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 on Sept. 15, 2023

Hello, is PB&J acceptable for the sandwich? How about on first reference?


Yes, in our style it's acceptable on all references.

Question from Los Angeles, California, on Aug. 31, 2023

Do you still consider ESG an acronym that needs definition on first reference, or can it stand alone in all instances?


If your specific audience understands it, then you don't need to define it. As for me, I had no idea what it meant until I looked it up. I imagine that's the case for many general-audience readers. And remember, it's not in your interest to confuse or annoy your readers. But your specific audience may well be different in what readers understand without explanation.

Question from Bedford, New Hampshire, on Aug. 29, 2023

Hello - we are doing a report on short-term rentals, which we abbreviate to STRs. I am lobbying to abbreviate to STR. What say you? Thanks!


You're free to abbreviate the term. But we won't. General readers would have no idea what that means. And as you probably know, we aim to avoid most abbreviations and acronyms.

Question from Reno, Nevada, on Aug. 22, 2023


A colleague recently told me that AP no longer suggests defining an acronym in parentheses following the first reference and the current entry does seem more ambiguous than I recall, so I thought I'd ask in case others would like clarity as well. 

For example:

"A representative from Prime Example Company (PEC) was in attendance..." upon first reference and then just PEC for future references.

vs not identifying the acronym at all following the first reference.

Please advise.



We have always said NOT to include the acronym in parentheses following the first reference. No change there; our guidance has been the same for decades.

Here are the relevant sections of the abbreviations and acronyms entry:

The introduction:

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.

And later:

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.
Names not commonly before the public should not be reduced to acronyms solely to save a few words.

In your example, we'd use just Prime Example Company on first reference. If the abbreviation is commonly used and recognized by your readers, then PEC on second reference is fine without the parenthetical intro. But we'd prefer simply the company or Prime Example on second reference, rather than PEC.

Question from chicago, Illinois, on Aug. 14, 2023

We use metric ton instead of tonne. In articles that use the term multiple times, it can get clunky to keep using metric ton. AP abbreviates plenty of units — mph, Btu, GB, kWh, etc., so I was wondering whether on second reference, once it's established that we're using metric tons, how would you feel about using either just tons or the International System of Units abbreviation, the lowercase t: 5 metric tons = 5 t.



If it's clear to your audience, that seems fine to me. We wouldn't do it in AP stories. But of course, many of our users can and should create their own style rules to meet the needs of their specific audiences or organizations.

Question from Virginia, on Sept. 21, 2023

When I list committee members with their titles, should I capitalize -elect? Here is an example:
  • Alexander Vargas, Chair-Elect
  • Robert Durham, Acting Chair
  • Charlotte Robertson, Vice Chair


We don't capitalize titles after names, so none of these would be capitalized in the construction you're asking about. If in your house style you capitalize titles after names, then you'd need to decide whether that applies to -elect as well. For reference, below is our -elect entry. And here is the titles entry


Always hyphenate and lowercase: President-elect Joe Biden. For a newly elected candidate, the term can be used as soon as the race is called. After a name or standing alone: the president-elect or Biden, the president-elect. Also: Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Gov.-elect Sue Ahmad, Sen.-elect D’Shawn Washington, Attorney General-elect Melissa Rubin, etc.

Question from on Sept. 20, 2023

Do we still capitalize Day 1/Day 2 mid-sentence when using to signal multiday events?

Example: Should it be:
 1. Join us on Day 2 of the summit... 
2. Join us on day 2 of the summit 
3. Join us on day two of the summit 


Yes. Option 1 is correct. Here's the guidance from the numerals entry:

SEQUENTIAL DESIGNATIONS: Generally use figures, but spell out ordinal numbers ninth and under. Capitalize the first letter for a single designation: Act 3, Exit 2, Game 3, Phase 1, Room 6, Size 12, Stage 3, Category 4, Type 2. Use lowercase for plurals: sizes 6 and 8, exits 4 and 5, acts 1 and 2, verses 2 and 9. It's Verse 1 but the first verse; Game 4 but the fourth game.

Question from Brooklyn, New York, on Sept. 11, 2023

Just doublechecking (and I wish I didn't need to know this, but unfortunately it comes up a lot at the Forward, where I work): There's a Webster entry in the stylebook for Sieg Heil, both words capped. It means "hail victory." I don't really get why it's capitalized, or at least why both words would be capitalized in a quote. It's not the name of something. I suppose the reason doesn't matter; just seems so odd and I wonder if AP agrees with that entry.


Excellent question. Without benefit of discussing it with the rest of the team, I would say we differ with Webster's New World College Dictionary on this one. I can't see any reason to capitalize the second part (or for that matter, the first part, but I'd be pretty much alone in that).

A quick survey finds this:

Webster's New World College Dictionary: Sieg Heil
Oxford English Dictionary: Sieg Heil
Anti-Defamation League: Sieg Heil

Merriam-Webster: Sieg heil
Library of Congress: Sieg heil

Question from on Aug. 27, 2023

Should "Group" be capitalized in Wagner Group?


Yes, it's capitalized as part of the proper name.

Question from on Aug. 14, 2023

How would you capitalize "out of" in a composition title? The Chicago Manual of Style recently published an answer in their Q&A section where they said that in "Bat out of Hell," "out" should not be capitalized since it's part of a preposition. However, in "Getting Out of Saigon," it would make sense to consider "out" part of the phrasal verb "get out" and thus capitalize it. Should it be handled the same way in AP style?


Yes, we agree with our friends in Chicago. Below is the relevant section of the composition titles entry.

(Of course, these nuances are lost on the average reader, who isn't spending time digesting the details of either style manual ...)

— Capitalize both parts of a phrasal verb: “What To Look For in a Mate”; “Turn Off the Lights in Silence.” But: “A Life of Eating Chocolate for Stamina”; “Living With Both Feet off the Ground.” (Note the different uses of for and off, and thus the different capitalization, in those examples.)

Question from Casper, Wyoming, on Sept. 11, 2023

Hello Paula!

I have a question that is driving me crazy. Here is the sentence in question:

The event will begin with a social hour and cash bar, followed by dinner at 6:30 p.m. Cavigelli’s presentation will start at 7, followed by a live auction at 7:30.

The director of this event wanted :00 after 7. When I explained that that was not AP Style, she responded with an email that included a photo of her 2017 AP Stylebook and this comment: “My copy doesn’t specify that 7:00 is objectionable.  Please list it as either p.m. or :00.”
Help! Which is correct, per AP?

Thank you!


There's a line between following AP style to the letter, and doing what's necessary to keep the customer satisfied (within reason).

It's true that we don't say 7:00 is objectionable. But when we say our style is 7 p.m., it's implied that our style is not 7:00 p.m.

The good news: She gave the option of including p.m. and I think that's a reasonable option. In our heart of hearts, we think the p.m. is pretty apparent (the presentation wouldn't start at 7 a.m. following a 6:30 p.m. dinner). But including the p.m. dresses up the stand-alone 7 a bit and wouldn't strike most people as odd. 

So how about: 

The event will begin with a social hour and cash bar, followed by dinner at 6:30 p.m. Cavigelli’s presentation will start at 7 p.m., followed by a live auction at 7:30 p.m.

Or if the organizers are really in love with :00, then go with it. We need flexibility ...

Question from KANSAS CITY, Missouri, on April 14, 2023

Would there be a comma after 2021 in this: "between February 1, 2021 and February 22, 2023, the ..."


Yes, a comma after 2021. Also: In AP style, we abbreviate most months when used with a date. So our style is: between Feb. 1, 2021, and Feb. 22, 2023, the ...

Question from Austin, Texas, on Nov. 15, 2022

I see your entry on time but would like clarification. Which style would be best for this type of sentence: Join us from 9-11 a.m. OR Join us 9-11 a.m.
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.


Yes: Join us from 9-11 a.m. But, we also are just fine with no hyphen. See the end of the below section from the times entry. So you easily could write: Join us from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

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

Is it necessary to include the year on an invitation for an upcoming event if it's obvious the event is in the current year?

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.


Don't include the year if it's the current year. Here's the entry:


When a phrase refers to a month and day within the current year, do not include the year: The hearing is scheduled for June 26. If the reference is to a past or future year, include the year and set it off with commas: Feb. 14, 2025, is the target date. Use an s without an apostrophe to indicate spans of decades or centuries: the 1890s, the 1800s.
Years are an exception to the general rule in numerals that a figure is not used to start a sentence: 2013 was a very good year.

Question from Rochester, Michigan, on Sept. 15, 2022

I'm sure the answer to this is a simple one, but when referencing a month that passed earlier this year, in this case January, would it be "last January" or simply, "at the show in January." I've talked myself into both. Conversely, when looking ahead the same show, but in January 2023, it's "next January" v. "... in January." Thanks!


This section of the time element entry can be applied more broadly to months:

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 on Aug. 24, 2023

If an age starts a sentence, do we still use the numeral or do we spell it out? Example: 7-year-old Nate likes to play or Seven-year old Nate likes to play?


Write it out at the start of a sentence. From the numerals entry:

AT THE START OF A SENTENCE: In general, spell out numbers at the start of a sentence: Forty years was a long time to wait. Fifteen to 20 cars were involved in the accident. An exception is years: 1992 was a very good year. Another exception: Numeral(s) and letter(s) combinations: 401(k) plans are offered. 4K TVs are flying off the shelves. 3D movies are drawing more fans.

Question from Virginia Beach, Virginia, on May 12, 2023

Does the AP Style specify that times that fall at the top of the hour shouldn't include ":00"? If not, I wish it did. For example, it seems pretty clear that 4 p.m. is preferred to 4:00 p.m., but I have a hard time finding that spelled out in the online style guide.  


Correct, no :00 in our style. See the examples here:


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.
Avoid such redundancies as 10 a.m. this morning, 10 p.m. tonight or 10 p.m. Monday night. Use 10 a.m. or 10 p.m. Monday, etc., as required by the norms in time element.
The construction 4 o'clock is acceptable, but time listings with a.m. or p.m. are preferred.

Question from New York, New York, on May 01, 2023

I know numerals are used in ages, but would also use it in an instance like this?
The girl invited everyone in class to celebrate her fifth birthday.


Interestingly, I don't think I've ever seen that question. It took some consideration to come to this conclusion:

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

Hello - I'm looking at the recent updates to the AP Stylebook, particularly sequential designations. Would these revised guidelines also apply to television show and episodes? Meaning instead of season one, episode eight, we would use Season 1, Episode 8. Thank you!


Yes: Season 1, Episode 8. (And if you can think of a better term than "sequential designations," let me know!)

Question from Waunakee, Wisconsin, on Feb. 21, 2023

Hi AP. I'm reviewing an article about types of properties that include two to four units, for example, duplexes or triplexes.

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!


It doesn't fit with AP style. But really, I'm not finding any good way of doing it in a readable way other than to use more words. My choice would be to use more words. Put yourself in the mind of the reader. What is easiest to read and understand? I'd write: a property of two to four units. Or properties of two to four units each. Or something along those lines. 

Question from Fargo, North Dakota, on Sept. 14, 2023

"Their passion and focus on agriculture are evident and apparent." 

Ignoring any other potential problems with this sentence, my proofreading team feels the "are" should be changed to "is." It sounds really odd to us otherwise. However, when two nouns are joined by "and," the verb should be plural. Is "are" here incorrect? Would you change it? (Assuming rewording isn't an option.)

Thank you! 


It depends on on whether you view passion and focus as one concept (taking a singular verb) or two distinct concepts (taking a plural verb). In your example, I agree that the are simply sounds odd (not that sounds odd is a technical term, but it matters). And certainly passion and focus can be viewed as one concept. So I agree: Use the singular is.

On another note, I question whether you need both evident and apparent. How about one or the other? The two together are redundant. (Maybe that's one of your other potential problems!)

Question from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Aug. 31, 2023

I have a question regarding plural subjects that act as a singular idea and the verb they take. As an example sentence: “The increasing severity and frequency of weather events have had a profound impact on the community.”

Grammatically, “severity and frequency” are a compound subject, so the sentence requires a plural verb. But “severity and frequency” also function as a singular idea. Would “has” being more appropriate verb in that sentence, or is this down to a judgment call?

Thank you!


It's a judgment call. In your example, I'd question whether severity and frequency is really a single idea. If  it is a single idea, indeed you would use a singular verb. But they strike me as separate ideas. I also think it could be argued either way. Definitely a judgment call!

Question from on Aug. 25, 2023

Which is correct:
To address the complexity and conflicts, collaboration and harmonization between governments, regulatory bodies and FIS are necessary.
To address
the complexity and conflicts, collaboration and harmonization between governments, regulatory bodies and FIS is necessary.


It depends on whether you consider collaboration and harmonization a single element, or two separate elements. I'd use the singular in this case. Better, I'd ditch the harmonization part. Why not just collaboration? With collaboration comes at least some harmony, right?

Question from Sacramento, California, on March 17, 2023

Which is correct: "number of deaths have" or "number of deaths has" — If one considers number the noun, it is *has* but is it also correct to consider the phrase *number of deaths* as the noun and then use *have* as the verb? 


Arguments abound on each side of this question. A good general rule: If it's preceded by the, use the singular because the emphasis is on the number: The number of deaths has increased. But if it's preceded by a, use the plural: A number of deaths have been attributed to COVID-19.

Question from Austin, Texas, on March 02, 2023

Happy Thursday and thank you in advance. I am struggling with the verbs meets and secures in this sentence. Should they be plural? "Consolidating our business at one site and transforming it to process fats, oils and greases both meets the needs for lower-carbon-intensity fuels and secures our employee-wage jobs.


You are, quite reasonably, struggling because you need to decide whether consolidating and transferring (ignoring the words in between) is one big umbrella concept, taking a singular verb, or two individual concepts, with plural verbs. This is one that could go either way.

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 on Sept. 19, 2023

The "well'" guidance is confusing when it comes to "well equipped" or "well-equipped." For example: "We make sure our students are well equipped for college."  Should "well-equipped" be hyphenated? Thanks!


No hyphen in that use, since it's after the noun:

Hyphenate well- combinations before a noun, but not after: a well-known judge, but the judge is well known.

Question from on Sept. 14, 2023

Hello! What's the preferred hyphenation for a phrase like: the Food and Drug Administration-compliant product...?

I want to clarify, since "compliant" is referring to the entire name and not just "Administration". What's techniically correct?


It's correct as you have it. See this section of the hyphen entry:

MULTIPLE COMPOUND MODIFIERS: If the phrase is easily recognized without hyphens, use a hyphen only to link last element: They hope to spark consumer interest in department store-based shopping. She said assistant vice president-managed courses should include real estate licensing-related materials. (Again, rephrasing may be a better option.)

Question from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, on Sept. 10, 2023

Would the correct form be nationally renowned or nationally-renowned? 


No hyphen. From the hyphen entry:

No hyphen is needed to link a two-word phrase that includes the adverb very and all adverbs ending in -ly: a very good time, an easily remembered rule.

Question from Indianapolis, Indiana, on Aug. 24, 2023

I know pre- and post- are typically not hyphenated based on AP Style. However, does this rule change when they are used as modifiers? For example, "pre-release services" and "post-release" services. This is for a research-based report so there aren't a lot of options to rephrase, especially in tables
I found this that led me to believe we would hyphenate as modifiers. 


Whether the use is as a modifier isn't a factor in deciding whether to hyphenate.

The pre- and post- entries both say:  Follow Webster’s New World College Dictionary. Hyphenate if not listed there.

(The pre- entry adds: A 2019 change: In recognition of common usage and dictionary preferences, do not hyphenate double-e combinations with pre- and re-. Examples: preeclampsia, preelection, preeminent, preempt, preestablished, preexisting and those listed in re-. Other rules in prefixes apply.)

In your examples, it's pre-release and post-release. The terms aren't listed in Webster's New World College Dictionary; thus, we hyphenate them according to the above guidance.

Question from on Aug. 13, 2023

Is the compound modifier "kitchen table" (as in kitchen-table issues) sufficiently clear without a hyphen?


I'd say it's clear without the hyphen. Like parking lot, emergency room, stray cat, etc.

Question from Bradenton, Florida, on April 09, 2023

Does AP prefer jelly bean or jellybean?


We much prefer chocolate. For the sugary treat that you're asking about, Webster's New World College Dictionary prefers the two-word version:

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

The official stylebook entry for FAQ says just that — FAQ. That entry was created in 2002. But an Ask the Editor response from 2020 says FAQs. Which is correct? Thanks in advance.


It's FAQ for one set of questions/answers: Please read the FAQ on track racing. If you have separate FAQs on different topics, it's FAQs: Please read the FAQs on track racing and mountain bike racing.

Question from Longmont, Colorado, on April 08, 2022

How should I pluralize PFAS (perfluoroalkyl substance)?


Our style is PFAS for both the singular and plural. Here's the entry.

Question from wyoming, Michigan, on Aug. 28, 2023

I see the entry for saute does not have an accent mark. But Webster's does. It's my understanding that accent marks are saved for names, primarily. I know entree is also one I see both ways. Which is correct for saute and which is correct pertaining to entree? 


It's not a matter of correct vs. incorrect; it's a matter of style. AP uses accent and other diacritical marks only in people's names. Webster's New World College Dictionary uses them for some other words as well. Your choice on which you want to use.

Question from Rochester, Minnesota, on Aug. 21, 2023

Hi. Does AP prefer “dataset” or “data set”? “Dataset” appears several times in the updated “Artificial intelligence” entry, but there’s one instance of “data set.” “Data set” (two words) is the predominant spelling in the “Data journalism” and “News Values and Principles” entries. We want to double-check the preferred spelling. Thanks!


Thanks for asking! We are revising our style to use dataset, one word, in all uses. We've updated the sections that you note.

Question from Raleigh, North Carolina, on June 21, 2023

I work for a law firm in communications. I was trying to figure out: non-disclosure agreement or nondisclosure agreement? I saw it both ways in headlines and stories from the AP in recent years. Was hoping for some clarification -- Thanks!


Nondisclosure. Here's the relevant entry:


The rules of prefixes apply, but in general no hyphen when forming a compound that does not have special meaning and can be understood if not is used before the base word. Use a hyphen, however, before proper nouns. Examples of compounds with special meaning include names with proper nouns: Non-Aligned Movement, non-Euclidean geometry, non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Question from Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, on June 13, 2023

Hi. Does AP have a preference yet for Bangalore or Bengaluru? 


We use Bengaluru.

Question from on May 26, 2023

Hello, Paula! Mostly a curiosity Q, but re: "-like" -- why are hyphens not used, in general? Is it to save print space? And why is "flu-like" an exception?

Here's the entry: 

Thank you!


I'm curious, too, and I don't have the answer. That one has been in the book since well before my time. I don't know what led to the decision.

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 ...)


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