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 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 on June 07, 2022
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 Kalamazoo, Michigan, on April 14, 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 Cincinnati, Ohio, on June 22, 2022
Question from Washington DC, on June 08, 2022
percent, percentage, percentage points
In casual uses, use words rather than figures and numbers: She said he has a zero percent chance of winning.
For a range, 12% to 15%, 12%-15% and between 12% and 15% are all acceptable.
Use percentage, rather than percent, when not paired with a number: The percentage of people agreeing is small.
Be careful not to confuse percent with percentage point. A change from 10% to 13% is a rise of 3 percentage points. This is not equal to a 3% change; rather, it’s a 30% increase.
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 Bangalore, on June 23, 2022
Which is correct here? Do we apply "the expression 'the number of' takes the singular verb" rule here?
Question from Denver, Colorado, on June 15, 2022
If you are referring to that entity, use the singular verb: The City and County of Denver is planning a program to help people pay property taxes.
Note: Generally our style is to use lowercase: the city of Philadelphia. But I could see arguments for capitalizing in the Denver case when referring to the government entity. It helps specity the actual government organization and activities related to it, vs. general references to the area.
But if you're talking generally about Denver city and county, use lowercase. Or often simply Denver works.
Question from Tokyo, on June 07, 2022
Should we use a plural or singular verb here? Prevent or prevents?
"The shame and fear that they will not be believed prevent many male victims from speaking about their experiences."
Question from Washington, District of Columbia, on May 26, 2022
I'd rephrase it, which has the added benefit of making people sound more like people. Staff members at the hospital ...
Question from Madison, Wisconsin, on Aug. 15, 2022
The advocacy program helps donors have a voice in the political decisions made at city hall, Madison or Washington, D.C.
The advocacy program helps donors have a voice in the political decisions made at city hall, Madison, or Washington, D.C.
Do you have any firm answer for this? Thanks!
Question from on Aug. 11, 2022
Why is it? I don't know; it's been that way for years. And if I tried to change it now, fury would be unleashed upon the land.
Note: We're unlikely to use the term hostess. Instead, the gender-neutral host. Which helps with the punctuation problem, too ...
SINGULAR COMMON NOUNS ENDING IN S: Add ’s: the virus’s reach, the virus’s spread; the witness’s answer, the witness’s story. (A change from previous guidance calling for just an apostrophe if the next word begins with s.)
Question from Phoenix, Arizona, on Aug. 04, 2022
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 San Marcos, Texas, on Aug. 04, 2022
Question from Greenville, South Carolina, on Aug. 03, 2022
Question from Corvallis, Oregon, on July 19, 2022
Question from Longmont, Colorado, on April 08, 2022
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 ...
Question from on Aug. 01, 2022
The dictionary doesn't list preloved. Thus: pre-loved.
Question from Roseville, California, on July 29, 2022
And no hyphen in intraoperative, intraop. I wouldn't use those terms for general audiences, though.
Question from Kansas City, Missouri, on July 29, 2022
As for the question, that gets us into dictionary differences and consistency issues again. According to our guidance, it's post-trial since Webster's New World College Dictionary doesn't list posttrial. But, Merriam-Webster does list posttrial. Why, you might ask, does WNWCD make it pretrial but no posttrial? I do not know. After the trial works just fine, too, and is much easier to read.
Question from Somerville, Massachusetts, on July 20, 2022
Want to Learn More about AP Style?
Sign up for a Free Trial of AP Stylebook Online
The best way to find out how useful AP Stylebook Online can be is to try it for yourself.
We offer free 14-day trials of individual subscriptions and 10-user site licenses.
AP Stylebook Online, our most popular product, this is the searchable, customizable version of the AP Stylebook. We will include access to Webster's New World College Dictionary, the official dictionary of the AP Stylebook.
At the end of your free trial, we will ask you if you would like to continue your service so you can keep any of the custom entries you created on Stylebook Online. We hope you will find the service valuable enough that you won't want to give up the help staying in style.