format, and I agree it looks awkward. I haven't found an exact example in the Stylebook. The dimensions entry does not refer to volume. I believe using the numerals is correct, and related examples use the word "by." Can I use the "x" for "by"? Could we skip the first two "feet" and say simply "5 by 5 by 5 feet"? The customer wants "5 x 5 x 5 feet." How would it be stated if we put the dimensions in an adjectival phrase in front of the word "volume"? Thanks. – from HUNTSVILLE, Ala.A on Wed, Jul 23, 2014

A. ... in a volume of 5 cubic feet dimension requirements.

Q. I have a question about AP Style Quiz #8 (question 4) regarding hyphens. The Stylebook's %uFFFDco-" entry says retain the hyphen when forming nouns, adjectives or verbs that indicate occupation or status. In the following sentence, shouldn't co-productions have a hyphen because it's a noun: The Hollywood star said she would encourage filmmakers to use Spain as a location for coproductions (this is the correct answer). Is this an error in the answer or am I missing something? – from Encinitas, Calif. on Wed, Jul 23, 2014

A. It's coproduction or coproduct without a hyphen, ... but co-producer hyphenated as an occupational reference.

Q. For the purposes of a feature, would the name of a comedy show that is a metonym for a comedy troupe be treated as a composition title, i.e., in quotation marks? – from Portland, Ore. on Wed, Jul 23, 2014

A. No doubt, if I understand the context correctly.

Q. Is it "underspent" or "under spent"? – from San Antonio on Wed, Jul 23, 2014

A. By guidance in the "under-" prefix entry, it's underspent.

Q. cannot find "liable per se" and "liable per quod" in the print edition at all. Can you please assist me in locating or providing proper usage for it. Thank you – from Beverly, MA on Wed, Jul 23, 2014

A. Check a legal lexicon online for the definitions.

Q. Should we cap the term Transcendental Meditation? – from Farmington, Maine on Wed, Jul 23, 2014

A. As a trademark, it should be capitalized.

Q. What is the title of General Breedlove. I have heard Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, also Supreme Allied Commander, NATO. Is he a four-star or five-star general? – from East Windsor, N.J. on Tue, Jul 22, 2014

A. U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, NATO's supreme commander in Europe. He wears four stars.

Q. Should LP have periods. The 2 answers are conflicting. Can you please do a complete list in the corporate names section? Thanks. Ask the Editor results: Q. I am editing financial documents and see that LLC (Limited Liability Corporation) is used as above, while L.P. (for Limited Partnership) contains periods. Our organization relies on AP Style but I do not see a comment on this, even under the heading for company names. Can you guide me? from Tacoma, WA on Apr 25, 2008 A. AP uses these standard abbreviations, LLC and L.P. not favorite Q. In what stylebook entry can I find how to handle abbreviations for forms of business? For example, Limited Partnership -- LP or L.P.? Also LLC, PA, Plc. ... from Orlando Fla. on May 16, 2007 A. The Stylebook does not have an entry on these abbreviations, but we generally use them without periods: LP, LLC. – from Atlanta on Tue, Jul 22, 2014

A. LP, the abbreviation for limited partnership, is without periods in a proper name.

Q. Is lecturer capitalized when used as a university title before a name? – from Cupertino, Calif. on Tue, Jul 22, 2014

A. Like professor, lecturer is lowercase before a name.

Q. When should you use past tense linking verbs before present tense action verbs? For example: was running vs. ran, could hear vs heard. – from Portland, Ore. on Tue, Jul 22, 2014

A. That would require considerably more space and detail than is allotted here. Suggest consult the "verb tenses" section of a grammar book for detailed explanations.

Q. Dear Editor: When using e.g. or i.e. in sentences, is it acceptable to include etc. in the phrase/list that follows, or should etc. never be used when using e.g. or i.e.? Please let me know whether there are special circumstances. Thanks! – from Illinois on Tue, Jul 22, 2014

A. There's no prohibition on using etc. to end a list of examples.

Q. I know that 'master of ceremonies' is the preferred term for 'emcee,' but is that still the case if the emcee in question is a woman? 'Mistress of ceremonies' sounds so...saucy. – from Portland, Ore. on Tue, Jul 22, 2014

A. Yes, master of ceremonies serves for both genders.

Q. Confirming "real-time marketing" would have a hyphen per the noun modifier rule – from Austin, Texas on Tue, Jul 22, 2014

A. Yes, it's real-time marketing with the hyphenated modifier.

Q. Which use of the serial comma is correct in this example? All trade and service marks, names, dress and logos are the property of their respective owners. All trade and service marks, names, dress, and logos are the property of their respective owners. – from Lincoln, Nebraska on Tue, Jul 22, 2014

A. The first sentence is correct.

Q. Could you please clarify whether or not it is acceptable to write "Israeli Defense Forces"? In the entry under "army" it says lower case the names of non-U.S. military forces. However, I have seen AP copy with "Israeli Defense Forces" in it. Thank you for clearing this up. – from New York on Tue, Jul 22, 2014

A. As a proper name, Israeli Defense Forces is capitalized. However, common noun elements in Israeli army and the Israeli military are lowercase.

Q. All watercraft offered for rent is subject to periodic inspection. Is that correct? Or should it be, All watercraft offered for rent are subject..." – from St. Paul , Minn. on Tue, Jul 22, 2014

A. All watercraft offered for rent are subject ...

Q. If there is a hyphenated word in an article or composition title, do you capitalize both the first and second portions of the word, or just the first? (Non-medical Counseling Options, or Non-Medical Counseling Options?) – from STAFFORD, Va. on Tue, Jul 22, 2014

A. Cap both parts per the U.S. national anthem example in "composition titles" entry.

Q. The state of California has determined that all State correspondence should be directed to the Office of ... Is the capitalization of S in the second State correct because it is renaming or referring to the specific state of California? If it is incorrect, why is it not considered a proper noun in this case? – from New York, N.Y. on Tue, Jul 22, 2014

A. The Stylebook's "state" entry says do not capitalize state when used as an adjective to specify a level of jurisdiction. Similarly, state of constructions -- e.g., state of California -- are lowercase. The Stylebook's "capitalization" guidance says avoid unnecessary capitals, including common noun elements of proper names on second reference: e.g., the state, the government, the agency, the company, etc.

Q. Should a semicolon be used since there are commas to separate words in a series or does it not need any punctuation before or? %uFFFD Bachelor%uFFFDs degree in agricultural education with previous student teaching experience; or equivalent combination of training and experience which provides the required knowledge, skills and abilities – from , Lexington SC on Tue, Jul 22, 2014

A. It's correct with the semicolon.

Q. What is the position of AP on hyphens and Latin phrases? My understanding of the general rule for hyphens is that Latin phrases such as vice versa, ad hoc, etc., should never be hyphenated, even as modifiers. Is this the policy for AP as well? – from Sarasota, Fla. on Tue, Jul 22, 2014

A. In AP usage going by dictionary spellings, Latin terms are not hyphenated, even as modifiers.

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