Monday, May 29, 2006

Farmers Market - and other sticky points in AP style

Here's are some other good ones from the AP Ask the Editor that clear up points that arise occasionally:

Does the term Farmers Market use an apostrophe after the s? Or should we not use one at all? – from Ohio: AP style, based on information from the Washington State Farmers Market Association and the USDA, is "farmers market" with no apostrophe. (Generally, the farmers do not own the market.)

(Note from Doug: You will find wide variations and assertions on the Web about farmers vs. farmers'. Either can be considered correct. The farmers' style is called the genitive descriptive, and there is a fair amount of debate about using it in things like teachers(') college, etc. The AP style on farmers conforms to the wire service's general guide that when something is for someone or something else, then no apostrophe. Thus teachers college (a college for teachers), citizens band radio (a radio band for citizens), Yankees first baseman (first baseman for the Yankees) and farmers market (a market for farmers -- note that AP points out "generally, the farmers do not own the market."). This AP style is not definitive, however, if you are not working for AP or an organization that follows AP style. Farmers' can just as easily be supported in a house style. Just be consistent.)

Please address "will be held," as in "The meeting will be held Saturday." Our copy desk claims it is "redundant and wrong," and removes the "held" in all cases, even when it sounds awkward. – from Redding, CA: It does read awkwardly without the "held." We'd use it. (Sorry, Norm. I have to disagree with you there. The meeting will be Saturday makes perfect sense to me without "held." That falls into the same category as saying x is "located at" y -- located is almost never needed. Of course, even better would be, when possible, to recast more directly: The group will meet Saturday." An "on Saturday" could be used if there was any confusion the group is meeting someone named Saturday.)

I'm wondering if it is accurate to refer to a doctor of chiropractic medicine with a Dr. in front of his or her name. The Stylebook says to use Dr. with a doctor of osteopathy, which is similar to but not the same as a chiropractic doctor. And while some states require a four-year undergraduate degree before attending chiropractic school, other states just require a two-year degree.: AP does not use the title "Dr." for chiropractors.

There's a good deal of confusion and no apparent widespread agreement among some fine newspapers about reporting blood alcohol content. Is it proper to call a BAC figure as a percentage? The AP at times refers to an individual's blood alcohol content as 0.24 percent, for example, and at other times treats the figure without the "percent.'' Thank you.: AP generally uses the blood content level figure without percent, as it appears to be familiar to readers (in context). However, both forms are acceptable. (Note from Doug: Generally, it is best to use it without the percent, as it really does not refer to a percentage as normal people use it, but to a volume measurement. Percentage means something different to toxiclogists. But please, do use the zero before the decimal to avoid confusion.)

In regards to your answer on the bulleted list, do you use periods even if the line item is only one word? – from Portland, OR: Yes, AP style on lists is to use a period at the end of each section, even if the "section" is one word.

I read an AP dispatch today that cited the potential for millions of dollars of "damages" to Florida's economy if a hurricane breached dikes on Lake Okeechobee. Shouldn't that be "damage"? My understanding is that storms (or other natural disasters) cause damage, courts award damages. – from Toledo, OH: You understand correctly. The singular form is defined as injury to a person or thing, the plural is a legal term for moneys claimed by or ordererd to a person to compensate for that injury or loss.

In a sentence such as "The store was built two and a half years ago." would two and a half be spelled out or written in numerals (2 1/2)? – from Bend, Ore.: Whenever possible -- depending on available type fonts -- use figures for precise amounts larger than 1, as in "2 1/2 years."

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5 Comments:

At 5/23/11, 8:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the helpful explanation. Farmers market has been driving me crazy for years! I'm quite pleased to know that others have had the same problems with it.

 
At 6/24/11, 2:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good article. Not to nitpick, but genitive is misspelled.

 
At 6/24/11, 6:55 PM, Blogger Doug Fisher said...

Thanks for that. I can always use an editor.

 
At 7/14/11, 5:52 PM, Blogger Zyg said...

In re: "farmers market" -- such an entry does not exist in any version of the AP Stylebook I own. It is a possessive format which requires an apostrophe either before the "s" if only one farmer is selling goods, or after if more than one farmer is there hawking wares. With no apostrophe the phrase means that farmers are for sale.

The only explanation for acceptance of the Washington State organization's non-use is the same as the unique acceptance of the phrase "colored people" in the name of the NAACP organization. This does not make "colored people" or "farmers market" acceptable and standard usage in regular English.

 
At 7/15/11, 12:33 AM, Blogger Doug Fisher said...

Zyg:

I was pretty clear that this came from the AP's "Ask the Editor" column, not the stylebook itself. But it is entirely consistent with the book's guidance on "descriptive phrases" under "possessives" (page 222 in the 2011 edition).

I think I explained fairly well why it is a style issue, and not the absolute you suggest:
You will find wide variations and assertions on the Web about farmers vs. farmers'. Either can be considered correct. The farmers' style is called the genitive descriptive, and there is a fair amount of debate about using it in things like teachers(') college, etc. The AP style on farmers conforms to the wire service's general guide that when something is for someone or something else, then no apostrophe.

Style is arbitrary but not capricious. You need not agree with it or even follow it, unless you work for someone who requires you to use AP style or you choose to adopt it, as I do (after having practiced it for 18+ years at the wire service).

My note was to explain what AP style is so for those who want to follow it there is some clarity.

Hope that helps. -D

 

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