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Web Editorial Style Guide

Anyone who creates or edits web content at HRSA should use this guide. If you have a question we do not address, review HHS’s Web Style Guide and the Associated Press (AP) Stylebook.

Academic degrees and professional affiliations

  • Only include professional degrees at the first mention of a person’s name.
  • Include a professional degree if it’s relevant to the subject matter.
    Example: The content refers to advice on how to avoid a disease. Knowing the author or person quoted is a doctor (Dr.) would be helpful. If the expert is a lawyer (esq.), it is not relevant.
  • Only use Dr. for medical doctors. Do not use for Ph.D.s.
  • If a person has multiple degrees, use the degree relevant to the subject matter.
  • Punctuate academic degrees with periods: A.A., B.A. (A.B.), B.Sc., Dr.P.H., Ed.D., M.A., M.S., M.B.A., M.P.H., or Ph.D.

Professional associations

  • Do not shorten professional associations after a person’s name.
  • Write out the person’s name, followed by the person’s position or role, then the name of the association.
    Example: Dr. Alvord, a member of the Association of American Indian Physicians.


Do not frustrate users with too many acronyms. When you do use them, follow these rules.

How and when to use acronyms in main body content

  • Spell out the full term on first use. Follow with the acronym in parentheses.
    Example: The Loan Repayment Program (LRP) is open to all applicants.
  • On pages with 1,000 or more words or with jump links, spell out the full term plus acronym on the first use in each section. Use just the acronym for any content that follows in each section.

How and when to use acronyms in a page title/header

The full name + acronym is longer than eight wordsUse only the acronym in the page title

Instead of this page title: About the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (WHIAANHPI)

Write this page title:


You use only the acronym in the page title

Use the full name + acronym in the first sentence

Only use the acronym throughout the rest of the webpage

Page title:


First sentence on page:

The White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (WHIAANHPI) seeks to advance equity, justice and opportunity….

Any other content on page: WHIAANHPI

You spell out the full name + acronym in the titleUse only the acronym for the rest of the webpage

Page title:

Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH)

Main body text:

OASH oversees the HHS’s key public health offices and programs.

What to write before [agency] or [acronym]

  • Use the with the acronym if that’s a common use.
    Examples: The FBI; The latest report from the CDC showed an increase in vaccinations.
    Note: Never use The HRSA.
  • Use the acronym to refer to a government agency, not the Agency.
  • When an acronym starts with a consonant sound, put a in front. If it starts with a vowel sound, use an.
    Example: A DOJ program and an OCRDI plan
    Note: People read HRSA as “hersa,” so use a, not an.

Contact information

Put contact information on different lines.

  • Use an organization’s website name as the link text.
  • Display teletypewriter (TTY) information like phone numbers.

American Institute of Dental Public Health
John Smith, B.S., J.D., Regional Administrator
Phone: 800-555-5542
TTY: 800-985-5990

Note: You may also place TTY after the phone number, for example: 800-985-5990 (TTY)


  • Spell out numbers First through Ninth in addresses. For 10 and above, use the numerals of the building and street name.
    • 333 Seventh Ave.
    • 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
  • Always shorten avenue (Ave.), street (St.), and boulevard (Blvd.) with numbered addresses. Spell out all other words. For example: alley, circle, drive, and road.
    • 10 Main St.
    • Main Street USA
    • 25 Raspberry Falls Road
  • Shorten compass directions without periods.
    • Independence Ave. SW
    • 101 N Jefferson St.
  • Spell out numbered floors.
    Example: Second Floor
  • Use all-caps for ZIP and always lowercase the word code.
  • Use the uppercase abbreviated two-letter U.S. Post Office standard for states and territories.
  • Do not put a comma between the state name and the ZIP code.
    Example: Atlanta, GA 30333

Email addresses

Spell out the email address as the link text or use the word email next to the name: or email John Smith

Telephone numbers

  • Use dashes between numbers.
    Example: 202-720-4623
  • If a phone number uses letters, also include the numeral-only version.
    Example: Call the CDC toll-free at 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636)
  • If you need to include an extension number, use a comma to separate the phone number from the extension.
    Example: 606-439-3557, ext. 83689
  • For international numbers from the United States, use 011, the country code, the city code, and the telephone number.
    Example: 011-44-20-7535-1515
  • Shorten teletypewriter to TTY and place either prior to the phone number with a colon or after the phone number in parentheses.
    Examples: TTY: 888-232-6348 or 888-232-6348 (TTY)

States and commonwealths

  • Shorten state names in addresses and in charts or tables. Use Postal Service style instead of AP style.
U.S. Postal Service Style – CorrectAP Style – Incorrect
MS, MO, MN, or MIMiss., Mo., Minn., or Mich.
  • In text, spell out state names. Follow city and state names with commas in the middle of a sentence.
    Example: She hails from Bend, Oregon, but currently resides in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
  • The word state must be lowercase when used as an adjective.
    Example: There’s an annual fair in the state of Maine.
  • The same rule applies for commonwealths (that is, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia). Use commonwealth for formal text and state in all other instances.
    • The commonwealth of Kentucky filed a suit.
    • Virginia is one state that still grows tobacco.

Directional language

Avoid thinking and writing in visual terms.

Why to avoid directional language

  • It excludes users with visual impairments.
  • Responsive websites shift elements around.
    • Desktop or laptop: right rail content is on the right
    • Smartphone: content shifts to the bottom of the page

Examples of directional language

  • See below
  • Click here
  • On the left

Review: A UX Copywriter’s Guide to Accessibility. It explains why accessible content is better.

Downloadable files (PDFs)

The standard for content on any HHS website is HTML. Users have trouble navigating and reading PDFs online.

If you cannot avoid publishing a PDF, it must comply with Section 508.

Federal laws and regulations

Code of Federal Regulations (CFR)

Spell out Code of Federal Regulations on first use, including the title of the regulation and the citation.

Example: In the United States, the Certification of Opioid Treatment Programs, 42 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 8 governs the treatment of opioid dependence with opioid medications.

If you link to this citation again on the page, you’d use 42 CFR 8.

Link to the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations (eCFR). Do not link to a PDF or another website’s posting of CFR text.

Public laws

Format citations: “Title” (PL ###-###, date).

Example: “Children’s Health Act of 2000” (PL106-310, 17 October 2000).

Note: On pages where this would overly complicate the content, such as timelines or a list of laws, you can limit the citation to just the title of the regulation or law. Consistency among citations on a single page is important.

Font and typeface

The website controls the fonts.

  • For emphasis, use bold or italics. However, never use on more than two sentences in a row.
  • Never use underline as users could confuse it with a link.
  • Never use ALL CAPITALS, except minimal stylistic use in infographics. People who use screen readers may have trouble with words in all capitals.


Avoid using footnotes on webpages. Put source information into the body content whenever possible.

Example: According to the CDC…

Grammar and usage

And vs. ampersand

In navigation menus and block headers, use the ampersand (&) to save space. In all other cases, spell out the word and. And you can use and to start a sentence.

Bureaus and offices

Check the Bureaus and Offices page for the correct spelling.


Use lowercase for generic references and capitalize specific ones.


  • The Maternal and Child Health Bureau
  • Multiple bureaus within HRSA worked on this report.

Common HRSA words

Unless it’s part of a proper noun or title, do not capitalize administration, agency, bureau, congressional, department, federal, government, governor, local, members, nation, office, report, state, or tribe.

Job titles

When to capitalizeExamples
Conveys rankAdministrator, Associate Administrator, Director, Project Director
Head of a federal institute, division, branch, or officeBureau Chief or Division Director
High-level federal officialsPresident, Senator, or Representative
Acting (if it comes before a name)Acting FDA Director Jane Jones
Secretary (if it comes before a name of an official corporate or organizational title)Secretary Jane Jones


Do not capitalize whenExamples
Generic job descriptionpublic health analyst
Acting (if it comes after a name)Jane Jones, acting director of the FDA


Report parts

When you refer to parts of a document:
Use lowercase unless the number or letter of the part follows immediately.


Correct useIncorrect use
The last chapter in the report discusses results. The accompanying figure and table show data from the project.The last chapter in the Report discusses results. The accompanying figure and table show data from the Project.
Lessons learned are in Chapter 3, and Table 4 summarizes client recommendations. Figure 6.9 shows how we spent funds, and Section D details the list of orders.Lessons learned are in chapter 3, and table 4 summarizes client recommendations. Figure 6.9 shows how we spent funds, and section D details the list of orders.


  • Use lowercase for compass directions that give geographic position or location.
    Example: the west coast of Africa
  • Capitalize geographic terms with sociocultural contexts.
    Example: North Africa
  • When naming two geographic or governmental entities together, capitalize the noun in common.
    Examples: the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers or Loudoun and Fauquier Counties

Hyphenated words

Use lowercase for the second word of a hyphenated word or phrase, except when the word is usually capitalized, such as mid-September.


Contractions (for example: we've, it’s) are part of everyday conversation. Web content should reflect this.

Note: Avoid negative contractions (for example, don't or can't). Some people with learning disabilities rely on reading the “not” to understand what you’ve said.  

Latin abbreviations

Never use e.g. (for example) or i.e. (that is). Not everyone understands what these mean.

  • Use "for example" in place of e.g.
  • Instead of i.e., edit your original sentence. Or, add a sentence that helps explain your thought.


Some of these differ from AP Style. Only use one space after closing punctuation (period, exclamation mark, question mark).

Apostrophe (')

When citing a resource from a government agency and introducing the acronym on first use, include the apostrophe with the agency name but not with the acronym.

Example: Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) committee on…

Colon (:)

Use a colon to introduce a list or series, usually after the following or as follows. Do not use a colon in headings.

Comma (,)

To avoid confusion, use a serial comma. Place the comma before and or or in a series.

Example: HRSA devotes its resources to programs, policies, and grants.

Ellipsis (…)

Use the ellipsis (three periods) to indicate a pause or an omission of one or more words. If you use the marks at the end of a sentence, include a closing punctuation mark.

Never begin a quote with an ellipsis. If the sentence begins after the beginning of the original statement, capitalize the first letter within brackets. Use past tense in quotes. For example, “Joe said,” instead of “Joe says.”

Em dashes, en dashes, and hyphens (—, –, and -)

Use an em dash (—) to denote sudden breaks in text or to amplify an explanation. Do not put a space before or after em dashes.

  • Use an en dash (–) to denote spans of dates in text. For example, September – October 2020.
    • We do not follow AP Style. We use a dash with spaces before and after.
    • Example: 2 – 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Use a hyphen after a prefix before an open compound word, such as pre-World War I.
  • Do not use an en dash for spans of figures. Use to.

People confuse hyphens (-) with en dashes. Use hyphens to separate compound words, such as well-being.

Note: HRSA Intranet style (for example: SharePoint) allows for spaces before and after dashes.

Quotation marks (“ ”)

Enclose closing periods and commas within quotation marks. Place other punctuation (for example: colons, semicolons, question marks, exclamation marks) outside of quotation marks, unless they belong with the quoted text.

If you add text to a quote, put it in brackets, not parentheses.

Semicolon (;)

Use a semicolon

  • Between two main clauses that are not linked by a conjunction (and, but, or, nor, for, so, yet).
  • To separate parts of a series when at least one item in the series has a comma.

Semicolons are often unnecessary. Turn long sentences with semicolons into short sentences—or use a list.

Single quotation marks (‘ ’)

Use single quotation marks to capture a separate quote or title within a quotation.

Slash (/)

  • Avoid using the slash. Spell out words like his or her (see section on Inclusive Language).
  • Instead of and/or, decide which one is best for what you’re trying to explain.
  • Do not put a space before or after a slash in a sentence.


Use one space after ending a sentence with a period, question mark, or exclamation mark. Use one space after a colon.

Word usage


When you refer to a specific presidential administration, use uppercase.


  • The Biden Administration
  • The current Administration’s policies gained traction as…
  • In the past, presidential administrations have avoided such topics.

Administrator and Associate Administrator

Capitalize when it comes before a person’s name.


  • Join Administrator Carole Johnson in welcoming her new staff.
  • The associate administrator will give a speech at the conference.


Always one word, when used as a noun.

Chairperson or Chair

Only use Chairman or Chairwoman if an organization specifies.


Use children rather than kids, except when writing for specific programs that reach out to young people.


Do not use partnership. Exception: Use partnership when it refers to a legal definition.

Comorbid and Comorbidity

These are each one word and not hyphenated.


Use lowercase except when part of a proper name.

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Use severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) for the virus and coronavirus disease or COVID-19, for the disease it causes.


Use this term for both singular and plural forms. Change the verb tense depending on context.

  • Use in the singular when you refer to a body of data (for example, an entire report).
    Example: The data is clear.
  • Use as plural if you refer to more than one data point.
    Example: Some data are unclear.


This term is one word and not hyphenated.

Drug vs. Medication

Use medication when referring to their use in health treatment.

Use drug only when you refer to misuse and abuse or when you use terms such as prescription and illicit.


This term is always one word and not hyphenated.

Federal Government

Other than in headings or titles, both the “f” and the “g” are lowercase.

Health and Human Services

On first reference the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). After that, always use the acronym HHS, and never DHHS.

Do not use United States in naming the department. For more, see the entry titled United States.

Health Care

This term is two words. In an organization name, use the word as that organization does.

Health Center

Capitalize the “h” and the “c” in proper nouns, otherwise lowercase both.

  • Health Center Program
  • Athens Health Center
  • The health centers in this area are open 24 hours a day.


Use the “slash” when referring to the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program.

Human-caused vs. Man-made

The behavioral health field prefers the phrase human-caused to describe non-natural disasters such as shootings and other traumatic events.

Login vs. Log In

One word, not hyphenated, when used as an adjective or noun. Use two words when it's a verb.

  • Adjective use: Enter your login
  • Verb use: Log in to add an event

Metadata and Metatags

Always one word, not hyphenated.

Mpox (monkeypox)

Use mpox instead of monkeypox. Capitalize the “m” in headings and when it’s the first word in a sentence.

Online and Onsite

Always one word, not hyphenated.


Use people, never persons.


Names of seasons are always lowercase.

Self and Sub

Always hyphenate.

Examples: Self-care and sub-par

Sign up vs. Sign-up

Use sign up as a verbal phrase.

Example: Sign up for the newsletter.

Use sign-up as an adjective or noun.

Example: Select the sign-up button.


Use spokesman or spokeswoman if an organization specifies.

Teen, Teenager, or Teenage

Always one word, not hyphenated. Do not use teen-aged. Use instead of adolescent.


If you use a trademark, capitalize and punctuate it as the trademark holder does.

United States

Spell out United States in reference to the entire nation. Use U.S. as an adjective. U.S. should always use periods, except when you use it as part of another acronym (for example, USPS).


  • Health reform will bring sweeping changes to how the United States delivers, pays for, and monitors health care.
  • Under this legislation, funding was set aside for campuses, states, tribes, and U.S. territories to develop, evaluate, and improve early intervention and suicide prevention programs.

Neither the AP Stylebook nor the Congressional Directory lists the Department of Health and Human Services as an organization beginning with the words United States. Therefore, it is improper to place U.S. before the name.

The same goes for any federal agency that has a name that begins with the word department. The official title of the Department of the Interior, for instance, doe not begin with United States or U.S.

However, the following organizations do have United States/U.S. as part of its title:

  • U.S. Agency for International Development
  • U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
  • U.S. International Trade Commission
  • U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness
  • U.S. Postal Service
  • U.S. Sentencing Commission


Never use utilize in place of use.


Always capitalize the word.

Webpage or Website

These are each one word without hyphenation, and lowercase.


Use a hyphen rather than one word.

Who vs. That vs. Which

Use who to refer to human beings, including groups or categories.


  • Children who are bullied may feel socially isolated.
  • Students who struggle with depression may also struggle with their schoolwork.

Use that and which when referring to inanimate objects or animals without names.

Use that for essential clauses important to the meaning of a sentence and without commas.


  • The rats that detect landmines and tuberculosis are a specific species.
  • The dialectical behavioral therapy that doctors use as a treatment option for borderline personality disorder teaches skills that include emotional regulation.

Use which for nonessential clauses, where the pronoun is less necessary, and use commas.


  • Salmonellosis is an infection caused by the bacteria called Salmonella, which has been known to cause illness for more than 100 years.
  • The largest shark is the whale shark, which can get as large as 18 meters (60 feet).

Note: If you can drop the clause and not lose the meaning of the sentence, use which; otherwise, use that.

Inclusive language

It’s important to use language that shows our users we respect them. Follow our recommendations and refer to CDC’s Health Equity Guiding Principles for Inclusive Communications.

Gender and sex

As stated in the AP Stylebook, gender is not synonymous with sex. Gender refers to a person’s social identity, while sex refers to biological characteristics.

Not all people fall under one of two categories for sex or gender, according to leading medical organizations. So avoid references to both, either, or opposite sexes or genders as a way to encompass all people.

HRSA’s own guide on pronouns states that gender extends beyond the binary male and female categories. Sometimes people may identify with a gender that is not traditionally linked to their appearance, or they may identify with multiple genders, or no gender at all.

Here are definitions from the CDC:

  • Gender: The cultural roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes we expect of people based on their sex.
  • Gender Expression: How a person chooses to present their gender to others through physical appearance and behaviors, such as style of hair or dress, voice, or movement.
  • Gender Identity: A person's sense of their self as man, woman, transgender, or something else.
  • Sex: A person's biological status as male, female, or something else. Sex is assigned at birth and associated with physical attributes, such as anatomy and chromosomes.


We follow APA Style for pronoun usage instead of AP Style.

The singular they is a generic third-person singular pronoun in English. Use of the singular they is inclusive and helps writers avoid making assumptions about gender. Many advocacy groups and publishers have accepted and endorsed it.

  • Always use a person’s self-identified pronoun, including when a person uses the singular they or other words like ze/zir.
  • Use they as a generic third-person singular pronoun to refer to a person whose gender is unknown or irrelevant to the context. Do not use (s)hes/he, or he or she.
  • If you do not know someone’s pronouns, reword the sentence to avoid a pronoun or use the pronoun they.

People-first language

Using people-first language is a respectful way to recognize a person before their condition or situation. It describes what a person has rather than what a person is.

However, some people in these groups prefer phrases that are not people-first. If you're referring to a specific person who uses a different phrase to describe themselves, use that phrase instead.

UseInstead of
People without homeshomeless people
People experiencing povertypoor people
People with a disabilitydisabled, differently abled, handicapped
People who smokesmokers
People who use drugs, people with substance use disordersdrug users, addicts
People who do not have health insuranceThe uninsured
People with mental illnessmentally ill
People living with HIVHIV-positive people
People with limited English proficiencynon-English speaker


Exception: According to the National Association of the Deaf, many members of the Deaf community prefer to be called deaf or hard of hearing. Capitalize when referring to the Deaf community in a cultural sense, but lowercase deaf when describing an inability to hear.

Race and ethnicity

The Office of Management and Budget Statistical Programs & Standards, last updated in 1997, explains how to maintain, collect, and present data on race and ethnicity. When writing about race and ethnicity in statistical information, refer to the standard for guidance.

The standards do not identify or designate certain population groups as minority groups.

It’s best to ask someone how they self-identify when you include information about that person’s race and ethnicity. Do not decide on a person’s race and ethnicity from the way they look.

Word/PhraseHow to use
BlackAlways capitalize. When referring to a group of people, use Black people rather than Blacks.
African AmericanNot hyphenated. Do not use in place of Black as the meaning is not the same. Not all Black people in the United States identify as African American.
Asian AmericanNot hyphenated. Mention a specific heritage, such as Japanese American, if appropriate.
Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI)Not commonly used outside members of the group.
American Indian, Native AmericanBoth are acceptable. Do not use Indian.
whiteDo not capitalize. Do not use Caucasian. When referring to a group of people, use white people rather than whites.
Latino, LatinaPreferred term for a person from a Latin American country. Latino is male and Latina is female. Plural for a group of females is Latinas, for a group of males or mixed gender, Latinos. Use a specific ethnicity like Mexican American, if appropriate.
HispanicAcceptable term for a person from a Spanish- speaking country. Use a specific ethnicity like Mexican American if appropriate.
Minorities or People of colorUse either minorities or people of color when referring to multiple races that are not white. Context is key. Specify racial or ethnic groups when you can.
Biracial, multiracialNot hyphenated

Other terms

UseInstead of
Pregnant peoplePregnant women
Older adultElderly, Senior, Senior Citizen
TransgenderTransgendered, transsexual
Gay, Lesbian, QueerHomosexual
It stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, and intersex. The plus sign includes any other identities that are part of the community.
Note: Do not spell out the acronym.
Undocumented immigrantsIllegals, illegal aliens
PronounsPreferred pronouns
Sexual orientationSexual preference

Use descriptive, meaningful text to hyperlink a URL. The text should tell readers what content they'll get if they select that link.

It’s also important for Section 508 compliance. People who use screen readers do not want to listen to a web address read aloud.

Never leave a URL un-hyperlinked unless a platform does not allow for hyperlinking (Twitter, Instagram).

For the same reasons, avoid

  • Follow this link
  • Click here
  • Read more

These terms are vague and unhelpful.

Amount of links

Be careful not to use too many links. They can distract users.

When a webpage contains multiple links to the same item, the link label must be the same. Conversely, when linking to different items, the link labels must be different.

If the text you want to link ends with an acronym, include the acronym as part of the link text.

Linking format for downloadable files

All downloadable files must go through 508 remediation before OC will upload them to HRSA sites.

When linking to a file, the content management system (CMS) will automatically add the file type and size (for example, PDF – 65 KB) after the link text.

Files names should

  • Not have any special characters, spaces, or extra periods
  • Use only lower-case letters
  • Be fewer than 30 characters
  • Use dashes to separate words (not underscores)

Convert PowerPoint (PPT) files to PDF, except for those meant to be templates.

Linking format for images, video, and audio files

Use the same linking format as for downloadable files. Do not use an image as a stand-alone link. Instead, use explanatory text as the link.

When linking to a third-party video site (such as YouTube), include the title and length of video.

Example: Watch Garden (30 seconds) in English or Spanish

Linking to external webpages

Use the title of the page, followed by the name of the source organization.

Separate the title and the source organization by the word at. If that sounds awkward, use the word from rather than at.

Example: People Who Use or Inject Drugs and Viral Hepatitis from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

If the title of an external webpage is not in title case, apply title case for the link anyway.


Lists help users scan content to find what they need. They emphasize content and create visual appeal. But do not overwhelm a page with too many lists.

How to format content that introduces a list

  • Separate the sentence or clause above the list from the sentences that come before it.
  • Do not use visual cues like belowDirectional language excludes users with visual impairments.
  • Introduce the list with a short sentence or phrase and end it with a colon.

How to format the list itself

  • Number list items that need to be in order (steps to follow) or to identify them (for example, Tip #2).
  • Use bullets when order does not matter.
  • Keep the list between 2-10 items. (One item is not a list.)
  • Do not format the list as a table.

How to format list items

  • Capitalize the first word.
  • Use a different word to start each item, if possible.
  • Follow the same grammatical structure—all nouns, all sentences, all clauses—for each item.
  • Keep text short and avoid more than one sentence (if you format as sentences).
  • Never end with a semicolon.
  • End sentences with a period.
  • Leave out conjunctions (for example, or or and) after the second-to-last item.


Rule(s)Do thisDo not do this

Capitalize the first word of each list item.

Do not use semicolons.

Leave  out conjunctions after the second-to-last item.


We offer trainings in web writing.

These trainings:

  • Introduce you to plain language, including using Readable
  • Explain the importance of 508 compliance
  • Encourage you to think of your user when drafting materials

We offer training in web writing.

These trainings:

  • introduce you to plain language, including using Readable;
  • explain the importance of 508; and
  • encourage you to think of your user when drafting materials.

End the sentence preceding the list with a colon.

Number lists if a user must follow steps in a particular order. (Example 1)

Follow these five tips for a healthy lifestyle:

  • Get regular checkups.
  • Exercise at least 150 minutes a week.
  • Quit tobacco and limit alcohol.
  • Eat healthy, fiber-rich foods.
  • Sleep 7 – 8 hours every night.

Follow these five tips for a healthy lifestyle.

  1. Get regular checkups.
  2. Exercise at least 150 minutes a week.
  3. Quit tobacco and limit alcohol.
  4. Eat healthy, fiber-rich foods.
  5. Sleep 7 – 8 hours every night.
Number lists if a user must follow steps in a particular order. (Example 2)

There are five steps in the writing process:

  1. Prewrite
  2. Plan & outline
  3. Write first draft
  4. Revise
  5. Edit & proofread

There are five steps in the writing process:

  • Prewrite
  • Plan & outline
  • Write first draft
  • Revise
  • Edit & proofread
Start each list item with a different word, if possible.

Prepare to paint:

  • Select a canvas
  • Purchase paintbrushes
  • Buy paint
  • Choose paint colors
  • Mix to create new colors
  • Pick a design

Prepare to paint:

  • Buy a canvas
  • Buy paintbrushes
  • Choose paint colors
  • Mix to create new colors
  • Choose a design
Follow the same grammatical structure.

When you go hiking, you:

  • Enjoy a picnic.
  • Climb the hill all the way to the ridge and back.
  • Walk in groups.

When you go hiking, you:

  • Picnic
  • You climb the hill all the way to the ridge and back.
  • Walking in groups

How to add links to a list

A list of linked resources needs to include a heading (for example, Fact Sheets) or introductory text to provide context.

  • Match the link label to the title of the linked item.
  • If the page or item you link to does not describe the content, create meaningful link text.
  • Order links to publications or webpages alphabetically unless it makes more sense to order chronologically.


Guidance & Policies

Want to know how to style linked text? Go to Links.

Meta descriptions

A summary of the content on your page. It tells the user what to expect if they select your link. It helps them decide whether the content is relevant to them.

  • Aim for 120 – 160 characters.
  • Do not overuse keywords.
  • Use active voice.
  • Include a call to action.
  • Match page content.
  • Make it unique.
Use thisDo not use this
Apply for the Extramural LRP at NIH. Do research for 20 hours a week for at least two years and get up to $50,000 per year to repay school debt.The NIH invites qualified health professionals who contractually agree to engage in NIH mission-relevant research for an average of at least 20 hours each week for at least two years, initially, to apply for an award in the Extramural LRP, which repays up to $50,000 annually of a researcher's qualified educational debt.
Learn the difference between maternal morbidity and maternal mortality. Get the latest data and review our Women’s Health Research Plan.The purpose of the page is to describe the difference between maternal morbidity and maternal mortality, describe data findings on the subject, and explain NIH’s Women’s Health Research Plan.
Review our evidence-based 5-point plan to improve health services: access, engaging with patients and partners, expanding telehealth, and improving systems.We demonstrate how our research determined the necessity of our 5-point plan to improve health services: access to care, patient engagement, partnerships, expand telehealth capabilities, and building better systems.

Military and commissioned corps titles

Although military titles vary, similar titles exist across the six branches of service. For example, the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines all have a Captain rank, but with different abbreviations.

Spell out all military titles.

Examples: Captain Tameka A. Phillips or Rear Admiral Will J. Rodriguez

The United States Public Health Service (USPHS) Commissioned Corps follows AP Style.

Capitalize a military rank when you use it as a formal title before a person's name.

Example: Commander Sally Smith

  • On first reference, use the appropriate title before the full name.
  • In later references, do not continue using the title before a name. Use only the last name.
  • Spell out and lower a title when it is substituted for a name.

Example: Admiral Nimitz was one of the top U.S. commanders in World War II. The admiral is a popular subject for historians and military strategists.

Number usage

Date and time

  • Use month-day-year for dates.
    Example: July 4, 2006
  • For year only, use numerals: 1977
  • For full dates, use commas around the year
    Example: July 20, 1969, was a special day.
  • For month and year only, use [month] [year], with no commas around the year.
    Example: July 2006 was a busy month.
  • For decades or years, use figures without apostrophes.
    Example: 2000s, not 2000’s Use 1990s, not 1990’s. You can also abbreviate a decade with an apostrophe: ‘80s.
  • Years are the exception to the rule not to use a numeral to start a sentence:
    Example: 2015 was a very good year.
  • When referencing times of day, use a.m. and p.m., always in lowercase and including periods. Indicate time as 2 p.m. and include the time zone.
    Example: 2 p.m. ET.
  • Use Noon for 12 p.m.

Time Zones

Capitalize the full name of the time zone: Eastern Standard Time, Eastern Daylight Time, Central Standard Time, etc.

Lowercase all but the region in short forms: the Eastern time zone, Eastern time, Mountain time, etc.

Use ET, CT, etc., at first mention for zones within the continental United States, Canada, and Mexico only if you link the abbreviation with a clock reading: noon ET or 9 a.m. PT. (Do not set off the abbreviations with commas.)

Spell out all references to time zones outside of the contiguous United States: When it is noon ET, it’s 1 p.m. Atlantic Standard Time and 8 a.m. Alaska Standard Time.

As an exception to the spelled-out form, you can shorten Greenwich Mean Time as GMT on second use if you use it with a clock reading.

Time and date ranges

Use an en dash with a space on either side for time and date ranges.


  • July 5 – 8, 2020
  • July 30 – August 2, 2020
  • December 29, 2020 – January 14, 2021
  • December 8, 2021, from 3 – 5:30 p.m. ET
  • April 3, 2022, from noon – 2 p.m. PT
  • September 5, 2022, from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. Atlantic Standard Time


Do not carry numbers beyond the second decimal.


Use dollar signs and comma separators. Use numerals for all sums of money. Do not include cents.

Example: Freight costs account for $10,300 of the budget in Georgia.


  • Spell out numbers one through nine, except in headers.
  • For numbers 10 and greater, use numerals.
  • If a number begins a sentence, spell it out as a word or revise the sentence.
  • Use numerals in a series.
    Example: Chapters 1, 24, and 67
  • If you write a number as a numeral, all other numbers in that sentence must also be numerals.
    Example: “There are 50 states, 6 territories, and 1 tribe …”
  • Use Roman numerals if the number is part of a legislative title (Title IX, Title X).
  • Use commas in numbers 1,000 and higher.

Percent sign

Do not use the word percent with numerals; use the percent sign (%), as follows:

  • The rate of mental illness among those ages 18 to 25 was 29.8%.
  • According to a 2011 report, 20% of American adults experienced mental illness in the past year.


Use tables sparingly. Do not use tables for formatting.

Consider tables when you

  • Have a series of “if, then” requirements
  • Need to compare numbers, such as costs

If/Then example

If you send in your form...We must receive it by...
OnlineThe 15th of the month
By mailThe 25th of the month

Number comparison example

Intervention delivery costDefinitionNumber of interventionsPercentage of interventions
No costNo new change to delivery medium2718%
Very low costAdded email5839%
Moderate costAdded staffing costs as part of intervention delivery21%

Write descriptive labels for the columns and rows. Tables have specific accessibility requirements and may require 508 remediation.

Titles and headings

Effective titles and headings help users scan webpages. They improve search engine optimization (SEO).

Title (H1) case


  • The first word
  • All “major” words: nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, and pronouns
  • Prepositions of four or more letters (for example: over, from, with)
  • Conjunctions of four or more letters (for example: unless, than)
  • Ifandhow, why – if you use as conjunctions
  • To – if you use it as part of an infinitive

Only capitalize articles (a, an, and, as, but, for, if, in, nor, of, on, or, the, to [as a preposition], or up) if it’s the first word in the title.

General rules for titles

Titles must be fewer than eight words long. If you include a program or other proper name plus its acronym, and that creates a title that's longer than eight words, use only the acronym(s).

Headers (H2, H3, H4, and H5)

  • Capitalize the first word.
  • Use lowercase for all other words, except for proper nouns.

Rules that apply to both H1 and H2-H5

  • Aim for eight words or less.
  • Make meaningful, strong, unique, descriptive, and clear.
  • Use numerals—do not spell out numbers.
  • Avoid ineffective headings
    • Introduction
    • Welcome
    • Overview
    • About…
    • Background
    • Questions & Answers
    • More Information
  • Put in order: H1, H2, H3, H4, H5
  • Do not use a link.


  • Front-load headings with keywords—the words and phrases people may use in search engines.
  • Eye tracking studies show that readers pay most attention to the first few words.
  • Active voice and positive statements are best.
    Example of active voice: The subject performs the action. The man grabbed the ball.
    Example of passive voice: The subject is acted upon. The ball was grabbed by the man.


  • Set the titles of books, journals, and magazines in italics.
  • Do not set the titles of published reports in italics.
  • Use quotations, not italics, for chapters in books, sections of reports, and articles in journals or magazines.
Sean Test
Date Last Reviewed: