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Straight from the word-geek bible

In a reply to a recent Since You Asked survey about crossword puzzles, a reader offered an addendum:

"... please tell the MT copy editor that under way is TWO WORDS. Look it up. It means the same as in motion, and you would never write inmotion."

— Mary F., by email

We replied to Mary, gently of course, that the copy editor likely had looked it up and that, in the view of The Associated Press, "underway" is one word — "One word in all uses" is how it's succinctly phrased in the venerable AP Stylebook.

To be fair, that was a change put into place in 2013, and we suspect Mary is not being updated regularly by The AP.

The Stylebook is considered the bible for print journalists, although we'll confess that there must be at least a few nonbelievers out there, based on what we see sneaking through into print. The last hardback Stylebook we have stretched nearly 500 pages, from "a-" (generally no hyphen in usage such as in atonal) to Zurich (the city in Switzerland stands alone in datelines). These days, the Stylebook is, of course, available online, allowing it to be updated much more quickly (it can be tough to keep up with the constant changes).

Speaking of changes, the Stylebook lists new entries, which have recently included "alt-right" (added Nov. 29), "Ryan Lochte" (added Sept. 21) and "Zika" (added Sept. 1).

Journalists also ask the Stylebook editors odd questions, to which they dutifully reply. Here's an example:

Q. Is "were" or "was" correct in the following sentence? Even if your district were/was increasing its levy by exactly 2 percent, you could see something entirely different on your tax bill.

A. If the situation is completely hypothetical, were is correct to show a situation contrary to fact. However, if there's an actual increase in the works or underway, but the amount isn't precise as given, was is correct.

Fascinating, no? Well, maybe you have to be a word geek to have a full appreciation. If you are, you can check out the Stylebook (and even buy access) at www.apstylebook.com.

— Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. To see a collection of columns, go to mailtribune.com/youasked. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.