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Pacific Islander. See Asian, Pacific Islander.

Pacific Northwest . Capitalize. Also capitalize Northwest when referring to the Pacific Northwest region. See addresses.

page numbers . Capitalize page when followed by a numeral. Don't spell out the number: Page 5.

paradigm . Obscure, pompous jargon. Use simpler pattern or example.

paragraph. See Clear and effective paragraphs in the county's Plain-language writing guide .

parallel . Commonly misspelled.

parameter . A term for the variable in a mathematical equation. Often used incorrectly in business writing to mean limit, boundary, dimensions, extent and scope. Those words are usually preferable--or perimeter to refer to the outer boundary of a geometrical figure. Other useful alternatives are properties, conditions or characteristics.

paratransit . Lowercase when used as a common noun.

parentheses ( ). Parentheses may be used to surround words, phrases or even whole sentences that are relatively unimportant to the main text. But they can distract the reader from your main point. If a sentence must contain incidental information, setting off the information with a pair of commas or a pair of dashes may be more effective. Also consider placing the additional information in a separate sentence--with no parentheses. See abbreviations and acronyms, comma, dash.

Parenthesis marks always come in twos, one opening and one closing ( ). Don't use one without the other, including if they're used in numbered or alphabetized lists. See lists.

Brackets ([ ]) may be used infrequently to insert words into a statement that's already enclosed in parentheses. See brackets.

Place a period outside a closing parenthesis if the material inside is not a sentence (such as this fragment). If a parenthetical sentence (here is one example) is part of a sentence, don't capitalize the first word or end the parenthetical sentence with a period. If the parenthetical sentence ends with a question mark or exclamation point, however, place a period after the closing parenthesis (here's another example!). If the material in the parentheses is an independent sentence, capitalize the first word and place the period before the closing parenthesis. (Here is an example.)

park-and-ride . Capitalize and hyphenate official proper names: the Issaquah Highlands Park-and-Ride, the South Sammamish Park-and-Ride. For most customer information, lot or lots not needed. Lowercase park-and-ride in plural uses and when it stands alone from a proper name of the location: Route 269 serves the Issaquah Highlands, South Sammamish and other park-and-rides. Look for a park-and-ride in your community. For other generic uses, add lot or lots if needed: The sales tax helps pay for maintaining and building park-and-ride lots. The lots are located throughout King County. If needed to note multilevel lots, use garage or garages: Metro serves 128 park-and-ride lots and five park-and-ride garages.

Avoid using facility or facilities unless the text becomes redundant. In most cases, do not use an ampersand (&) for the word and in park-and-ride. The ampersand may be used in signs and in advertising copy such as marketing brochures. The abbreviation P&R may be used instead of park-and-ride when there's limited space in charts, tables, maps and signs. See facility, freeway station, transit center.

partially, partly. Not always interchangeable. Use partially to mean incompletely when speaking of a condition, state or preference: I'm partially resigned to it. Use partly to mean in part as distinct from the whole--usually a physical object: They built the shelter partly of steel and partly of aluminum.

part time, part-time. Two words when used as a noun. Do not hyphenate. Hyphenate when used as a compound modifier: He worked part time. She has a part-time job.

party affiliation . If mention of political party affiliation is necessary, follow these examples:

  • Republican Sen. Jerry DeSoto of Oregon said ... or Sen. Jerry DeSoto, D-Ore., said ...,
  • Rep. Edmund Ballinger, D-Auburn, said ... (for Washington state representatives)
  • Rep. Virginia Westerland, R-Idaho, said ...
  • Metropolitan King County Councilmember Shirley Cannon, D-District 3, said. ...

See correspondence, districts, legislative titles.

pass. See adopt, approve, enact, pass.

passer-by, passers-by .

passive verbs. See active vs. passive verbs.

past. See last, latest, past.

patrol, patrolled, patrolling .

pavilion . Commonly misspelled.

PCBs . Spell out on first reference--polychlorinated biphenyls. The abbreviation PCBs (all upper case, no apostrophe) may be used on second reference.

PDF . Abbreviation for portable document format. The abbreviation is acceptable on first use when noting the format of a file on a website: (PDF file, 51KB). Lowercase when giving a document name: newsletter.pdf.

Adobe Reader is the most common PDF reader software, though the generic PDF reader and PDF reader software are preferred terms in county documents. To aid users, King County links to the Adobe website for downloading the free software.

When listing multiple PDF files on a single Web page, include a general statement near the listing that tells readers how to get the free PDF reader software. Here are some alternative statements:

  • If you need the free PDF reader software to view these documents [or files], visit the King County PDF help page.
  • You will need a PDF reader to view these files [or documents]. To download the free software, visit King County's PDF help page.
  • PDF reader needed to view these documents. To download the free software, visit the King County PDF reader help page.
  • Please use the free PDF reader to view these files.

But if a PDF file is listed only once or a couple of times on a page -- or if it's listed within the text -- follow one of these examples:

peak hour (n), peak-hour (adj.). Also known as peak period. Use rush hour if possible.

people, persons. Use person when speaking of an individual: One person waited for the bus. Use people instead of persons in plural uses: Hundreds of people attended the open house. Three people were hurt in the accident. People takes a plural verb when used to refer to a single race or nation: The American people are united. People can be a simpler, friendlier alternative to terms like attendees, individuals, members of the community, participants, stakeholders and those. See citizen; individual, individuals; those.

per . Avoid using Latin words when English phrases are available: 10 tons a year instead of 10 tons per annum. Also, avoid mixing Latin and English: 10 tons per year. Use of per may be acceptable to avoid awkward phrases: They produced 10 tons a year per worker. See as per.

percent . One word. Use a singular verb when percent stands alone or when a singular word follows an of construction: Sixty-five percent is the goal. About 25 percent of the department was absent. Use a a plural verb when a plural word follows an of construction: She reported that 60 percent of the councilmembers were present. Do not use the symbol % in texts. The symbol may be used in charts, tables or scientific papers.

percentages . Use numerals with decimals--not fractions: 3 percent, 6.7 percent, 33 percent. For amounts less than 1 percent, include a zero before the decimal--0.3 percent--or spell out the fraction--three-tenths of 1 percent. Do not hyphenate when used as a compound adjective: Staff reported a 5 percent increase. Round off percentages to the tenths point: 45.9 percent, not 45.87 percent. Consider using half instead of 50 percent if you're not using the figure alongside other percentage statistics.

per diem . Avoid using this Latin phrase. Instead, use daily and daily allowance: She will be paid the daily rate. Participants will get a daily allowance and salary.

period (.). This punctuation mark has two main purposes. It ends all sentences that are not questions or exclamations, and it's used in some abbreviations.

Use periods to break up complicated sentences into two or more readable sentences. See sentence length.

Use a period, not a question mark, after an indirect question: He asked what the score was.

Don't put a space between two initials: T.S. Eliot.

Use periods after numbers or letters in listing elements of a summary: 1. Wash the car. 2. Clean the basement. Or: A. Punctuate properly. B. Write simply.

Periods always go inside quotation marks.

Use only one space after a period at the end of a sentence.

See abbreviations and acronyms, ellipsis, lists, punctuation, quotation marks, telephone numbers.

period of time . Wordy and overstated. Simplify. Use either period or time. See time frame.

permissible . Commonly misspelled.

permit. See allow, enable, permit.

persevere, perseverance . Commonly misspelled.

persistent . Commonly misspelled.

personally . Often unnecessary: Personally, I like Pearl Jam. Drop personally.

personnel . Commonly misspelled.

person, persons. See individual, individuals; people, persons.

persuade. See convince, persuade.

phone numbers. See telephone numbers.

phrases. For simpler, concise alternatives to wordy, bureaucratic phrases, see Wordy phrase replacements in the King County guide to concise writing.

pickup (n., adj.), pick up (v.).

pile, piling . Sometimes confused. A pile is a long, slender column of timber, steel or reinforced concrete driven into the ground to support a bridge, dock or other load. A piling is a structure of piles.

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

PIN . Abbreviation for personal information number. PIN number is redundant.

Pioneer Square Station. Capitalize the name of this station in the downtown Seattle transit tunnel.

pipeline . One word.

place (v.). Overstated and formal. Simplify. Try put.

plain English, plain language . An approach to communication that matches the needs of the reader with your needs as a writer, resulting in effective and efficient communication. It stresses using familiar words; cutting useless words; avoiding or explaining jargon and technical words; using abbreviations carefully; using inclusive language; writing in active voice; keeping sentences short; avoiding double negatives; using punctuation correctly; using lists; and using headings consistently. Also see limited English proficiency and the County's Plain-language writing guide. The King County Web Page Specifications (internal link, DOC, 188KB) refer to plain language and require that Web file content use the clearest, simplest language possible.

planner . Capitalize this job title before a name: Environmental Planner Jack Potter. Lowercase it when standing alone or after a name between commas: Hillary Roosevelt, environmental planner, explained the change.

planning . Avoid the redundant future planning.

plans, projects, programs. Capitalize the full name of programs, projects or plans adopted formally by the Metropolitan King County Council. Otherwise, avoid capitalizing them. Always lowercase program, project or plan when the word stands alone or when using only part of the formal name: The project is under way. Avoid interchanging the words program, project or plan within a text.

plants . Lowercase common nouns in the name of plants, but capitalize proper names or adjectives that occur in the name. If using a botanical name, capitalize only the first word: Kentucky coffee tree (Gynmodadus dioica).

Plexiglas . Note the capital P and single s. A trademark for plastic glass.

plurals . Follow the rules below for forming words to show more than one of the things specified: For most words, add s: boys, ships. Here are guidelines for some exceptions:

  • Add es to most words ending in ch, s, sh, ss, x and z: buses, churches, foxes, fuzzes, glasses.
  • Change is to es in words ending in is: parentheses, theses.
  • Add es to most words ending in o if a consonant precedes o: echoes, heroes. There are exceptions: pianos.
  • Words with Latin roots: Change us to i in words ending in us: alumnus, alumni. Change words ending in on to a: phenomenon, phenomena. Add s in most words ending in um: memorandums, referendums but not addenda, curricula, media.
  • Add s to compound words written as single words: cupfuls, handfuls. For compound words that use separate words or link the words with a hyphen, make the most significant word plural: attorneys general, daughters-in-law, deputy chiefs of staff, assistant attorneys.
  • Do not use 's when referring to words as words: His speech had too many ifs, ands and buts.
  • Don't change the spelling of proper nouns when making them plural. Add es to most proper names ending in es or z: Joneses, Gonzalezes, Parkses. Add s to other proper names, including most proper names ending in y even if preceded by a consonant: the Carters, the McCoys, the Kennedys. Avoid using a possessive name as a plural: The free passes are available at four McDonald's restaurants. Not: The free passes are available at four McDonald's.
  • Add s to figures: General Motors built the car in the 1940s. The Boeing Co. sold 12 more 767s.
  • To avoid confusion, add 's to single letters: Dot your i's. She earned two A's and three B's on her report card. Add s to multiple letters: He knows his ABCs. They have three color TVs.

When providing both the singular and plural forms of a noun, a common style is to put the plural ending in parentheses: book(s), bus(es). An alternative style is to separate both forms with a slash: book/books, bus/buses. That style works well if a word must be spelled differently when it becomes a plural, like singular words ending in y (disability/disabilities), singular words ending in f or fe (wife/wives, leaf/leaves) and odd words like mouse/mice, man/men. Both styles can produce awkward, confusing sentences, however, and should be avoided unless necessary.

When a number and a noun form a compound modifier (or compound adjective) before a noun, use a singular noun in the phrase and hyphenate the phrase. Drop the hyphens and use plural nouns in other uses: The room measured 5 by 8 feet, but a 5-by-8-foot room. The building has 2,000 square feet of usable space, but a 2,000-square-foot building. The container held 12 gallons, but a 12-gallon container. The type size is 24 points, but 24-point type. Her shift lasted nine hours, but a nine-hour shift. He was on vacation for two weeks, but a two-week vacation. See dimensions, distances, hyphen.

For plurals not covered here, check your dictionary. Also see abbreviations and acronyms, capitalization, collective nouns, possessives.

plus . Plus is a preposition, not a conjunction, meaning with the addition of. It does not influence the number of the verb: Two and two are four, but two plus two is four. The plural is pluses, not plusses. See and (conjunction).

p.m. See time.

PMSA. See Primary Metropolitan Statistical Area.

P.O. Boxe. See addresses, correspondence.

podium. See lectern, podium.

point . Capitalize as part of a proper name: Alki Point, Point Roberts, at the point. Do not abbreviate, except for limited space in maps, charts and tables: Alki Pt, Pt Roberts.

pointed out. See attribution.

police, police department . When writing about a group of police officers, treat police as plural noun with a plural verb: Seattle police are investigating. Metro Transit police enforce Metro's Code of Conduct. Refer to individuals as police officers: Nine police officers were at the site. Not: Nine police were at the site. When writing about a police organization, use a singular verb: The Police Department is recruiting. Capitalize Police Department with or without the name of the community when referring to a particular police department. Lowercase in plural use, and lowercase department when standing alone. Use a singular verb with Police Department: The Bellevue Police Department is working with the King County Sheriff's Office. See . See capitalization; correspondence; sheriff, sheriff's office; titles.

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

political parties and philosophies. Capitalize the name of the party and the word party when used as part of an organization's proper name: Democratic Party, Republican Party. Capitalize Democrat, Republican, Socialist, etc., when they refer to a specific party or its members: The committee contains Democrats and Republicans. Lowercase those words when they refer to a political philosophy. See party affiliation.

political divisions . Use figures and capitalize the accompanying words when used with figures: 3rd Precinct, 22nd Precinct, but the Burton precinct, the precinct.

politics . Usually it takes a plural verb: Your politics are your business. As a study or science, it takes a singular verb: Politics is an uncertain profession.

portable document format. See PDF.

portion . Overstated and formal. Simplify. Try part.

possess . Pretentious. Use simpler have or own instead.

possessives . Follow these rules for forming nouns and pronouns to show possession:

  • Add 's to singular nouns not ending in s: the girl's books, the church's needs, Xerox's profits.
  • Add 's to singular common nouns ending in s unless the next word begins with s: the bus's engine, the bus' seats, witness's answer, the witness' story.
  • Use only an apostrophe for singular proper names ending in s: Drakes' decision. And add only an apostrophe to plural proper names ending in s: the Parkses' home.
  • Add 's to plural nouns not ending in s: women's rights, women's room, men's bike, children's passes.
  • Add only an apostrophe to plural nouns ending in s: the girls' books, boys' bike, plants' supervisors, families' cars.
  • When two or more people jointly possess an item, put the apostrophe after the noun closest to the item: Eric and Phil's car (they jointly own car), Eric and Phil's cars (they jointly own more than one car). But when two or more people separately possess items, put an apostrophe or an 's after each noun: Eric's and Phil's cars.
  • Add only an apostrophe to nouns plural in form, singular in meaning: mathematics' rules, United States' wealth.
  • Treat nouns that are the same in singular and plural as plurals, even if the meaning is singular: the two deer's tracks. See collective nouns.

Many pronouns have separate forms for the possessive that don't use an apostrophe: yours, ours, his, hers, its, theirs, whose. Use an apostrophe with a pronoun only when the meaning calls for a contraction: you're (you are), it's (it is). Follow the rules listed above in forming the possessives of other pronouns: another's plan, others' plans, one's rights, someone else's umbrella. See contractions.

Do not add an apostrophe to a word ending in s when using the word as an adjective--describing the following noun. If the prepositions for or by would be more appropriate than the possessive of, do not use an apostrophe: a radio band for citizens, citizens band radio; a guide for writers, a writers guide; bus service for Seahawks fans, Seahawks bus service; a day for veterans, Veterans Day; a union for carpenters, a carpenters union. Omit the apostrophe from citizens committee. Add 's, however, when a term involves a plural word that does not end in s: a children's hospital. If you're giving the proper name of an organization or other item, try to respect the style it uses--even if that style differs from these guidelines: the Metropolitan Teacher's Association, The World-Class Speller's Guide.

Follow the rules above for possessive words that occur in such phrases as a day's pay, two weeks' vacation, four years' experience, your money's worth.

Avoid excessive personalization of inanimate objects. Use an of construction instead when appropriate: the rules of mathematics instead of mathematics' rules.

possibility . Consider replacing with simpler chance.

postgame. No hyphen. Same with pregame.

post office boxes. See addresses, correspondence.

pound sign (#) . Avoid using as the symbol for a pound as a unit of weight. It's also the symbol on the pushbutton on a standard pushbutton telephone--the pound key. Also called the number sign, don't use to stand for number or No. See No., pound sign.

ppm . Abbreviation for parts per million. Spell out on first reference unless in charts and tables. The abbreviation ppm (lowercase, no periods) may be used on second reference.

pre-. See prefixes.

precede . Commonly misspelled or confused with proceed. Precede means go ahead of, to come before: She preceded him as division manager. See proceed.

predecessor . Commonly misspelled.

predesign . No hyphen.

prefixes . Usually, follow these rules for adding a prefix: Don't hyphenate when using a prefix with a root word that begins with a consonant. Use a hyphen if the prefix ends in a vowel and the root word that follows begins with the same vowel. When in doubt, check for specific prefixes and words in this style manual. If a word is not listed here, check your dictionary. Insert a hyphen if the first listing of the word includes one. If the word is not hyphenated or not listed, drop the hyphen.

In addition, use a hyphen when capitalizing the root word. And use a hyphen to join doubled prefixes: sub-subcommittee. At times, a hyphen is necessary for clarity of meaning: He will reform (correct or improve) the congregation. She will re-form (change the shape of) the clay figure.

pregame . No hyphen. Same with postgame.

preload . Placement of fill equal to or more than the weight of facilities to be built--to force existing soil to compact before construction. Workers remove the fill before excavation.

premiere . A first performance is not a premier.

preplanning . Planning means laying a course. Preplanning is redundant. Replace preplanning with planning. See advance planning.

prepositions . A preposition is a word or group of words that links a noun or pronoun to a verb, adjective, or another noun or pronoun. The most frequently used prepositions are at, by, for, from, in, of, on, to and with. Others include according to, ahead of, because of, contrary to, in spite of, next to and out of. A prepositional phrase (a preposition followed by a noun or pronoun) modifies verbs, nouns and adjectives.

Don't overuse prepositions in a single sentence. To maintain clarity, rewrite and shorten long sentences containing many prepositions. Also, despite what you may have learned in school, past and present writing authorities approve the use of a preposition to end a sentence. Do so if it will prevent an awkward sentence, but think about alternatives that could end the sentence with a stronger word than a preposition. See Wordy phrase replacements for alternatives to many overused prepositional phrases. Also see Eight myths of writing.

prerogative . Commonly misspelled.

present (v.). Overstated and formal. Simplify. Try give.

presently . Hackneyed and ambiguous. Use soon, in a little while, in a short time or shortly instead, or be precise about the time element. It does not mean now, at present or currently. See present time below and currently.

present time. Consider replacing with simpler present or now.

preserve . Overstated and formal. Simplify. Try keep.

president . Capitalize as a formal title before a name. Lowercase in all other uses.

Presidents Day . No apostrophe. See holidays.

press . Don't refer to the print and broadcast news media as the press. Use news media instead: The news media are invited. Organizations produce news releases, not press releases, and hold news conferences, not press conferences. See media.

pressurized . Gases, liquids and foods can be pressurized or compacted into containers under pressure. People are pressed or pressured.

pretreatment . One word.

preventative . Not a word. Replace with preventive.

Primary Metropolitan Statistical Area. Spell out on first reference. Abbreviate in later references as PMSA: the Seattle PMSA.

principle, principal. Commonly confused. Principal is a noun and adjective meaning someone or something first in rank, authority, importance or degree: She was the principal player on the team. Money is the principal problem.

Principle is a noun that means a basic truth, belief, understanding, law, doctrine or motivating force: They fought for the principle of free speech.

printing . According to King County Executive policy, all print work (and graphic design) for county documents must be done by King County staff unless external production is approved by the county's Printshop Services (internal link) group.

printout (n.), print out (v.). A printout is a page or set of pages of information printed on paper from a computer printer. Consider using the simpler verb print instead of print out. Don't use print-out.

prior . Overstated and formal. Simplify. Try earlier.

prioritize . Pompous. Avoid this term. Instead say order, set priorities or rank.

prior to . Pretentious, clumsy and wordy. Simplify. Use before instead.

privilege . Commonly misspelled.

proactive . An adjective meaning "in anticipation of future problems, needs or changes." Though considered jargon by some, it's a useful antonym to reactive. Use sparingly.

problem-solving. Two words, hyphenated.

procedure . Commonly misspelled.

proceed . Often misspelled or confused with precede. Means "to go ahead, to continue": They proceeded into the hall. But overstated and formal. Try rephrasing with a form of simpler continue, go ahead, go on, move, run or walk. Proceed is one of only three English words that end in -ceed. (The others are exceed and succeed). See precede.

procure. See get.

profanity, other offensive language . Do not use obscenities, profanity, or racially derogatory terms in King County documents unless there are compelling reasons to include them in an essential direct quotation or to document specific communication. Consider your intended audience and the purpose of the document when evaluating a quotation containing offensive language. And consult with your supervisor or public information officer as needed.

Try to find a way to give a sense of a person's statement without using a specific offensive word or phrase. If a full quotation containing an offensive term must be included, consider using only the first letter of the term followed by hyphens to replace the other letters: s---, g------.

professor . Never abbreviate. Capitalize when used as a formal title before a full name. See academic degrees, titles.

proportions . Always use numbers: 3 parts powder to 7 parts water.

prosecuting atttorney. See capitalization: independently elected officials.

provinces . Use commas to set off names of provinces from community names: They went to Halifax, Nova Scotia, on their vacation. Do not capitalize province. See British Columbia.

proviso, provisos .

public . General public is redundant. Simplify. Replace with public, people or more personal residents, if appropriate. See citizen; collective nouns; people, persons.

publication titles. See composition titles, magazine names, newspapers.

public information document . Avoid using the abbreviation PID.

Puget Sound . Use Puget Sound on first reference. Lowercase sound on future references when the word stands alone: The study focused on Puget Sound. Scientists sampled the sound during November.

Puget Sound Regional Council . Spell out on first reference and use PSRC for later references. Formerly the Puget Sound Government Council, which was the Puget Sound Council of Governments.

Punctuation should help reading punctuation. Use common sense. Punctuation should help reading--to make clear the thought being expressed. If punctuation does not help clarify the message, it should not be there.

Use punctuation correctly to help clarify your message.

When more than one punctuation mark (not including quotation marks, parentheses or brackets) could be used at the same location in a sentence, use only the "stronger"--or more necessary--of the two. Question marks and exclamation points, for example, are stronger than commas and periods: "Have all the ballots been counted?" asked the reporter. (The question mark fills the role of the comma.) The topic of his speech is "Customer service first!" (No period following the exclamation point.)

See entries for specific punctuation marks:

Also see correspondence, headlines, sentence length.

purchase. Overstated when used as a verb. Simplify. Try buy instead.

pursuant to. Pompous. Simplify. Try following.

push-button (n., adj.).

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