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Writing Guide

Our primary style guide is the AP Stylebook. This writing guide, containing university exceptions to AP style and commonly encountered topics, is aimed at news and other informational writing.

If you have suggestions for additions or edits to the writing guide, please contact the Office of Public Affairs.


A

academic degrees

Do not use periods in academic degrees: MD, PhD. This differs from AP style.

List academic degrees after names. Use the highest postgraduate degree. Include Master of Public Health and other health-related master’s degrees as appropriate. In an academic setting, a wide range of degrees, associations, and certifications may be desirable and valuable to publicize.

First reference: Set off degrees with commas on both sides.
Jane Doe, MD, PhD, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology

Second reference: Use last names.

Do not use Dr. except in approved exceptions. For example, the use of Dr. in photo captions/cutlines to save space is acceptable.

Capitalize the name of a degree; otherwise, keep it lowercase.
master’s degree in psychology, Master of Science in psychology, doctorate in psychology, PhD in psychology

Alumni may be identified with the year of their graduation in cases such as stewardship communications/publications. Use the same rule of setting off with commas on both sides.
John McDonald, MD ’82, remembers his medical school days well.

acronyms, abbreviations, initialisms

Acronyms, abbreviations, and initialisms for schools, centers, programs, etc. should be limited in use, with a preference for the full, consistent, descriptive name of the school, center, program, etc.

In copy, write the full name or phrase followed by the acronym in parentheses on first reference, then use the acronym afterward.

Some common acronyms, including locally common ones, may be used without the full name first.
ID, ER, ICU, MRI, TMC, NIH

U.S. is acceptable in copy at all times. United States is also acceptable as a noun, not as an adjective. In headlines, it’s US with no periods.

addresses

When writing a full address with a number, abbreviate Ave., Blvd., and St.; otherwise spell out the designation, such as Road. Without an address number, always spell it out: Fifth Avenue.

advisor/adviser

Use advisor. This differs from AP style.

ages

Always use figures and not words.

ampersand

Use only when part of a proper name or title.

B

bullets

See lists.

C

capitalization

See titles.

chair/chairman/chairwoman

Use chair.

child care

two words

clinical trial phases

See research journals.

comma

Use the serial/Oxford comma before the conjunction and final element in a series. This differs from AP style.

coronavirus, COVID-19

For the most current information, please see the AP Stylebook Coronavirus Topical Guide

The disease: COVID-19 or the coronavirus. COVID-19 is capitalized because it is an acronym for COronaVIrus Disease. Please note that coronavirus is lowercase.

The virus: COVID-19 virus or virus that causes COVID-19. Use coronavirus when writing about the family of viruses. The name of the virus, if needed for science or medical news, is SARS-CoV-2.

co-worker

hyphenate

cutting-edge

Hyphenate when using as a modifier.

D

dash

AP style prefers the n-dash with spaces on either side. Always aim for consistency in punctuation.

date

See time and date.

Dr.

Avoid the use of Dr. in news copy. On first reference, use the person’s academic degree, set off by commas.

Dr. may be used for features or soft news, and in photo cutlines/captions to save space.

drive-thru

Hyphenate and spell as drive-thru.

E

e.g., i.e.

e.g. means “for example” and i.e. means “that is.” Both are followed by a comma.

F

front line

This is two words as a noun: health professionals on the front line. Hyphenate when using as a modifier: front-line health professionals.

G

Greater Houston area

Greater and Houston are capitalized; area is not.

H

handwashing

One word, no hyphen. This differs from AP style.

headlines

For news stories, use sentence case in headlines, not title case. For other documents that use title case, Capitalize My Title is a good tool to consult.

health care

two words

home schooling

This is two words as a noun. Hyphenate as a verb or modifier: home-school, home-schooled.

J

journals

See research journals.

L

lists

Per AP style, list items should be capitalized, have parallel structure, and only end with periods if they are complete sentences.

Parallel structure means that all items are full sentences, or all begin with active verbs, or are otherwise similar in construction.

M

months

See time and date.

N

National Institutes of Health

Note that it is Institutes, plural. There is no need to follow with (NIH), and NIH may be used alone on subsequent reference.

O

on-site, off-site

hyphenate

P

patient names

Use full name on first reference. For second reference, last name is preferred, but first name may be used in features or “soft news.”

percent

Use the symbol. For a range, use “to” or a hyphen: 12% to 15% or 12%-15%. Use decimals and not fractions. For smaller than 1%, use a zero before the decimal point.

personal protective equipment, PPE

Treat this like other acronyms. Write the full name or phrase followed by the acronym in parentheses on first reference, then use the acronym afterward.

phone numbers

Use hyphens, and not periods or parentheses: 800-555-1212.

physician-scientist

hyphenate

police

Use UT Police at Houston on first reference and UT Police on subsequent reference. Treat as a singular noun.

pronouns

The use of they/them/their is acceptable as gender-neutral singular pronouns in most cases. Also consider rewording the sentence to make the antecedent plural.

R

research journals

In news articles, put the name of a research journal in italics, and put the name of a study or presentation in quotation marks, using title case. For clinical trial phases, capitalize and use Roman numerals: Phase II. These guidelines differ from AP style.

S

seasons

Seasons of the year are lowercase unless part of a proper noun: Summer Olympics, Spring Break.

states

Names of states should be spelled out in copy. Set off state names with commas on both sides. Use abbreviations (not postal codes) for lists and photo cutlines/captions, per the AP Stylebook entry on state names.

For certain large cities (see AP Stylebook entry on datelines), the state name may be omitted in copy if it does not cause confusion.

Use New York state, state of Washington, or Washington state when necessary to avoid confusion. D.C. is considered to be the “state name” for the nation’s capital.

It is acceptable to capitalize regions of Texas: South Texas.

student names

Use full name on first reference. For second reference, last name is preferred, but first name may be used in features or “soft news.”

T

telephone numbers

See phone numbers.

they/them/their

See pronouns.

time and date

Time: Use a.m. and p.m., lowercase with periods. Use noon and midnight, not 12 p.m. and 12 a.m.

Time range: Use “to” or a hyphen: from 2 to 3:30 p.m. or at 2-3:30 p.m.

Dates: When writing specific dates, abbreviate these months: Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., and Dec. Include the day of the week. Set off dates and years with commas: We will celebrate on Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020, with a parade.

Date range: Always use a hyphen: Jan. 1-4.

When there is no specific date, spell out the month. In most cases, listing the year is unnecessary if it’s understood to be the current year.

In listing events in copy, use the order of time, date, place: 2-3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 26, at the Behavioral and Biomedical Sciences Building, 1941 East Road.

titles

Capitalize titles for people and entities (departments/divisions, programs, offices, centers, etc.) when used before the name.
The Department of Neurosurgery congratulates Associate Professor Jane Doe, MD, PhD, on her recent nomination.
The Program in Cancer Biology congratulates Co-Director Jane Doe, MD, PhD, on her recent nomination.

Do not capitalize when used after a name.
Jane Doe, MD, PhD, associate professor of neurosurgery, was recently nominated for…
Jane Doe, MD, PhD, co-director of the cancer biology program, was recently nominated for…

Do not shorten Assistant to Asst. or Associate to Assoc.

Faculty may have joint titles with more than one UTHealth school. Audience and content will dictate when to use which title, or if both are needed.
Jane Doe, MD, PhD, associate professor of neurosurgery at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, discussed her lab’s research on zebrafish.
Jane Doe, MD, PhD, co-director of the Program in Cancer Biology at MD Anderson UTHealth Graduate School, gave the commencement address.

Always include a faculty member’s endowed title(s) when possible. Endowed titles are capitalized and should match information from the Office of Development.

U

United States

U.S. is acceptable in copy at all times. United States is also acceptable as a noun, not as an adjective. In headlines, it’s US with no periods.

Z

ZIP code

ZIP is all caps; it is an acronym for Zone Improvement Plan.