Ask the Editor

Last Seven Days


In that use, make it plural.


First I've ever heard of it ...

That said, we would be more likely to use the policy. It's more conversational or, looked at another way, less bureaucratic. There's not a particular reason to use this when the would suffice. 


The richest 1%. We avoid the percenter term (and generally find no need to quote it, since paraphrasing is clearer). Remember that at least some readers don't know the term, so it needs to be explained anyway. The richest 1%. If necessary: the 1 percenters; the 99 percenters.


No need to add the word high. The phrase record number implies that it's a high.

If for some reason you were writing about a record low number of wildfires, then you would add low.


I'd keep the quote marks. The reader almost certainly understands that it's not a verbatim quote, but rather a common saying or mantra.

I'm not sure about the overall construction, though. Do you mean the one attribute is resilience, and the resilience is composed of the fortitude and spirit? I believe that's the intent. But with the comma, it could be read as if there are really three separate attributes.

For clarity, I'd use a colon or dash: 

The one attribute nearly all our students share is resilience: fortitude and a spirit that says, “I will succeed.”

Or simply: 

The one attribute nearly all our students share is the spirit that says, “I will succeed.”

Or if it's actually three attributes:

The attributes nearly all our students share are resilience, fortitude and a spirit that says, “I will succeed.”


Yes, that's correct.

Question from Jacksonville, FL on Nov. 13, 2019

Is it semicustom or semi-custom as in "semi-custom/semicustom homes"?


According to the guidelines, it would be no hyphen. But I'd use the rule of common sense here, since semicustom isn't a very recognizable term. I'd use the hyphen for readability. But FYI, here's the entry:


The rules in prefixes apply, but in general, no hyphen.
Some examples:
semifinal | semiofficial
semi-invalid | semitropical
But semi-automatic, semi-autonomous.




Yes, on second reference in informal writing. Judge your audience: Would your readers themselves be likely to use the term carbs on second reference? 


For headlines, our style is: Building community through sports

If you consider yours a composition title, capitalize Through: Building Community Through Sports.

Here's the relevant section of the composition titles entry:

— Capitalize prepositions of four or more letters (above, after, down, inside, over, with, etc.) and conjunctions of four or more letters (because, while, since, though, etc.)


Take out the final semicolon (after order entry) and it's good: 

A service order package that is (1) signed by both the sales rep and the customer; (2) reviewed and approved by the sales manager for accuracy and completeness; and (3) reviewed by order entry is required for product/services to be provisioned on the network.


OK, I have to stop laughing long enough to answer. Thank you for the best Oxford comma question ever!

Indeed, it's a judgment call about when a series of phrases moves from simple to complex. But our no-Oxford-comma guidance is intended for only the REALLY simple series. From the entry: The flag is red, white and blue. He would nominate Tom, Dick, Harry or Jeannette. She goes to school, plays league soccer and takes private dance lessons. And from your examples: For breakfast, I ate pancakes, waffles and eggs.  On Fridays, I like to finish my work early, take my dog on a walk and meet friends for drinks.

We follow with this guidance (which you know; I'm including it for those who don't):

Include a final comma in a simple series if omitting it could make the meaning unclear. The governor convened his most trusted advisers, economist Olivia Schneider and polling expert Carlton Torres. (If Schneider and Torres are his most trusted advisers, don’t use the final comma.) The governor convened his most trusted advisers, economist Olivia Schneider, and polling expert Carlton Torres. (If the governor is convening unidentified advisers plus Schneider and Torres, the final comma is needed.)

Put a comma before the concluding conjunction in a series if an integral element of the series requires a conjunction: I had orange juice, toast, and ham and eggs for breakfast.

Back to the question of complexity. I'd say that if a phrase is longer than just a few words, it qualifies as complex for our purposes.

The example in the book: Use a comma also before the concluding conjunction in a complex series of phrases: The main points to consider are whether the athletes are skillful enough to compete, whether they have the stamina to endure the training, and whether they have the proper mental attitude.

Your final example is very similar. So I would, indeed, use the comma there even though the meaning is clear without it:  In the pro-Oxford camp, humorous constructions are often touted to illustrate potential ambiguities, legal decisions are cited to show disastrous consequences, and mentions of Ayn Rand are seemingly used to polarize the debate even further.

If nothing else, that final comma gives the reader a bit of a mental pause. That helps give each item in the list its own emphasis.

Thank you for this wonderful question!


We'd lowercase it under the guidance in the composition titles entry. You can choose to vary from that, of course.


Capitalize in that use. It's not a casual use, but rather a reference to the actual planet with its proper name.


Yes, one word.


I think either is fine. I prefer using the article.


The guidance remains the same: both names on all references.


Use the lowercase vs.


Use the numeral for sports-related time measurements such as your examples. But, under our current style: The debate lasted for four hours.

I agree that it's confusing.


Is there an actual government agency called the City of Naples? If so, it's fine to style it that way if you are referring to such an agency. Otherwise, be specific: I tried to improve Naples' planning commission. I tried to improve the Naples City Council. I tried to improve Naples city government. I assume you'll include specifics about the improvements. Trying to improve a government agency is very vague.

If you are indeed talking about the entire city, then the city of Naples works. But again, be specific.


We don't have a style for that. Time, date, place is an order often used: The event will occur at 2 p.m. on Jan. 26 in the City Hall auditorium.

If the date is within seven days before or after the current date, we use only the day of the week (Monday, Tuesday, etc.) If it's beyond that range, we use the date. In AP stories we don't usually add the day of the week when we use the date, but you might do so for your audiences:

The event will occur at 2 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 26, in the City Hall auditorium.


Use it without the possessive, and uppercase as a proper name: I'd like to find the Caddo Mounds.


Hello to Carlisle. 

We don't use italics for publication, only to show examples in Stylebook entries and in Ask the Editor. So disregard the italics below. 

I'd apply these guidelines to the name of a photography series. I'll confess to not knowing what song-cycle titles are, though.


Titles of special events, such as art exhibits and touring displays, are enclosed in quotes with primary words capitalized: “Mummies: New Secrets From the Tombs” at Chicago’s Field Museum. Names of annually recurring events are capitalized without quotes: North American International Auto Show in Detroit; Calgary Stampede

Question from Brooktondale, NY on Nov. 12, 2019

Would it be "the 18 months curriculum" or "the 18-month curriculum"


The 18-month curriculum.


I'd strongly suggest that you solve the problem by breaking that long, complex sentence into two sentences. There are a lot of thoughts in there. Particularly when your point is to talk about clarity, make sure the sentence is as clear as possible.  Also, the unlike ... more challenging construction doesn't work.

This is much easier to read and digest:

Compared with more tangible outcome measures like tumor control, overall survival and adverse events, outcomes that pertain to the patient experience can be more challenging to describe. Thus, clarity regarding the definition of these terms is an important place to start. (Or even better: Thus, clarity regarding the definition of these terms is important.)


Outcomes that pertain to patients' experiences can be more challenging to describe than more tangible outcomes like tumor control, overall survival and adverse events. Thus, clarity regarding the definition of these terms important. 

Featured Tip

From the Pronunciation Guide



Capital of Ukraine (new spelling and pronunciation)

View all

From the Topical Guides

Impeachment Inquiry Topical Guide

To help with coverage of the impeachment inquiry, The Associated Press has prepared a guide with key background, explanation and style points. WHAT'S HAPPENING For only the fourth time in U.S....

View all

Back to Top