The King's Fund house style

This content relates to the following topics:

The aim of a house style is to ensure that a professional, consistent image of The King’s Fund is presented in all written materials. This guide includes some guidance on basic grammar and also agreed spellings where there is more than one acceptable spelling. House style is not usually about ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ ways, just about consistent ways.

English is a living language and so is constantly changing; we will aim to update the style guide to reflect changes in usage. Feel free to contact the publishing team (Mary Jean Pritchard, ext 2589, or Lisa Oxlade ext 2591) if you have any comments on the format, what it covers, and what you think could usefully be included.

Other information

The five most common house style errors

  1. Various mis-stylings of The King's Fund
  2. 'Healthcare' spelt as one word - it should be health care
  3. Government with a capital - it should be government
  4. e.g. with full points - it should be without them: eg
  5. 'Whilst' rather than 'while'.

A

acknowledgement
not acknowledgment

Act of Parliament

adviser
not advisor

A&E
use accident and emergency (A&E) in first instance

ageing
not aging

all right
not alright

alphabetisation
Order as follows:

Maguire
Maidment
McDowell
Mead

Sachs
Saint Xavier
St Claire
Sugden

alternative
of two; choice of three or four

among
not amongst

ampersand
use ampersands only in common phrases such as A&E but spell out in the first instance - accident and emergency (A&E) departments

annex
not annexe

antenatal
not antinatal

antisocial, anticlimax
no hyphen

apostrophes [']

  • used in possessive terms but be careful to check whether it is qualifying a singular or a plural noun - managers' meeting (meeting of more than one manager); organisation's objectives (objectives of a single organisation).
  • 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, Chris's. (Note an exception to this is St Thomas' Hospital, which forms part of Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust.)
  • Several hours' delay.

arm's length, also arm's length organisations (no hyphen)

authority
singular, so 'the authority is' (not 'the authority are')

B

baby-boomer

back-load

benefited not benefitted

Berwick report National Advisory Group on the Safety of Patients in England (2013). A promise to learn – a commitment to act: improving the safety of patients in England (the Berwick Review). London: Department of Health National Advisory Group on the Safety of Patients in England. Available at: www.gov.uk/government/publications/berwick-review-into-patient-safety (accessed on XX Xxxxxxx 2014).

biannual means twice a year

biennial means every two years

biased not biassed

Bill in parliament

C

capitals
Use capital letters sparingly. Use an initial capital letter when a word forms part of a full title, otherwise it should be lower case.

  • 'Chris Ham, Chief Executive of The King's Fund' but 'the chief executives agreed...'
  • 'University College Hospital' but 'all hospitals'
  • 'London Borough of Greenwich' but 'London boroughs'
  • district nurse, community mental health team
  • 21st century
  • government and parliament should always be lower case (unless it is the first word in a sentence)
  • clinical commissioning groups (unless referring to a specific named organisation)
  • leadership development programmes: apply caps to all the key words in the titles of leadership development programmes with the exception of the generic word 'programme'. So Top Manager programme, Athena programme and Senior Manager programme but Seattle Study Tour

caregiver

century

chief executive

children's

choice
of three or four; alternative of one or two

Choose and Book

Chris's

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.

commas [,]
Avoid excessive use of commas. Don't use a comma at the end of a list before 'and' (for example 'he bought eggs, milk and cheese') except where the meaning is otherwise ambiguous: outpatients, accident and emergency, and health. Commas are sometimes used in place of brackets: 'Chris Ham, Chief Executive, said...' - here it's important to use both commas. Use commas to separate sentences that could be separated into two sentences - for example, 'The first foundation trusts were created in 2004, and there are currently 32 foundation trusts in operation.

compare with
contrast

compare to
likeness

contact details

  • use minimal punctuation in addresses and telephone numbers and no full stops after email or website addresses
  • For email addresses embedded within a full sentence, there should be a colon before the address and no punctuation after as it can look like part of the address, eg, her email address is: info@kingsfund.org.uk
  • Within a full sentence, websites come after 'at:' as follows: Details are available at: www.kingsfund.org.uk Don't include 'http://' unless the web address excludes 'www'. As with email addresses, don't use any punctuation directly afterwards.
  • Marketing materials: The King's Fund's contact details should be listed on marketing materials as follows:
    • t: 020 7307 2400 [or other relevant phone number]
    • e: information@kingsfund.org.uk [or other relevant email address]
    • w: www.kingsfund.org.uk

co-operation

co-ordination

cost-effective
when adjective but 'this intervention was cost effective'

cost-effectiveness

cross-references
Put the instruction of any cross-reference in italics: 'see p9', 'see the section on outreach care'

cyber-attack

D

Dalton report full reference Department of Health (2014). Examining new options and opportunities for providers of NHS care: the Dalton review. London: Department of Health. Available at: www.gov.uk/government/publications/dalton-review-options-for-providers-of-nhs-care (accessed on xx Xxxxx 2015).

Darzi review full reference Department of Health (2008). High quality care for all. NHS Next Stage Review final report. London: The Stationery Office. Available at: http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20130107105354/http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/ Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/Publications/PolicyAndGuidance/DH_085825 (accessed on xx Xxxxx 2015).

dashes Use a dash (called an en rule) rather than a hyphen in the following cases:

  • two en rules – with a space on either side – around supplementary text, much as you would use brackets or commas
  • one en rule, with no space on either side, to join together two words when the two halves are 'equal' and the first words doesn't modify the second, eg, the private–public partnership, the north–south divide
  • one en rule 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 – 24 February.

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

data treat as singular

database one word

dataset one word

dates

  • Write dates as: 1 June 1999.
  • Date ranges should be 24–28 May 1999, 1998-9 but 1798-1810. For financial years use a forward slash rather than an en rule, eg, 1998/9.
  • Decades are the 1980s – not the 1980's, the eighties or the '80s.
  • Make centuries lower case, eg, in the 21st century, but hyphenated when used adjectivally, eg, a 21-century trend.
  • 2003/4 but 2016/17.

day-case

day-patient

decision-making

dependent

adjective

dependant noun

Despatch Box

disability Many individuals have strong views about how they refer to their disabilities – if you are talking about an individual it is easier to ask how they would prefer to describe their disability (some people don’t like the term ‘disability’, but prefer to describe themselves as ‘differently abled’).

Most individuals prefer to be referred to as people rather than by their ability/disability:

  • ‘people with disabilities’ or ‘people with mobility problems’ rather than ‘the disabled’
  • ‘able-bodied’, not ‘normal’
  • ‘people who are blind’ or ‘have sight problems’ or ‘are partially sighted’ rather than ‘the blind’
  • be aware that when talking about hearing loss there are different uses for ‘Deaf’ and ‘deaf’. Deaf (capital D) is used to denote people who identify themselves as part of a cultural, social and linguistic group of people who use a common sign language and as members of the Deaf community (capital D). Using deaf with (lower case d) often identifies people who have a medical hearing loss (partial or total), and is a more all-encompassing term.

E

e-book

email

elderly
Do not use the term ‘the elderly’ or ‘pensioner’ use ‘older people’ or ‘people aged 65 and over’.

event titles
use single quotes and no italic for titles of events (cap up first word only)

evidence-based
when used as an adjective

extracts and quotations
For short quotes of less than 50 words, use single quotation marks, and doubles only for quotes within quotes. Keep short quotes within the main body of the text.

Set out direct extracts of more than 50 words with one line space above and below, indented and presented in italics with no opening or closing quotation marks. Include the reference as shown below. Start extracts with an ellipsis (…) if they run on from the introductory sentence, so that:

… the extracted text completes the sentence (as in this example). Note – no opening or closing quotation marks needed in this case because it’s a long extract and will be set out from the main body of text. There is a colon at the end of the introductory sentence.
(Bloggs 2003)

Unless you’re clearly including only part of a sentence, start the extract with a capital letter and end with a full stop. ‘Here, the quote begins with a full sentence, so there’s no need for a colon in the preceding sentence. We’re using quotation marks in this example, and no indentation, as this is a short 36-word extract’ (Bloggs 2003).

Some shorter quotations are used as ‘display quotes’ in some publications (eg, illustrating points made in the main text). These should be set out as per longer extracts whatever their length (in italics, indented, no quote marks, reference ranged left).

F

fewer used to emphasise how small a number of people or things (fewer people, fewer goals); less is used to refer to a smaller amount, of size, in quantity, or singular nouns (less population, less meat)

50/50 not fifty/fifty

figures When using graphs:

  • include labels for the x and y axes
  • years should be styled as follows: 2005–6, 2010–11, etc, for calendar years or 2005/6; 2010/11, etc, for financial years.

first-hand but at first hand

Five year forward view Use NHS five year forward view at first mention then Forward View. Full reference for the Forward View: NHS England, Care Quality Commission, Health Education England, Monitor, NHS Trust Development Authority, Public Health England (2014). NHS five year forward view [online]. London: NHS England. Available at: www.england.nhs.uk/ourwork/futurenhs (accessed on xx Xxxxxx 2015).

Five year forward view for mental health then Forward View for Mental Health

General practice forward view then Forward View for General Practice

focused not focussed

footnotes and endnotes The King’s Fund isn’t an academic publisher and we try to avoid using footnotes and endnotes. For references to other publications, we use the Harvard style of referencing (see References pp 22–31). For footnotes that contain general comments that are supplementary to the main body text, either incorporate them into the main text or delete them.

In the occasional circumstance where it’s agreed that endnotes will be used, insert them manually rather than using the Word endnote facility, as the formatting can cause complications at design stage. Run the endnote numbers sequentially throughout the publication. Insert them directly after the punctuation mark following the relevant phrase,1 and before the space.2 List the full references at the end of the publication. For the referencing style, see References (pp 22–31).

Footnotes can be used at the bottom of a table where you need to provide some brief explanatory notes to a statistic.

Use full stops at the end of all endnotes and footnotes, except when they end in a web address.

forums not fora

Francis report full reference Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry (2013). Report of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry (Chair: Robert Francis). London: The Stationery Office. Available at: www.midstaffspublicinquiry.com/report (accessed on xx Xxxxxx 2014).

frontline as adjective

front line as noun

front-load

full stops [.]

  • Use full stops at the end of full sentences.
  • Don't use full stops after any kind of abbreviation or contraction, eg Dr, Mrs, Mr AE Bloggs, the BMJ, eg, ie
  • Don't use full stops at the end of captions or bibliography/further reading entries
  • 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.

full-time equivalent (FTE)

fundholding

G

general election
lower case

General practice forward view then Forward View for General Practice

geographical regions
Be aware that your readers may not be in the same place as you, so to avoid parochialism, refer to the United Kingdom or England/Scotland/Wales/Northern Ireland/Eire rather than this country. Similarly, ensure the text isn’t biased towards England, the United Kingdom, Europe, rich countries, etc. Replace words such as overseas or abroad with terms such as outside the United Kingdom, and replace foreign with non-UK.

  • When excluding Northern Ireland, refer to Britain (not Great Britain).
  • Write the United States when used as a noun and US when used adjectivally, eg, He lives in the United States but he doesn’t have a US accent. Don’t use America or USA. Use North America only when referring to the geographical rather than political region, ie including Canada.
  • Use the United Kingdom when referring to it as a noun and UK when using it adjectivally. See United States (above).
  • Use lower case for north, south, etc, unless they are part of a formal geographical location, eg, north London but West Sussex.
  • Hyphenate compound cardinals, eg, north-west London.
  • Use upper case when referring to the West (as in the developed world). Refer to developing countries rather than the Third World.
  • Use Eire or the Irish Republic, not Ireland.

government
lower case

GPs
plural, not GP's

GPs with a special interest
acronym should be GPwSI not GPSI

graphs

  • include labels for the x and y axes
  • years should be styled as follows: 2005–6, 2010–11, etc, for calendar years or 2005/6; 2010/11, etc, for financial years.

Green Paper

Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital
note apostrophe after the 's' on Thomas', which is an exception to normal style

H

health authority
lower case unless referring to a specific authority

health care
always two words, even when adjective

Health Secretary

high-quality
adjective

homoeopathy
homeothapy is American spelling

hospital-acquired infections

health care-acquired infections

human resources

hyphens
use hyphens:

  • to join two or more separate words used adjectivally, eg:
    • we aim to provide high-quality care (but 'the care was of high quality')
    • it was a long-term project (but 'in the long term')
  • 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
  • to avoid confusion, eg, a little-used care not a little used car
  • do not use hyphen after adverbs ending -ly – eg, highly skilled workforce
  • hyphenate numbers from 21 to 99 when they are spelt out – eg, eighty-seven.

I

ill health

inbuilt
one word

inner city
as noun

inner-city London
as adjective

the internet
lower-case 'i'

impatient
lacking patience

inpatient
a patient who stays in a hospital while under treatment

inquiry
not enquiry, for formal hearing

it's
abbreviation for 'it is' or 'it has'

its
possessive, eg, 'its chief executive'

italics
use italics for:

  • titles of publications – books, journals or periodicals, but use inverted commas not italics for the title of a chapter or article, eg, ‘Establishing the National Health Service’ in From cradle to grave: fifty years of the NHS
  • newspapers, eg, The Times, the Financial Times
  • titles of White Papers, Green Papers, published reports, etc, but do not use italics if referring to the policy in general rather than the publication, eg, the NHS Plan, the Forward View
  • plays, films, TV and radio programmes
  • paintings and sculptures
  • et al, where referring to a publication with three or more authors (Smith et al 1999).

J

judgement not judgment

K

Keogh review full reference
Keogh B (2013). Review into the quality of care and treatment provided by 14 hospital trusts in England: overview report. London: NHS. Available at: www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/bruce-keogh-review/Pages/published-reports.aspx (accessed on xx Xxxxx 2015).

The King's Fund
In external documents refer to The King’s Fund in full. In internal documents you can refer to the Fund (make the F upper case).

The following text is used as a general description of the Fund on all materials for an external audience:

The King’s Fund is an independent charity working to improve health and health care in England. We help to shape policy and practice through research and analysis; develop individuals, teams and organisations; promote understanding of the health and social care system; and bring people together to learn, share knowledge and debate. Our vision is that the best possible care is available to all.

L

last
'The last few days' means the final few days; the 'past few days' means the most recent few days.

layperson

learnt
verb: 'he has learnt the lessons'

learned
adjective, as in scholarly

less
of size, in quantity, or singular nouns (less population, less meat)
See fewer

licence
noun

license
verb

lists and bullets
Wherever there's a list of three or more items, consider presenting the information as bullet points. Bullet points work well because they:

  • make key points stand out
  • avoid repetition (eg, the word ‘they’ in this example)
  • summarise lists of points that will follow later in the text.
  • Make the text of bullet points that aren’t full sentences (like the ones above) lower case at the start of the line, with no punctuation except for a full stop after the final bullet point.
  • Where you have lists within lists use different symbols, for example: Patients may benefit from:
  • medical treatment
  • ‘alternative’ therapies, including:
    • hypnotherapy
    • acupuncture
    • meditation
  • practical support.

However, if each of the points includes more text then they should be treated differently.

  • They will have a line space before and after each bullet point.
  • Because they include whole sentences or even paragraphs, start them with a capital letter and put a full stop at the end of each point.

longstanding

long-term
adjective but: in the 'long term'

long-term conditions
When possible, refer to 'people' not 'patients' when referring to people with chronic conditions. Do not refer to people by their condition. Do not refer to people as ‘victims of’ or ‘suffering from’ when talking about long-term conditions. You could, for example, say:

  • ‘do people now visit the GP with more complex health conditions?’ not ‘are patients attending for a GP appointment more complex?’
  • 'people with diabetes' or ‘people living with diabetes’ rather than 'diabetics', 'patients with diabetes' or ‘people suffering from diabetes’
  • ‘people with asthma’ or ‘people living with asthma’ rather than ‘asthmatics’ or ‘patients with asthma’
  • ‘people with mental health conditions’ not ‘mental health patients’ or ‘people suffering from mental health problems’
  • ‘most people with mental health conditions do not require admission to hospital and are supported by mental health services in the community’ not ‘Most mental health patients do not require admission to hospital and are supported by mental health services in the community’.

See also people or patients, mental health and disability.

M

majority of
use most

marketplace

Masters
no apostrophe

measurements
Write metric measures in abbreviated form – 16mm, 7.2m, 22mg (no space after the numeral)

Member(s) of Parliament

men's

mental health
A range of terms are used within mental health and are often interchangeable. The term ‘mental health problems’ is one of the phrases adopted by Mind, the national mental health charity. It is used as an all-encompassing term to capture issues that impact negatively on someone’s psychological wellbeing or mental health ‘one in four people experience a mental health problem every year’ or ‘I have a mental health problem’. The term ‘mental health conditions’ is also used although this largely refers to the individual ‘conditions’ or diagnoses, not to people.

In describing people with individual mental health problems, terms such as ‘people with schizophrenia’ or in the case of particular symptoms ‘people experiencing psychosis’ should be used. Do not use diagnoses to describe people ‘she was a depressive’.

The term ‘service user’ is widely used in mental health. This term has all sorts of political connotations – but now it is commonly used to describe people who are actively in contact with services, eg, ‘We involved a group of mental health service users in designing…’.

Because of poor reporting in the media there are some good guidelines which have been developed to help people writing and reporting about mental health including advice on writing about specific issues such as suicide, violence, eating disorders and use of images to depict mental illness.

See also people or patients and long-term conditions.

misuse (no hyphen)

money
Use symbols for £ and $ with no space between the symbol and the number. Always specify whether dollars are US$ at first instance (and if not specify, for example NZ$); thereafter just use $. For other currencies, write them out in full after the figure, eg, 1,000 baht.

For UK currency, use £6.00, £5.25 and £0.25, not £6, £5.25p or 25p.

multidisciplinary

multi-professional

multispecialty community provider (MCP)

N

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)
note, for not of

national NHS bodies not NHS national bodies

NHS England
no acronym

NHS five year forward view
Use NHS five year forward view at the first mention and then Forward View
Full reference for the Forward View:
NHS England, Care Quality Commission, Health Education England, Monitor, NHS Trust Development Authority, Public Health England (2014). NHS five year forward view [online]. London: NHS England. Available at: www.england.nhs.uk/ourwork/futurenhs (accessed on xx Xxxxxx 2015).

non-discriminatory language
If in doubt, ask the people or group concerned how they would like to be referred to. Refer to someone's ethnic origin, disability gender, mental health or sexuality only if it's strictly relevant to the context. Never refer to people as 'normal'.

Disability - refer to:

  • 'people with disabilities' or 'people with mobility problems' rather than 'the disabled'.
  • 'able-bodied' not 'normal'.
  • 'people who are blind' or 'people who have sight problems' or 'people who are partially sighted' not 'the blind'.
  • 'Deaf people' or the 'Deaf Community' (note: upper case 'D') rather than 'the deaf'.

Ethnic origin – everyone has an ethnic origin and identity. Care should be taken with terms used, which should relate to the census categories, which are used for 'ethnic monitoring' across the NHS and elsewhere. The categories are:

White – includes British, Irish and 'other' – such as Polish

Asian – Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and 'others' – such as Tamil, or sub-regions such as Kashmir and Mirpur

Black – Caribbean, African and 'other'

Chinese and other.

The term 'black and minority ethnic (BME)' refers to all people who would not classify themselves as 'white British'. Use 'black and minority ethnic' or refer to their specific group if known: African, African-Caribbean (not Afro-Caribbean), Bengali, Chinese and so on.

Gender

  • Use suitable gender non-specific terms where possible, eg, 'chair' rather than 'chairman/-woman', 'firefighter' rather than 'fireman', 'postal worker' rather than 'postman/-woman'.
  • Don’t refer to a woman’s marital status, pregnancy or children (eg, 'Mary, mother of three') unless it’s relevant.
  • If you don’t know the gender, refer to 'they' or 'their' rather than 'he', 'he/she', 'he or she', and so on, eg, 'If the editor notices a spelling error, they must correct it.'

HIV/AIDS

  • Someone who has the human immunodeficiency virus is HIV positive.
  • However, use a hyphen when HIV is adjectival, eg, an HIV-positive woman.
  • It’s not necessary to spell out HIV or AIDS in full.
  • HIV/AIDS are usually presented together, eg, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, except when you’re referring specifically to the HIV virus or AIDS, its related illnesses.
  • Don’t use full-blown AIDS – AIDS is sufficient.
  • Refer to people with AIDS, rather than AIDS sufferers, AIDS victims, etc.

Mental health
Use 'people with mental health issues' or 'people experiencing mental distress' rather than 'victims' or 'sufferers of', or 'people suffering from', mental illness.

Sexuality
Use gay and lesbian rather than homosexual. For plural, use gay men (not gays) and lesbians. Gay can refer to men and women together (eg, gay rights) but gay men and lesbians is preferable to gay people. The term gay doesn’t include transgender and bisexual people, whom you should refer to specifically.

no one
not no-one

none
takes singular verb

numbers

  • Use commas in figures of four figures or more (1,000, 15,000) and a further comma after millions (1,234,567). However, millions and billions will usually be written as 2.4 million/3.7 billion.
  • Spell out numbers one to nine. Write 10 onwards as numerals, unless the number comes at the beginning of a sentence (although it’s best to reorder the sentence to avoid this). If a sentence includes a mix of numbers, use a consistent style – ‘The relevant sections were 7, 13, 14 and 17’ or ‘The relevant sections were two, five and eleven.’
  • Hyphenate numbers from 21 to 99 when they are spelt out: eg, eighty-seven, twenty-six or two hundred and sixty-five.
  • Use numerals in:
    • figures, tables and measurements (5km)
    • percentages (2 per cent)
    • currency (US$6)
    • before the words million or billion (5.5 million, 1 billion)
    • ages (6-year-old girl)

Note: only use the per cent sign (%) in tables and figures – otherwise, spell it out in full, with a space between per and cent.

Use the following style for ranges: 11–12, 105–6, 1764–98 but 1764–1810, 9.45–10.00am.

numbers ordinals
Write ordinals (first, second, third, etc) in full (not 1st, 2nd or firstly, secondly). If ordinals are presented as numbers (in a table, for example) use 1st (not superscript).

O

Office for National Statistics
Not Office of National Statistics

older people
Do not use the term ‘the elderly’ or ‘pensioner’ use ‘older people’ or ‘people aged 65 and over’.

Try to avoid the phrase ‘frail older people’ and use ‘older people with frailty’ or ‘older people living with frailty’.

ongoing

only
Take care to place ‘only’ before the word or phrase it qualifies; ‘she only touched the key, but did not press it; she touched only the key, not the switch; she touched the only key’. Similarly, ‘he only played cricket’ is wrong; ‘he played only cricket’ is correct.

on to
not onto

ordinals
Write ordinals (first, second, third, etc) in full (not 1st, 2nd or firstly, secondly). If ordinals are presented as numbers (in a table, for example) use 1st (not superscript).

out-of-hospital settings

hyphens

outpatient

over
Do not use this when you mean 'more than', eg, 'she waited over four hours for the train' should be '... more than four hours ...'; 'there were over 60 victims' should be '... more than 60 ...'.

overuse (no hyphen)

P

pacesetter
one word

panellist
not panelist

parliament
lower case 'p'

Payment by Results (PbR)

pay-off
hyphen

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.

people's

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

policy-makers

practice
noun

practise
verb

preventive
not preventative

primary care trust
lower case unless referring to a named trust

principal
main

principle
value

punctuation

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.

Hyphens[-]
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.

Q

quarterly monitoring report (first mention) then QMR

quotation marks
Use single quotation marks, with double where there’s a quotation within another quotation – eg, ‘I have never heard it called a “quotation mark” before,’ she said.

R

re/re-
Use re- (with hyphen) when followed by the vowels e or u (not pronounced as 'yu'): eg, re-entry, re-examine, re-urge.

Use re (no hyphen) when followed by the vowels a, i, o or u (pronounced as 'yu'), or any consonant: eg, rearm, rearrange, reassemble, reiterate, reorder, reread, reuse, rebuild, reconsider, retweet.

Exceptions (where confusion with another word would arise): re-cover/recover, re-creation/recreation, re-form/reform, re-sent/resent, re-sign/resign.

realise
not realize

references
The King’s Fund uses Harvard style – putting author–date references in the text, eg, (Ham 2011) and listing the full references in alphabetical order at the end of the publication. Please do not use footnotes or endnotes.

ring-fence
hyphenated

run-up
hyphenated

S

second-hand

Secretary of State

semi-colons [;]
Use semi-colons to break up a sentence with more emphasis than a comma: Yesterday she had five patients; today she had none.

short-term
adjective but ‘in the short term’ (no hyphen)

singular/plural
A collective noun is usually singular (eg, 'the publishing team wants to speak to the author'; 'the media is very influential') – the team may be made up of many people, but it’s a single item. However, this can sound awkward, in which case reword it to, for example, ‘the team members want to speak to the author’ or ‘the people in the publishing team want to speak to the author’. An exception to this is staff, which can read oddly as a singular noun – so takes a plural verb ‘the staff were unhappy’.

sizeable

social care
There is a lot of discussion/debate about how to refer to people who use social care services. Although ‘service user’ is one of the most commonly used phrases, many people don’t like this term, so think about using alternatives such as ‘people with care and support needs’ or ‘people who use care services’.

social services

socio-economic

specialty
not speciality when referring to medical specialties

spelt
not spelled

standalone
one word as a adjective

stationary
not moving

stationery
writing materials

straight away

sub-committee

Sustainability and Transformation Fund
use in full at each mention, do not abbreviate to STF

sustainability and transformation plans (STPs)
use in full at first mention, then use STPs

T

targeted
not targetted

teamwork

teamworking

that/which
Although these two words are commonly used interchangeably, they serve different functions.

'That' is used for defining or restrictive clauses (a clause that is specific to a particular person or thing):

  • 'The patient made a list of the symptoms that were most troublesome.' In this example, the symptoms listed were restricted to those that were the most troublesome

Which is used in non-defining or non-restrictive clauses:

  • 'The patient made a list of the symptoms, which were most troublesome.' In this example the phrase ‘which were most troublesome’ provides additional informal about the symptoms

time

Write times as follows: 8.00am, 9.15pm (note: no space between number and am/pm). Where it’s necessary to say o’clock (for example, in an extract), put in a space after the number (8 o’clock).

timeframe

timescale

trade unions
not trades union

try to
not try and

type 1 / type 2 diabetes
lower case and Arabic numeral

U

under-invest

underspend

underuse (no hyphen)

under way
two words

U-turn

V

vanguards
lower case

vice versa
no hyphen

W

website
one word

wellbeing
one word

while
not whilst

White Paper

whole-time equivalent

women's

world class commissioning

X

x-ray

Y

years 2005–6, 2010–11, etc, for calendar years or 2005/6; 2010/11, etc, for financial years.

Z

-ze use -se