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 Colorado, on June 01, 2023
As for the question of the, that's largely idiomatic. There's no firm rule. When people talk about FERC, or the FERC, which do they say? Go with that usage.
Question from San Diego, California, on April 30, 2023
I have worked in Navy public affairs for more than 16 years. I must explain to every new commander that military title abbreviations are different in news and press releases than those used in military correspondence. https://www.defense.gov/Resources/Insignia/
Do you know the reason behind AP using a different set of abbreviations than the military? I prefer AP style and always explain that AP abbreviations are used because they are easier to read. I'm curious if there is a different justification. Thank you!
Question from Washington, District of Columbia, on March 23, 2023
LGBTQ+ (adj.) Acceptable in all references for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer and/or questioning. In quotations and the formal names of organizations and events, other variations such as LGBTQIA are also acceptable with the other letters explained. I generally stands for intersex, and A can stand for asexual (a person who doesn’t experience sexual attraction), ally (some activists decry this use of the abbreviation for a person who is not LGBTQ+ but who actively supports LGBTQ+ communities) or both. Use of LGBTQ+ is best as an adjective and an umbrella term: Walters joined the LGBTQ+ business association. Avoid it to describe individuals or, for instance, if the group you’re referring to is limited to bisexuals. Queer is often used as an umbrella term covering people who are not heterosexual or cisgender and is acceptable for people and organizations that use the term to identify themselves. Do not use it when intended as a slur. Follow guidelines for obscenities, profanities, vulgarities as appropriate. See sexual orientation; gender identity.
Question from Casper, Wyoming, on Feb. 21, 2023
I am writing a story that contains the address for people to send in donations. My question is how should I handle a C/O?
C/O John Smith
Would it be "Send donations to XYZ Corporation, C/O John Smith, 123 Whatever St., Casper, WY, 82601."
"Send donations to XYZ Corporation, in care of John Smith, 123 Whatever St., Casper, WY, 82601"
Question from London, on Feb. 20, 2023
FAQ Acceptable in all uses for frequently asked questions.
Question from on June 07, 2023
Quick question I hope: Brig. Gen. (Blank), joint program executive officer (agency name) and commanding general of (base name)
Brig. Gen. (Blank), Joint Program Executive Officer (agency name) and Commanding General of (base name)
Question from Mc Lean, Virginia, on May 05, 2023
From the capitalization entry:
FAMILY NAMES: Capitalize words denoting family relationships when they substitute for a person's name: I wrote Mom a letter. I wrote my father a letter.
Question from on April 27, 2023
Question from Tokyo, on April 18, 2023
Question from Northern California, on April 16, 2023
Question from KANSAS CITY, Missouri, on April 14, 2023
Question from Austin, Texas, on Nov. 15, 2022
I typically like to use "from" and "to" when I use one or another. But I also like sticking to your style and using a hyphen. The "from" in the first example seems to make the sentence flow better.
Use figures except for noon and midnight. Use a colon to separate hours from minutes: 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 9-11 a.m., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Question from on Oct. 19, 2022
Example: You are invited to attend the Christmas Pageant on Friday, December 16. or You are invited to attend the Christmas Pageant on Friday, December 16, 2022.
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 Virginia Beach, Virginia, on May 12, 2023
Question from New York, New York, on May 01, 2023
The girl invited everyone in class to celebrate her fifth birthday.
Generally, we use words for ordinals ninth and under. But there are exceptions, such as 9th Precinct, 3rd Congressional District. Presumably the editors who came before me settled on that style since political districts in general take figures. And we say to use figures for ages. Thus, I'd say 5th birthday for the age.
Question from Chicago, Illinois, on March 24, 2023
Question from Waunakee, Wisconsin, on Feb. 21, 2023
The author is using the umbrella term 2-4 unit property to describe these properties.
Does the term 2-4 unit property fit with AP Style? Or would something like two-to-four-unit property or 2- to 4-unit property be more appropriate? Thanks!
Question from SYRACUSE, New York, on Feb. 21, 2023
Question from Sacramento, California, on March 17, 2023
Question from Austin, Texas, on March 02, 2023
I'd go with the single concept and singular verb. The singular verb also is easier for the reader to grasp because there are a lot of words between the first of those subjects (consolidating) and the verb. By the time we get to the verb, the reader may well have lost track of the fact that there possibly are two subjects. The singular verb makes more sense here.
Question from Monsey, New York, on Feb. 28, 2023
I know "anything" and "everything" are singular, but what if both words are used? Which sentence is correct: "Anything and everything gets dumped here." OR, "Anything and everything get dumped here."
Question from Arlington, Texas, on Dec. 14, 2022
Question from GRAPEVINE, Texas, on Dec. 01, 2022
I am going to the store. Doris and I are going to the store.
The presents are for me. The presents are for Doris and me.
Question from Texas, on May 28, 2023
Question from Concord, California, on May 11, 2023
I keep seeing hyphens in this construction, which I think should follow the same guidance that doesn't hyphenate 'high school student' or the like. Please say it's incorrect.
Question from London, on May 11, 2023
'Ultra-high strength concrete' or 'Ultra-high-strength concrete'?
My research favours the former, but my gut favours the latter. Thanks so much.
ultra- The rules in prefixes apply, but in general, no hyphen.
BUT bending the "rules" makes sense when a particular combination really doesn't work. And I'd say ultrahigh-strength really doesn't work.
So, I'd go with ultra-high-strength as the modifier. (Whatever ultra-high-strength means ... but that's another issue/question.)
FYI, this from the hyphen entry:
Generally, also use a hyphen in modifiers of three or more words: a know-it-all attitude, black-and-white photography, a sink-or-swim moment, a win-at-all-costs approach. Consider carefully, though, before deciding to use more than three modifiers.
Question from Jacksonville, Florida, on May 03, 2023
Hyphenate well- combinations before a noun, but not after: a well-known judge, but the judge is well known.
Question from Baytown, Texas, on April 10, 2023
I think the phrase is well known and clear without the hyphen.
Question from Bradenton, Florida, on April 09, 2023
jelly bean a small, bean-shaped candy with a soft, jellylike center and a hard sugar coating: also written jellybean n.
Question from Corvallis, Oregon, on July 19, 2022
Question from Longmont, Colorado, on April 08, 2022
Question from on May 26, 2023
Here's the entry:
Both Webster's New World College Dictionary and Merriam-Webster hyphenate flu-like. But both also note that some -like words are hyphenated and others aren't, and that's a bit different from what the Stylebook recommends. Perhaps a previous Stylebook editor was trying to bring some consistency to the equation. (That was my goal, too, once upon a time. Then I discovered it was impossible ...)
Question from Scottsdale, Arizona, on May 18, 2023
Really, we'd avoid contrived constructions such as that. Look at it for a second: monogrammable. Ick.
Instead use more words: The shirts can be monogrammed.
Question from Kennesaw, Georgia, on March 16, 2023
Is there any chance AP will change "adviser" to "advisor?" As an editor, I want to follow AP style, but we have advertisers who are financial advisors and insist on having it spelled with an -or in their ads. Then I spell it with an -er in editorial copy, which causes inconsistency, and I hate inconsistency! Please consider. Thanks!
Question from Holmes Beach, Florida, on March 16, 2023
Question from on March 10, 2023
If that's that case, and if Webster's is your reference for things on which you don't have a style (and, being a dictionary, is a history book rather than a rulebook so can be used for reference rather than instruction)...why not have a style? A style that you – and so many others – prefer?
All that said, I see in Google Trends that general usage strongly favors standalone. So does the American Heritage Dictionary. So there's that to consider.
On the other hand, any time we change anything, there is outcry in the land.
Such is the Stylebook world. So many things to consider ...
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