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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 ring-bearer correct? – from Houston on Wed, Aug 20, 2014

A. In AP news stories, there's no hyphen in ring bearer.

Q. I have a reoccuring problem with the guidance that an end period punctuation always goes inside the quote. I work in an industry full of jargon and technical terms. A quote can easily be interpreted as including the end punctuation, and this is often incorrect. For example: If I want the sentence: Search for the file "jo.ex". If I write it, Search for the file "jo.ex." I should expect the person doing the search to search for "jo.ex." and NOT "jo.ex", but "jo.ex" is absolutely correct, and "jo.ex." is absolutely wrong, since the search will never find "jo.ex.," since "jo.ex." will never exist. Instead, only "jo.ex" does, and "jo.ex" is definitely NOT the same thing as "jo.ex." I submit that if the quoted text is to be interpreted as EXACTLY what is in the quotes, it is indeed correct to follow the quote with the punctuation, and not embed the punctuation within the quotes. Is this correct or incorrect? Alternate emphasis for "jo.ex" is not always possible as the text may very well be plain text, and may not support bold or italics characters. – from Minneapols, Minn. on Wed, Aug 20, 2014

A. If it's a problem, rewrite the sentence to place the file name within the text, instead of at the end. Here's an example: Search for the "jo.ex" file name. Also, see the Stylebook's "Internet" for other suggestions.

Q. Which is correct: "oldest continually occupied city" or "oldest continuously occupied city"; "oldest continually celebrated event" or "oldest continuously celebrated event"? Thank you. – from Cerrillos, N.M. on Wed, Aug 20, 2014

A. Either could be correct. See the "continual, continuous" entry for an explanation of these terms.

Q. Is the body of water on the Georgia-South Carolina border called Hartwell Lake or Lake Hartwell? – from Greenville, S.C. on Wed, Aug 20, 2014

A. AP stories from South Carolina usually call it Lake Hartwell.

Q. "Roskam is now in his fourth term in Congress." Is the proper way to state the number of terms served as "fourth" or "4th"? – from Falls Church, Va. on Wed, Aug 20, 2014

A. It's fourth. Spell out ordinals under 10th.

Q. Is stating "...the political environment in Washington" acceptable or should Washington be stated as Washington, D.C., or, Capitol Hill? – from Falls Church, Va. on Wed, Aug 20, 2014

A. It's clear in a news story if the dateline is WASHINGTON.

Q. Do I need to write out HIV (human immunodeficiency virus)on the first reference? – from Falls Church, Va. on Wed, Aug 20, 2014

A. The abbreviation is acceptable.

Q. Can something be described as "centuries-old" if it is between 100 and 200 years old? – from Houston, Texas on Wed, Aug 20, 2014

A. Reserve centuries-old for 200 years or 300 years and above.

Q. Many sports team names end in "s" and we're struggling with whether an apostrophe is needed: He purchased Royals' tickets (or Royals tickets); the group attended a Royals' game (or Royals game). My argument is that neither is really possessive, so no apostrophe is needed, but I can't find any authoritative guidance on this. How would you handle it? – from Kansas City, Mo. on Wed, Aug 20, 2014

A. No apostrophe in those references. It's covered in the DESCRIPTIVE PHRASES section of the Stylebook's "apostrophe" entry.

Q. In retail, should an inventory turn number be spelled out, three vs. 3, for instance? – from LAKE MARY, Fla. on Wed, Aug 20, 2014

A. Better check an accounting reference for advice on expressing the inventory turn number.

Q. In 1980, President Ronald Reagan . . . Is the comma needed after 1980? I've seen it both ways in numerous publications. – from Reading, Pa. on Wed, Aug 20, 2014

A. Short introductory phrases don't require commas.

Q. The term "engagement" is being used a lot of late with regard to western involvment in Iraq. Should it be used purely in the context of military involvement, or does "engagement" also entail other involvment (e.g. humanitarian aid, etc.)? – from Koeln, XX on Wed, Aug 20, 2014

A. Engagement is also used in diplomacy. Humanitarian aid can be an element of a policy of diplomatic or military engagement -- bilateral or multilateral.

Q. Style says now to spell out state names in body copy. Does this apply to photo captions (cutlines)? – from Dayton, Ohio on Tue, Aug 19, 2014

A. To save space, AP photo captions retained AP state abbreviations for city-state localities.

Q. Can probe and investigation be used interchangeably? – from Virginia, XX on Tue, Aug 19, 2014

A. An investigation suggests something more formal than a probe, though probe is sometimes used in a follow-up reference for variety.

Q. Which is correct: The government has stepped up crackdowns on offshore banking to increase its 'tax revenue or tax revenues' ? – from Virginia, XX on Tue, Aug 19, 2014

A. The government has stepped up crackdowns on offshore banking to increase tax revenues.

Q. In headlines, is avg an acceptable abbreviation of average? – from Seoul, XX on Tue, Aug 19, 2014

A. Yes, avg is occasionally used in sports headlines.

Q. In articles about swimming and horse racing, when referring to the middle portions of a race, is mid-stretch(es) an acceptable term? EX) Smith needs to improve his time in mid-stretches. – from Virginia, XX on Tue, Aug 19, 2014

A. No hyphen in midstretch or midstretches.

Q. I work in the financial services industry. Should ex be hyphenated when it means excluding, such as "the company reported EPS of $1.00 per share (ex options expense)"? The word excluding would not likely be written out in parentheses as in the sentence shown. – from St. Petersburg, Fla. on Tue, Aug 19, 2014

A. Write out excluding. Also, write out earnings per share on first use.

Q. How do I write events happening on multiple days within the same month? Should it be: The play will be performed on Dec. 3 and Dec. 5 OR The play will be performed on Dec. 3 and 5 – from Renton, Wash. on Tue, Aug 19, 2014

A. The play will be performed on Dec. 3 and Dec. 5.

Q. Clarifying: Spell out state names for elected officials? Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont? or "D-Vt."? – from Florence, Ala. on Tue, Aug 19, 2014

A. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

Q. I prepare oil and gas data and have never encountered this in my prior writing experience. When listing production numbers in the thousands, in a series, do you set off the numbers with semicolons like in a complicated list, or do you just keep the commas as I've done here: "The field has produced 56.2 million cu ft of gas, 65,493 bbls of crude and 788,607 bbls of water." (Alternatively: 56.2 million cu ft of gas; 65,493 bbls of crude; and 788,607 bbls of water.) – from Houston on Tue, Aug 19, 2014

A. Use commas.

Q. One of our local school districts refers to tests administered 9 weeks into a semester as nine-weeks tests. How would that be written in proper AP style? – from Pekin, Ill. on Tue, Aug 19, 2014

A. Tests administered nine weeks into the semester are nine-weeks tests or ninth week tests.

Q. Is "Congressional members" an acceptable alternative term for "members of Congress"? – from Falls Church, Va. on Tue, Aug 19, 2014

A. Yes, but spell congressional lowercase per that Stylebook entry.

Q. Our organization has a new title position known as an administrator-on-call. Would that be the correct way to write it? – from Orlando, Fla. on Tue, Aug 19, 2014

A. Looks fine as you have it.

Q. What is the proper use of I? As in "please send it to Susan, John and I?" Should it be I or me? I await your response. Thanks. – from Rosemead, Calif. on Tue, Aug 19, 2014

A. In this construction, the correct pronoun is me -- first person singular in the objective case.

Q. What is the proper way to reference The Oprah Winfrey Show from the 1980s? The Oprah Winfrey Show or Oprah Winfrey? Should the title be in Italics? ex. "Every day after school, I%uFFFDd go to my grandmother%uFFFDs to watch Oprah.%uFFFD – from Falls Church, Va. on Tue, Aug 19, 2014

A. You can look up the TV show's name from that era. If you use the formal name within your direct quote, enclose it with single quotes.

Q. Is it "The red wine was well-balanced" or "the red wine was well balanced"? I've read the advice here on using a hyphen with "well" after the noun when used with a form of the verb "to be," such as "The company is well-known for ..." and "time well-spent." So I thought "well" was mostly hyphenated. But I stumbed on this from AP's statement of news values and principles: "And we should not attribute information to anonymous sources when it is obvious or well known." – from Japan on Tue, Aug 19, 2014

A. The red wine was well-balanced. I'll look into hyphenating the other spelling you mention. Thanks.

Q. The two banks' management or the two banks' managements – from Richmond, XX on Mon, Aug 18, 2014

A. Either could be correct. The first example suggests the managers are the same for both banks. The second suggests separate managers for the two banks.

Q. Emeritus is added after a formal title, check. Where does it fall when dealing with a formal named professorship? Acme Corporation professor of business administration would become Acme Corporation professor emeritus of business administration or Acme Corporation professor of business administration emeritus? Please and thank you. – from Charlottesville, Va. on Mon, Aug 18, 2014

A. Try simplifying for your audience, a la: John Doe was the Acme Corp. professor of business administration until his retirement in 2013. He's now professor emeritus.

Q. Scoured the stylebook and couldn't find an answer, so I'll check here. What is the appropriate term for a web page field that already has information in it - auto-populated? Pre-populated? And would the term be hyphenated? Thanks! – from Alexandria, Va. on Mon, Aug 18, 2014

A. Neither term appears in the AP archive or the Stylebook. Try a specialized online technology reference covering Web page information.

Q. ....were based on the results of a legislatively-prescribed process Is the hyphen use correct in this example? – from St. Paul , Minn. on Mon, Aug 18, 2014

A. No hyphen in legislatively prescribed.

Q. "Many years later, that still sounds like good advice to me." Is that sentence OK when the advice is something that was read, not something that was heard? – from Half Moon Bay, Calif. on Mon, Aug 18, 2014

A. Correct.

Q. The Stylebook lists "problem-solving" as hyphenated, but a past Ask the Editor question suggested that "problem solver" is usually not hyphenated. Which of these is correct then: "problem solve" or "problem-solve"? Thank you! – from Buffalo, N.Y. on Mon, Aug 18, 2014

A. Probably the hyphenated form, though AP stories use either depending on the context or placement in the sentence.

Q. For references to approximate time, do you need "at about" or would "about" suffice? Example: He was traveling east on Tar Dam Road at about 11:20 p.m. and hit a deer. Thanks. – from Shawano, Wis. on Mon, Aug 18, 2014

A. At 11:20 p.m. suggests a precise time. About 11:20 p.m. means an approximation. Choose one or the other for the phrasing.

Q. In an article, it reads that a soldier has been accused of beating one subordinate and sexually assaulting another one. For the headline is it OK to write: Soldier accused of beating, sexually assaulting 2 subordinates? – from Virginia, XX on Sat, Aug 16, 2014

A. No, the phrasing suggests both subordinates suffered same two abuses.

Q. Which (if any) is correct: ...Payment Card Industry Security Standards? ...payment card industry security standards? ...Payment Card Industry (PCI) security standards? – from Annapolis, MD on Fri, Aug 15, 2014

A. Lowercase: payment card industry security standards.

Q. what is the proper abbreviation of piece and pieces when referencing to materials? Should it be all caps, lowercase or Titlecase? – from Magnolia, Texas on Fri, Aug 15, 2014

A. Dictionary lists pc, shorthand for piece. Add s for the plural, and include a period for both forms. AP might use such abbreviations in a tight-space situation, such as graphic.

Q. What is the AP Style preference for capitalization of "State" if it is NOT a second reference? e.g., For information on how the State manages its resources, follow the link below. Lowercase the "S"? – from Wethersfield, Conn. on Fri, Aug 15, 2014

A. Lowercase the state.

Q. When using informal forms of the word "yes," do you want to use "ya" or "yeah." – from Portland, Ore. on Thu, Aug 14, 2014

A. Generally yeah is used.

Q. In broadcast, does the Pope get a lower third? I know some stations do not CG President Obama, for example. – from San Diego on Thu, Aug 14, 2014

A. Check news video online for the common practice.

Q. Seeking clarification on use of "will" and "would." Writing in future: The track would be open daily, or The track will be open daily. – from Rio Grande, , N.J. on Thu, Aug 14, 2014

A. The track will be open daily.

Q. What is the AP Style preference for "underreporting?" Do you have it as a single word or separated by a hyphen (under-reported/ing or underreported/ing)? – from Chicago on Thu, Aug 14, 2014

A. By the Stylebook's "under-" guidance, make it one word: underreporting.

Q. Is AP contemplating any change in whether Seoul should be a stand alone dateline? At the same time, can you clarify what you mean when you refer to "circumstances on the peninsula" and how that relates to this question. – from New York on Thu, Aug 14, 2014

A. No. See the Stylebook's "Korea" entry.

Q. Does AP offer any style guidance on citations in text or a preferred style for bibliographies, footnotes, or references? – from Pittsboro, N.C. on Thu, Aug 14, 2014

A. Rather than using footnotes for citations, AP news stories include attributions within the texts. See the Stylebook's bibliography for the format we follow.

Q. Would you spell out first or use "1st" in following sentence: If the application date is between the 1st through the 15th of the month, the earliest effective date is the 1st of the following month." – from , Milwaukee on Thu, Aug 14, 2014

A. Spell out ordinals first through ninth, use figures for 10th and above.

Q. "continual" or "continuous" in the following sentence: The continuous reaching outside of self to fill an inner longing and avoid discomfort will be temporarily satisfying at best and may result in very negative consequences. – from Chesterfield Townshi, MI on Thu, Aug 14, 2014

A. Probably continual, but see the "continual, continuous" entry for elaboration.

Q. Is AP in the process of reviewing the term "life cycle" to consider allowing it to be one word: "lifecycle"? I have read sources on the Internet that suggest this term is in "transition," similar to "underway," "website" and "database" going from 2 words to eventually one word. – from Heathrow, Fla. on Thu, Aug 14, 2014

A. No, it's life cycle (two words) in our dictionaries.

Q. How would you hyphenate jalapeno and cheese flavored Doritos? – from Tokyo on Wed, Aug 13, 2014

A. Yes, jalapeno- and cheese-flavored chips, based on spellings in the Stylebook's Food Guidelines.

Q. Under the "OK" section it says, "OK, OK%uFFFDd, OK%uFFFDing, OKs Do not use okay." Does this mean that "OK" is always capitalized, or can it be "ok"? – from Portland, Ore. on Wed, Aug 13, 2014

A. Yes, always capped.

Q. I'm drafting an announcement, for a website, about a trip to a Gone with the Wind museum. In the announcement, how should the words "Gone with the Wind" appear - in italics, quotes, or neither? And should "museum" be capitalized? – from Mesquite, Texas on Wed, Aug 13, 2014

A. Use formal name of the museum capitalized but not in quotes.

Q. When using dashes while typing in certain places on the internet that don't let you have the option of using dashes (e.g., e-mails, forums, blogs, ect.), would it be ok to use two hyphens instead of a dash. For example, learning how to use dashes is essential for good punctuation -- a useful tool to learn. – from Portland, Ore. on Wed, Aug 13, 2014

A. Yes for double hyphens. And it's email, no hyphen, in the AP Stylebook.

Q. Would you use the possessive apostrophe with landowners' in this sentence? The law%uFFFDs aim is to assure private landowners rights are protected and that public money is spent to serve the public interest. – from St. Paul , Minn. on Wed, Aug 13, 2014

A. The law aims to protect the rights of private landowners and assure that government expenditures serve the public interest.

Q. If I want to use the plural form of the proper name Zoumberakis, what would it be? – from Canton, Ohio on Wed, Aug 13, 2014

A. By the Stylebook's PROPER NAMES section of "plurals," probably spelled Zoumberakises ... you might want to confirm it with the family.

Q. The land purchases are authorized under a law called the Landowners Bill of Rights. Is this correct or would "landowners be possesive in this case? The Landowners' Bill of Rights. – from St. Paul , Minn. on Wed, Aug 13, 2014

A. It's fine to use landowners in the descriptive sense.

Q. Regarding the use of gender neutral nomenclature, how should we refer to manholes and manhole covers? – from San Francisco on Wed, Aug 13, 2014

A. Use the impersonal pronoun it for an inanimate object.

Q. I am writing a release about a school named the Transitions Academy. Is it acceptable to use Academy on second reference and capitalize it? – from Newport News, Va. on Wed, Aug 13, 2014

A. It's the academy on second reference by the AP Stylebook guidance.

Q. As an adjective, "cosmic-ray detector" or "cosmic ray detector?" – from Erie, Pa. on Wed, Aug 13, 2014

A. Based on the cosmic rays dictionary entry, cosmic ray detector.

Q. Should well intentioned by hyphenated in this sentence: If there isn%uFFFDt an alignment of objectives, even the most well intentioned actions can cause a problem. – from Maitland, Fla. on Wed, Aug 13, 2014

A. Yes, hyphenate the compound modifier.

Q. When referring to Denver as the Mile High City, would you write Mile-High City or Mile High City? With or without the hyphen? Thanks. – from Phoenix on Wed, Aug 13, 2014

A. I'd stick with the city's unhyphenated spelling.

Q. When alphabetizing a list of formal organization names and one organization's formal name includes an ampersand (&), do you treat it as and and alphabetize accordingly or ignore it and go to the next letter? For example, Example & Example before Example B or Example B before Example & Example? – from Minneapolis on Wed, Aug 13, 2014

A. It seems right to treat the ampersand as you suggest, alphabetizing accordingly.

Q. If I want to use as a quotation, only the first part of a sentence, and leaving out the rest (which is a long list of examples), is it OK to just put a period at the end of the sentence? Or is that incorrect. I wondered if I have to "Quoted words ... ." (ellipsis and period). Thank you. – from Louisa, Va. on Wed, Aug 13, 2014

A. Use the ellipsis to show that the sentence has additional material.

Q. When a headline includes a verbal phrase containing a preposition, would the preposition be capitalized since it is technically part of the verb (i.e., Opportunities Add Up for Student or Opportunities Add up for Student)? – from Peoria, Ill. on Wed, Aug 13, 2014

A. The verb is add up, so capitalize both parts in the headline.

Q. Just an FYI: "avocados" is misspelled in the response to a query on this page: (The third letter in avocados in the response should be an "o," not an "a.") – from Columbus, Ohio on Wed, Aug 13, 2014

A. Corrected the spelling. Thank you.

Q. With the Tony Stewart story likely to linger, sadly, we were wondering whether AP has an official stance on whether it should be "dirt track racing" or "dirt-track racing." As always, many thanks. – from Bristol, Conn. on Wed, Aug 13, 2014

A. AP stories use dirt track for the venue. The sport name doesn't require a hyphen, though some stories spell it that way.

Q. I don't see a reference to rulemaking or rule-making as a noun on AP site, just as a modifier. From government websites: "Rulemaking is the process by which federal agencies implement legislation passed by Congress and signed into law by the President." Would it be rulemaking as a noun and rule-making hearing as a modifier? Or which one, if it's one or the other for both uses? – from New Jersey on Wed, Aug 13, 2014

A. Hyphenate rule-making, covered by guidance in the "-maker" entry.

Q. Would I put a period at the end of this sentence, after the address? Or would I leave it as is? HSG%uFFFDs are only performed at their main office located at: 15 Allen St, Red Bank, NJ 07701 – from Red Bank, N.J. on Wed, Aug 13, 2014

A. Yes, and include period in 15 Allen St.

Q. What is the guideline for "open source technology"? Is open-source hyphenated? Does the term need to be capitalized? – from Raleigh, N.C. on Wed, Aug 13, 2014

A. Consider it a noun phrase without a hyphen spelled lowercase.

Q. Does AP prefer grade 12 or 12th grade? – from Blair, Neb. on Wed, Aug 13, 2014

A. Generally it's 12th grade.

Q. Which is correct "there are statute of limitation concerns" or "there are statute of limitations concerns"? – from RG, Bangalore on Wed, Aug 13, 2014

A. There are statute of limitations concerns.

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