Explain acronyms and abbreviations by writing them out in full the first time you use them with the acronym in brackets immediately afterwards. You do not need to do this for the NHS as the acronym is universally known, and you may not need to do this for NIHR (see NIHR). Do not use jargon and buzz words unless they are commonly used outside the NIHR.
If an abbreviation can be pronounced (for example UNESCO and UNICEF), it does not generally require the definite article. Other organisations, except companies, should usually be preceded by ‘the’ (the BBC, the NHS, the UNHCR).
In line with current NIHR guidance, avoid using BAME and BME when writing about ethnicity.
Ampersands ( & )
Avoid using ‘&’ except in universally recognised abbreviations, such as A&E or R&D.
Spell out all names in full in addresses presented in letterheads and contact details in documents and publications. Acronyms should not be used under any circumstances. For example:
For example: special adviser. Not advisor, but advisory is the correct adjective.
In line with guidance on inclusive content, avoid referring to someone’s age, unless it’s relevant to what you’re writing about. If required to state someone’s age alongside their name it should be written as: John Smith, 70 years old or John Smith, in his 70s.
Avoid using ‘&’ except in universally recognised abbreviations, such as A&E or R&D.
Always lower case unless it’s part of a proper title: so upper case for the Judicial Executive Board, but lower case for the DFT’s management board.
Bold can be used for headlines and subheadings. Do not use bold in paragraphs or sentences. Rewrite a paragraph or sentence to emphasise a point.
Avoid bold text because it can be interpreted as a link, creates visual clutter and draws attention away from other information.
Use brackets for acronyms or abbreviations after they have been mentioned for the first time, for example: Clinical Research Network (CRN). Do not use brackets as an aside to explain something further. If something needs to be in the text it should be a full part of the text.
Always use British English, rather than American English. Examples of this include: ‘centre’ not ‘center’, ‘colour’ not ‘color’ and ‘focusing’ not ‘focussing’. Spell words such as generalise, emphasise, organisation and visualisation with an ‘s’ and not a ‘z’.
You can use bullet points to make text easier to read. Make sure that:
you use standard round bullet points
you always use a lead-in line
the bullets make sense running on from the lead-in line
you use lower case at the start of the bullet
you do not use more than one sentence per bullet point - use commas or dashes to expand on an item
you do not put ‘or’ or ‘and’ after the bullets
if you add links they appear within the text and not as the whole bullet
you do not put a semicolon at the end of a bullet
there is no full stop after the last bullet point
The above apply for numbered points as well.
Capitals can seem LOUD and AGGRESSIVE. Keep capitals to a minimum.
Use title case rather than upper case for page title, page heading, official document title, subheadings, or name of a place, person or organisation.
Use title case for specific job titles, for example: Senior Clinical Trials Manager. Generic job titles should not be capitalised, for example: the research administrators. nor should director general (no hyphen), deputy director, director, be capitalised unless in a specific job title.
Use capitals for a specific trust, for example: Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Write general terms, such as hospital trusts, in lower case.
Research studies should be capitalised, for example: Resonance Imaging of Lung Nodules.
‘Government’ should be lower case unless it’s a full title, for example: ‘UK Government announced yesterday’.
Regions should be written in lower case, for example: northern England, south west London.
Always insert one space after a comma. Exception: when writing out numbers, for example 12,500.
NIHR decision-making takes place via committees, not panels.
Publication title, publisher. Year of publication. Edition number. Page numbers.
Use brackets in a sentence when referencing a chapter or pages in the same publication, for example as mentioned earlier in this chapter (p 24-26).
Dates are structured 5 March 2016. Do not use th, st, rd or nd.
Do not use 05 March 2016. However, it can be 05/03/2016.
Use ‘from’ and ‘to’ or ‘between’ to describe date ranges, for example from July to November 2011 or between 2008 and 2009, except when referring to short date ranges such as 24–26 August.
Dates must be used to demonstrate the timeliness of the content and not the date the information was published.
An oblique should be used for dates, for example 16/09/2016.
Times are structured: ‘from 9.30am to 4.30pm’, ‘Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm’.
Put different days on a new line and don’t separate with a comma.
When space is an issue, for example in tables, publication titles, etc you can use truncated months: Jan, Feb, Mar, Aug, Sept, Oct, Nov, Dec.
5.30pm (not 17.30hrs)
Midnight, not 00:00
Midday, not 12 noon, noon or 12pm
10am to 11am (not 10–11am)
Don’t use ‘quarter’ for dates; use the months, for example: ‘[dept] expenses, Jan to Mar 2013’.
Write decades in numerals followed by an ‘s’, for example 1970s.
Decades can be abbreviated, for example the 60s, the 90s, but not ‘60s, ‘90s, 60’s, 70’s.
The possessive form of decades should include an apostrophe, for example 70s’ style.
Avoid using ellipses except in a very conversational style, for example ‘The study provided support to parents and families … We achieved a high rate of retention, which was down to the strength of these relationships.’
Avoid using the term. Write either ‘and other’ or specify what you mean. ‘Etc’ is open to misinterpretation.
Megabytes should be abbreviated to Mb not MB, for example 2,000 Mb.
Gigabytes should be abbreviated to Gb not GB, for example 200 Gb.
Portable document format should be abbreviated to PDF not Pdf.
Lato is the NIHR’s standard font. Arial can be used if Lato isn’t available. A minimum of 11 point font size should be used for publications to external audiences.
Decimals should be used instead of fractions. Decimals and written fractions should not be mixed together.
Use only one space after a full stop. This is the standard practice for both online and print publishing.
Hyphens are used to link compound words, for example walk-in, build-up. Use words rather than hyphens to describe ranges, for example between 10% and 20%, not 10-20%.
re- words starting with e, like re-evaluate
Do not hyphenate:
Be aware that accessibility tools can sometimes have difficulties with abbreviations like etc, e.g. and i.e. so avoid using them. Instead, write them in full – ‘that is’, and ‘for example’ respectively.
Do not use italics to emphasise a point. Italics should only be used when referring to publication titles. They are hard to read on screen, especially for those with visual impairments.
Always left justify your document. Never use full justification; this makes documents hard to read. Exception: document titles may be centred.
Lower case should be used to refer to kg, km, mph and other measures. Spaces should not be included between numbers and units, for example: 100mph, 35mm, 78rpm.
Generally, lower case should be used for Système International (SI) units except those named after individuals, for example:
Watt = W
Newton = N
Pascal = Pa
k, m and M are standard international metric abbreviations for thousand, one-thousandth and million respectively. Therefore:
watt = W
kilowatt = kW
milliwatt = mW
megawatt = MW
Use the £ symbol: £75.
Do not use decimals unless pence are included: £75.50 but not £75.00.
Do not use ‘£0.xx million’ for amounts less than £1 million.
Write out pence in full: calls will cost 4 pence per minute from a landline.
Always use million in money (and billion): £138 million.
Referring to NIHR on our channels
When writing about NIHR on an NIHR-owned channel (e.g. the NIHR website), please just use 'NIHR' in the first instance and then 'we'. This applies to all content on our own channels including in our news items.
It is also not always necessary to have a definite article (the) before NIHR.
Referring to NIHR on external channels
When writing about the NIHR for an external channel (e.g. in a press release), you should write the National Institute for Health Research in full the first time with the NIHR acronym in brackets immediately afterwards. You can use the acronym thereafter and note that a definite article (the) is not always required. If someone who works for NIHR is quoted, they can use 'we' where appropriate.
Example: The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is working with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA)… The NIHR will be working with UKHSA to…
In exceptional cases where you need to mention a specific centre, programme or initiative follow the same principle and provide the details in full on first mention.
Example: Please contact the NIHR Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB) programme on...
Supported by vs funded by
When a project or study is fully funded by the NIHR you can refer to it as ‘NIHR-funded'.
If a partner organisation has provided a significant proportion of the funding, we should refer to it as ‘co-funded’ by the NIHR.
If the NIHR has not provided direct research funding for the project or study, but has provided infrastructure or any other kind of support that has gone towards making the research possible, you can refer to it as ‘supported by the NIHR.’
In line with guidance on inclusive content, use numerals (1, 2, 3 and so on) for all numbers (including 1 and 2), not just for 10 and upwards, as people find numerals easier to read and they scan for them. Exception: where it’s part of a common expression like ‘one or two of them’ or 'one half' where numerals would look strange.
In line with the above, use numerals for all numbers that include a decimal point, for instance 4.25, or units, therefore use 6cm not six cm.
For numbers less than 1, use 0 before the decimal point – for example, 0.25.
Any number at the beginning of a sentence should be written in full, for example: Two thousand participants were recruited into the study. Exception: where the number starts a title or subheading.
Millions and billions should be presented as follows: 3 million, 14 million, 10 billion. Millions and billions should not be presented as figures, for example: 1,000,000.
Millions and billions can be abbreviated to ‘m’ and ‘bn’.
Commas should be inserted into figures over 999, for example: 1,500.
Do not use superscript. It does not always read out correctly on screen readers and could confuse people.
Avoid using obliques within text, for example ‘from/to’ should be written ‘from and to’.
Insert one line space between paragraphs.
Use the % symbol instead of spelling out 'percent' or 'per cent'. Avoid mixing fractions and percentages.
Yes: The study found 33% of people recovered within a week but 66% still had symptoms up to 3 weeks later.
No: The study found 33% of people recovered within a week but two-thirds still had symptoms up to 3 weeks later.
Write short sentences and use familiar words. Avoid jargon and slang. If you need to use an abbreviation or acronym that people may not understand, explain what it means on first reference. Guidance has been developed for researchers and for board and panel members.
Avoid overuse of brackets, dashes, commas and semicolons. Too much punctuation can clutter up text and make it difficult for visually impaired people to read. Stick to short, clear sentences to reduce clutter. See also specific pointers elsewhere in this guide.
Only use double quotation marks when quoting speech. Use single quotation marks for a quotation within a quotation.
For example: “Do you know,” he said, “what the abbreviation ‘DNA’ stands for?”
Use single quotation marks to enclose an unfamiliar word or phrase, or one to be used in a technical sense. For example:
‘Hermeneutics’ is the usual term for such interpretation.
Our subject is the age of Latin literature known as ‘Silver’.
In such cases quotation marks should be used only at the first occurrence of the word or phrase in a document; thereafter it may be considered to be fully assimilated.
Do not use ‘scare quotes’. Scare quote is another expression for ‘so-called’, and should be avoided. For example:
They have cut down the trees in the interest of ‘progress’.
Do not use quotation marks for document titles.
Use the Vancouver system for referencing publications, including in footnotes, as follows:
Publications with a personal author:
Author(s) name. Publication title. Publisher. Year of publication. Edition number. Page numbers.