All the Maryland laws in one handy, searchable website.

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April 4 AP Style update

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.

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.

One word in all uses.

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4/2 AP Style update

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.
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March 27 AP Style update

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

See bullet.

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.

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 pistol or a revolver.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Saturday night special
A compact, relatively inexpensive handgun.

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-.

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.

submachine gun
A lightweight fully automatic gun firing handgun ammunition.

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March 7 AP Style update

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.

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Feb. 21 AP Style update

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.

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AP Style update

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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 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.

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.

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