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
Question from Los Angeles, California, on Aug. 31, 2023
Question from Bedford, New Hampshire, on Aug. 29, 2023
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.
"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.
Here are the relevant sections of the abbreviations and acronyms entry:
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.
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.
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
Question from Virginia, on Sept. 21, 2023
- Alexander Vargas, Chair-Elect
- Robert Durham, Acting Chair
- Charlotte Robertson, Vice Chair
Question from on Sept. 20, 2023
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
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
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
Question from on Aug. 14, 2023
(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
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?
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
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 on Aug. 24, 2023
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
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 Fargo, North Dakota, on Sept. 14, 2023
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.)
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
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?
Question from on Aug. 25, 2023
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.
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 on Sept. 19, 2023
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
I want to clarify, since "compliant" is referring to the entire name and not just "Administration". What's techniically correct?
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
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 found this that led me to believe we would hyphenate as modifiers. https://apstylebook.com/ask_the_editors/37470
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
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 wyoming, Michigan, on Aug. 28, 2023
Question from Rochester, Minnesota, on Aug. 21, 2023
Question from Raleigh, North Carolina, on June 21, 2023
Question from Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, on June 13, 2023
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 ...)
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