This style guide is the preferred style manual for YES! Magazine and YES! Media. It provides a reference to common words and terms used in YES! Magazine and YES! Media content and information on style issues particular to the site and print publication. It is not intended to be a comprehensive manual of grammar and style.
The preferred dictionary is Merriam-Webster. In MW, the first spelling of a word should generally be used. The alternate style manual is the Associated Press Stylebook. Generally, AP Style trumps MW, but any style point mentioned in this guide overrules those publications.
abbreviations and acronyms
An acronym is a word formed from the first letter or letters of a series of words: laser (light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation). An abbreviation is not an acronym.
Do not follow an organization’s full name 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.
Do not use abbreviations or acronyms that the reader would not quickly recognize. Avoid confusion by using abbreviations or acronyms that are unique. Do not use abbreviations or acronyms with multiple referents. For example: the VRA stands for the Voting Rights Act, Veterans’ Recruitment Appointment, or Voluntary Repayment Agreement. Spell out names in those cases. (AP style)
See LGBT, LGBTQ.
Do not hyphenate adverbial phrases like face to face, step by step, inch by inch: they met face to face, she likes to take her projects step by step. However, hyphenate compound modifiers: face-to-face meeting, step-by-step approach.
Always use figures: The girl is 15 years old; the law is 8 years old; the 101-year-old house. When the context does not require years or years old, the figure is presumed to be years. Do not use young woman, young man, or other subjective terms that diminish age and experience. Avoid elderly. If the intent is to show that an individual’s faculties have deteriorated, cite a graphic example and give attribution for it. Where possible, be precise.
Use hyphens for ages expressed as adjectives before a noun or as substitutes for a noun. Examples: A 5-year-old boy, but the boy is 5 years old. The boy, 7, has a sister, 10. The woman, 26, has a daughter 2 months old. The race is for 3-year-olds. The woman is in her 30s (no apostrophe). (AP style)
When used as a pronoun or adjective, all should be adjacent to the noun it’s modifying: We all are scientists now. Not: We are all scientists now.
Awkward: The cars all sold. Preferred: All the cars sold.
An abbreviated term for activists in the antifascist movement.
Lowercase, but capitalize when referring to specific industries: Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Ag. Do not use names a reader would not quickly recognize.
When they are used, capitalize them. Brand names normally should be used only if they are essential to a story.
In general, use a generic equivalent: Heavily armed law enforcement officers attacked unarmed civilians with rubber bullets, pepper spray, and tear gas. She scrolled through photos on her smartphone.
Brands like Mace, Styrofoam, AstroTurf, Coke, Windex, and Frisbee are usually unnecessary and often inaccurate.
Capitalize city if part of a proper name, an integral part of an official name, or a regularly used nickname: Kansas City, New York City, Windy City, City of Light, Fun City.
Lowercase elsewhere: a Texas city; the city government; the city Board of Education; and all city of phrases: the city of Boston.
Capitalize when part of a formal title before a name: City Manager Francis McGrath. Lowercase when not part of the formal title: city Health Commissioner Frank Smith.
The following domestic cities stand alone: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Honolulu, Houston, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New Orleans, New York, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, D.C.
All other U.S. cities should include state names.
See state names.
Follow AP except: Do not capitalize “the” before a company name. Do not include “the” if it is not part of the name.
compose, comprise, constitute
Compose means to create or put together. It commonly is used in both the active and passive voices: She composed a song. The United States is composed of 50 states. The zoo is composed of many animals.
Comprise means to contain, to include all or embrace. It is best used only in the active voice, followed by a direct object: The United States comprises 50 states. The jury comprises five men and seven women. The zoo comprises many animals.
Constitute, in the sense of form or make up, may be the best word if neither compose nor comprise seems to fit: Fifty states constitute the United States. Five men and seven women constitute the jury. A collection of animals can constitute a zoo.
Use include when what follows is only part of the total: The price includes breakfast. The zoo includes lions and tigers. (AP style)
Apply the guidelines listed below to book titles, computer and video game titles, movie titles, opera titles, play titles, album titles, radio and television program titles, newspapers, magazines, journals, podcasts, and works of fine art:
Italicize the names of all such works except the Bible, the Quran, and other holy books, websites and blogs, and books that are primarily catalogs of reference material. In addition to catalogs, this category includes almanacs, directories, dictionaries, encyclopedias, gazetteers, handbooks, and similar publications.
Capitalize the principal words, including prepositions and conjunctions of four or more letters.
Capitalize an article—the, a, an—or words of fewer than four letters if it is the first or last word in a title.
Apply the same guidelines but the first to the following titles: lectures, speeches, TED Talks, essays, short stories, poems, chapters, songs, podcast episodes, television episodes, journal/magazine/newspaper articles. Place name in quotes.
In general, a title is italicized if the source is self-contained and independent. A title is placed in quotes if the source is part of a larger work.
Capitalize references to the U.S. Constitution, with or without the U.S. modifier: The president said he supports the Constitution.
When referring to constitutions of other nations or of states, capitalize only with the name of a nation or a state: the French Constitution, the Massachusetts Constitution, the nation’s constitution, the state constitution, the constitution.
Lowercase in other uses: the organization’s constitution.
Lowercase constitutional in all uses. (AP style)
Italicize court cases on all references, using “v.” (not “vs.”) to distinguish between plaintiff and defendant: Roe v. Wade; Brown v. Board of Education. Do not place court cases in quotes. For landmark rulings, first name is acceptable on second reference: Roe; Brown.
Dakota Access pipeline
DAPL is acceptable on second reference.
Avoid modifiers that do not refer clearly and logically to some word in the sentence.
Dangling: Taking our seats, the game started. (Taking does not refer to the subject, game, nor to any other word in the sentence.)
Correct: Taking our seats, we watched the opening of the game. (Taking refers to we, the subject of the sentence.) (AP style)
(n.) deal-breaker (adj.)
directions and regions
In general, lowercase north, south, northeast, northern, etc., when they indicate compass direction; capitalize these words when they designate regions.
Some examples: He drove west. The cold front is moving east.
A storm system that developed in the Midwest is spreading eastward. It will bring showers to the East Coast by morning and to the entire Northeast by late in the day. Wildfires in Northern California spread quickly.
She has a Southern accent. He is a Northerner. Asian nations are opening doors to Western businessmen. (AP style)
In general, do not describe an individual as disabled or handicapped unless it is clearly pertinent to a story. If a description must be used, try to be specific about the type of disability or symptoms. An ad featuring actor Michael J. Fox swaying noticeably from the effects of Parkinson’s disease drew nationwide attention. Disabilities are not necessarily injuries, and vice versa, although both can be described as mobility issues.
Avoid descriptions that connote pity or condescension, such as afflicted with or suffers from multiple sclerosis. Avoid descriptions that infantilize and condescend, such as empowers or uplifts disabled people. Rather, has multiple sclerosis.
Some terms include:
blind: Describes a person with complete or nearly complete loss of sight. For others, use terms such as visually impaired or person with low vision.
cripple: Considered offensive when used to describe a person who is disabled.
deaf: Describes a person with total or major hearing loss. For others, use partial hearing loss or partially deaf. Avoid using deaf-mute. Do not use deaf and dumb. Some object to the term hearing impaired.
disabled: A general term used for a physical, mental, developmental or intellectual disability. Do not use mentally retarded.
handicap: It should be avoided in describing a disability.
mute: Describes a person who cannot speak. Others with speaking difficulties are speech impaired.
wheelchair user: People use wheelchairs for independent mobility. Do not use confined to a wheelchair or wheelchair-bound. If a wheelchair is needed, say why.
Those undocumented immigrants protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA. The term Dreamer is based on never-passed proposals in Congress called the DREAM Act, which would have provided similar protections for young immigrants. The DREAM Act—Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors—was a federal proposal that offered many of the same protections as DACA but was never approved in Congress. Do not describe DACA as an executive action; it is an administrative program. If necessary, provide some context on first reference.
Capitalize when referring to the planet. Lowercase when referring to soil: The crops emerged slowly from the earth.
(n.) front-line (adj.)
Not synonymous with sex. Gender refers to a person’s social identity while sex refers to biological characteristics. Not all people fall under one of two categories for sex or gender, so avoid references to both, either, or opposite sexes or genders as a way to encompass all people. When needed for clarity or in certain stories about scientific studies, alternatives include men and women, boys and girls, males and females. Language around gender is evolving and subject to a person’s preferences.
Some frequently used terms and definitions:
cisgender: May be used if necessary to refer to people who are not transgender in stories about gender, as a means to distinguish people from one another. Use only with explanation, such as cisgender people are those whose gender identity corresponds to their sex assigned at birth. Do not use terms like normal to describe people who are not transgender. Cisgender refers to gender and is not synonymous with heterosexual, which refers to sexuality.
nonbinary: Acceptable in broad references as a term for people who do not identify (exclusively or at all) as women or men. Some nonbinary people identify as both women and men, while some identify as neither. The group is providing scholarships for nonbinary students. When talking about individuals, be specific about how a person describes or expresses gender identity and behavior. Roberta identifies as both male and female. Not synonymous with transgender.
intersex: Term for people born with genitalia, chromosomes, or reproductive organs that don’t conform to typical definitions for males or females at birth. Gonzalez is an intersex person. Zimmerman is intersex. Do not use the outdated term hermaphrodite.
gender confirmation or gender-affirming surgery: The treatments, surgeries, and other medical procedures used by transgender people to match their sex to their gender. The preferred terms over gender reassignment or sex reassignment; do not use the outdated term sex change. Gender-affirming clinical treatment or gender confirmation surgery is not necessary for people to transition their gender. Balducci weighed whether to have gender-affirming surgery during his transition.
transgender: An adjective that describes people whose gender identity does not match the sex or gender they were assigned at birth. Does not require what are often known as gender confirmation procedures. Identify people as transgender only if pertinent, and use the name by which they live publicly. Generally, avoid references to a transgender person being born a boy or girl, since describing someone as transgender speaks for itself and doesn’t take intersex babies into account. Bernard is a transgender man. Christina is transgender. The shorthand trans is acceptable on second reference and in headlines: Grammys add first man and first trans woman as trophy handlers.
Do not use as a noun or refer to someone as a transgender, or use the term transgendered. Not synonymous with terms like cross-dresser or drag queen, which are not inherently related to gender identity. Do not use the outdated term transsexual. Do not use a derogatory term such as tranny except in extremely rare circumstances—only in a quote when it is crucial to the story or the understanding of a news event.
Use the name by which a transgender person now lives: Caitlyn Jenner. Generally avoid publishing a person’s previous name, unless unavoidable and directly relevant to the story.
Preferred: Caitlyn Jenner, who won the 1976 Olympic gold medal in the men’s decathlon…
Unnecessary: Caitlyn Jenner, who won a 1976 Olympic gold medal in decathlon as [former name] Jenner…
transition, gender transition: The process by which transgender people change the physical characteristics associated with the sex or gender they were assigned at birth to those matching their own gender identity. May include gender-affirming or gender confirmation procedures, but not necessarily. Washington is transitioning while helping his daughter consider universities. Chamberlain’s family offered support during her transition.
In general, avoid terms with gender bias, unless in direct quotes. Some examples: to man, manmade, actress, right-hand man, waitress, workman, handyman, heiress, craftsman, everyman, wingman, and freshman. Never use sexist or pejorative language: soccer mom, trophy wife, gold digger, mama’s boy. See this resource for equivalent words.
Wrong: Volunteers manned the donation table.
Right: Volunteers staffed the donation table.
Wrong: About 8,300 more freshmen enrolled this year.
Right: About 8,300 more first-year students enrolled this year.
Genetically modified organism. GMO is acceptable on second reference. Refers to food grown from seeds that are genetically engineered in a laboratory. (AP style)
(n. and adj.) One word.
a handful of
Use this phrase to indicate a physical quantity that fills the hand. Acceptable sometimes for abstract concepts: He had a handful of reasons for why he had never voted. Never use to describe quantities exceeding that. Wrong: A handful of senators held Town Halls before the vote on Thursday. Right: About seven senators held Town Halls before the vote on Thursday. Where possible, be precise. Otherwise, few and several are acceptable.
Never use a hyphen: health care reform.
to hold on to
The phrasal verb is not to hold onto. Wrong: The industry is trying to hold onto experienced staff. Right: My daughter held on to my sleeve until she relaxed.
In general, avoid awkward constructions that split infinitive forms of a verb (to leave, to help, etc.) or compound forms (had left, are found out, etc.).
Awkward: She was ordered to immediately leave on an assignment.
Preferred: She was ordered to leave immediately on an assignment.
Awkward: There stood the wagon that we had early last autumn left by the barn.
Preferred: There stood the wagon that we had left by the barn early last autumn.
Occasionally, however, a split is not awkward and is necessary to convey the meaning: During the mayor’s campaign, he promised to fully fund the program. Rideshare apps are unlikely to drastically reduce urban congestion. How has your health been? The budget was tentatively approved. (AP style)
Avoid the use of last as a synonym for latest if it might imply finality. The last time it rained, I forgot my umbrella, is acceptable. But: The last announcement was made at noon may leave the reader wondering whether the announcement was the final announcement, or whether others are to follow.
The word last is not necessary to convey the notion of most recent when the name of a month or day is used. Preferred: It happened Wednesday. It happened in April. Correct, but redundant: It happened last Wednesday. But: It happened last week. It happened last month. (AP style)
Latino, Latina, Latinx
Use Latino (masculine), Latina (feminine), or Latinx (gender-neutral) for a person from—or whose ancestors were from—a Spanish-speaking land or culture or from Latin America (Latino is the preferred plural term).
Follow the person’s preference. Use a more specific identification when possible, such as Cuban, Puerto Rican, Brazilian, or Mexican American.
the Left, the Right
In general, avoid these terms in favor of more precise descriptions of political philosophy. Lowercase when used as an adjective or adverb: As he got older, he became more conservative and moved further right. Avoid terms like Left Coast, red state, and blue state.
Acceptable in all references for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, or lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning and/or queer. In quotations and the formal names of organizations and events, other forms such as LGBTQIA and other variations are also acceptable with the other letters explained. (AP style)
Spell out on first reference. L.A. is acceptable on second reference.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Do not precede Jr. with a comma. King is acceptable on second reference. When referring to the federal holiday honoring him, MLK Day is acceptable.
Do not capitalize either word unless it begins a sentence, per original styling used by the movement’s creator, Tarana Burke. Utilize hashtag when discussing social media conversation. The “me too” movement is also acceptable.
Use figures with million, billion, or trillion in all except casual uses: I’d like to make a billion dollars. But: The nation has 1 million citizens. I need $7 billion. The government ran a deficit of more than $1 trillion. Avoid line breaks by inserting nonbreaking space between figures and million, billion, or trillion.
Do not go beyond two decimal places: 7.51 million people, $256 billion. Not: 7,542,500 people, $2,565,750,000. Decimals are preferred where practical: 1.5 million. Not: 1 1/2 million.
Do not mix million and billion in the same figure: 2.6 billion. Not: 2 billion 600 million.
Do not drop the word million or billion in the first figure of a range: He is worth from $2 million to $4 million. Not: $2 to $4 million, unless you really mean $2.
Note that a hyphen is not used to join the figures and the word million or billion, even in this type of phrase: The president submitted a $300 billion budget. (AP style)
Capitalize the names of months in all uses. When a month is used with a specific date, abbreviate only Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., and Dec. Spell out when using alone, or with a year alone.
When a phrase lists only a month and a year, do not separate the year with commas. When a phrase refers to a month, day and year, set off the year with commas.
Examples: January 2016 was a cold month. Jan. 2 was the coldest day of the month. His birthday is May 8. Feb. 14, 2013, was the target date. She testified that it was Friday, Dec. 3, when the accident occurred. (AP style)
Acceptable for those in the U.S. (Native is also acceptable). Follow the person’s preference. Where possible, be precise and use the name of the tribe: He is a Navajo commissioner. Such words or terms as wampum, warpath, powwow, teepee, brave, squaw, etc., can be disparaging and offensive.
In Alaska, the indigenous groups include Aleuts, Eskimos, and Indians, collectively known as Alaska Natives (not Alaskan Natives).
First Nation is the preferred term for native tribes in Canada. (AP rule)
In general, spell out one through nine: The Yankees finished second. He had nine months to go. Also spell out any numeral at the start of a sentence.
Use figures for 10 or above and whenever preceding a unit of measure or referring to ages of people, animals, events, or things. Also in all tabular matter, and in statistical, and sequential forms. Never convert to figures when referring to general quantities: 10s of 1,000s, 100s of fans.
For ranges, use to, between/and, from/to, or an en dash: He ironed people’s clothing for the U.S. equivalent of 7 to 16 cents apiece. The act could save Medicare between $230 billion and $541 billion over the next decade. An estimated 200–300 metric tons of produce were rescued last year. Never combine between or from with an en dash. About is redundant.
To avoid confusion, do not use too many numerals in succession: In 1982, 231,700 rainbow-haired unicorns lived in 53 U.S. rainforests.
dates, years, and decades: Feb. 8, 2007, Class of ’66, the 1950s. For the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, 9/11 is acceptable in all references. (Note comma to set off the year when the phrase refers to a month, date, and year.)
decimals, percentages, and fractions with numbers larger than 1: 7.2 magnitude quake, 3 1/2 laps, 3.7 percent interest, 4 percentage points. Decimalization should not exceed two places in most text material. Exceptions: blood alcohol content, expressed in three decimals: as in 0.056, and batting averages in baseball, as in .324. For amounts less than 1, precede the decimal with a zero: The cost of living rose 0.03 percent. Spell out fractions less than 1, using hyphens between the words: two-thirds, four-fifths. In quotations, use figures for fractions: “He was 2 1/2 laps behind with four to go.”
distances: He walked 4 miles. He missed a 3-foot putt.
monetary units: 5 cents, $5 bill, 8 euros, 4 pounds.
odds, proportions, and ratios: 9-1 long shot; 3 parts cement to 1 part water; a 1-4 chance, but one chance in three.
school grades: Use figures for grades 10 and above: 10th grade. Spell out for first through ninth grades: fourth grade, fifth-grader (note hyphen).
political districts: Ward 9, 9th Precinct, 3rd Congressional District.
times: Use figures for time of day except for noon and midnight: 1 p.m., 10:30 a.m., 5 o’clock, 8 hours, 30 minutes, 20 seconds, a winning time of 2:17:3 (2 hours, 17 minutes, 3 seconds). Spell out numbers less than 10 standing alone and in modifiers: I’ll be there in five minutes. He scored with two seconds left. An eight-hour day. The two-minute warning.
votes: The bill was defeated by a vote of 6 to 4, but by a two-vote margin.
They may be used for wars and to establish personal sequence for people and animals: World War I, Native Dancer II, King George V. Also for certain legislative acts ( Title IX). Otherwise, use sparingly.
Numbers used to indicate order (first, second, 10th, 25th, etc.) are called ordinal numbers. Spell out first through ninth: fourth grade, first base, the First Amendment, he was first in line. Use figures starting with 10th. Hyphenate compound modifiers to avoid confusion: 20th-anniversary issue, 19th-century law.
Use the % sign when paired with a numeral, with no space, in most cases (a change in 2019): Average hourly pay rose 3.1% from a year ago; her mortgage rate is 4.75%; about 60% of Americans agreed; he won 56.2% of the vote. Use figures: 1%, 4 percentage points. For amounts less than 1%, precede the decimal with a zero: The cost of living rose 0.6%.
In casual uses, use words rather than figures and numbers: She said he has a zero percent chance of winning.
At the start of a sentence: Try to avoid this construction. If it’s necessary to start a sentence with a percentage, spell out both: Eighty-nine percent of sentences don’t have to begin with a number.
Constructions with the % sign take a singular verb when standing alone or when a singular word follows an of construction: The teacher said 60% was a failing grade. He said 50% of the membership was there.
It takes a plural verb when a plural word follows an of construction: He said 50% of the members were there.
Use decimals, not fractions, in percentages: Her mortgage rate is 4.5%.
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.
Usage: Republicans passed a 0.25 percentage point tax cut. Not: Republicans passed a 0.25 percentage points tax cut or Republicans passed a tax cut of 0.25 of a percentage point. (AP style)
Capitalize proper names: Defund DAPL, Medicare for All, The Movement for Black Lives, Fight for $15.
Lowercase civil rights movement, women’s movement, etc., but capitalize any proper names: the United Farm Workers movement.
Capitalize both the name of the party and the word party if it is customarily used as part of the organization’s proper name: the Democratic Party, the Republican Party.
Include the political affiliation of any elected officeholder.
Capitalize Communist, Conservative, Democrat, Liberal, Republican, Socialist, etc., when they refer to a specific party or its members. Lowercase these words when they refer to political philosophy (see examples below).
Lowercase the name of a philosophy in noun and adjective forms unless it is the derivative of a proper name: communism, communist; fascism, fascist. But: Marxism, Marxist; Nazism, Nazi.
Generally, a description of specific political views is more informative than a generic label like liberal or conservative. (AP style)
races and ethnicities
Capitalize Black, African American, Brown, White, Native (American), Indigenous, Asian when referring to people’s racial identities (e.g. skin color).
Where possible, be precise: Sonia Sotomayor is the first Latina justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Jeremy Lin is the first American-born NBA player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent. The Caribbean American chef opened his third restaurant on Saturday.
All races are either capitalized or lowercased in a story; do not make exceptions for one race versus another, unless the author feels strongly.
When referring to race-based ideologies, capitalize the race, but not the ideology, unless it appears in a proper noun: White supremacy; Black nationalism; Indigenous sovereignty.
People living in rural areas represent about 20% of the total U.S. population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The term is often used colloquially but inaccurately.
Use rural for areas with populations below 2,500. Use rural for those residents, counties, communities, or regions. Do not use rural for individuals, countries, or states, which comprise both rural and urban areas.
In general, avoid slang, the highly informal language that is outside of conventional or standard usage. When used as a pejorative or ironic device, place between quotation marks: A man who openly bragged about grabbing women “by the pussy” was elected president.
Two words when referring to smart home, smart car, smart meter, or other devices programmed to function semi-independently. Exceptions: smartphone, smartwatch.
The plural noun takes a singular verb: The staff is attending the retreat.
The names of the 50 U.S. states should be spelled out when used in the body of a story, whether standing alone or in conjunction with a city, town, village, or military base. Abbreviate in headlines and captions or where space is limited. Do not include state name if city stands alone.
Following are the state abbreviations (postal code abbreviations in parentheses): Ala. (AL), Ariz. (AZ), Ark. (AR), Calif. (CA), Colo. (CO), Conn. (CT), Del. (DE), Fla. (FL), Ga. (GA), Ill. (IL), Ind. (IN), Kan. (KS), Ky. (KY), La. (LA), Md. (MD), Mass. (MA), Mich. (MI), Minn. (MN), Miss. (MS), Mo. (MO), Mont. (MT), Neb. (NE), Nev. (NV), N.H. (NH), N.J. (NJ), N.M. (NM), N.Y. (NY), N.C. (NC), N.D. (ND), Okla. (OK), Ore. (OR), Pa. (PA), R.I. (RI), S.C. (SC), S.D. (SD), Tenn. (TN), Vt. (VT), Va. (VA), Wash. (WA), W.Va. (WV), Wis. (WI), Wyo. (WY)
The names of eight states are never abbreviated in datelines or text: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas, and Utah.
Place one comma between the city and the state name, and another comma after the state name, unless ending a sentence or indicating a dateline: He was traveling from Nashville, Tennessee, to Austin, Texas, en route to his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She said Cook County, Illinois, was Mayor Daley’s stronghold.
Use New York state when necessary to distinguish the state from New York City.
Use state of Washington or Washington state within a story when it’s necessary to differentiate the state name from the U.S. capital.
Stereotypes deny the individuality and complexity of people or groups by conforming them to false assumptions. They can be positive or negative. Never use terms that perpetuate ageism, sexism, racism, classism, and ableism in both language and content. Be careful with euphemisms and metaphors. The following are some examples:
sexism: soccer mom, first lady, damsel in distress, mama’s boy, housewife, househusband, sensitive, career woman, manly, beauty, girl, petite.
racism: model minority, illegals, urban, athletic, wise, chief, ghetto, thug, primal, articulate, buck, boy, girl, Oriental, peon, pimp, powwow, refugee, soulful, token.
classism: Hillbilly, redneck, uneducated, Okie, mountain people, shiftless, white trash, backwoods, simple, down and out, rural, scrappy, lazy, violent, ignorant.
Avoid using committed suicide except in direct quotations from authorities. Alternate phrases include killed himself, took her own life, or died by suicide. The verb commit with suicide can imply a criminal act. Laws against suicide have been repealed in the United States and many other places.
Do not refer to an unsuccessful suicide attempt. Refer instead to an attempted suicide. (AP style)
Use figures for all except zero. Use a word, not a minus sign, to indicate temperatures below zero. Temperatures get higher or lower, but they don’t get warmer or cooler. (AP style)
they, them, their
In most cases, a plural pronoun should agree in number with the antecedent: The children love the books their uncle gave them.
They/them/their is acceptable in limited cases as a singular and/or gender-neutral pronoun. Always confirm a source’s pronouns. Follow the person’s preference. (AP style)
In general, confine capitalization to formal titles used directly before an individual’s name. Lowercase and spell out titles in constructions that set them off from a name by commas: The vice president, Mike Pence, was elected in 2016. Pope Francis, the current pope, was born in Argentina.
Capitalize formal titles when they are used immediately before one or more names: Pope Francis, President Donald Trump, Vice Presidents John Jones and William Smith.
A formal title generally is one that denotes a scope of authority, professional activity, or academic activity: Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Dr. Benjamin Spock, retired Gen. Colin Powell. Use Dr. in first reference as a formal title before the name of an individual who holds a doctor of dental surgery, doctor of medicine, doctor of optometry, doctor of osteopathic medicine, doctor of podiatric medicine, or doctor of veterinary medicine.
Other titles serve primarily as occupational descriptions: professor Marcus Green, astronaut John Glenn, actor Mark Ruffalo, peanut farmer Jimmy Carter.
The following formal titles are capitalized and abbreviated as shown when used before a name both inside and outside quotations: Dr., Gov., Lt. Gov., Rep., Sen. and certain military rank. (AP style)
Lowercase, but capitalize only if an integral part of proper name: Standing Rock Sioux tribe, but the Apache Tribe of Oklahoma. (AP style)
Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Capitalize when referring to a formal body facilitating conflict resolution, often between law enforcement and marginalized communities. Lowercase when referring to a process. TRC is acceptable on second preference, although the commission is preferred.
The abbreviation is acceptable as a noun or adjective for United States. Spell out on first reference. (AP style)
These terms are not interchangeable. Survey statistics on rape and sexual assault typically use victims and offenders, but anti-rape networks often use survivors. Accuracy is key. Follow the user’s practice.
war on drugs
We the People
A phrase from the preamble to the Constitution, often used in commentary to emphasize political power of electorate. Do not italicize or place in quotes.
Avoid using this term to describe natural or urban areas with plant life. This term usually implies that an area has not been directly controlled or influenced by human activity, therefore it’s often inaccurate.
apostrophe (‘ ’)
The following guidelines are for curly apostrophes. Render them by following the keyboard shortcuts on your device.
plural nouns not ending in s: Add ’s: the alumni’s contributions, women’s rights.
plural nouns ending in s: Add only an apostrophe: the churches’ needs, the girls’ toys, the horses’ food, the ships’ wake, states’ rights, the VIPs’ entrance.
nouns plural in form, singular in meaning: Add only an apostrophe: mathematics’ rules, measles’ effects. Apply the same principle when a plural word occurs in the formal name of a singular entity: General Motors’ profits, the United States’ wealth.
nouns the same in singular and plural: Treat them the same as plurals, even if the meaning is singular: one corps’ location, the two deer’s tracks, the lone moose’s antlers.
singular nouns not ending in s: Add ’s: the church’s needs, the girl’s toys, the horse’s food, the ship’s route, the VIP’s seat.
singular common nouns ending in s: Add ’s: the hostess’s invitation, the hostess’s seat; the witness’s answer, the witness’s story.
singular proper names ending in s: Use only an apostrophe: Achilles’ heel, Agnes’ book, Ceres’ rites, Descartes’ theories, Dickens’ novels, Euripides’ dramas, Hercules’ labors, Jesus’ life, Jules’ seat, Kansas’ schools, Moses’ law, Socrates’ life, Tennessee Williams’ plays, Xerxes’ armies.
pronouns: Personal interrogative and relative pronouns have separate forms for the possessive. None involves an apostrophe: mine, ours, your, yours, his, hers, its, theirs, whose.
If you are using an apostrophe with a pronoun, always double check to be sure that the meaning calls for a contraction: you’re, it’s, there’s, who’s. Follow the rules listed above in forming the possessives of other pronouns: another’s idea, others’ plans, someone’s guess.
compound words: Applying the rules above, add an apostrophe or ’s to the word closest to the object possessed: the major general’s decision, the major generals’ decisions, the attorney general’s request, the attorneys general’s request.
Also: anyone else’s attitude, John Adams Jr.’s father, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania’s motion. Whenever practical, however, recast the phrase to avoid ambiguity: the motion by Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania.
joint possession, individual possession: Use a possessive form after only the last word if ownership is joint: Fred and Sylvia’s apartment, Fred and Sylvia’s stocks.
Use a possessive form after both words if the objects are individually owned: Fred’s and Sylvia’s books.
descriptive phrases: Do not add an apostrophe to a word ending in s when it is used primarily in a descriptive sense: citizens band radio, a Cincinnati Reds infielder, a teachers college, a Teamsters request, a writers guide.
Memory aid: The apostrophe usually is not used if for or by rather than of would be appropriate in the longer form: a radio band for citizens, a college for teachers, a guide for writers, a request by the Teamsters.
An ’s is required, however, when a term involves a plural word that does not end in s: a children’s hospital, a people’s republic, the Young Men’s Christian Association.
descriptive names: Some governmental, corporate, and institutional organizations with a descriptive word in their names use an apostrophe; some do not. Follow the user’s practice: Actors’ Equity, Diners Club, the Ladies’ Home Journal, the National Governors Association .
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 days’ work, your money’s worth.
Frequently, however, a hyphenated form is clearer: a two-week vacation, a three-day job.
double possessive: Two conditions must apply for a double possessive—a phrase such as a friend of John’s—to occur: 1. The word after of must refer to an animate object, and 2. The word before of must involve only a portion of the animate object’s possessions.
Otherwise, do not use the possessive form of the word after of: The friends of John Adams mourned his death. (All the friends were involved.) He is a friend of the college. (Not college’s, because college is inanimate).
Memory aid: This construction occurs most often, and quite naturally, with the possessive forms of personal pronouns: He is a friend of mine.
inanimate objects: There is no blanket rule against creating a possessive form for an inanimate object, particularly if the object is treated in a personified sense. See some of the earlier examples, and note these: death’s call, the wind’s murmur.
In general, however, avoid excessive personalization of inanimate objects, and give preference to an of construction when it fits the makeup of the sentence. For example, the earlier references to mathematics’ rules and measles’ effects would better be phrased: the rules of mathematics, the effects of measles.
omitted letters: I’ve, it’s, don’t, rock ’n’ roll, ’tis the season to be jolly. He is a ne’er-do-well.
omitted figures: The class of ’62. The Spirit of ’76. The ’20s.
plurals of a single letter: Mind your p’s and q’s. He learned the three R’s and brought home a report card with four A’s and two B’s. The Oakland A’s won the pennant.
A colon should not separate a verb and its direct object in a sentence. To introduce a list, use either a complete sentence or a short phrase before the colon. Correct: Our partners: or These are our partners: Incorrect: Our partners are:
Capitalize the first word after a colon only if it is a proper noun or the start of a complete sentence: He promised this: The company will make good all the losses. But: There were three considerations: expense, time, and feasibility.
Use commas to separate elements in a series and equal adjectives: The flag is red, white, and blue; a thoughtful, precise manner; a dark, dangerous street.
Use commas with introductory phrases and clauses: When he had tired of the mad pace of New York, he moved to Dubuque. And nonessential phrases and clauses: David and his wife, Fran, worked to end global poverty; The yellow car in the driveway belongs to Jim (where two yellow cars are on the property).
When a conjunction such as and, but, or for links two clauses that could stand alone as separate sentences, use a comma before the conjunction in most cases: She was glad she had looked, for a man was approaching the house.
As a rule of thumb, use a comma if the subject of each clause is expressly stated: We are visiting Washington, and we also plan a side trip to Williamsburg. We visited Washington, and our senator greeted us personally. But no comma when the subject of the two clauses is the same and is not repeated in the second: We are visiting Washington and plan to see the White House.
Use an ellipsis to indicate the deletion of one or more words in condensing quotes, texts and documents. Render an ellipsis by following the keyboard shortcut for your device. Be especially careful to avoid deletions that would distort the meaning. Avoid excessive ellipses by paraphrasing or using partial quotes.
An ellipsis also may be used to indicate a thought that the speaker or writer does not complete.
If the words that precede an ellipsis constitute a grammatically complete sentence, either in the original or in the condensation, place a period at the end of the last word before the ellipsis. Follow it with a regular space and an ellipsis: I no longer have a strong enough political base. … If the words preceding an ellipsis constitute a fragment or an incomplete thought, place a period at the end of the ellipsis, after a single space. I wish you wouldn’t… .
em dashes (—)
Use em dashes to denote an abrupt change in thought in a sentence or an emphatic pause: Through her long reign, the queen and her family have adapted—usually skillfully—to the changing taste of the time. But avoid overuse of dashes to set off phrases when commas would suffice. Do not insert spaces on either side. Render em dashes by following the keyboard shortcut for your device.
When a phrase that otherwise would be set off by commas contains a series of words that must be separated by commas, use dashes to set off the full phrase: He listed the qualities—intelligence, humor, conservatism, independence—that he liked in an executive.
Use a dash before an author’s or composer’s name at the end of a quotation: “Who steals my purse steals trash.” —Shakespeare.
en dashes (–)
Use en dashes to denote numeric range, a partnership or pairing where both parts are equal, or as a stand-in for versus: the Trump–Clinton debate; 40–50 people; the Spanish–American War. Do not insert spaces on either side. Render en dashes by following the keyboard shortcut for your device.
Use hyphens to avoid ambiguity or to form a single idea from two or more words.
avoid ambiguity: Use a hyphen whenever ambiguity would result if it were omitted: The president will speak to small-business owners. Others: He recovered his health. He re-covered the leaky roof. The story is a re-creation. The park is for recreation.
compound modifiers: When a compound modifier—two or more words that express a single concept—precedes a noun, use hyphens to link all the words in the compound except the adverb very and all adverbs that end in –ly: a first-quarter touchdown, a bluish-green dress, a full-time job, a well-known man, a better-qualified woman, a know-it-all attitude, a very good time, an easily remembered rule, the 19th-century law.
Exceptions: high school student, real estate market, natural gas pipeline, fossil fuel infrastructure, fast food chain, open source technology, climate change plan, human resources department. These compound modifiers are adequate without hyphens.
Many combinations that are hyphenated before a noun are not hyphenated when they occur after a noun: The team scored in the first quarter. The dress, a bluish green, was on sale. She works full time. His attitude suggested that he knew it all.
But when a modifier that would be hyphenated before a noun occurs instead after a form of the verb to be, the hyphen usually must be retained to avoid confusion: The man is well-known. The teacher is sharp-tongued. The children are soft-spoken. The play is second-rate.
The principle of using a hyphen to avoid confusion explains why no hyphen is required with very and –ly words. Readers can expect them to modify the word that follows. But if a combination such as little-known man were not hyphenated, the reader could logically be expecting little to be followed by a noun, as in little man. Instead, the reader encountering little known would have to back up mentally and make the compound connection on his own.
suspensive hyphenation: The form: He received a 10- to 20-year sentence in prison.
Use curly open-quote marks (“) and close-quote (”) marks to surround the exact words of a speaker or writer when reported in a story. Render curly quotation marks by following the keyboard shortcuts for your device.
running quotations: If a full paragraph of quoted material is followed by a paragraph that continues the quotation, do not put close-quote marks at the end of the first paragraph. However, do put open-quote marks at the start of the second paragraph. Continue in this fashion for any succeeding paragraphs, using close-quote marks only at the end of the quoted material.
irony: Put quotation marks around a word or words used in an ironical sense: The “debate” turned into a free-for-all.
unfamiliar terms: A word or words being introduced to readers may be placed in quotation marks on first reference:
Broadcast frequencies are measured in “kilohertz.”
Do not put subsequent references to kilohertz in quotation marks.
avoid unnecessary fragments: Do not use quotation marks to report a few ordinary words that a speaker or writer has used:
Wrong: The senator said he would “go home to Michigan” if he lost the election.
Right: The senator said he would go home to Michigan if he lost the election.
partial quotes: When a partial quote is used, do not put quotation marks around words that the speaker could not have used. Do not capitalize the first word of a partial quote, unless it’s the first-person singular pronoun or a proper noun.
Suppose the individual said, “I am horrified at your slovenly manners.”
Wrong: She said she “was horrified at their slovenly manners.”
Right: She said she was horrified at their “slovenly manners.”
Better when practical: Use the full quote.
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