Indy Stylebook

(This page contains the full, updated Indy Stylebook, with most recent entries added 5/01/13.)


a, an
Use the article “a” before consonant sounds

a historic event, a one-year term, a united stand

Use the article “an” before vowel sounds

an energy crisis, an honorable man, an NBA record, an 1890s celebration.

CSM La Plata Campus: 8730 Mitchell Road

Regency Furniture Stadium: 11765 St. Linus Drive, Waldorf

Jaycees center: 3090 Crain Highway, Waldorf

Not advisor

Use when deemed relevant to the situation. If someone is quoted as saying, I’m too old to get another job, the age is relevant. Generally, use ages for profiles, obituaries, significant career milestones and achievements unusual for the age. Do not use ages for sources commenting or providing information in an official capacity. Appropriate background, such as a mother of two young children or a World War II veteran, may suffice instead of the actual age.

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.

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).

Alaska Native
See Indians.

all-terrain vehicle
ATV is acceptable on second reference

ampersand (&)
Use if it is part of a company’s formal name or composition title:

House & Garden, Procter & Gamble, Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway

But the ampersand should not be used in place of “and” in regular copy

Andrews Air Force Base
Incorrect after 2009. Renamed “Joint Base Andrews” as of 2010.

An operating system created by Google that’s used in many smartphones and tablets.

An event cannot be described as annual until it has been held in at least two successive years

Do not use “first annual”

Instead, use “inaugural” to note that it is planned to be held annually

April Fools’ Day

Lowercase impressionism, modernism and other art styles and movements unless used in formal titles of shows or exhibits with quotation marks

Exception: Bauhaus is capitalized as the name of a school

Gothic, Renaissance and other historical periods are capitalized

Titles of paintings are enclosed in quotes:

Ex: “Mona Lisa”

Sculptures are capitalized without quotes:

Ex: The Thinker, Michelangelo’s Pieta

ashcan, ashtray
One word in all cases

assault rifle, assault weapon
Terms for military or police-style weapons that are shorter than a conventional rifle and technically known as carbines. The precise definitions may vary from one law or jurisdiction to another. Although the terms are often used interchangeably, some make the distinction that assault rifle is a military weapon with a selector switch for firing in either fully automatic or semi-automatic mode from a detachable, 10- to 30-round magazine. Comparatively lightweight and easy to aim, this carbine was designed for tactical operations and is used by some law enforcement agencies. The form: an M16 assault rifle, an AK-47 assault rifle, a Kalashnikov assault rifle. An assault weapon is the civilian version of the military carbine with a similar appearance. This gun is semi-automatic, meaning one shot per trigger pull. Ammunition magazines ranging from 10 to 30 rounds or more allow rapid-fire capability. Other common characteristics include folding stock, muzzle flash suppressor, bayonet mount and pistol grip. Assault weapon sales were largely banned under federal law from 1994 to 2004 to curb gun crimes. The form: AR-15 carbine with military-style appearance.

Each soldier carried an M16 assault rifle into combat, facing enemy troops armed with AK-47 assault rifles.
Politicians debated sales restrictions on assault weapons, including military-style AR-15 carbines for gun hobbyists.

Do not abbreviate

Capitalize as part of a proper name:

American Medical Association

Acceptable in all references to automated teller machine (recent change)

Do not use the redundant form “ATM machine”

A firearm that reloads automatically after each shot. The term should not be used to describe the rate of fire. To avoid confusion, specify fully automatic or semi-automatic rather than simply automatic. Give the type of weapon or model for clarity.

Capitalize in all references:

Bronze Star, Medal of Honor, etc.


Not backwards

B & B is acceptable on second reference

Means every other week

“semiweekly” means twice a week

Acceptable in all references to the former “Web log” (recent change)

blood alcohol content
The concentration of alcohol in blood. It is usually measured as mass per volume. For example, 0.02 percent means 0.02 grams of alcohol per 100 grams of an individual’s blood. The legal limit for intoxication in most states is 0.08 percent. The jury found he was driving with a blood alcohol level above Florida’s 0.08 limit.

board of directors, board of trustees, board of supervisors
Lowercase in all references

Only capitalize “board” when an integral part of a proper name

bolt-action rifle
A manually operated handle on the barrel opens and closes the breech, ejecting a spent round, loading another and cocking the weapon for triggering. Popular for hunting and target-shooting. Example: Remington 700. Some shotguns are bolt-action.

See shot.

The projectile fired by a rifle, pistol or machine gun. Together with metal casing, primer and propellant, it forms a cartridge.

For obits, Mass of Christian Burial, capitalized

bus, buses
Transportation vehicles. The verb forms: bus, bused, busing.

buss, busses
Kisses. The verb forms: buss, bussed, bussing.


A measurement of the diameter of the inside of a gun barrel except for most shotguns. Measurement is in either millimeters or decimal fractions of an inch. The word caliber is not used when giving the metric measurement. The forms: a 9 mm pistol, a .22-caliber rifle.

A weapon, usually supported on some type of carriage, that fires explosive projectiles. The form: a 105 mm cannon. Plural is cannons.

Capt., captain
In military uses, the first is appropriate before a name

For names of crab houses and other nonmilitary uses, the second is appropriate (spelled out)

A short, lightweight rifle, usually having a barrel length of less than 20 inches. The form: an M3 carbine.

cardholder, credit card holder

See bullet.


Acceptable in all references for chief executive officer

Use chief financial officer and chief operating officer on first reference,

CFO and COO for subsequent references

Always spell out lesser-known “C-level” positions, like:

chief administrative officer, chief risk officer

Capitalize only in specific references to the U.S. Census Bureau

Lowercase in other uses:

The census data was released Tuesday.

chairman, chairwoman
Capitalize as a formal title before a name, according to AP Style. Do not use chairperson, chair or co-chair unless it is an organization’s formal title for an office.

Charles County Nursing and Rehabilitation Center
It is now known as CCNRC Family of Care.

check-in (n. and adj.), check in (v.)

checkout (n. and adj.), check out (v.)

Chesapeake Bay
The bay on second reference, all lowercase

child care
One word, no hyphen, in all cases

In general, call children 15 or younger by their first name on second reference. Use the last name, however, if the seriousness of the story calls for it, as in a murder case, for example. For ages 16 and 17, use judgment, but generally go with the surname unless it’s a light story. Use the surname for those 18 and older.

Acceptable in all references to Central Intelligence Agency

The central organizing principle of Google Plus. Users group each other into circles so they can control, on a case-by-case basis, who can see their posts.

Class, class
In a form like “Class of 2010,” capitalize

When using a form like “the class of 2010,” do not capitalize

Cliffton on the Potomac
Two fs

A device to store multiple rounds of ammunition together as a unit, ready for insertion into the gun. Clips are generally used to load obsolete military rifles. Clip is not the correct term for a detachable magazine commonly used in modern military rifles, assault rifles, assault weapons, submachine guns and semi-automatic pistols. See magazine.

Named for Samuel Colt, it designates a make of weapon or ammunition developed for Colt handguns. The forms: a Colt .45-caliber revolver, .45 Colt ammunition.

Lowercase, for example:

The Charles County commissioners held a meeting Monday.

Capitalized only before a name, for example:

Charles County Commissioner Joe Blow spoke at Monday’s meeting.

compliment, complement
Complement is a noun and a verb denoting completeness or the process of supplementing something: The ship has a complement of 200 sailors and 20 officers. The tie complements his suit.

Compliment is a noun or a verb that denotes praise or the expression of courtesy: The captain complimented the sailors. She was flattered by the compliments on her project.

copy editor
Seldom a formal title. Also, copy editing, copy edit.

When used in the sense of two people, the word takes plural verbs and pronouns:

The couple were married Saturday and left Sunday on their honeymoon.

In the sense of a single unit, use a singular verb:

Each couple was asked to contribute $10 for the community dinner.

Also, with “couple of,” never omit “of”

Incorrect: He had a couple beers.

Correct: He had a couple of beers.

course numbers
Use Arabic numerals and capitalize the subject when used with a numeral: History 6, Philosophy 209. Otherwise, lowercase: calculus, world history.

Acceptable in all references for cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

cyber-, cyberspace
Cyberspace is a term popularized by William Gibson in the novel “Neuromancer” to refer to the digital world of computer networks. It has spawned numerous words with cyber- prefixes, but try to avoid most of these coinages. When the combining form is used, follow the general rule for prefixes and do not use a hyphen before a word starting with a consonant: cyberbullying, cybercafe.

damage, damages
Damage is destruction: Authorities said damage from the storm would total more than $1 billion.
Damages are awarded by a court as compensation for injury, loss, etc.: The woman received $25,000 in damages.

Don’t use days of the week with dates

But if the day is less than a week away, use only the day

day care
Two words, no hyphen, in all cases

Not in AP stylebook. Merriam Webster says no hyphen, so apply AP rules for prefixes, namely hyphen only when the first letter of combining word is “e.”

Use possessive for bachelor’s degree, master’s degree

Exception: associate degree

Use lowercase for bachelor of arts, master of science (exception to AP Style)

Do not say “bachelor of science degree”

Use either bachelor of science or bachelor’s degree

Do not capitalize arthritis, emphysema, leukemia, pneumonia, etc.
When a disease is known by the name of a person identified with it, capitalize only the individual’s name: Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, etc.
Avoid such expressions as: He is battling cancer. She is a stroke victim. Use neutral, precise descriptions: He has stomach cancer. She is a stroke patient.

“don’t ask, don’t tell”
The policy that once barred gays from serving openly in the military.

do’s and don’ts

for a trailer. Not in stylebook, note the hyphen.

Down syndrome
Not Down’s syndrome

drive-thru (n. and adj.)

The preferred term for people with a medical or genetic condition resulting in short stature, plural is dwarfs


each other, one another
Two people look at each other; more than two look at one another

Acceptable in all references for electronic mail. Many email or Internet addresses use symbols such as the at symbol (@), or the tilde (~) that cannot be transmitted correctly by some computers. When needed, spell them out and provide an explanatory editor’s note. Use a hyphen with other e- terms: e-book, e-business, e-commerce.

ensure, insure, assure
Use ensure to mean guarantee: Steps were taken to ensure accuracy.

Use insure for references to insurance: The policy insures his life.

Use assure to mean to make sure or give confidence: She assured us the statement was accurate.

Acceptable in all references to baseball’s earned run average

Punctuate the common abbreviations “i.e,” “e.g.” and “etc.” based on their meanings: i.e. means “that is to say” (id est), e.g. means “for example” (exempli gratia) and etc. means “and the rest” (et cetera) (and yes, I had to look them up to get the Latin)

So, i.e. and e.g. are most of the time going to be set off by commas

And etc. is going to be used as the last item in a series, therefore not set off by a comma

ethnic cleansing
Euphemism for a campaign to force a population from a region by expulsions and other violence often including killings and rapes. The term came to prominence in former Yugoslavia during the 1990s to whitewash atrocities of warring ethnic groups, then usage spread to other conflicts. AP does not use “ethnic cleansing” on its own. It must be enclosed in quotes, attributed and explained. Don’t use the term as a keyword (slug) or in headlines.

events (time, date, place)
When listing the date and time, time always goes before the day


farmers market
No apostrophe, unless part of a proper name that uses the apostrophe

Acceptable in all references to Federal Bureau of Investigation

Festival at Waldorf
Not Festival “of” Waldorf

fiance, fiancee
First is masculine, second is feminine, no accent marks


firsthand (adj. and adv.)

fiscal year
Say fiscal 2010, not fiscal year 2010 (it’s redundant)

Do not use FY 2010 or FY ‘10

flash mob
A gathering of people performing an action in a public place designated by a text message, email, social media post or other notification sent to the participants. Organizers of flash mobs are often aiming to surprise passers-by by performing spontaneous and seemingly pointless actions en masse.

flood plain

Most food names are lowercase:

apples, cheese, peanut butter

Capitalize brand names and trademarks:

Roquefort cheese, Tabasco sauce

Most proper nouns or adjectives are capitalized when they occur in a food name:

Boston brown bread, Russian dressing, Swiss cheese, Waldorf salad

Lowercase is used when the meaning does not depend on the proper noun or adjective:

french fries

The same principles apply to foreign names for foods:

mousse de saumon (salmon mousse), pomme de terre (literally, “apple of the earth” — for potato), salade Russe (Russian salad)

foodborne (adj.)

former titles
Do not capitalize before a name, unless referring to a military title that still applies or former presidents of the United States

Not forwards

Fussy or showy dress or ornamentations.

full-body scanner

full time, full-time
Hyphenate only when used as a compound modifier:

She works full time. She has a full-time job.

fully automatic
A firearm that fires continuously as long as the trigger is depressed. Examples include machine guns and submachine guns.


The measure of the size of a shotgun. Gauge is expressed in terms of the number per pound of round lead balls with a diameter equal to the size of the barrel. The bigger the number, the smaller the shotgun.|
The forms: a 12-gauge shotgun, a .410 shotgun. The .410 actually is a caliber, but commonly is called a gauge. The ball leaving the barrel is 0.41″ in diameter.

A gantlet is a flogging ordeal, literally or figuratively

A gauntlet is a glove:

To throw down the gauntlet means to issue a challenge

To take up the gauntlet means to accept a challenge

Google Hangout
A function within Google Plus that allows users to have live, face-to-face, multi-person video chats with chosen participants. Google Hangouts On Air are Hangouts in which the video stream displays publicly on the Google Plus profile page of the user who launched the chat. They can also be displayed on the user’s YouTube channel or website.

Acceptable in all references for grade-point average.

graduate from
Graduate from, not just graduate

Right: She graduated from basic training.

Wrong: She graduated basic training.

Great Recession
Began in December 2007 and became the longest and deepest since the Great Depression Occurred after losses on subprime mortgages battered the U.S. housing market

Gulf, Gulf Coast
Capitalize when referring to the region of the United States lying along the Gulf of Mexico.

Gypsy, Gypsies
Capitalize references to the nomadic ethnic group also known as Roma. Either is acceptable. In Europe, where most Gypsies live, they are widely referred to as Roma. The word should be explained: Gypsies, also known as Roma. Lowercase otherwise: gypsy cab, gypsy-cab driver, gypsy moth.


handheld (n.), hand-held (adj.)

A pistol or a revolver.


The use of a number sign (#) in a tweet to convey the subject a user is writing about so that it can be indexed and accessed in other users’ feeds. If someone is writing about the Super Bowl, for example, the use of #superbowl could be an appropriate hashtag. No space is used between the hashtag and the accompanying search term. Hashtags are sometimes used on social networks other than Twitter, such as Instagram.


health care
Two words, no hyphen, in all cases

high-five (n. and v.)

high-rise (n. and adj.)

his, her
Do not presume maleness when constructing a sentence, but use the pronoun “his” when an indefinite antecedent may be male or female:

A reporter tries to protect his sources.

home page
Two words, lowercase

The “front” page of a particular website

homicide, murder, manslaughter
Homicide is a legal term for slaying or killing.
Murder is malicious, premeditated homicide. Some states define certain homicides as murder if the killing occurs in the course of armed robbery, rape, etc.
Generally speaking, manslaughter is homicide without malice or premeditation.
A homicide should not be described as murder unless a person has been convicted of that charge.
Do not say that a victim was murdered until someone has been convicted in court. Instead, say that a victim was killed or slain. Do not write that X was charged with murdering Y. Use the formal charge “murder“ and, if not already in the story, specify the nature of the killing, shooting, stabbing, beating, poisoning, drowning, etc.: Jones was charged with murder in the shooting of his girlfriend.

An officer pulled over 29-year-old John White, who was arrested and charged with murder, according to Andrew Johnson, the county sheriff’s spokesman.
The 66-year-old amateur photographer has pleaded not guilty to four counts of first-degree murder for the slaying of four women.
The killings occurred between 1977 and 1979. Prosecutors say Adams raped, tortured and robbed some of them before killing them.
Cook County Sheriff James Jones says a shooting that left one woman dead and a man injured appears to be a murder-suicide.

See execute and assassin, killer, murderer.

The traditional meaning is in a hopeful manner. Also acceptable is the modern usage: it’s hoped, we hope.
Correct: “You’re leaving soon?” she asked hopefully.
Correct: Hopefully, we’ll be home before dark.

A telephone line for use in an emergency crisis, especially between government leaders.

A cannon shorter than a gun of the same caliber employed to fire projectiles at relatively high angles at a target, such as opposing forces behind a ridge. The form: a 105 mm howitzer.

husband, wife
Regardless of sexual orientation, husband or wife is acceptable in all references to individuals in any legally recognized marriage. Spouse or partner may be used if requested.

hydraulic fracturing
A technique used by the energy industry to extract oil and gas from rock by injecting high-pressure mixtures of water, sand or gravel and chemicals. The short form is fracking, a term considered pejorative by the industry.


illegal immigration
Entering or residing in a country in violation of civil or criminal law. Except in direct quotes essential to the story, use illegal only to refer to an action, not a person: illegal immigration, but not illegal immigrant. Acceptable variations include living in or entering a country illegally or without legal permission.

Except in direct quotations, do not use the terms illegal alien, an illegal, illegals or undocumented.

Do not describe people as violating immigration laws without attribution.

Specify wherever possible how someone entered the country illegally and from where. Crossed the border?  Overstayed a visa? What nationality?

People who were brought into the country as children should not be described as having immigrated illegally. For people granted a temporary right to remain in the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, use temporary resident status, with details on the program lower in the story.

Abbreviation for “incorporated” as part of a corporate name

Do not set off with commas, according to AP Style

American Indian or Native American is acceptable for those in the U.S. Follow the person’s preference. Where possible, be precise and use the name of the tribe: He is a Navajo commissioner. In stories about American Indians, such words 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.

A social network in which users share photos they’ve taken, usually on a smartphone or other phone, with people who have chosen to follow them. Some users apply filters to Instagram images to make them appear old or otherwise stylized, and hashtags are sometimes used to help users find photos related to a particular topic. Instagram photos are frequently shared onto other social networks. Facebook agreed to buy Instagram in April 2012.

Always capitalized

Acceptable in all references for intelligence quotient.

The nation formerly called Persia. It is not an Arab country. The official name of the country is the Islamic Republic of Iran. Uppercase Islamic Revolution when referring to the 1979 event. The people are Iranians, not Persians or Irani. The official language is Persian, also known as Farsi.

An advocate or supporter of a political movement that favors reordering government and society in accordance with laws prescribed by Islam. Do not use as a synonym for Islamic fighters, militants, extremists or radicals, who may or may not be Islamists.

Where possible, be specific and use the name of militant affiliations: al-Qaida-linked, Hezbollah, Taliban, etc. Those who view the Quran as a political model encompass a wide range of Muslims, from mainstream politicians to militants known as jihadi.

Acceptable in all references for intravenous.


Greater Waldorf Jaycees Community Center, but Jaycees center on second reference.

Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum
Retain the ampersand.

Joint Base Andrews
Correct name for the former Andrews Air Force Base as of 2010.

Both noun and verb, with hyphen


Indian city formerly known as Calcutta.

Ku Klux Klan
A secretive society organized in the South after the Civil War to assert white supremacy, often using violence. The organization splintered, and not all successor groups use the full name. But each may be referred to as Ku Klux Klan, and KKK may be used on second reference.



Latin endings
Latin-root words ending in “us” change to “i” when made plural

alumnus, alumni (prospectuses, syllabusesare exceptions)

Most ending in “a” change to “ae” when made plural

alumna, alumnae (formula, formulas is an exception)

Most ending in “um” add “s” when made plural

memorandums, referendums, stadiums

Among those that still use the Latin ending:

addenda, curricula, media

Acceptable on first reference for Light-emitting diode.

lever-action rifle
A handle on the stock ejects and loads cartridges and cocks the rifle for triggering. A firearm often associated with the Old West. Example: Winchester 94.

A trademark for a software program for setting up and maintaining discussion groups through e-mail.


M1, M16
These and similar combinations of a letter and figure(s) designate rifles used by the military. The forms: an M1 rifle, an M16 rifle.

machine gun
A fully automatic gun that fires as long as the trigger is depressed and bullets are chambered. Such a weapon is generally so large and heavy that it rests on the ground or a mount. A submachine gun is hand-held. The form: a .50-caliber Browning machine gun.


The ammunition storage and feeding device within or attached to a firearm. It may be fixed to the firearm or detachable. It is not a clip.

A trademark for a type of high-powered cartridge with a larger case and a larger powder charge than other cartridges of approximately the same caliber. The form: a .357 Magnum, a .44 Magnum.

mandarin orange
Lowercase, like the color not the language


may, might
May and might are not always interchangeable, and you may want may more often than you think. If in doubt, try may first. You need might in the past tense:

I may go to Leeds later becomes, in the past: I might have gone to Leeds later. And in indirect past speech it becomes: I said I might go to Leeds later.

Conditional sentences using the subjunctive also need might.

Thus: If I were to go to Leeds, I might have to stand all the way.

This could be rephrased: If I go to Leeds, I may have to stand all the way.

Conditional sentences stating something contrary to fact, however, need might:

If pigs had wings, birds might raise their eyebrows.
Do NOT write: George Bush might believe in education, but he thinks the people of Greece are Grecians.

It SHOULD be: George Bush may believe in education, but he thinks the people of Greece are Grecians.

Only when putting forward a hypothesis that may or may not be true are they interchangeable, thus: If George Bush studies hard, he may/might learn the difference.

Lowercase, acceptable abbreviation for medical evacuation

mental illness
Do not describe an individual as mentally ill unless it is clearly pertinent to a story and the diagnosis is properly sourced.

When used, identify the source for the diagnosis. Seek firsthand knowledge; ask how the source knows. Don’t rely on hearsay or speculate on a diagnosis. Specify the time frame for the diagnosis and ask about treatment. A person’s condition can change over time, so a diagnosis of mental illness might not apply anymore. Avoid anonymous sources. On-the-record sources can be family members, mental health professionals, medical authorities, law enforcement officials and court records. Be sure they have accurate information to make the diagnosis. Provide examples of symptoms.

Mental illness is a general condition. Specific disorders are types of mental illness and should be used whenever possible: He was diagnosed with schizophrenia, according to court documents. She was diagnosed with anorexia, according to her parents. He was treated for depression.

Some common mental disorders: (Mental illnesses or disorders are lowercase, except when known by the name of a person identified with it: Asperger’s syndrome.)

Autism spectrum disorders. These include Asperger’s syndrome, a mild form of autism. Many experts consider autism a developmental disorder, not a mental illness.

Bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness)


Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)


Here is a link from the National Institute of Mental Health that can be used as a reference:

Do not use derogatory terms, such as insane, crazy/crazed, nuts or deranged, unless they are part of a quotation that is essential to the story.

Do not assume that mental illness is a factor in a violent crime, and verify statements to that effect. A past history of mental illness is not necessarily a reliable indicator. Studies have shown that the vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent, and experts say most people who are violent do not suffer from mental illness.

Avoid unsubstantiated statements by witnesses or first responders attributing violence to mental illness. A first responder often is quoted as saying, without direct knowledge, that a crime was committed by a person with a “history of mental illness.”  Such comments should always be attributed to someone who has knowledge of the person’s history and can authoritatively speak to its relevance to the incident.

Avoid descriptions that connote pity, such as afflicted with, suffers from or victim of. Rather, he has obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Double-check specific symptoms and diagnoses. Avoid interpreting behavior common to many people as symptoms of mental illness. Sadness, anger, exuberance and the occasional desire to be alone are normal emotions experienced by people who have mental illness as well as those who don’t.

Wherever possible, rely on people with mental illness to talk about their own diagnoses.

Avoid using mental health terms to describe non-health issues. Don’t say that an awards show, for example, was schizophrenic.

Use the term mental hospital, not asylum.

See Asperger’s syndrome; disabled, handicapped; phobia; post-traumatic stress disorder.

Considered offensive when used to describe a person of short stature, dwarf is the preferred term for people with that medical or genetic condition (see dwarf)

mpg, mph
Acceptable in all references to miles per gallon, miles per hour


Device used to launch a mortar shell; it is the shell, not the mortar, that is fired.

A heavy, large-caliber shoulder firearm fired by means of a matchlock, a wheel lock, a flintlock or a percussion lock. Its ammunition is a musket ball.


Navy bases
Use “the naval base in Indian Head (or Dahlgren, Va.)”

Use the jargon-laden Navy names only when there is a distinction to be made

Use the Navy style for administrative functions on the bases

(i.e., Naval Surface Warfare Center, Indian Head Division; NSWC, IHD, is the new acronym)

Nongovernmental organization, usually refers to a nonprofit, humanitarian organization

Use NGO sparingly and only on second reference

Use as the abbreviation for “number” in conjunction with a figure to indicate position or rank:

No. 1 man, No. 3 choice

No hyphen, one word

In general, spell out one through nine: The Yankees finished second. He had nine months to go. 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. Use figures for:

– Academic course numbers: History 6, Philosophy 209.

– Addresses: 210 Main St. Spell out numbered streets nine and under: 5 Sixth Avenue; 3012 50th St. See addresses.

– Ages: a 6-year-old girl; an 8-year-old law; the 7-year-old house. Use hyphens for ages expressed as adjectives before a noun or as substitutes for a noun. A 5-year-old boy, but the boy is 5 years old. The boy, 5, has a sister, 10. The race is for 3-year-olds. The woman is in her 30s. 30-something, but Thirty-something to start a sentence. See ages.

– Planes, ships and spacecraft designations: B-2 bomber, Queen Elizabeth 2, QE2, Apollo 9, Viking 2. (Do not use hyphens.) An exception: Air Force One, the president’s plane. Use Roman numerals if they are part of the official designation: Titan I, Titan II. See aircraft names; boats, ships; spacecraft designations.

– Centuries. Use figures for numbers 10 or higher: 21st century. Spell out for numbers nine and lower: fifth century. (Note lowercase.)

For proper names, follow the organization’s usage: 20th Century Fox, Twentieth Century Fund.

– Court decisions: The Supreme Court ruled 5-4, a 5-4 decision. The word to is not needed, except in quotations: “The court ruled 5 to 4.”

– 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.

– Decimals, percentages and fractions with numbers larger than 1: 7.2 magnitude quake, 3½ laps, 3.7 percent interest, 4 percentage points.

Decimalization should not exceed two places in most text material. An exception: blood alcohol content, expressed in three decimals, as in 0.056. For amounts less than 1, precede the decimal with a zero: The cost of living rose 0.03 percent. When the decimal is 1 or less, the type of measurement should be singular: 0.35 meter, 0.55 cubic foot, 0.75 kilometer. Spell out fractions less than 1, using hyphens between the words: two-thirds, four-fifths. In quotations, use figures for fractions: “He was 2½ laps behind with four to go.” See decimal units; fractions; percent.

– Dimensions, to indicate depth, height, length and width. Examples: He is 5 feet 6 inches tall, the 5-foot-6 man (“inch” is understood), the 5-foot man, the basketball team signed a 7-footer. The car is 17 feet long, 6 feet wide and 5 feet high. The rug is 9 feet by 12 feet, the 9-by-12 rug. A 9-inch snowfall. Exception: two-by-four. Spell out the noun, which refers to any length of building lumber 2 inches thick by 4 inches wide.

 See dimensions.

– Distances: He walked 4 miles. He missed a 3-foot putt.

– Golf clubs: 3-wood, 7-iron, 3-hybrid (note hyphen).

– Highway designations: Interstate 5, U.S. Highway 1, state Route 1A. (Do not abbreviate Route and do not hyphenate.)

 See highway designations.

– Mathematical usage: Multiply by 4, divide by 6. He added 2 and 2 but got 5.

– Military ranks, used as titles with names, military terms and weapons: Petty Officer 2nd Class Alan Markow, Spc. Alice Moreno, 1st Sgt. David Triplett, M16 rifle, 9 mm (note space) pistol, 6th Fleet. In military ranks, spell out the figure when it is used after the name or without a name: Smith was a second lieutenant. The goal is to make first sergeant. See military units.

– Millions, billions, trillions: Use a figure-word combination. 1 million people; $2 billion, NOT one million/two billion. (Also note no hyphen linking numerals and the word million, billion or trillion.) See millions, billions, trillions; dollars.

– Monetary units: 5 cents, $5 bill, 8 euros, 4 pounds. See cents.

– Odds, proportions and ratios: 9-1 longshot; 3 parts cement to 1 part water; a 1-4 chance, but one chance in three. See betting odds; proportions; ratios.

– Rank: He was my No. 1 choice. (Note abbreviation for “Number”). Do not use in names of schools or in street addresses: Public School 19. Exception: No. 10 Downing St., the residence of Britain’s prime minister.

– School grades. Use figures for grades 10 and above: 10th grade. Spell out for first through ninth grades: fourth grade, fifth-grader (note hyphen).

– Sequential designations: Page 1, Page 20A. They were out of sizes 4 and 5; magnitude 6 earthquake; Rooms 3 and 4; Chapter 2; line 1 but first line; Act 3, Scene 4, but third act, fourth scene; Game 1, but best of seven. See act numbers; chapters; earthquakes; line numbers; page numbers; scene numbers.

– Political districts: Ward 9, 9th Precinct, 3rd Congressional District, 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. See congressional districts; political divisions.

– Recipes: 2 tablespoons of sugar to 1 cup of milk. See recipes.

– Speeds: 7 mph, winds of 5 to 10 mph, winds of 7 to 9 knots.

– Sports scores, standings and standards: The Dodgers defeated the Phillies 10-3 (No comma between the team and the score); in golf, 3 up, but a 3-up lead; led 3-2; a 6-1-2 record (six wins, one loss, two ties); par 3; 5 handicap, 5-under-par 67 but he was 5 under par (or 5 under, with “par” understood). In narrative, spell out nine and under except for yard lines in football and individual and team statistical performances: The ball was on the 5-yard line. Seventh hole. Three-point play, but 3-point shot. In statistical performances, hyphenate as a modifier: He completed 8 of 12 passes. He made 5 of 6 (shots is understood). He was 5-for-12 passing. He had a 3-for-5 day. He was 3-for-5. He went 3-for-5 (batting, shooting, etc., is understood).

– Temperatures: Use figures, except zero. It was 8 degrees below zero or minus 8. The temperature dropped from 38 to 8 in two hours.

See temperatures.

– 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 (two 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. See times; time sequences.

– Votes: The bill was defeated by a vote of 6 to 4, but by a two-vote margin.

Spell out:

– At the start of a sentence: Forty years was a long time to wait. Fifteen to 20 cars were involved in the accident. The only exception is years: 1992 was a very good year. See years.

– In indefinite and casual uses: Thanks a million. He walked a quarter of a mile. One at a time; a thousand clowns; one day we will know; an eleventh-hour decision; dollar store.

– In fanciful usage or proper names: Chicago Seven, Fab Four, Big Three automakers, Final Four, the Four Tops.

– In formal language, rhetorical quotations and figures of speech: “Fourscore and seven years ago …” Twelve Apostles, Ten Commandments, high-five, Day One.

– In fractions less than one that are not used as modifiers: reduced by one-third, he made three-fourth of his shots.

Roman Numerals
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. Except in formal reference, pro football Super Bowls should be identified by the year, rather than the Roman numerals III.

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.

Cardinal Numbers
Numbers used in counting or showing how many (2, 40, 627, etc.) are called cardinal numbers. The following separate entries provide additional guidance for cardinal numbers:

amendments to the Constitution


court names


election returns



handicaps (sports)

latitude and longitude




serial numbers

telephone numbers


Some other punctuation and usage examples:

– 3 ounces

– 4-foot-long

– 4-foot fence

– “The president’s speech lasted 18 1/2 minutes,” she said.

– DC-10 but 747B

– the 1980s, the ’80s

– the House voted 230-205 (fewer than 1,000 votes)

– Jimmy Carter outpolled Gerald Ford 40,827,292 to 39,146,157 (more than 1,000 votes)

– Carter outpolled Ford 10 votes to 2 votes in Little Junction (to avoid confusion with ratio)

– No. 3 choice, but Public School 3

– a pay increase of 12-15 percent.

Or: a pay increase of between 12 and 15 percent But: from $12 million to $14 million

– a ratio of 2-to-1, a 2-1 ratio

– 1 in 4 voters

– seven houses 7 miles apart

– He walked 4 miles.

– minus 10, zero, 60 degrees

OTHER USES. For uses not covered by these listings, spell out whole numbers below 10, and use figures for 10 and above: They had three sons and two daughters. They had a fleet of 10 station wagons and two buses.

IN A SERIES. Apply the standard guidelines: They had 10 dogs, six cats and 97 hamsters. They had four four-room houses, 10 three-room houses and 12 10-room houses.


off of
The “of” is unnecessary

Preferred: He fell off the bed.

Not: He fell off of the bed.

But remember “couple of” (see couple entry in Indy Stylebook 2010)


Acronym for political action committee. Raises money and makes contributions to campaigns of political candidates or parties. At the federal level, contribution amounts are limited by law and may not come from corporations or labor unions. Enforcement overseen by the Federal Election Commission. PAC acceptable on first reference; spell out in body of story. A super PAC is a political action committee that may raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, including from corporations and unions, to campaign independently for candidates for federal office. Its activities must be reported to the FEC, but are not otherwise regulated if not coordinated with the candidate or campaign.

part time, part-time
Hyphenate only when used as a compound modifier:

She works part time. She has a part-time job.

passive voice
Avoid use in all circumstances

Incorrect: “The plan was approved by the commissioners.”

Correct: “The commissioners approved the plan.”

Capitalize as part of a proper name: the Florida Peninsula, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the Korean Peninsula, the Indochina Peninsula.

An irrational, uncontrollable fear, often a form of mental illness. Examples: acrophobia, a fear of heights, and claustrophobia, a fear of being in small, enclosed spaces. Do not use in political or social contexts: homophobia, Islamophobia.

One word as noun and adjective, two words as verb

A social network in which users collect and share images from the Web in theme-based collections, also known as pinboards or simply boards. Images that are shared on Pinterest — or pinned — are sometimes referred to as pins.

A handgun that can be a single shot or a semi-automatic. Differs from a revolver in that the chamber and barrel are one integral part. Its size is measured in calibers. The form: a .45-caliber pistol.

postgame, pregame

A trademark for small pieces of paper with an adhesive strip on the back that can be attached to documents.

prime time, prime-time
First is noun, second is adjective


Acceptable in all references for Parent Teacher Association


Identification by race is pertinent:

In biographical and announcement stories that involve significant, groundbreaking or historic events, such as being elected U.S. president, named to the U.S. Supreme Court or other notable occurrences. Barack Obama is the first black U.S. president. Sonia Sotomayor is the first Hispanic justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Jeremy Lin is the first American-born NBA player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent.

Suspects sought by the police or missing person cases using police or other credible, detailed descriptions. The racial reference should be removed when the individual is apprehended or found.

When reporting a demonstration or disturbance involving race or such issues as civil rights or slavery.

In other situations with racial overtones, use news judgment.

Do not use racially derogatory terms unless they are part of a quotation that is essential to the story.

rack, wrack
The noun rack applies to various types of framework; the verb rack means to arrange on a rack, to torture, trouble or torment: He was placed on the rack. She racked her brain.

The noun wrack means ruin or destruction, and generally is confined to the phrase wrack and ruin and wracked with doubt (or pain). Also, nerve-wracking.

The verb wrack has substantially the same meaning as the verb rack, the latter being preferred.

The term “real estate agent” is preferred

Use only if there is reason to indicate a member of the National Association of Realtors

A social network that features message board-style pages, organized into topic-based pages called subreddits, where users share content and converse about it. Users can vote up or down individual conversation threads and comments, determining which ones are most prominently displayed on the site.

The practice, on Twitter, of forwarding a message or link from someone else to your followers. Users can either formally retweet to make the forwarded message appear exactly as written by the original user or use the informal convention of “RT @username:” to share the tweet and edit or add comment. Spelled out in all references, though common usage on Twitter abbreviates to RT. If you amend the tweet before forwarding, use the abbreviation MT for “modified tweet.”

For AP staffers, retweets, like tweets, should not be written in a way that looks like an expression of personal opinion on the issues of the day. However, AP staffers can judiciously retweet opinionated material by making clear it is being reported, much like a quote in a story. Add this context before the RT in the tweet, or write a new tweet that includes the original in quote marks.

Original tweet example:
@jonescampaign: smith’s policies would destroy our schools

Examples amended for AP retweet:
Jones campaign now denouncing Smith on education. RT @jonescampaign: smith’s policies would destroy our schools

A tweet from @jonescampaign contends, “smith’s policies would destroy our schools.”

A handgun. Differs from a pistol in that cartridges are held in chambers in a cylinder that revolves through the barrel. The form: a .45-caliber revolver.

A firearm designed or made to be fired from the shoulder and having a rifled bore. It uses bullets or cartridges for ammunition. Its size is measured in calibers. The form: a .22-caliber rifle.

Capitalize references to the nomadic ethnic group also known as Gypsies. Either is acceptable. In the United States, they are widely referred to as Gypsies. The word should be explained: Roma, also known as Gypsies.

room numbers
Use figures and capitalize “room” when used with a figure:

Room 2, Room 211


same-sex marriage
The correct form; do not use gay marriage.

The capital of Yemen. The double-a retains the Arabic pronunciation of San`a, AP’s former spelling.

Use only the initials when referring to Scholastic Aptitude Test or Scholastic Assessment Test

Saturday night special
A compact, relatively inexpensive handgun.

seat belt
two words

The rules in prefixes apply, but in general, no hyphen.

Some examples: semifinal, semiofficial, semi-invalid and semitropical, but semi-automatic.

A firearm that fires only once for each pull of the trigger. It reloads after each shot. The form: a semi-automatic rifle, a semi-automatic weapon, a semi-automatic pistol. The hyphen is an exception to general guidance against hyphenating words formed with semi-.

serviceman, servicewoman
But service member.

The word applies to military or naval ammunition and to shotgun ammunition. For small arms, bullet or round is the common term for ammunition.

Small lead or steel pellets fired by shotguns. A shotgun shell usually contains 1 to 2 ounces of shot. Do not use shot interchangeably with buckshot, which refers only to the largest shot sizes.

A firearm typically used to fire small spherical pellets called shot. Shotguns usually have a smooth bore barrel, but some contain a rifled barrel, which is used to fire a single projectile. Size is measured according to gauge, except for the .410, which is measured according to caliber, meaning the ball leaving the barrel is 0.41″ in diameter. The form: a 12-gauge shotgun, a .410 shotgun.

A service that allows users to communicate by voice, video and instant message over the Internet. Skype is used informally as a verb for using the service, particularly when communicating on video.

Gotta, gonna, coulda, woulda, shoulda, etc.

Do not use in news stories, unless for a very specific purpose

An advanced cellphone that allows for email, Web browsing and downloadable applications.

split verbs
Avoid, especially with complicated verbs and modifiers

Preferred: She never will be running in the race again.

Not: She will never be running in the race again.

Hyphenated as a transitive verb, according to Merriam-Webster Unabridged

stand-alone (adj.)

As in comedy, with hyphen

One word in all cases

submachine gun
A lightweight fully automatic gun firing handgun ammunition.

Acceptable on first reference for sport utility vehicle (new change)

Swan Point Yacht & Country Club
Retain the ampersand.

swine flu
Use this term, but clarify with: “also known as the H1N1 virus,” or a similar phrase


A touch-screen device, such as an Apple iPad, Amazon Kindle Fire or Google Nexus 7, that can be connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi or cellular data networks.

Trademark for stun gun/acronym for Thomas A. Swift’s Electric Rifle

Use the generic form if the brand is uncertain

Don’t use verbs like tasered

Exception: When verb forms appear in direct quotations, use lowercase

tax-free (adj.)

tea party
Populist movement in the United States that opposes the Washington political establishment and espouses conservative and libertarian philosophy, including reduced government spending, lower taxes and reduction of the national debt and the federal budget deficit. Adherents are tea partyers. Formally named groups in the movement are capitalized: Tea Party Express.

text, texted, texting
Acceptable in all usages as a verb for “to send a text message”

that, which
Use “that” and “which” in referring to inanimate objects and to animals without a name

Use “that” for essential clauses, important to the meaning of a sentence, and without commas:

I remember the day that we met.

Use “which” for nonessential clauses, where the pronoun is less necessary, and use commas:

The team, which finished last a year ago, is in first place.

the, this
Unless you are specifying a difference between two items, don’t use “this,” use “the”

Wrong: The school system is trying a new program to make kids smarter. This program involves electrodes and restraints.

Right: The school system is trying a new program to make kids smarter. The program involves electrodes and restraints.

Used too often instead of “in” or “during”

Use to emphasize that something is essentially universal in an area

Wrong: “There are Catholic schools throughout Charles County.”

Right: “There is oxygen throughout Charles County.”

thumbs-up, thumbs-down

Or until, but not ‘til

time element
Use the days of the week, not today or tonight, in print copy

Use Monday, Tuesday, etc., for days of the week within seven days before or after current date

Use the month and a figure where appropriate (see months for forms and punctuation)

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

Right: He said he finished the job Tuesday. She will return Tuesday.

Avoid awkward placements of the time element, particularly those that suggest the day of the week is the object of a transitive verb

Wrong: The police jailed Tuesday.

Potential remedies include the use of the word on (see the on entry), rephrasing the sentence, or placing the time element in a different sentence

tip off (v.) tipoff (n. and adj.)

For long titles, usually four words or longer, place after the name:

Jane Smith, representative for Mothers Against Drunk Driving in La Plata…

Short titles, usually three words or less, can be placed before the name:

GEICO employee John Doe…

For the titles of presentations, use composition style per the AP Stylebook:

e.g., for seminars, speeches at events, etc.

Not “towards”

town of Indian Head
Lowercase “town,” do NOT follow its website’s style (Town of Indian Head)

Toys R Us

trade show

trick or treat (n.)

trick-or-treat (v.)

trick-or-treat (adj.)


Do not capitalize if used before a name

tune up (v.), tuneup (n. and adj.)


Use periods, as with U.S.

One word in all uses.

Not upwards

No periods in the abbreviated form for United States of America

U.S. 301
Not Route 301, U.S. Route 301


Public transit offered by the Charles County government

Not “VanGo”

voice mail
Two words in all cases


Capitalize as part of the name of a specific conflict: the Afghanistan War, the Iraq War, the Civil War, the Cold War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the War of 1812, World War I, World War II, Gulf War.

Washington, D.C.
Per stylebook on first reference

“the District” on second reference

Gun is an acceptable term for any firearm. Note the following definitions and forms in dealing with weapons and ammunition:
anti-aircraft: A cannon or other weapon designed for defense against air attack. The form: a 105 mm anti-aircraft gun.
artillery: A carriage-mounted cannon.

A location on the World Wide Web that maintains one or more pages at a specific address

Also, webcam, webcast, webmaster

But as a short form and in terms with separate words:

the Web, Web page, Web feed

whiffle ball
The generic is whiffle ball. The trademark is Wiffle.

No hyphen, for example:

citywide, continentwide, countrywide, industrywide, nationwide, statewide, worldwide

Use square miles to describe the size of fires. The fire has burned nearly 4 square miles of hilly brush land. Use acres only when the fire is less than a square mile. When possible, be descriptive: The fire is the size of Denver.

Lowercase wine varietals, such as:

cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay

Capitalize regional names, such as:

Bordeaux, Sauternes, Chablis

workbook, workday, workforce, workhorse, workout, workplace, workstation, workweek

The preferred spelling when used to say a person is wracked with doubt or wracked with pain. Also, nerve-wracking.


zip line

911 call
Acceptable for the U.S. emergency call number.


To be used in all references in the Maryland Independent to describe the attacks in the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001.


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