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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. 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. 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 "...in 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.

Q. Should sport be plural or singular in the generic sense, e.g. "Australians love sport" or "Australians love sports"? I'm thinking the singular sport is a British usage. – from Tokyo on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. In American usage, sports is probably more common in a collective reference to organized games of physical activities: Australians love sports. In the U.S., sport is more common in a singular sense: My favorite sport is golf. Horse racing is the sport of kings.

Q. What is the AP style for wildfire names: Sam Hill Fire or Sam Hill fire? – from Klamath Falls, Ore. on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. The word fire is usually lowercase in such names. However, there are cases where fire or a similar term is capitalized in a name bestowed by authorities: e.g., Yacolt Burn.

Q. I'm looking for a reliable source that lists the proper abbreviations for units of measure (like lbs. for pounds and in. for inches, etc.) primarily because I need to know which abbreviations have a period and which do not. Can you help me? Thank you. – from Incline Village, Nev. on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. A few examples in AP usage for tight-space situations, such as headlines or graphics: lb., lbs., in., ft., yd., oz., ozs., g, mg, mm. Beyond these, see the various abbreviated entries in Webster's New World College Dictionary.

Q. I'm writing a piece for a real estate client and am unsure whether to use a hyphen or not: "...priced from the low to mid-$200,000s." I know mid requires a hyphen when it precedes a number, but wanted to check that that was still the case with $. Thank you very much. – from Portland, Ore. on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. ... priced from the low- to mid-$200,000s.

Q. Which is it: How many fingers and toes do you have altogether? OR How many fingers and toes do you have all together? And what is the applicable rule of grammar? Thanks. – from Los Angeles on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. The first is correct: altogether (adv.), meaning the sum of your fingers and toes counted together.

Q. Is U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket hyphenated? Is it U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket? – from St. Paul , Minn. on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. Correct as Coast Guard-approved life jacket.

Q. When adding [sic] to a direct quote, should it be in brackets? Should it be italicized? Thank you – from Fort Wayne, Ind. on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. Insert (sic) in the quote directly after the problem. The term is enclosed in parentheses but not Italicized in AP news stories. See the "(sic)" entry in the Stylebook for elaboration.

Q. I submitted the question below last week, and I am still confused. I was told by AP to change an acronym in a direct quote. Then, I read that AP does not change direct quotes. Will you please clarify? Thank you! Q. I quoted someone in a story for my company publication. They used a well known acronym (describing a program) to begin a sentence. I was told I should change the direct quote and use the full name of the program and use the acronym immediately afterward. I'm pretty sure he is wrong on this. I say it should be left "as is." Or should I spell out the full name and put it in parenthesis before the acronym to begin the sentence? That seems like it would be confusing to the reader. He said if the article is seen by clients or is re-purposed it will not be clear. What should I do? I need an answer fast! Thanks!%uFFFD from Madison, Wis., on Fri, Jul 18, 2014 – from Madison, Wis. on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. On a second reading, I see your question is more complex than I understood on the first go-round. Yes, the quote should reflect the person's actual words unchanged, in this case the acronym. AP does not insert the full wording in parentheses after the acronym or abbreviation, but uses the full term in a subsequent reference if it's unfamiliar.

Q. Is broker associate ever capitalized? – from Eagan, Minn. on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. AP doesn't capitalize job descriptions such as broker associate.

Q. Should "chargeline" be one word or two words? An example: "Please use the approved chargeline." – from Kent, Wash. on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. I don't find the term in AP archives. An accounting textbook or glossary could provide the answer.

Q. Could you tell me what the capitalization rule is for using compound modifiers in section titles? For example, would it be On-site Services or On-Site Services? – from Altamonte Springs, Fla. on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. In such uses, the second element of the hyphenated term is generally lowercase.

Q. Hello! Can you settle a departmental debate, please? I maintain that --spectra-- is the correct plural, not --spectrums--. Am I right? Please advise. Thank you much! – from Kansas City, Mo. on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. Most words ending in um add s for the plural. For the spectrum entry, Webster's New World College Dictionary lists spectra before spectrums as the primary noun plural spelling.

Q. Which is correct: Bennie is a good friend of my brother Billy. OR Bennie is a good friend of my brother Billy's? And what grammatical rule applies? – from Los Angeles on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. Bennie is a good friend of my brother Billy. Or, my brother Billy's good friend is Bennie. These are possessive construction functioning as descriptions.

Q. Hi. Hoping you can help us out. Is it 3-step in a headline and three-step otherwise? – from Washington on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. Use figures for specific numbers in headlines.

Q. For state highways abbreviations, what is the appropriate abbreviation on second reference? S.H. 183 (like U.S. 1) or SH-123 (Like I-35)? – from Plano, Texas on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. Use the state route model in the "highway designations" entry: state Highway 183 on first reference, Highway 183 on second reference. The hyphenated letter-number designation on second reference is reserved for interstate highways.

Q. You can rest easy knowing that ... OR You can rest easily knowing that ... – on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. The common expression is rest easy.

Q. Is team builder two words or hyphenated when used as a noun? – from Katy, Texas on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. No hyphen.

Q. Following up on your earlier answer, does the fact that it's being used as a compound modifier of trends not matter? Q. In the following sentence, should base pay be hyphenated? "Exhibit 2 shows the base pay trends of the top..."%uFFFD from Raleigh, N.C., on Mon, Jul 21, 2014 A. The dictionary term is base pay, two words without a hyphen. – from Raleigh, N.C. on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. It's a noun phrase without a hyphen.

Q. What's the proper format for non-numbered chapter names within a sentence, vis a vis capitalization, quotation marks, etc? For example: In the chapter titled "How to train your Pokemon," you will find several winning strategies. – from Hypoluxo, Fla. on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. It's fine as written in your sentence if it duplicates the spelling of the actual chapter title. For other examples, see "composition title" entry.

Q. Which is proper style: Counter sue or countersue when used as a verb? Example: The judge also ruled card issuers could countersue retailers. – from Washington on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. It's countersue in the dictionary. See the Stylebook's "counter" entry for elaboration.

Q. In the following sentence, should base pay be hyphenated? "Exhibit 2 shows the base pay trends of the top..." – from Raleigh, N.C. on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. The dictionary term is base pay, two words without a hyphen.

Q. I know that when some people abbreviate tablespoon, they capitalize the t. How does AP prefer: Tbsp. or tbsp.? – from Louisville, Ky. on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. Per the "recipes" entry, AP Stylebook guidance is to spell out tablespoon, teaspoon, etc.

Q. Should titles of departments within an organization be capitalized such as fiscal services department or human resources department? – from Lexington,SC on Mon, Jul 21, 2014

A. Generic names of departments are lowercase in AP usage.

Q. Should French-door refrigerator be hyphenated? – from Seoul, XX on Sun, Jul 20, 2014

A. No hyphen.

Q. Following up on "their" as neutral-gender specific. You say "Their is third person plural possessive." Yet I hear all the time, "I wouldn't want to be in their shoes" (referring to an individual of unknown gender). (Vanity Faire has "A person can%uFFFDt help their birth.") It just seems to be time to accept common (street!) usage with this one. No? – from Eureka CA on Sun, Jul 20, 2014

A. When the gender isn't known, use the masculine pronoun.

Q. R.J. Reynolds is a tobacco company. If the name is to appear in a headline would it be R.J. Reynolds or RJ Reynolds? – from Orysia, New York City, N.Y. on Sun, Jul 20, 2014

A. RJ Reynolds in a headline, R.J. Reynolds within a story.

Q. I am trying to find the correct way to link a formal title with an organization using for, at or of. Would it be, "the executive director for Olive Learning Center," or, "the executive director at Olive Learning Center," or, "the executive director of Olive Learning Center"? Also, would it be different depending on the formal title used? Thank you, Julia Rear. – from San Diego on Sun, Jul 20, 2014

A. It's usually of when linking a title to the organization.

Q. Is this an ok use of "their" ... if the person contemplating suicide believed it, he or she wouldn%uFFFDt want their life to be over.. – from Eureka CA on Sun, Jul 20, 2014

A. No. Their is third person plural possessive. For agreement, rephrasing is needed: If people contemplating suicide believed it, they wouldn%uFFFDt want their lives to be over..

Q. Would mommy be uppercase or lowercase here? "The little boy said that he made his escape by driving away in mommy's/Mommy's car"? – from Gary, Indiana on Fri, Jul 18, 2014

A. Lowercase.

Q. The M.D. stylebook entry does not mention the proper form of address for retired or formerly licensed physicians as far as I can see. – from TUCSON, Ariz. on Fri, Jul 18, 2014

A. A doctor of medicine retains the academic title whether practicing or not.

Q. It%uFFFDs exclusive to the top 13 2-diamond or higher diamond level managers and the top 2 gold level managers. Is this correct? – from Omaha, Neb. on Fri, Jul 18, 2014

A. It%uFFFDs exclusive to the top 13 managers in the two-diamond or higher diamond level and the top two managers at the gold level.

Q. When writing a timeline of dates/events should the verbs be in past tense or present tense? – from Sherman Oaks, Calif. on Fri, Jul 18, 2014

A. Generally present tense for events in a timeline.

Q. Is it correct to use the initials M.D. for someone who is no longer licensed to practice medicine as in the case of a retired physician? – from TUCSON, Ariz. on Fri, Jul 18, 2014

A. The Stylebook's position is summed up in the "M.D." entry, which covers both practicing and retired physicians.

Q. In the following sentence: Ergonomics injuries and illnesses typically make up about 30 to 40 percent of all serious (recordable) injuries at our plant. Should it be Ergonomic injuries or is Ergonomics correct. Thanks – from , Tucson, Arizona on Fri, Jul 18, 2014

A. The dictionary entry is ergonomics, with an s. Use that spelling for singular or plural references.

Q. How does one write an unusual verb derived from a noun? For example, would a broken-up band be described as having been "Yoko Ono-ed" or "Yoko Ono'd"? – from Philadelphia on Fri, Jul 18, 2014

A. Try rephrasing: The XYZ Band broke up over a disagreement with the lead guitarist's companion, a la the Beatles and Yoko Ono.

Q. Is the hyphenation correct in this sentence? "Additionally, courses in areas such as communication, career development and coaching, offered in one-credit-hour professional effectiveness modules, develop strong ethical and technical skills in our students." – from Saint Louis, Mo. on Fri, Jul 18, 2014

A. It would be clearer as two sentences with a brief added explanation: Additionally, courses in areas such as communication, career development and coaching develop strong ethical and technical skills in our students. These courses are offered in one credit hour professional effectiveness modules, meaning xxx.

Q. Which is correct: "In appreciation for 16 years of dedicated service" or "In appreciation of 16 years of dedicated service"? – from Baltimore on Fri, Jul 18, 2014

A. The first.

Q. I noticed a typo in the stylebook. In the BlackBerry entry, BlackBerry Ltd. needs another uppercase B. – from Los Angeles on Fri, Jul 18, 2014

A. The online entry now reads BlackBerry Ltd. The printed book entry will be amended in future editions. Thanks.

Q. I quoted someone in a story for my company publication. They used a well known acronym (describing a program) to begin a sentence. I was told I should change the direct quote and use the full name of the program and use the acronym immediately afterward. I'm pretty sure he is wrong on this. I say it should be left "as is." Or should I spell out the full name and put it in parenthesis before the acronym to begin the sentence? That seems like it would be confusing to the reader. He said if the article is seen by clients or is re-purposed it will not be clear. What should I do? I need an answer fast! Thanks! – from Madison, Wis. on Fri, Jul 18, 2014

A. AP spells out such terms on first reference, then uses the acronym or abbreviation on second reference. We do not enclose the short former in parentheses.

Q. two counts of taking/possessing an over-limit of bear, and one count of failing to register a bear. In this context is "over-limit" hyphenated, one word or two words? – from St. Paul , Minn. on Fri, Jul 18, 2014

A. Make it ... taking or possessing an over-the-limit bear ...

Q. 2nd degree DWI Is that correct? – from St. Paul , Minn. on Fri, Jul 18, 2014

A. Spell the ordinal: second degree DWI.

Q. Which is correct? "Our goal is to provide you with the highest caliber information and resources," OR "Our goal is to provide you with the highest caliber of information and resources." – from Houston on Fri, Jul 18, 2014

A. The first is fine.

Q. I understand that you hyphenate compound modifiers before a noun e.g., "one-page letter." What if there is another noun in the modifier chain e.g., "one-page cover letter?" Do you still hyphenate "one-page" or is it "one page cover letter?" – from Wayzata, Minn. on Fri, Jul 18, 2014

A. It's a one-page cover letter.

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