Ask the Editor: Highlights
Ask the Editor is a forum on writing, style and phrasing issues that go beyond the pages of the AP Stylebook. AP Stylebook editor Paula Froke fields questions posed by subscribers to AP Stylebook Online. Below is a sampling of recent questions Paula has answered.
Click on a topic below to learn more about AP style:
Question from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on Aug. 02, 2022
"The Food and Literacy Center's (FLC's) objectives are available to read online."
Or should it be:
"The Food and Literacy Center's (FLC) objectives are available to read online."
AVOID AWKWARD CONSTRUCTIONS: Do not follow the full name of an organization or company with an abbreviation or acronym in parentheses or set off by dashes. If an abbreviation or acronym would not be clear on second reference without this arrangement, do not use it.
Also: A few universally recognized abbreviations are required in some circumstances. Some others are acceptable, depending on the context. But in general, avoid alphabet soup. Do not use abbreviations or acronyms that the reader would not quickly recognize.
Your example is another reason not to do it. There's no good way to punctuate it.
If you must include the acronym in parentheses, your best bet is to rephrase: Objectives of the Food and Literacy Center (FLC) can be read online.
Question from Vermont, on Aug. 01, 2022
I know the forum has taken this question before, but several years have passed. Is B.C. still preferred to BCE?
Please let me know. Thanks for all you do.
Question from Franklin, Tennessee, on July 15, 2022
When I search online for "United States," I get that entry (which doesn't address the question). So I search for U.S. and find the answer. Either United States or U.S. is OK when standing alone. If you're using the print book, the lengthy index in the back is very helpful.
Question from Washington, District of Columbia, on July 11, 2022
Question from Danville, California, on July 08, 2022
Of course, you could choose to follow a different style or create your own. If you or your client prefers postal abbreviations, that's your choice as well. We use postal abbreviations only in full addresses that include a ZIP code.
Question from Brainerd, Minnesota, on Sept. 08, 2022
When referring to a member of a specific city council, would one write:
- council member John Doe,
- Council member John Doe, or
- Council Member John Doe?
If the reference is to a specific council but the context does not require the city name: City Council member John Doe (including the word City, which is how this differs from council member, lowercase).
We never capitalize member.
Question from on Aug. 11, 2022
Thus, we will go with the "great resignation," with a brief explanation.
Question from on July 27, 2022
"During the flood, Park Ranger John Smith was able to help a family to safety."
Question from Aliso Viejo, California, on July 25, 2022
Question from on July 21, 2022
Looked at another way, in the U.S. we don't see a need to vary the word choice. And we wouldn't refer to the Minnesota Legislature as parliament on another reference.
Question from Rochester, Michigan, on Sept. 15, 2022
Avoid such redundancies as last Tuesday or next Tuesday. The past, present or future tense used for the verb usually provides adequate indication of which Tuesday is meant: He said he finished the job Tuesday. She will return Tuesday.
So typically, if the time period is within a year, we would say simply He sold his goods at the show in January or She will sell her goods at the show in January.
If it's beyond a year in either direction, add the year. Or if there is any chance for confusion in the context, include last or next.
Question from Washington, District of Columbia, on July 22, 2022
She got sick with COVID-19 in March OF 2020? Or
She got sick with COVID-19 in March 2020?
Question from on June 10, 2022
Question from Boulder, Colorado, on May 16, 2022
Question from Louisville, Kentucky, on April 19, 2022
Question from on Sept. 13, 2022
Question from on Sept. 06, 2022
Question from Indianapolis, Indiana, on July 11, 2022
P.S. I just love the 'Ask the Editor' section! I check it often, even when I don't have a specific question.
You're probably not surprised when I say we don't have specific guidance on style for measurements of beef sections. But my instinct agrees with your instinct. Do what makes sense to readers. And wholes, halves, quarters, eighths and 1/16ths is just weird. "Weird" is my technical term for it. Go with sixteenths for consistency and readability.
Question from Federal Way, Washington, on July 08, 2022
Or: Half of school-aged children. A third of schools ...
If you have to use the ratios and they have to start the sentences, I'd spell it out: One in two and One in three ...
Question from Virginia Beach, Virginia, on July 06, 2022
- grades three through 12
- grades 3-12
- grades three through twelve
- grades three-12
Question from Columbus, Ohio, on Sept. 14, 2022
They asked if the child and/or parents are enjoying the show.
They asked if the parents and/or child are enjoying the show.
They asked if the parents and/or child is enjoying the show.
Question from Topsfield, Massachusetts, on Sept. 13, 2022
"What makes Molly and I a great team is..." OR
What makes Molly and me a great team is..."
Think about it this way: Take Molly out. Would you then say: What makes I a great team (member) or What makes me a great team (member) ...
Question from COLUMBIA, South Carolina, on Aug. 29, 2022
Queen Elizabeth: "I have been inspired by the kindness, joy and kinship that has been so evident in recent days, and I hope this renewed sense of togetherness will be felt for many years to come."
Jack Dorsey: "My biggest issue and my biggest regret is that it became a company."
The second is like that. In that case I think it's more clearly one element that inspires separate emotinons. So, again, the singular verb.
Question from Columbia City, Indiana, on Aug. 29, 2022
Question from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on June 27, 2022
"I wanted to ask if there is additional information, documents, or resources you have access to."
"I wanted to ask if there are additional information, documents, or resources you have access to."
Should it be "are" because there are multiple things listed, or should it be "is" because the first listed item, "information," is singular. I also get confused because this list uses "or" instead of "and." I imagine that if this list used "and," it would be more evident that the verb tense should be plural.
Or make it easier on yourself:
"I wanted to ask if there are additional documents, resources or other information you have access to." (Because this is a very simple series, we don't use the Oxford comma.)
And by the way, I have a Little Free Library here in Philly. Thank you for all you do!
Question from Burlington, New Jersey, on Sept. 21, 2022
Indigenous Peoples Day
Question from Hyphen Hell, on Sept. 21, 2022
From the hyphen entry:
SUSPENSIVE HYPHENATION: Use these forms to shorten a compound modifier or a noun phrase that shares a common word:
Wow! I love your location!!
Question from Waunakee, Wisconsin, on Sept. 08, 2022
For example, a few section headers in the article are:
What is, prompt presentation of contracts?
What is breach of confidentiality?
What is: failure to check the boxes?
And since she did not use consistent punctuation with the "what is" questions, I've realized that I am not aware of any specific, consistent rule with punctuation with the "Jeopardy" questions when putting them in writing!
Does AP have any insight or suggestions? Thanks!
Question from Lenexa, Kansas, on Sept. 07, 2022
However, I agree with you and would not hyphenate when not a modifier. And I would stick with that guidance around the clock. That's in keeping with this section of the hyphen entry:
Many combinations that are hyphenated before a noun are not hyphenated when they occur after a noun: She works full time. She is well aware of the consequences. The children are soft spoken. The play is second rate. The calendar is up to date. (Guidance changed in 2019 to remove the rule that said to hyphenate following a form of the verb to be.)
Question from Kenilworth, on Sept. 06, 2022
Six months support OR Six months' support
QUASI POSSESSIVES: Follow the rules above in composing the possessive form of words that occur in such phrases as a day's pay, two weeks' vacation, three months' work, five years' probation. The apostrophe is used with a measurement followed by a noun (a quantity of whatever the noun is). The examples could be rephrased as a day of pay, two weeks of vacation, three months of work, five years of probation.
Question from Corvallis, Oregon, on July 19, 2022
Question from Longmont, Colorado, on April 08, 2022
Question from Washington, District of Columbia, on Sept. 21, 2022
Question from on Aug. 23, 2022
multi- The rules in prefixes apply, but in general, no hyphen.
Question from KANSAS CITY, Missouri, on Aug. 18, 2022
Question from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Aug. 18, 2022
Do not use substandard spellings such as gonna or wanna in attempts to convey regional dialects or informal pronunciations, except to convey an emphasis by the speaker.
Question from West Lafayette, Indiana, on Aug. 03, 2022
Looking for guidance on cleanroom vs. clean room. Hope you can decide this issue!
Webster's New World College Dictionary uses two words, and we concur:
clean room a room, or other enclosed area, designed to create and maintain an atmosphere virtually free of such contaminants as dust, pollen, or bacteria: used in hospitals, laboratories, etc.
Merriam-Webster also uses two words.
Of course, be sure the meaning is clear and include a definition if necessary. It's not just any random room that is tidied up ...
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