Pablum A trademark for a soft, bland food for infants.

In lowercase, pablum means any over-simplified or bland writing or idea.

pacemaker Formerly a trademark, now a generic term for a device that electronically helps a person’s heart maintain a steady beat.

Pacific Ocean See oceans.

Pacific Standard Time (PST), Pacific Daylight Time (PDT) See time zones.

page numbers Use figures and capitalize page when used with a figure. When a letter is appended to the figure, capitalize it but do not use a hyphen: Page 1, Page 10, Page 20A.

One exception: It’s a Page One story.

paintings See composition titles.

palate, palette, pallet Palate is the roof of the mouth.

A palette is an artist’s paint board.

A pallet is a bed.

Palestine Liberation Organization Not Palestinian. PLO is acceptable in all references.

pan- Prefix meaning "all" takes no hyphen when combined with a common noun:

panchromatic pantheism

Most combinations with pan- are proper nouns, however, and both pan- and the proper name it is combined with are capitalized:

Pan-African Pan-Asiatic


Panama City Use PANAMA CITY, Fla., or PANAMA CITY, Panama, in datelines to avoid confusion between the two.

pantsuit Not pants suit.


papal nuncio Do not confuse with an apostolic delegate. See the apostolic delegate, papal nuncio entry.

Pap test (or smear) After George Papanicolaou, the U.S. anatomist who developed this test for cervical and uterine cancer.

parallel, paralleled, paralleling

parallels Use figures and lowercase to identify the imaginary locater lines that ring the globe from east to west. They are measured in units of 0 to 90 degrees north or south of the equator.

Examples: 4th parallel north, 89th parallel south, or, if location north or south of the equator is obvious: 19th parallel.

See the latitude and longitude entry.

pardon, parole, probation The terms often are confused, but each has a specific meaning. Do not use them interchangeably.

A pardon forgives and releases a person from further punishment. It is granted by a chief of state or a governor. By itself, it does not expunge a record of conviction, if one exists, and it does not by itself restore civil rights.

A general pardon, usually for political offenses, is called amnesty.

Parole is the release of a prisoner before the sentence has expired, on condition of good behavior. It is granted by a parole board, part of the executive branch of government, and can be revoked only by the board.

Probation is the suspension of sentence for a person convicted, but not yet imprisoned, on condition of good behavior. It is imposed and revoked only by a judge.

parentheses See the entry in the Punctuation chapter.

parent-teacher association PTA is acceptable in all references. Capitalize when part of a proper name: the Franklin School Parent-Teacher Association or the Parent-Teacher Association of the Franklin School.


Paris The city in France stands alone in datelines.

parish Capitalize as part of the formal name for a church congregation or a governmental jurisdiction: St. John’s Parish, Jefferson Parish.

Lowercase standing alone or in plural combinations: the parish, St. John’s and St. Mary’s parishes, Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes.

See county for additional guidelines on governmental jurisdictions.


Parkinson’s disease After James Parkinson, the English physician who described this degenerative disease of later life.

Parkinson’s law After C. Northcote Parkinson, the British economist who came to the satirical conclusion that work expands to fill the time allotted to it.

parliament See foreign legislative bodies.

parliamentary Lowercase unless part of a proper name.

parole See the pardon, parole, probation entry.

partial quotes See quotation marks in the Punctuation chapter.

particles See foreign particles.

part time, part-time Hyphenate when used as a compound modifier: She works part time. She has a part-time job.

party See the political parties and philosophies entry.

party affiliation Let relevance be the guide in determining whether to include a political figure’s party affiliation in a story.

Party affiliation is pointless in some stories, such as an account of a governor accepting a button from a poster child.

It will occur naturally in many political stories.

For stories between these extremes, include party affiliation if readers need it for understanding or are likely to be curious about what it is.

GENERAL FORMS: When party designation is given, use any of these approaches as logical in constructing a story:

Democratic Sen. Hubert Hum-phrey of Minnesota said...

Sen. Hubert Humphrey, D-Minn., said...

Sen. Hubert Humphrey also spoke. The Minnesota Democrat said...

Rep. Morris Udall of Arizona is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. Not: Rep. Morris Udall, D-Ariz., is seeking the Democratic...

In stories about party meetings, such as a report on the Republican National Convention, no specific reference to party affiliation is necessary unless an individual is not a member of the party in question.

SHORT-FORM PUNCTUATION: Set short forms such as D-Minn. off from a name by commas, as illustrated above.

Use the abbreviations listed in the entries for each state. (No abbreviations for Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah.)

Use R- for Republicans, D- for Demo-crats, and three-letter combinations for other affiliations: Sen. James Buckley, R-Con-N.Y., spoke with Sen. Harry Byrd, D-Ind-Va.

FORM FOR U.S. HOUSE MEMBERS: The normal practice for U.S. House members is to identify them by party and state. In contexts where state affiliation is clear and home city is relevant, such as a state election roundup, identify representatives by party and city: U.S. Reps. Thomas P. O’Neill Jr., D-Cambridge, and Margaret Heckler, R-Wellesley. If this option is used, be consistent throughout the story.

FORM FOR STATE LEGISLATORS: Short-form listings showing party and home city are appropriate in state wire stories. For trunk wire stories, the normal practice is to say that the individual is a Republican or Democrat. Use a short-form listing only if the legislator’s home city is relevant.

See legislative titles.

pass See the adopt, approve, enact, pass entry.

passenger lists When providing a list of victims in a disaster, arrange names alphabetically according to last name, include street addresses if available, and use a paragraph for each name:

Jones, Joseph, 260 Town St., Sample, N.Y.

Williams, Susan, 780 Main St., Example, N.J.

passenger mile One passenger carried one mile, or its equivalent, such as two passengers carried one-half mile.

passer-by, passers-by

Passover The weeklong Jewish commemoration of the deliverance of the ancient Hebrews from slavery in Egypt. Occurs in March or April.


pastor See religious titles and the entry for the individual’s denomination.

patriarch Lowercase when describing someone of great age and dignity.

Capitalize as a formal title before a name in some religious uses. See Eastern Orthodox churches; religious titles; and Roman Catholic Church.

patrol, patrolled, patrolling

patrolman, patrolwoman Capitalize before a name only if the word is a formal title. In some cities, the formal title is police officer.

See titles.



peacemaker, peacemaking

peace offering


peacock It applies only to the male. The female is a peahen. Both are peafowl.

peck A unit of dry measure equal to 8 dry quarts or one-fourth of a bushel.

The metric equivalent is approximately 8.8 liters.

To convert to liters, multiply by 8.8 (5 pecks x 8.8 = 44 liters).

See liter.

pedal, peddle When riding a bicycle or similar vehicle, you pedal it.

When selling something, you may peddle it.



penance See sacraments.

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

penitentiary See the prison, jail entry.

Pennsylvania Abbrev.: Pa. Legally a commonwealth, not a state.

See state and state names.

Pennsylvania Dutch The individuals are of German descent. The word Dutch is a corruption of Deutsch, the German word for "German."

penny-wise See -wise.

Also: pound-foolish.

Pentecost The seventh Sunday after Easter.

Pentecostalism See religious movements.

people, persons Use person when speaking of an individual: One person waited for the bus.

The word people is preferred to persons in all plural uses. For example: Thousands of people attended the fair. What will people say? There were 17 people in the room.

Persons should be used only when it is in a direct quote or part of a title as in Bureau of Missing Persons.

People also is a collective noun that takes a plural verb when used to refer to a single race or nation: The American people are united. In this sense, the plural is peoples: The peoples of Africa speak many languages.

people’s Use this possessive form when the word occurs in the formal name of a nation: the People’s Republic of Albania.

Use this form also in such phrases as the people’s desire for freedom.

Pepsi, Pepsi Cola Trademarks for a brand of cola soft drink.

Pepsico Inc. Formerly the Pepsi-Cola Co.

Headquarters is in Purchase, N.Y.

percent One word. It takes a sin-gular verb when standing alone or when a singular word follows an of construction: The teacher said 60 percent was a failing grade. He said 50 percent of the membership was there.

It takes a plural verb when a plural word follows an of construction: He said 50 percent of the members were there.

percentages Use figures: 1 per-cent, 2.5 percent (use decimals, not fractions), 10 percent.

For amounts less than 1 percent, precede the decimal with a zero: The cost of living rose 0.6 percent.

Repeat percent with each individual figure: He said 10 percent to 30 percent of the electorate may not vote.

periods See the entry in the Punctuation chapter.

perk A shortened form of perquisite, often used by legislators to describe fringe benefits. In the state of New York, legislators also use the word lulu to describe the benefits they receive in lieu of pay.

When either word is used, define it.


Persian Gulf Use this long-established name for the body of water off the southern coast of Iran.

Some Arab nations call it the Arabian Gulf. Use Arabian Gulf only in direct quotations and explain in the text that the body of water is more commonly known as the Persian Gulf.

personifications Capitalize them: Grim Reaper, John Barleycorn, Mother Nature, Old Man Winter, Sol, etc.

persons See the people, persons entry.

-persons Do not use coined words such as chairperson or spokesperson in regular text.

Instead, use chairman or spokesman if referring to a man or the office in general. Use chairwoman or spokeswoman if referring to a woman. Or, if applicable, use a neutral word such as leader or representative.

Use chairperson or similar coinage only in direct quotations or when it is the formal description for an office.

persuade See the convince, persuade entry.

Peter Principle It is: Employees are promoted until they reach their level of incompetence.

From the book by Laurence J. Peter.

petty officer See military titles.

PG, PG-13 The parental guidance ratings. See movie ratings.

phase See the faze, phase entry.

Ph.D., Ph.D.s The preferred form is to say a person holds a doctorate and name the individual’s area of specialty.

See academic degrees and doctor.

phenomenon, phenomena

Philadelphia The city in Pennsylvania stands alone in datelines.

Philippines In datelines, give the name of a city or town followed by Philippines:

MANILA, Philippines (AP) —

Specify the name of an individual island, if needed, in the text.

In stories: the Philippines or the Philippine Islands as the construction of a sentence dictates.

The people are Filipinos. The language is Pilipino.

Photostat A trademark for a type of photocopy.

piano, pianos

pica A unit of measure in printing, equal to a fraction less than one-sixth of an inch.

A pica contains 12 points.

picket, pickets, picketed, picket line Picket is both the verb and the noun. Do not use picketer.

picnic, picnicked, picnicking, picnicker

pico- A prefix denoting one-trillionth of a unit. Move a decimal point 12 places to the left in converting to the basic unit: 2,999,888,777,666.5 picoseconds equals 2.9998887776665 seconds.


pigeonhole (n. and v.)

Pikes Peak No apostrophe. After Zebulon Montgomery Pike, a U.S. general and explorer. The 14,110-foot peak is in the Rockies of central Colorado.

pile up (v.) pileup (n., adj.)

pill Do not capitalize in references to oral contraceptives. Use birth control pill on first reference if necessary for clarity.

pilot Not a formal title. Do not capitalize before a name.

See titles.

pingpong A synonym for table tennis.

The trademark name is Ping-Pong.

pint (dry) Equal to 33.6 cubic inches, or one-half of a dry quart.

The metric equivalent is approximately .55 of a liter.

To convert to liters, multiply by .55 (5 dry pints x .55 is 2.75 liters).

See liter and quart (dry).

pint (liquid) Equal to 16 fluid ounces, or two cups.

The approximate metric equivalents are 470 milliliters or .47 of a liter.

To convert to liters, multiply by .47 (4 pints x .47 is 1.88 liters).

See liter.

Pinyin The official Chinese spelling system.

See Chinese names.


pistol A pistol can be either an automatic or a revolver, but automatic and revolver are not synonymous. A revolver has a revolving cylinder that holds the cartridges; an automatic does not.

See weapons.

Pittsburgh The city in Pennsylvania stands alone in datelines.

The spelling is Pittsburg (no h) for communities in California, Illinois, Kansas, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Texas.

plains See Great Plains.

planets Capitalize the proper names of planets: Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Neptune, Pluto, Saturn, Uranus, Venus.

Capitalize earth when used as the proper name of our planet: The astronauts returned to Earth.

Lowercase nouns and adjectives derived from the proper names of planets and other heavenly bodies: martian, jovian, lunar, solar, venusian.

See earth and heavenly bodies.

planning Avoid the redundant future planning.

plants In general, lowercase the names of plants, but capitalize proper nouns or adjectives that occur in a name.

Some examples: tree, fir, white fir, Douglas fir; Scotch pine; clover, white clover, white Dutch clover.

If a botanical name is used, capitalize the first word; lowercase others: pine tree (Pinus), red cedar (Juniperus virginiana), blue azalea (Callicarpa americana), Kentucky coffee tree (Gymnocladus dioica).

Plastic Wood A trademark for a brand of wood-filler compound.

play titles See composition titles.

plead, pleaded, pleading Do not use the colloquial past tense form, pled.

Plexiglas Note the single s. A trademark for plastic glass.

plow Not plough.

plurality See the majority, plurality entry.

plurals Follow these guidelines in forming and using plural words:

MOST WORDS: Add s: boys, girls, ships, villages.

WORDS ENDING IN CH, S, SH, SS, X and Z: Add es: churches, lenses, parishes, glasses, boxes, buzzes. (Monarchs is an exception.)

WORDS ENDING IN IS: Change is to es: oases, parentheses, theses.

WORDS ENDING IN Y: If y is preceded by a consonant or qu, change y to i and add es: armies, cities, navies, soliloquies. (See PROPER NAMES below for an exception.)

Otherwise add s: donkeys, monkeys.

WORDS ENDING IN O: If o is preceded by a consonant, most plurals require es: buffaloes, dominoes, echoes, heroes, potatoes. But there are exceptions: pianos. See individual entries in this book for many of these exceptions.

WORDS ENDINGS IN F: In general, change f to v and add es: leaves, selves. (There are exceptions, such as roofs.)

LATIN ENDINGS: Latin-root words ending in us change us to i: alumnus, alumni.

Most ending in a change to ae: alumna, alumnae (formula, formulas is an exception).

Most ending in um add s: memorandums, referendums, stadiums. Among those that still use the Latin ending: addenda, curricula, media.

Use the plural that Webster’s New World lists as most common for a particular sense of word.

FORM CHANGE: man, men; child, children; foot, feet; mouse, mice; etc.

Caution: When s is used with any of these words it indicates possession and must be preceded by an apostrophe: men’s, children’s, etc.

WORDS THE SAME IN SINGULAR AND PLURAL: corps, chassis, deer, moose, sheep, etc.

The sense in a particular sentence is conveyed by the use of a singular or plural verb.

WORDS PLURAL IN FORM, SINGULAR IN MEANING: Some take singular verbs: measles, mumps, news.

Others take plural verbs: grits, scissors.

COMPOUND WORDS: Those written solid add s at the end: cupfuls, handfuls, tablespoonfuls.

For those that involve separate words or words linked by a hyphen, make the most significant word plural:

—Significant word first: adjutants general, aides-de-camp, attorneys general, courts-martial, daughters-in-law, passers-by, postmasters general, presidents-elect, secretaries general, sergeants major.

—Significant word in the middle: assistant attorneys general, deputy chiefs of staff.

—Significant word last: assistant attorneys, assistant corporation counsels, deputy sheriffs, lieutenant colonels, major generals.

WORDS AS WORDS: Do not use ’s: His speech had too many “ifs,” “ands” and “buts.” (Exception to Webster’s New World.)

PROPER NAMES: Most ending in es or z add es: Charleses, Joneses, Gonzalezes.

Most ending in y add s even if preceded by a consonant: the Duffys, the Kennedys, the two Kansas Citys. Exceptions include Alleghenies and Rockies.

For others, add s: the Carters, the McCoys, the Mondales.

FIGURES: Add s: The custom began in the 1920s. The airline has two 727s. Temperatures will be in the low 20s. There were five size 7s.

(No apostrophes, an exception to Webster’s New World guideline under “apostrophe.”)

SINGLE LETTERS: Use ’s: 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.

MULTIPLE LETTERS: Add s: She knows her ABCs. I gave him five IOUs. Four VIPs were there.

PROBLEMS, DOUBTS: Separate entries in this book give plurals for troublesome words and guidance on whether certain words should be used with singular or plural verbs and pronouns. See also collective nouns and possessives.

For questions not covered by this book, use the plural that Webster’s New World lists as most common for a particular sense of a word.

Note also the guidelines that the dictionary provides under its “plural” entry.

p.m., a.m. Lowercase, with periods. Avoid the redundant 10 p.m. tonight.

pocket veto Occurs only when Congress has adjourned. If Congress is in session, a bill that remains on the president’s desk for 10 days becomes law without his signature. If Congress adjourns, however, a bill that fails to get his signature within 10 days is vetoed.

Many states have similar procedures, but the precise requirements vary.

podium See the lectern, podium, pulpit, rostrum entry.

poetic license It is valid for poetry, not news or feature stories.

See colloquialisms and special contexts.

poetry See composition titles for guidelines on the names of poems.

Capitalize the first word in a line of poetry unless the author deliberately has used lowercase for a special effect. Do not, however, capitalize the first word on indented lines that must be created simply because the writer’s line is too long for the available printing width.

poinsettia Note the ia.

point Do not abbreviate. Capitalize as part of a proper name: Point Pleasant.

point (printing) As a unit of measure in printing, a point equals a fraction less than a seventy-second of an inch. A pica contains 12 points.

See pica.


Polaroid A trademark for Polaroid Land instant-picture cameras and for transparent material containing embedded crystals capable of polarizing light.

police department In communities where this is the formal name, capitalize police department with or with-out the name of the community: the Los Angeles Police Department, the Police Department.

If a police agency has some other formal name such as Division of Police, use that name if it is the way the department is known to the public. If the story uses police department as a generic term for such an agency, put police department in lowercase.

If a police agency with an unusual formal name is known to the public as a police department, treat police department as the name, capitalizing it with or without the name of the community. Use the formal name only if there is a special reason in the story.

If the proper name cannot be determined for some reason, such as the need to write about a police agency from a distance, treat police department as the proper name, capitalizing it with or without the name of the community.

Lowercase police department in plural uses: the Los Angeles and San Francisco police departments.

Lowercase the department whenever it stands alone.

police titles See military titles and titles.

policy-maker (n.) policy-making (n. and adj.)

polio The preferred term for poliomyelitis and infantile paralysis.

Politburo Acceptable in all references for the Political Bureau of the Communist Party.

political divisions Use Arabic figures and capitalize the accompanying word when used with the figures: 1st Ward, 10th Ward, 3rd Precinct, 22nd Precinct, the ward, the precinct.

political parties and philosophies 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.

Capitalize Communist, Conserva-tive, 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.

EXAMPLES: John Adams was a Federalist, but a man who subscribed to his philosophy today would be described as a federalist. The liberal Republican senator and his Conservative Party colleague said they believe that democracy and communism are incompatible. The Communist said he is basically a socialist who has reservations about Marxism.

See convention and party affiliation.


politics Usually it takes a plural verb: My politics are my own business.

As a study or science, it takes a singular verb: Politics is a demanding profession.

polls and surveys Stories based on public opinion polls must include the basic information for an intelligent evaluation of the results. Such stories must be carefully worded to avoid exaggerating the meaning of the poll results.

Information that should be in every story based on a poll includes the answers to these questions:

1. Who did the poll? (The place to start is the polling firm, political campaign or other group that conducted the poll.)

2. How many people were interviewed? How were they selected? (Only polls based on a scientific sample of a population can be used as a reliable and accurate measure of that population’s opinions. Polls based on interviews on street corners, calling a 900-number or mailing coupons back from magazines may be good entertainment, but such polls have no validity. They should be avoided. In such unscientific pseudo-polls, the opinions come from people who “select themselves” to participate. If such polls are reported for entertainment value, they must never be portrayed as accurately reflecting public opinion and their failings must be highlighted.)

3. Who was interviewed? (A valid poll reflects only the opinions of the population that was sampled. A poll of business executives can only represent the views of business executives, not of all adults. Many political polls are based on interviews only with registered voters, since registration is usually required for voting. Close to the election, polls may be based only on “likely voters.” If “likely voters” are used as the base, ask the pollster how that group was identified.

4. How was the poll conducted — by telephone or in people’s homes?

5. When was the poll taken? (Opinions can change quickly, especially in response to events.)

6. Who paid for the poll? (Be wary of polls paid for by candidates or interest groups. The release of poll results is often a campaign tactic or publicity ploy. Any reporting of such polls must highlight the poll’s sponsor and the potential for bias from such sponsorship.)

7. What are the sampling error margins for the poll and for sub-groups mentioned in the story? (Sampling error margins should be provided by the polling organization. The error margins vary inversely with the sample size: the fewer people interviewed, the larger the sampling error. If the opinions of a sub-group — women, for example — are important to the story, the sampling error for that sub-group should be included. The sub-group error margins are always larger than the margin for the entire poll.)

8. What questions were asked and in what order? (Small differences in question wording can cause big differences in results. The exact texts of the question need not be in every poll story unless it is crucial or controversial.)

When writing and editing poll stories, here are areas for close attention:

—Do not exaggerate the poll results. A difficult situation arises with pre-election polls in deciding when to write that the poll says one candidate is leading another. The rules are: If the margin between the candidates is more than twice the sampling error margin, then the poll says one candidate is leading. If the margin is less than the sampling error margin, the poll says that the race is close, that the candidates are “about even.” If the margin is more than the sampling error, but less than twice the sampling error, then one candidate can be said to be “apparently leading” or “slightly ahead” in the race.

—Comparisons with other polls are often newsworthy. Earlier poll results can show changes in public opinion. Be careful comparing polls from different polling organizations. Different poll techniques can cause differing results.

—Sampling error is not the only source of error in a poll, but it is one that can be quantified. Question wording, interviewer skill and computer processing are all sources of error in surveys.

—No matter how good the poll, no matter how wide the margin, the poll does not say one candidate will win an election. Polls can be wrong and the voters can change their minds before they cast their ballots.

pom-pom, pompom Pom-pom is sometimes used to describe a rapid firing automatic weapon. Define the word if it must be used.

A pompom (also sometimes spelled pompon) is a large ball of crepe paper or fluffed cloth, often waved by cheer- leaders or atop a hat. It is also a flower that appears on some varieties of chrysanthemums.

pontiff Not a formal title. Always lowercase.


pope Capitalize when used as a formal title before a name; lowercase in all other uses: Pope Paul spoke to the crowd. At the close of his address, the pope gave his blessing.

See Roman Catholic Church and titles.

Popsicle A trademark for a brand of flavored ice on a stick.

popular names See capitalization.

pore, pour The verb pore means to gaze intently or steadily: She pored over her books.

The verb pour means to flow in a continuous stream: It poured rain. He poured the coffee.

port, starboard Nautical for left and right. Port is left. Starboard is right. Change to left or right unless in direct quotes.

Portuguese names See the Spanish and Portuguese names entry.

possessives Follow these guidelines:

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. (But see INANIMATE OBJECTS below.)

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.

Some style guides say that singular nouns ending in s sounds such as ce, x, and z may take either the apostrophe alone or ’s. See SPECIAL EXPRESSIONS, but otherwise, for consistency and ease in remembering a rule, always use ’s if the word does not end in the letter s: Butz’s policies, the fox’s den, the justice’s verdict, Marx’s theories, the prince’s life, Xerox’s profits.

SINGULAR COMMON NOUNS ENDING IN S: Add ’s unless the next word begins with s: the hostess’s invitation, the hostess’ seat; the witness’s answer, the witness’ 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.

SPECIAL EXPRESSIONS: The following exceptions to the general rule for words not ending in s apply to words that end in an s sound and are followed by a word that begins with s: for appearance’ sake, for conscience’ sake, for goodness’ sake. Use ’s otherwise: the appearance’s cost, my conscience’s voice.

PRONOUNS: Personal interrogative and relative pronouns have separate forms for the possessive. None involve an apostrophe: mine, ours, your, yours, his, hers, its, theirs, whose.

Caution: 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. See the plurals entry for guidelines on forming the plurals of these words.

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. See separate entries for these and similar names frequently in the news.

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 posses-sive — 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.

post- Follow Webster’s New World. Hyphenate if not listed there.

Some words without a hyphen:

postdate postnuptial

postdoctoral postoperative

postelection postscript

postgraduate postwar

Some words that use a hyphen:

post-bellum post-mortem

post office It may be used but it is no longer capitalized because the agency is now the U.S. Postal Service.

Use lowercase in referring to an individual office: I went to the post office.

potato, potatoes


pound (monetary) The English pound sign is not used. Convert the figures to dollars in most cases. Use a figure and spell out pounds if the actual figure is relevant.

pound (weight) Equal to 16 ounces. The metric equivalent is approximately 454 grams, or .45 kilograms.

To convert to kilograms, multiply the number of pounds by .45 (20 pounds x .45 equals 9 kilograms).

See gram and kilogram.

pour See the pore, pour entry.

poverty level An income level judged inadequate to provide a family or individual with the essentials of life. The figure for the United States is adjusted regularly to reflect changes in the Consumer Price Index.

practitioner See Church of Christ, Scientist.

pre- The rules in prefixes apply. The following examples of exceptions to first-listed spellings in Webster’s New World are based on the general rule that a hyphen is used if a prefix ends in a vowel and the word that follows begins with the same vowel:

pre-election pre-establish

pre-eminent pre-exist


Otherwise, follow Webster’s New World, hyphenating if not listed there. Some examples:

prearrange prehistoric

precondition preignition

precook prejudge

predate premarital

predecease prenatal

predispose pretax

preflight pretest

preheat prewar

Some hyphenated coinage, not listed in the dictionary:

pre-convention pre-dawn

preacher A job description, not a formal religious title. Do not capitalize.

See titles and religious titles.

precincts See political divisions.

predominant, predominantly Use these primary spellings listed in Webster’s New World for the adjectival and adverbial forms. Do not use the alternates it records, predominate and predominately.

The verb form, however, is predominate.

prefixes See separate listings for commonly used prefixes.

Generally do not hyphenate when using a prefix with a word starting with a consonant.

Three rules are constant, although they yield some exceptions to first- listed spellings in Webster’s New World Dictionary:

—Except for cooperate and coordinate, use a hyphen if the prefix ends in a vowel and the word that follows begins with the same vowel.

—Use a hyphen if the word that follows is capitalized.

—Use a hyphen to join doubled prefixes: sub-subparagraph.

premier, prime minister These two titles often are used interchangeably in translating to English the title of an individual who is the first minister in a national government that has a council of ministers.

Prime minister is the correct title throughout the Commonwealth, for-merly the British Commonwealth. See Commonwealth for a list of members.

Prime minister is the best or traditional translation from most other languages. For consistency, use it throughout the rest of the world with these exceptions:

—Use premier for France and its former colonies.

—Use chancellor in Austria and Germany.

—Follow the practice of a nation if there is a specific preference that varies from this general practice.

Premier is also the correct title for the individuals who lead the provincial governments in Canada and Australia.

See titles.

premiere A first performance.

Presbyterian churches There are four levels of authority in Presbyterian practice — individual congregations, presbyteries, synods and a general assembly.

Congregations are led by a pastor, who provides guidance in spiritual matters, and by a session, composed of ruling elders chosen by the congregation to represent the members in matters of government and discipline.

A presbytery is composed of all the ministers and an equal number of ruling elders, including at least one from each congregation, in a given district. Although the next two levels are technically higher, the presbytery has the authority to rule on many types of material and spiritual questions.

Presbyteries unite to form a synod, whose members are elected by the presbyteries. A synod generally meets once a year to decide matters such as the creation of new presbyteries and to pass judgment on appeals and complaints that do not affect the doctrine or constitution of the church.

A general assembly, composed of delegations of pastors and ruling elders from each presbytery, meets yearly to decide issues of doctrine and discipline within a Presbyterian body. It also may create new synods, divide old ones and correspond with general assemblies of other Presbyterian bodies.

The northern and southern branches of Presbyterianism merged in 1983 to become the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Its membership totals 3 million. Formerly, Presbyterianism in the United States was concentrated in two bodies. The principal body in the North was the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. The Presbyterian Church in the United States was the principal Southern body.

Presbyterians believe in the Trinity and the humanity and divinity of Christ. Baptism, which may be administered to children, and the Lord’s Supper are the only sacraments.

All Presbyterian clergymen may be described as ministers. Pastor applies if a minister leads a congregation.

On first reference, use the Rev. before the name of a man or woman. On second reference, use only the last name of a man; use Miss, Mrs., Ms., or no title before the last name of a woman depending on her preference.

See religious titles.

presently Use it to mean in a little while or shortly, but not to mean now.

presidency Always lowercase.

president Capitalize president only as a formal title before one or more names: President Reagan, Presidents Ford and Carter.

Lowercase in all other uses: The president said today. He is running for president. Lincoln was president during the Civil War.

See titles.

FIRST NAMES: In most cases, the first name of a current or former U.S. president is not necessary on first reference. Use first names when necessary to avoid confusion: President Andrew Johnson, President Lyndon Johnson. First names also may be used for literary effect, or in feature or personality contexts.

For presidents of other nations and of organizations and institutions, capitalize president as a formal title before a full name: President Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia (not: President Tito on first reference), President John Smith of Acme Corp.

On second reference, use only the last name of a man. Use Miss, Mrs. or Ms. or no title before the last name of a woman, depending on her preference.

presidential Lowercase unless part of a proper name.

Presidents Day Not adopted by the federal government as the official name of the Washington’s Birthday holiday. However, some federal agencies, states and local governments use the term.

Presidential Medal of Freedom This is the nation’s highest civilian honor. It is given by the president, on the recommendation of the Distinguished Civilian Service Board, for "exceptionally meritorious contribution to the security of the United States or other significant public or private endeavors."

Until 1963 it was known as the Medal of Freedom.

presiding officer Always lowercase.

press conference News conference is preferred.

press secretary Seldom a formal title. For consistency, always use lowercase, even when used before an individual’s name.

(The formal title for the person who serves a U.S. president in this capacity is assistant to the president for press relations.)

See titles.

pretense, pretext A pretext is something that is put forward to conceal a truth: He was discharged for tardiness, but the reason given was only a pretext for general incompetence.

A pretense is a false show, a more overt act intended to conceal personal feelings: My profuse compliments were all pretense.

priest A vocational description, not a formal title. Do not capitalize.

See religious titles and the entries for the Roman Catholic Church and Episcopal Church.

prima-facie (adj.)

primary Do not capitalize: the New Hampshire primary, the Democratic primary, the primary.

primary day Use lowercase for any of the days set aside for balloting in a primary.

prime meridian See meridians.

prime minister See the premier, prime minister entry.

prime rate The interest rate that commercial banks charge on loans to their borrowers with the best credit ratings.

Fluctuations in the prime rate seldom have an immediate impact on consumer loan rates. Over the long term, however, consistent increases (or decreases) in the prime rate can lead to increases (or decreases) in the interest rates for mortgages and all types of personal loans.

prince, princess Capitalize when used as a royal title before a name; lowercase when used alone: Prince Charles, the prince.

See nobility.

Prince Edward Island One of the three Maritime Provinces of Canada. Do not abbreviate.

See datelines.

principal, principle Principal is a noun and adjective meaning someone or something first in rank, authority, importance or degree: She is the school principal. He was the principal player in the trade. Money is the principal problem.

Principle is a noun that means a fundamental truth, law, doctrine or motivating force: They fought for the principle of self-determination.

prior to Before is less stilted for most uses. Prior to is appropriate, however, when a notion of requirement is involved: The fee must be paid prior to the examination.

prison, jail Do not use the two words interchangeably.

DEFINITIONS: Prison is a generic term that may be applied to the maximum security institutions often known as penitentiaries and to the medium security facilities often called correctional institutions or reformatories. All such facilities confine people serving sentences for felonies.

A jail is a facility normally used to confine people serving sentences for misdemeanors, persons awaiting trial or sentencing on either felony or misdemeanor charges, and persons confined for civil matters such as failure to pay alimony and other types of contempt of court.

See the felony, misdemeanor entry.

The guidelines for capitalization:

PRISONS: Many states have given elaborate formal names to their prisons. They should be capitalized when used, but commonly accepted substitutes should also be capitalized as if they were proper names. For example, use either Massachusetts Correctional Institution-Walpole or Walpole State Prison for the maximum security institution in Massachusetts.

Do not, however, construct a substitute when the formal name is commonly accepted: It is the Colorado State Penitentiary, for example, not Colorado State Prison.

On second reference, any of the following may be used, all in lowercase: the state prison, the prison, the state penitentiary, the penitentiary.

Use lowercase for all plural constructions: the Colorado and Kansas state penitentiaries.

JAILS: Capitalize jail when linked with the name of the jurisdiction: Los Angeles County Jail. Lowercase county jail, city jail and jail when they stand alone.

FEDERAL INSTITUTIONS: Maximum security institutions are known as penitentiaries: the U.S. Penitentiary at Lewisburg or Lewisburg Penitentiary on first reference; the federal penitentiary or the penitentiary on second reference.

Medium security institutions include the word federal as part of their formal names: the Federal Correctional Institution at Danbury, Conn. On second reference: the correctional institution, the federal prison, the prison.

Most federal facilities used to house people awaiting trial or serving sentences of a year or less have the proper name Federal Detention Center. The term Metropolitan Correctional Center is being adopted for some new installations. On second reference: the detention center, the correctional center.

prisoner(s) of war POW(s) is acceptable on second reference.

Hyphenate when used as a compound modifier: a prisoner-of-war trial.

private See military titles.

privilege, privileged

pro- Use a hyphen when coining words that denote support for something. Some examples:

pro-labor pro-business

pro-peace pro-war

No hyphen when pro is used in other senses: produce, profile, pronoun, etc.

probation See the pardon, parole, probation entry.

Procter & Gamble Co. P&G is acceptable on second reference.

Headquarters is in Cincinnati.

profanity See the obscenities, profanities, vulgarities entry.

*professor Never abbreviate. Lowercase before a name. Do not continue in second reference unless part of a quotation. (This is a change in AP style.)

See academic titles and titles.

profit-sharing (n. and adj.) The hyphen for the noun is an exception to Webster’s New World.

Prohibition Capitalize when referring to the period that began when the 18th Amendment to the Constitution prohibited the manufacture, sale or transportation of alcoholic liquors.

The amendment was declared ratified Jan. 29, 1919, and took effect Jan. 16, 1920. It was repealed by the 21st Amendment, which took effect Dec. 5, 1933, the day it was declared ratified.


proper nouns See capitalization.

prophecy (n.) prophesy (v.)

proportions Always use figures: 2 parts powder to 6 parts water.

proposition Do not abbreviate. Capitalize when used with a figure in describing a ballot question: He is uncommitted on Proposition 15.

prosecutor Capitalize before a name when it is the formal title. In most cases, however, the formal title is a term such as attorney general, state’s attorney or U.S. attorney. If so, use the formal title on first reference.

Lowercase prosecutor if used before a name on a subsequent reference, generally to help the reader distinguish between prosecutor and defense attorney without having to look back to the start of the story.

See titles.

prostate gland Not prostrate.

Protestant, Protestantism Capitalize these words when they refer either to denominations formed as a result of the break from the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century or to the members of these denominations.

Church groups covered by the term include Anglican, Baptist, Congregational, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian and Quaker denominations. See separate entries for each.

Protestant is not generally applied to Christian Scientists, Jehovah’s Wit-nesses or Mormons.

Do not use Protestant to describe a member of an Eastern Orthodox church. Use a phrase such as Orthodox Christian instead.

See religious movements.

Protestant Episcopal Church See Episcopal Church.

protester Not protestor.

prove, proved, proving Use proven only as an adjective: a proven remedy.

provinces Names of provinces are set off from community names by commas, just as the names of U.S. states are set off from city names: They went to Halifax, Nova Scotia, on their vacation.

Do not capitalize province: They visited the province of Nova Scotia. The earthquake struck Shensi province.

See datelines.

proviso, provisos

provost marshal The plural: provost marshals.

PTA See parent-teacher associa-tion.

PT boat It stands for patrol torpedo boat.

Public Broadcasting Service It is not a network, but an association of public television stations organized to buy and distribute programs selected by a vote of the members.

PBS is acceptable on first reference only within contexts such as a television column. Otherwise, do not use PBS until second reference.

public schools Use figures and capitalize public school when used with a figure: Public School 3, Public School 10.

If a school has a commemorative name: Benjamin Franklin School.

publisher Capitalize when used as a formal title before an individual’s name: Publisher Isaiah Thomas of the Massachusetts Spy.

See titles.

Puerto Rico Do not abbreviate. See datelines.

Pulitzer Prizes These yearly awards for outstanding work in journalism and the arts were endowed by the late Joseph Pulitzer, publisher of the old New York World, and first given in 1917. They are awarded by the trustees of Columbia University on recommendation of an advisory board.

Capitalize Pulitzer Prize, but lowercase the categories: Pulitzer Prize for public service, Pulitzer Prize for fiction, etc.

Also: She is a Pulitzer Prize winner. He is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author.

pull back (v.) pullback (n.)

pull out (v.) pullout (n.)

pulpit See the lectern, podium, pulpit, rostrum entry.

punctuation Think of it as a courtesy to your readers, designed to help them understand a story.

Inevitably, a mandate of this scope involves gray areas. For this reason, the punctuation entries in this book refer to guidelines rather than rules. Guidelines should not be treated casually, however.

See Punctuation chapter for separate entries under: colon; comma; dash; ellipsis; exclamation mark; hyphen; parentheses; period; question mark; quotation marks; and semicolon.

pupil, student Use pupil for children in kindergarten through eighth grade.

Student or pupil is acceptable for grades nine through 12.

Use student for college and beyond.

Purim The Jewish Feast of Lots, commemorating Esther’s deliverance of the Jews in Persia from a massacre plotted by Haman. Occurs in February or March.

push-button (n., adj.)

push up (v.) push-up (n., adj.)

put out (v.) putout (n.)


Pyrex A trademark for a brand of oven glassware.