The King's Fund house style: P

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one word

not panelist

lower case 'p'

Payment by Results (PbR)


people or patients?
When you are writing about people who are receiving medical treatment for a physical or mental health condition, remember that they do not always become passive participants in this process. Bear in mind that many people want to be involved in decisions about their care, so avoid phrases that describe the person’s/patient’s role as a passive one, eg:

  • avoid phrases that disempower people, such as ‘putting patients in control of their care’ or ‘giving patients a role in decision-making’. Use words such as ‘empowering’, ‘sharing’ or ’involving’ instead, eg, ‘health professionals and people with long-term conditions share decisions about management options'.

Think whether it is more appropriate to use the word ‘people’ or the word ‘patients’ when referring to people who are accessing support or health and care services. As a general rule, use ‘people’ if possible unless this makes the sentence sound odd or forced. It might be that thinking about the audience for your writing helps you decide which is more appropriate.

Try to avoid using ‘patients’ to refer to people using the health service in connection with pregnancy, eg:

  • ‘Pregnant women with flu are more likely to have severe illness than women who are not pregnant’ not ‘Antenatal patients with flu are more likely to have severe illness than women who are not pregnant’

Avoid phrases like ‘patients in a terminal state’. Instead use ‘people at the end of their lives’ or ‘patients with a terminal condition’.

It is appropriate to use ‘patients’ for people who are in hospital with an acute or life-threatening condition.

It is never acceptable to describe people as ‘bed blockers’ – it is the system that prevents people from getting the right care in the right place at the right time.

See also long-term conditions, mental health, disability and older people.


per cent
two words and not symbol, except in tables and figures




not preventative

primary care trust
lower case unless referring to a named trust




Use minimal punctuation: single quotation marks (') rather than double (") (except when a quotation appears within a quotation) and no punctuation in abbreviations such as eg, am and etc.

apostrophes [']
Collective nouns have an apostrophe before the s, eg, children’s, people’s, women’s, men’s, not childrens’, etc.

Leave out the s when the last syllable of a name is pronounced ‘iz’ (eg, Bridges’, Moses’, but James’s, Thomas’s). (Note: An exception to this is St Thomas’ Hospital, which forms part of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.)

commas [,]
Avoid excessive use of commas. Don’t use a serial comma (at the end of a list before and), eg, he bought bread, eggs, milk and cheese) except where the meaning is otherwise ambiguous: outpatients, accident and emergency, and health.

Commas are sometimes used as parentheses:

  • Chris Ham, the chief executive, said… In this situation it’s important to include both commas.
  • Commas are sometimes necessary to clarify meaning:
  • She said the hospital environment was attractive because he worked there. (It was attractive because he worked there.)
  • She said the hospital environment was attractive, because he worked there. (She said it because he worked there.)
  • Use commas in figures of four digits or more, so 1,000; 10,000; 100,000; 1,000,000.

colons [:]
Use a colon before a list, eg, before bullet points. Don’t put a dash after a colon (:-) and don’t use a colon when introducing an extract that’s a full sentence.

dashes [–]
The dash may look similar to the hyphen [-] but it’s a separate punctuation mark, with very different functions. The dash, also known as the endash, has three uses:

  • Use two endashes – with a space on either side of each – around supplementary text, much as you would use brackets or commas. However, parentheses are preferable in sentences where a comma is needed after the second endash/bracket.
  • Use one endash, with no space on either side, to join together two words when the two halves are ‘equal’ and the first word doesn’t modify the second, eg, the private–public partnership, the north–south divide.
  • Use one endash with no space on either side in number ranges, such as years and page references. However, where there are words as well as numbers, there is a space on either side. So 24–26 January, but 24 January – 4 February.

To create an endash, hold down the Ctrl key and type the minus (-) sign on your number keyboard.

ellipses [… ]
Use ellipses where part of a quotation has been left out. Use three points with no space before but a space after if the ellipsis is in the middle of a sentence, eg, 'the nurse… joined the scrutiny group…' If the omission is made before a full stop, exclude the final point of the ellipsis so that it has a maximum of three points, not four. If the ellipsis is made at the start of a sentence, leave no space between the ellipsis and the first word, eg, '…why has implementation of this policy been such a struggle?'

full stops [.]
Use full stops only at the end of full sentences, not after incomplete phrases.

  • Don’t use full stops after any kind of abbreviation or contraction, eg, Dr, Mrs, Mr AE Bloggs, the BMJ, eg, ie.
  • Try to reorder sentences so that web addresses don’t come at the end of sentences. If they do, leave out the full stop.
  • Add only one space after a full stop.

As a general rule, use hyphens sparingly. Use them:

  • to join two separate words, usually adjectivally, eg:
    • 'he was the long-time favourite', but 'he had been the favourite for a long time'
    • 'it was a long-term project', but 'in the long term'
    • '12-year-old children', but '12 year olds'
    • 'a 20th-century hospital', but 'in the 20th century'

(do not use a hyphen when the first word in the phrase ends -ly, eg, a highly skilled workforce)

  • when one syllable ends and the next begins with the same letter, eg, co-ordinate
  • to join certain words, eg, compound colours (a white-and-blue uniform) and to join prefixes to words, eg, in the pre- and post-war years
  • as a prefix to proper nouns, eg, pre-Raphaelite, anti-Darwinian
  • to avoid confusion, eg, a little-used car not a little used car.

Specific examples that crop up regularly include:

  • decision-makers, the practice of decision-making and the decision-making process
  • policy-makers, an improvement in policy-making and the policy-making agenda.