Over the years, Marketing and Communications has developed a preferred style for the punctuation and use of many titles and terms used throughout Seattle Children’s. In conjunction with our preferred style, we use the Associated Press style, which is considered the authoritative word for journalists on the rules of grammar, punctuation and usage. For medical references, we use Stedman’s Medical Dictionary for spelling of all diseases, disorders, syndromes, etc.

The Associated Press Stylebook can be purchased at major bookstores or ordered through the Associated Press, AP News features, 50 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10020; it is also available as an online resource. Visit the Associated Press Stylebook.

Below is an alphabetical listing of style guidelines as they are applied when writing about Children’s.

All | # A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
There are currently 93 names in this directory
Academic publications, citing

Seattle Children’s follows a modified PubMed style for referencing/citing academic articles.

General rules:

Last name, then first and middle initials, with no comma separating

  • In printed materials, list all authors if there are six or fewer; list the first three authors followed by "et al." if there are seven or more.
  • For digital communications, list all authors; if space is limited, follow the guideline for print.
  • If the Seattle Children’s author(s) is not one of the first three authors listed, use ellipses between the third author and the Seattle Children’s authors.
  • Comma between author names with period after last author.

Bold the names of authors affiliated with Seattle Children's.

Article title in sentence case followed by a period (unless other punctuation is at the end of the title).

  • Link to article whenever possible.

Journal name abbreviated and italicized (use the approved PubMed abbreviations and followed by a period.

Year (and abbreviated month if there is one) then a semi-colon for edition, then colon for pages. No spaces before or after semi-colons and colons.

Print Example:

Speltz ML, Kapp-Simon KA, Cunningham M, et al. Single-suture craniosynostosis: a review of neurobehavioral research and theory. J Pediatr Psychol. 2004 Dec;29(8):651-68.

Online Example:

Speltz ML, Kapp-Simon KA, Cunningham M, Marsh J, Dawson G, Fisch-Coydan JJ, Lukoff BD. Single-suture craniosynostosis: a review of neurobehavioral research and theory. J Pediatr Psychol. 2004 Dec;29(8):651-68.

Ellipses Example:

Homayounfar N, Park SS, Afsharinejad Z,…Cunningham ML. Single-suture craniosynostosis: a review of neurobehavioral research and theory. J Pediatr Psychol. 2004 Dec;29(8):651-68.

Acronyms and Abbreviations

On first reference, use the entire name, followed by the acronym or abbreviation in parentheses. On subsequent references, use only the acronym.

Example: An echocardiogram (ECG) is a painless test. We give 20 ECGs a day.

Addresses, style of

For U.S. Mail: DO NOT use periods in addresses on mail to be sent through the U.S. postal system.

Example: Seattle Children’s M/S X-XXXX PO Box 5371 Seattle, WA 98145-5005

In Print: Abbreviate compass points when part of a numbered address, but do not use periods (e.g., NE, SE, etc.).

Example: Seattle Children’s physical address is 4800 Sand Point Way NE

Use abbreviations for Ave., St., Blvd., etc., only with a numbered address; spell out when used with street name only.

Example: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., but Pennsylvania Avenue

Always use figures for address numbers.

Example: 4800 Sand Point Way NE

  • Always use numerals for ages.
  • Use hyphens when using age as a descriptor before a noun or as a substitute for a noun.
  • When necessary for clinical accuracy, use fractions to indicate partial years.

The boy is 5
The 5-year-old boy
The 5-year-old
An appointment is needed at age 5 1/2.

When expressing an age range, use "to" in a sentence or a title and a hyphen when showing ages in a list.

The game is appropriate for children 8 to 11
The game is appropriate for:
Children 8-12
Teens 13-17

It's also OK to use a construction such as "children under age 5" or "children age 10 and older" to indicate a range.

Incorrect: Do not use references to "aged," (e.g., “Children aged 10 and older.").

Ampersand, &, use of

Do not use ampersands (&) in place of the word “and” unless it is part of a formal name, such as U.S. News & World Report. Seattle Children’s does not use ampersands in the names of programs and services.

Seattle Children’s Bellevue Clinic and Surgery Center opened in 2010.
U.S. News & World Report ranks Seattle Children’s one of the best pediatric hospitals in the nation.
Incorrect: Scott & Jim went to the store.

Apostrophes, use of

Apostrophes are used in only two cases: to signify that a letter has been omitted (contractions) and to signify possession.

It’s a random occurrence, but there’s a reason for everything.
The dog’s dish of water was spilled by the child.
Incorrect: Its not funny when someone falls.
Incorrect: The photo’s are for sale.

Area, or zone, names

Each area of the hospital is called a “zone." The zone names are Forest, River, Mountain and Ocean. Each has a unique icon and artwork. Always capitalize the name of the zone; the word “zone” is not capitalized.

Example: River zone

Autism spectrum disorder

First use: autism spectrum disorder; subsequent use: autism
Do not use autistic or ASD
In headlines or social posts where brevity is paramount, it is OK to use autism.


Use “blind” (lowercase) when referring to a person without sight. Use “low vision” or “partially sighted” rather than “visually impaired.” Do not use “blind” by itself to refer to a group of people. Instead use “blind people,” “blind community,” etc. Use of “deaf-blind” is appropriate; capitalize when referring to a specific person or group of people. (e.g.,: “a fundraising event for the Deaf-Blind community”).


The general term “braille” is no longer capitalized.


One word, no hyphens. Also breastfed, breastfeeding and breastmilk.

Bullets (Bullet Points)

Use bullets only when they add to the readability of material. Don’t substitute a bullet when subheading is needed. Bullets should be used to introduce individual elements of a list. Capitalize the first word following the bullet. When each bulleted item is a complete sentence, capitalize the first letter and put a period at the end. Do not punctuate bulleted items that are not, by themselves, complete sentences. However, if the list is a mix of complete sentences and fragments, put a period at the end of each bullet point. Note: It’s preferred to have all bullets in a list be either complete sentences or sentence fragments.

Example of bullets as complete sentences: How you can protect patient privacy:

  • Conduct conversations with or about patients as privately as possible.
  • Keep patient lists and medical records in a secure location.
  • Provide information on a need-to-know basis.

Example of bullets that are not complete sentences:
This evaluation can be validated by:

  • Employee’s continuing education
  • Written tests
  • Direct observation

Example of bullets that are a mix of complete sentences and fragments:

  • White blood cells, which fight infection.
  • Red blood cells, which carry oxygen.
  • Platelets, which help blood to clot and stop bleeding.
  • All 3 kinds of blood cells. Low levels cause aplastic anemia.

Consider if a bulleted list is necessary when the items are single words.

Wash your hands to avoid spreading:

  • Germs
  • Bacteria
  • Viruses
  • Bits of Poo

Wash your hands to avoid spreading germs, bacteria, viruses and bits of poo.

Campus designations and building names

Seattle Children’s hospital campus refers to our inpatient and outpatient facilities in Laurelhurst.

  • Use Seattle Children’s hospital campus on first reference (it is not a proper noun so it does not require all initial caps).
  • Use hospital campus or Laurelhurst campus on subsequent reference.
  • Do not use main campus to refer to the hospital campus.

Use a building’s complete name on first reference.

  • Jack R. MacDonald Building first reference.
  • MacDonald building or the building on subsequent reference.
  • Seattle Children’s Tri-Cities Clinic on first reference.
  • The clinic or the Tri-Cities clinic on subsequent reference.

Example: Most of Seattle Children’s bench research takes place at the Jack R. MacDonald Building. The MacDonald building is at Ninth and Stewart in downtown Seattle Children's.


See specific topic areas for direction regarding capitalization of titles and disciplines. For headlines, use title case (capitalize the first and last words of the title and all of the verbs, nouns, pronouns, adjectives and adverbs as well as words that are four or more letters long). “ALL CAPS” give the impression that you are screaming at the reader, and that’s not the impression we want to leave with our internal or external audiences. Exclamation marks (which give the same effect) are also not part of our usual brand.

New England Patriots Win Super Bowl
Patriots Steal Victory From Falcons
Incorrect: Great Strides Made in Diabetes Research!

For subheads, use sentence case (capitalize the first word and any proper nouns)

Come from behind win shocks Falcons

For sidebar headlines, use title case. In a headline or title, all elements of a hyphenated word should be capitalized (except for articles, short prepositions and short conjunctions).

Workshop Scheduled for Spanish-Speaking Staff
Up-to-Date Analytics Explained
Status Remains Touch-and-Go

Within a sentence, only capitalize the elements of a hyphenated word or phrase that are proper nouns (e.g., mid-September; English-speaking). Do not capitalize the short forms of organizational names.

Please meet me at the hospital’s main campus.
Incorrect: Please meet me at the Hospital’s main campus.

He is the center’s new director.
Incorrect: He is the Center’s new director.


One word, no hyphen


The correct title for an elected head of a Seattle Children's board is “chairperson,” but Children's follows the preference ("chair," chairman" or "chairwoman") of the individual who holds the chair position. Use the full name of the board on first reference to avoid confusion among the different boards.

Charitable trusts

In general, use the full name of the charitable trust on the first reference.

Example: Jack R. MacDonald Charitable Trust

It is preferred to indicate the specific trust on the second reference rather than to just say "the trust".

Example: the MacDonald Trust

Clinical programs and sub-specialty programs names

Use Seattle Children’s as the institutional umbrella for names of clinical programs and sub-programs.

Seattle Children’s Pancreatitis Clinic
Incorrect: Seattle Children’s Gastroenterology and Hepatology’s Pancreatitis Clinic
Seattle Children’s Spine Program
Incorrect: Seattle Children’s Orthopedics and Sports Medicine’s Spine Program

Note: To avoid confusion when a reader may need to know the physical location of the clinic or program, consider saying, "Seattle Children’s Pancreatitis Clinic located within Gastroenterology and Hepatology"
Note: Avoid using “at” to identify the location of a clinic or program within Seattle Children’s. The use of “at” indicates that Seattle Children’s is providing services within a different healthcare system.

Seattle Children’s Neonatology at Franciscan Health System

Please note that the words “clinic”, “program” and “center” are only capitalized when used as part of a proper name.

Dietitians in our Celiac Program will help your family adjust to a gluten-free life. We created the Northwest’s first dedicated program for children with celiac disease.


Clarity and ease of reading are the goals of punctuation. This entry provides guidance for comma use in sentences with a series of elements. See the punctuation section of Webster’s New World College Dictionary for detailed guidance on comma use.

Do not put a comma before the conjunction in a series of elements when the meaning is clear.

The flag is red, white and blue.
The student attends school, is in the choir and plays tennis.

Include a comma before the conjunction if the meaning would not be clear without it.

Example: The governor convened his most trusted advisers, economist Olivia Schneider, and polling expert Carlton Torres.

Include a comma before the final conjunction if one of the elements within the series requires a conjunction.

Example: Lunch consisted of milk, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and grapes.

Composition titles

Seattle Children’s departs from AP Style for composition titles.

Use italics for titles of complete works (such as books, movies, magazines, and journals, with the exception of religious works, like the Bible, and books that are primarily catalogs of reference material, like almanacs and dictionaries, etc.). Capitalize the principal words, including prepositions and conjunctions of four or more letters. Capitalize an article – the, a, an – or words of fewer than four letters if it is the first or last word in a title.

Use quotation marks around article or chapter titles, song titles and the titles of lectures, speeches and works of art. Same rules of capitalization apply.

Their Eyes Were Watching God
"The Star-Spangled Banner"
"We Will Rock You"
The NBC-TV Today program
Webster’s New World Dictionary


Use contractions with discretion; consider tone and audience.


Use dashes to denote an abrupt change in thought in a sentence or an emphatic pause.

We will fly to Paris in June – if I get the reservations.

Smith offered a plan – it was unprecedented – to raise revenues.

Put a space on both sides of a dash in all uses. In Word, a dash is created by typing the hyphen key twice. For more information on using dashes, refer to The Associated Press Stylebook.


Write dates without "st," "nd," or "th."

Example: We will hold the meeting May 2.

When referencing a specific day and year, abbreviate all months except March, April, May, June and July. Spell out all months when using alone or with only a year.

Sept. 27, 2013 or September 2013
Incorrect: September 27, 2013 or Sept. 2013

Do not abbreviate days of the week. Use a comma after the date and year when a year is written.

Example: March 2, 2011,

Do not use a comma when specifying a month and a year.

Example: March 2011 (not March, 2011)

Format for events is day, month, date, time, place.

Example: Thursday, Nov. 2, 4 p.m., at the Northgate Mall

For date ranges, use “to” to indicate a time span. Include the month before each date.

Examples: The conference is scheduled for March 6 to March 9.
The exhibit is open April 18 to May 3.


Seattle Children’s departs from AP Style for the spelling of daycare.
One word (noun or adjective)

Deaf and hard of hearing

Use “deaf” (lowercase) when using a general term for hearing loss. Use “hard of hearing” (lowercase) when referring to partial hearing loss. Capitalize “Deaf” when referring to a person or the culture of people who are deaf. Do not use “deaf” by itself to refer to a group of people.

“Deaf people” or “the Deaf community”
Incorrect: "the deaf"


Use dietitian (it’s the American spelling of the word; dietician is the British spelling)


Capitalize the name of a discipline within a sentence only if the name is a proper noun.

He is a professor of pediatrics.
She is a professor of English.

Disease names

Diseases and conditions named for the individual who identified them (such as Hodgkin lymphoma, Parkinson disease and Down syndrome) do not take an apostrophe. Check Stedman’s online medical dictionary for guidance.

Hodgkin lymphoma
Incorrect: Hodgkin’s lymphoma

Down Syndrome

Not "Down's Syndrome." Refer to the current edition of Stedman's Medical Dictionary for spelling of all diseases, disorders, syndromes, etc.

e.g. and i.e. – use of

The abbreviation e.g. is Latin for “exempli gratia” meaning “for example.” The abbreviation i.e. stands for the Latin “id est,” meaning “that is to say.” Use e.g. to specify a few examples of something. Use i.e. to further clarify something.

We like vegetables – e.g., broccoli, green beans and cauliflower.
We like all vegetables – i.e., we’re healthy eaters.


"Email" is capitalized only when it begins a sentence. In online text, email addresses should be contained within a natural language link rather than written out.

Email us to find out more.
Contact John Smith to find out more.
Incorrect: To find out more contact John Smith at john.smith@yahoo.com.

In print, do not underline email addresses. It is also necessary to write out the email address.

Family-centered care

Hyphenate "family-centered; capitalize only at the beginning of a sentence.

First name vs. last name

For internal communications, use a person’s first and last name in the first instance, and their first name in all subsequent instances. For external communications, use a person’s first and last name in the first instance, and their last name without courtesy titles (Mrs., Mr., Ms., Miss) in all subsequent instances. When it is necessary to distinguish between two people who use the same last name, as in married couples or brothers and sisters, use the first and last name. In stories involving juveniles, Seattle Children’s style is to refer to them by first name if they are under 21 years of age in all subsequent instances.

First reference: Dr. John Doe is the ARTist of the Month.
Second reference in InHouse: John is a team player and a great guy.
Second reference in external publications: Doe is a team player and a great guy.


One word (noun)

Follow-up (noun, adjective)

Two words, hyphenated.

This visit is a follow-up. (noun)
The patient needed a follow-up visit. (adj.)


One Word


One Word

Geographic regions

In general, lowercase north, south, northeast, northern, etc., when they indicate a compass direction. Capitalize these words when they designate a region. (Check out the AP Stylebook entry "directions and regions" for more details on this topic)

Seattle Children’s North Clinic provides expert care closer to home for families in North King County.
Correct: The summer storm is moving east. Showers and thunderstorms are expected in the Northeast by late morning.

Hand washing

Two separate words; takes a hyphen when used as a compound modifier (e.g., hand-washing campaign).


Capitalize all words except articles and prepositions that have three or fewer letters. Capitalize an article (the, an, a) or a word with fewer than four letters if it is the first or last word in a title. Always use Arabic numbers (figures) in headlines.

Daylight Saving Time Goes Into Effect Monday
Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Now Is the Time to Vote
Parents of Children With Feeding Tubes Work With Hospital to Produce Long-Term Change
A Mother’s Reflections About Her Family’s Experience
Seahawks Win 3 Games in a Row
Seattle Children’s 5th in Research Funding


Seattle Children’s departs from AP Style for the spelling of healthcare.

One word in all instances.

Healthcare costs
Healthcare facility
Healthcare provider

Where multiple providers are intended, use "healthcare providers."

Healthy vs. healthful

Children's preference is to use "healthy" as an adjective.

healthy recipes
healthy lifestyle


For information on when and how to capitalize hyphenated words, see Capitalization. Hyphens should be used to: Avoid ambiguity: "The president will speak to small-business men." ("Businessmen" is normally one word, but in the context of this sentence, "small" could refer to the physical size of the business owners rather than the size of the business). Make compound modifiers. When a compound modifier of two or more words that express a single concept precedes a noun, use hyphens to link all the words in the compound except the adverb “very” and all adverbs that end in “ly”: a first-quarter touchdown, a bluish-green dress, a very good time, an easily remembered rule, etc. Avoid duplicated vowels, tripled consonants. Examples: anti-intellectual, pre-empt, shell-like. In headlines, capitalize the second word of a hyphenated word for ease of reading.

Example: New Leadership Re-Energizes the Workplace

Retain the hyphen with the prefix "co-" when forming nouns, adjectives and verbs that indicate occupation or status, such as "co-author," "co-director," "co-chair" or "co-payment." Do not use a hyphen to replace the word “to” when referring to ranges of numbers or time. Seattle Children’s preferred style is to use the word “to” rather than a hyphen, except in a bulleted list. (See also "Ages.")

Example: The study will take 15 to 18 years.

For more on hyphens, see The Associated Press Stylebook.

I-131-MIBG therapy

I-131-MIBG therapy is a type of radiation therapy used to treat cancers like neuroblastoma and some tumors of the adrenal glands.


Use periods and no space when an individual uses initials instead of a first name.

Example: H.L. Mencken

Its vs It's

It’s not my fault.
Its teeth were the size of my hand.
Incorrect: Its a beautiful day for a picnic. Incorrect: It’s tiny wings were very fragile.

Latin Names

Use italics when using Latin names in web content

Example: We have exploited the animal model C. elegans to examine this problem.

Life Span

Two words, no hyphen


Two words, hyphenated. Do not use "limb-saving" or "limb salvage."


Refer to the mailstops page on CHILD

Male and female

Avoid sexist references. Gender-specific pronouns should be used specifically, not generally. For example, “A good doctor keeps his patients’ medical records in order,” can be restated: “A good doctor keeps orderly medical records.” If the sentence cannot be rewritten to make it gender-neutral, it's OK to use "their" for a singular reference. For example: "Every child has their own favorite toy." Do not write "he/she" or "his/hers."

Exception: It is appropriate to use gendered pronouns (“he/she” or “his/hers”) when writing about conditions that are specific to males or females.

Medical dictionary reference

Seattle Children’s standard for referencing medical conditions and spellings is Stedman’s Medical Dictionary. Dorland’s Illustrated Medical Dictionary is also helpful.

Medical terminology

Consider the audience when using medical terminology. In general, use the lay term first; put the medical term in parentheses if it is needed. For an audience of medical professionals, use the precise medical term.

Mental and behavioral health, writing about

Mental health is a strategic priority at Seattle Children’s. The Journalism Resource Guide on Behavioral Health (developed by The Carter Center) provides thoughtful guidance on writing accurately and sensitively about behavioral health issues.

Monetary units

Use figures and the appropriate symbol, e.g., $10.58. Where no cents are indicated, do not use the trailing zeros.

Correct: $10.
Incorrect: $10.00


Capitalize the names of months in all uses. When a month is used with a specific date, abbreviate only Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., and Dec. (Spell out when using alone, or with only a year.) When a phrase lists only a month and a year, do not separate the year with commas.

Nov. 5, 2011; November 2011; March 4, 2011; March 2011
Incorrect: Dec. 2011; Apr. 2011; April, 2011

In tabular material (content arranged in table format), use three-letter forms without a period.

Examples: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.


Preferred over "not-for-profit"


We have a second standard for content intended specifically for patients and families. See entry below “Using numerals to improve readability” Spell out whole numbers one through nine. Use figures for 10 and above. Use figures whenever preceding a unit of measure or referring to ages of people, animals, events or things. Express mixed numbers, including ages, with fractions with a full space between the whole number and fraction. When using figures, make sure the “st” or “th” are not superscript (even though Microsoft Word will autocorrect to superscript) Express mixed numbers, including ages, with fractions. Always use numerals for hospital floor numbers, e.g., 6th floor, and for process steps, e.g., Step 1.

The woman has three sons and two daughters.
He has a fleet of 10 station wagons and two buses.
He got it right the first time.
By the 10th time, it was a habit.
The ladder was 12 1/2 feet tall.
In headlines, use figures for ordinal numbers, e.g., Seattle Children’s 5th in Research Funding. Use 1st, 2nd, etc. when the sequence has been assigned in the form of a name.

7th Fleet
1st Precinct

Sentence start: Spell out a numeral at the beginning of a sentence. If necessary, revise the sentence. One exception: a numeral that identifies a calendar year.

1996 was a very good year.
Incorrect: 993 freshmen entered the college last year.
Last year, 993 freshmen entered the college.

For more on the use of numerals, see The Associated Press Stylebook.

Numerals (using numerals to improve readability)

To improve clarity and ease of reading for patient education materials and for the Medical Conditions, Clinics/Programs and Safety/Wellness sections of seattlechildrens.org, follow these guidelines. (Note: Content created for other purposes should follow the guidelines in Numerals entry above): Use figures when indicating quantities, durations, units of measure and ages, even when less than 10.

To diagnose your child, our team will do 1 or more of the following:
There are 2 ways to determine the stage of neuroblastoma in children.
Over the past 5 years, we have cared for 11 children with Muenke syndrome.
Usually, surgery takes less than 3 hours. Your child usually will stay in the hospital 1 to 2 nights.

Spell out “one” if it is used as a pronoun.

Healing happens faster when we are kind to one another.

Spell out if the number is the first word of a sentence.

Example: One parent may stay overnight at a time.

Use numbers and fractions for nutrition or recipe measurements in all instances.


Example: 3/4 tsp.

Use abbreviations with no periods for units of measurement.

Example: Give 10 mg of Ritalin after breakfast.

Provide common equivalents when using ounces.

Example: Give with 1 cup (8 oz.) of water.

Note a child’s weight in both pounds and kilograms.

Example: Child’s weight is between 44 to 87 lbs. or 20 to 40 kg.

Use numerals for procedural steps or medicine instructions and time measurements.

Example: 1. Remove the cap on the spacer’s mouthpiece.

Example: Take 1 pill before bedtime each day for 1 week.

Use numerals for medicine instructions and include ml equivalent on any liquid medicine measurement.

Example: Give 5 ml Tylenol.

Use ratios instead of % to express natural frequencies.

1 in 4 American women will die from heart disease.
Incorrect: Women in the U.S. have a 25% chance of dying from heart disease.

Do not use symbols to describe quantities (e.g., < and > or ≤ or ≥). Instead, use words to describe your meaning.

Example: Serve 5 or more servings of fruit and vegetables each day.

Odessa Brown Children's Clinic

First use: Seattle Children’s Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic subsequent use: Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic, OBCC, the clinic. When needed, use the approved OBCC/Seattle Children’s co-branded logo.


Both letters capitalized in all instances. Do not use "ok" or "okay."

People first language

Put the individual before the medical issue when noting that someone has a condition, illness, disease or disability.

Children with autism benefit from early diagnosis and treatment.
Incorrect: Autistic children benefit from early diagnosis and treatment.


Use the % sign when paired with a numeral. Do not put a space between the numeral and the percent sign.

Example: Average hourly pay rose 2.1% from a year ago.

Sentences with the % sign take a singular verb when a singular word follows an of construction. It takes a plural verb when a plural word follows an of construction.

Examples: She said 50% of the membership was there.

He said 50% of the members were there.

Use the percent sign with each individual figure when expressing a range.

Example: Only 50% to 60% of the electorate turned out to vote.

Use decimals, not fractions.

Example: The mortgage rate is 4.25%

Pharmaceutical (drug) names

Capitalize the word; no trademark is needed.

Example: Tylenol

Physician assistant

As with all job titles, this one is lowercase when it is used alone or follows a name; it is uppercase when it directly precedes a name. Not "physicians assistant" or "physician’s assistant."

Plain language

Plain language is communication your audience can understand the first time they read it. See Make it Easy to Read for tips on using plain language. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Everyday Words for Public Health Communication has accurate, simple options for common healthcare terms.


Seattle Children’s style is to use the number sign and a numeral to designate a position in a scale of achievement or status in both headlines and running text (this differs from AP Style). For ordinal numbers, our style is to write out first through ninth in running text, and use figures in headlines.

Examples for running text:
Seattle Children’s is the #5 pediatric hospital in the nation.
Seattle Children’s is the fifth best pediatric hospital in the nation.

Examples for headlines:
We Are #5!
We Are 5th Best!

Research, communicating about

Important context: Medical research is innovation in action. Its potential to improve the health and well-being of children is exciting. Our work to improve pediatric healthcare is a key differentiator for Seattle Children’s. The process of research has a long arc with many steps along the way. The key is to communicate the excitement and potential of our research while being clear and accurate about where we are in the process and why this moment in time matters. Things to keep in mind when communicating to all audiences about research:

Words – like cure, remission, therapeutics, therapy, treatment – have specific meaning and must be used correctly.

Not all research will ultimately improve care. That’s true and OK. We cannot write about research as though the outcome is a foregone conclusion.

Patients don’t fail experimental therapies or fail to respond to standard treatment; rather their disease fails to respond or is resistant to conventional therapy.

While only a fraction of research projects result in new standards of care, all research contributes knowledge that helps direct future projects.

Know what question a research project is trying to answer. A phase 1 clinical trial is usually studying safety and dosing, not whether a new treatment is better than the current standard of care.

Medical treatment does not include medical research, and it is necessary to maintain the distinction between them.

Don’t cherry pick facts to make progress sound more impressive – especially when subsequent findings are known. It’s misleading, and it sets us up for contradicting ourselves as we write about the same research throughout its lifecycle.

Stick to the facts, avoid superlatives, don’t draw conclusions about results.

Language and definitions Note: See also seattlechildrens.org for an online glossary with plain language definitions of commonly used medical terms. Clinical trials – Clinical trials are research studies that test whether a new treatment, medication, medical device or prevention method is safe, effective for people, and better than the current treatment practices (a.k.a. the current standard of care). Clinical trials can study a single treatment alone or in combination with other standard treatments in any phase, especially in phase 3. Clinical trials have several phases: Phase 1 – To learn if a new drug, treatment, or treatment combination is safe for people, and get information about dosage and side effects. Phase 2 – To learn more about safety and also how well it works. Phase 3 – To learn if something that worked well in a phase 2 trial is effective when studied across a larger group of people that includes a cross section of the population. Phase 3 trials also compare the results of the experimental drug, treatment or treatment combination with the current standard treatment. Important notes: Pre-clinical and clinical trials are how new ideas are tested. What is being studied is not a proven treatment, and may not prove to be better than current standard treatments. Participants choose to be part of the study. They may find the study on their own or they may be invited to join a study. It is becoming more common to see phase 2/3 trials – your subject matter expert will be able to clarify what phase the clinical trial is in. Use a lower case p (in phase) with a numeral to designate the specific phase of a clinical trial.

Example: In a phase 1 clinical trial, researchers test the safety of a new treatment.

Cure – When there are no traces of a disease in one’s body and it is not expected to return. After cancer treatment, people who have remained in complete remission for five (5) years or more, are considered to be cured (most cancers that recur do so within five years). Note: Do not promise cures. When using the word cure in content about clinical or basic science research, be clear that the research is not a cure, but that getting to a cure is our goal.

We can cure cancer with your help.
Our goal is to eventually cure
Research helps bring us closer to a cure.
The National Cancer Institute has more information on the difference between cure and remission. Remission – Decrease or disappearance of signs and symptoms of a disease.
Complete remission (also called complete response) is when all signs and symptoms of the disease have disappeared (the disease may still be in the body, but it is undetectable).
Partial remission is when some, but not all signs and symptoms of a disease have disappeared.

Therapy (also treatment) – An intervention that attempts to remediate a health issue. In the medical context, both therapy and treatment indicate that the intervention received approval from the Food and Drug Administration after clinical study.

Note: Do not refer to a research study or study drug as a therapy or a treatment, unless the context clearly communicates that study is still underway. You can use modifiers like investigational, experimental, study, or research. You can use the word product instead of therapy or treatment (though this can sound cold and detached).

This is an investigational treatment for lupus.
Our phase 2 trial involves an experimental therapy called cancer immunotherapy.
The therapy in the clinical trial is being studied for efficacy.
A phase 1 clinical trial’s product is given to patients who have few or no other options.

Tumor – An abnormal lump of body tissue. Cells that grow and copy themselves too fast, or that don’t die when they should, can create tumors.
Benign – A tumor that is not cancerous. It may grow, but usually doesn’t spread to other parts of the body. Usually not harmful

Cancerous – Cells that won’t stop growing and can invade surrounding tissue. It can also spread to other parts of one’s body. Synonymous with malignant.
Malignant – Cells that won’t stop growing and can invade surrounding tissue, or spread to other parts of the body. Synonymous with cancerous. Malignant tumors have the potential to spread distantly, which distinguishes them from benign tumors.

Room numbers

Seattle Children’s uses a letter and number identifier to express room numbers. The letters indicate the zone (R= River, O=Ocean, M=Mountain, F=Forest). The first numerical digit indicates the level, the second number group indicates the specific room.


Do not capitalize in text.

Example: The conference is next spring.

Seattle Children's boards

Refer to the Seattle Children’s Board Leadership page on seattlechildrens.org. When communicating to an external audience always use the full proper name of the board on the first reference (e.g., Seattle Children’s Hospital Board of Trustees). It’s OK to use Children’s Board of Trustees for an internal audience.

Seattle Children's departments

Capitalize names of specific departments, organizational units or process areas.

Examples: Human Resources Department, Business Services Department, etc.

Capitalize department or process area names when they are used as proper nouns, even when “Department” is not used.

Example: “Jane Doe directs the payroll process” but “Jane Doe, director, Payroll”

Capitalize clinics when the name is used as a proper noun.

Example: Asthma Clinic

When the word “department” or “division” is used alone, it is not capitalized.

Example: The department manager is responsible for enforcing the policy.

When used in a generic sense, “medical staff” is not capitalized.

Example: The medical staff includes primary care physicians and specialists.

On second reference, department names may be shortened.

“PT” instead of “Physical Therapy”
“IS” ins

Seattle Children's executive staff

Refer to the Seattle Children’s Leadership page on seattlechildrens.org for the most up-to-date listing. Note: Dr. Jeff Sperring prefers his title written as CEO rather than chief executive officer

Seattle Children's Healthcare System

First use: Seattle Children’s Healthcare System; subsequent use: Seattle Children’s. Seattle Children’s Healthcare System is the legal name for the corporate entity that includes all aspects of the organization’s activities. Seattle Children’s Healthcare System is a Washington state not-for-profit corporation serving as the parent organization for several affiliated entities including: Seattle Children’s Hospital — An independent, not-for-profit regional pediatric medical center affiliated with the University of Washington School of Medicine and serving greater Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. Seattle Children’s Research Institute — A division of Seattle Children’s that conducts pediatric research aimed at improving the health and well-being of people of all ages. Seattle Children’s Foundation — A not-for-profit organization that seeks and receives private donations to support the uncompensated care, capital, research, program, educational and endowment needs of Seattle Children’s Hospital and Seattle Children’s Research Institute. Seattle Children’s Guild Association — A not-for-profit organization of guilds, auxiliaries, thrift stores and volunteers that financially supports the uncompensated care provided by Seattle Children’s and gives appropriate support to enhance the quality of care provided to its patients.

Seattle Children's name

First use: "Seattle Children’s"; for subsequent use: "Seattle Children’s" or "the hospital" in everything published externally. (For internal communications, it's OK to use "Children's" or "the hospital" on subsequent use). Please avoid using the acronym "SCH" in anything published internally or externally. Please note that on second reference "hospital" is lower case, as it is not a proper noun.

Example: The hospital campus of Seattle Children’s is in the Laurelhurst neighborhood of Seattle. Seattle Children’s aims to be a good neighbor in all its activities. The hospital staff has an alternate commute rate of more than 60%.

Seattle Children’s Research Institute First use: Seattle Children’s Research Institute; subsequent use: Seattle Children’s, research institute, or the institute in everything published externally. (For internal communications, it's OK to use Children's or the research institute on subsequent use). Please avoid using the acronym SCRI in anything published internally or externally (though it can be used in informal emails intended for an internal audience). Please note that on second reference "institute" and "research institute" are lower case since they are not proper nouns.

Example: Seattle Children’s Research Institute conducts pioneering research to find innovative cures and advance pediatric care throughout the world. The research institute is actively recruiting prominent investigators to bring their innovative programs to Seattle. The institute has nine multidisciplinary centers dedicated to…

Note: The institute has nine interdisciplinary research centers, and two programs (the Science Adventure Lab and the Treuman Katz Center for Pediatric Bioethics).

Seattle Children’s Foundation First use: Seattle Children’s Foundation; subsequent use: Seattle Children’s or the foundation in everything published externally. For internal communications, it's OK to use Children's or the foundation on subsequent use. Please note that on second reference "foundation" is lower case as it is not a proper noun.

Example: In 2008, Seattle Children’s Foundation successfully concluded an eight-year campaign to raise money for facilities, uncompensated care and research. The foundation celebrated this accomplishment on Sept. 16 with an event at Safeco Field.

Do not use initials in reference to Seattle Children’s (e.g. "SCH.").

First use: Seattle Children’s Foundation; subsequent use: Seattle Children’s.

Example: Seattle Children’s Foundation is consistently rated one of the top employers in the Puget Sound region. Seattle Children’s actively cultivates a caring community.

Off-site clinics First use: use the entire proper name, such as, Seattle Children’s Tri-Cities Clinic or Seattle Children’s North Clinic Note: When possible, note the geographic location for the North and South clinics, e.g., Seattle Children’s North Clinic in Everett and Seattle Children’s South Clinic in Federal Way. Subsequent use: OK to shorten to in this manner: Seattle Children’s Tri-Cities, the Tri-Cities Clinic, or the clinic Please find the most up-to-date list of regional clinic names on the Regional Clinics page.

Seattle Children’s Research Institute Discovery Portal<

First use: Seattle Children’s Research Institute Discovery Portal Subsequent use: the Discovery Portal.

Example: Seattle Children’s Research Institute Discovery Portal is a visitor center for guests, donors, community members, faculty and staff to learn about the research underway at Seattle Children’s. The Discovery Portal features bench research and clinical advances.

Spelling reference

We use Webster’s New World College Dictionary as the official word on spelling.

State names

The names of the 50 U.S. states should be spelled out when used in sentences and running text, whether they stand alone or are used in conjunction with a city, town, village or military base. When used in conjunction with a town or city, the state name should be followed by a comma. Large, well-known cities do not require a state name (but it’s OK to include the state name).


The STP Bike Ride ends in Portland, Oregon.

The STP Bike Ride starts in Seattle.

You can only get to Juneau, Alaska, by air or sea.

In lists and tables use state abbreviations (see AP Stylebook). In addresses use the two-letter postal code abbreviations (see Addresses, style of entry)

Stem cell transplant

Stem cell transplant without a hyphen.

Suicide, writing or speaking about

When talking about someone taking their own life, the preferred language is “died due to suicide” or “death due to suicide”. Avoid using “committed suicide”. For more information see www.reportingonsuicide.org.

T cell and T-cell

T cell (no hyphen) is correct when used as a noun; T-cell (with hyphen) is correct when used as an adjective to describe a noun.

Example: Cancer immunotherapy reprograms a patient’s own T cells to fight cancer.

Example: T-cell therapy promises to revolutionize cancer treatment.

Telephone/fax numbers

Always include an area code. Place a hyphen between the area code and exchange, and a hyphen between the exchange and the last four digits.

Example: 206-987-1234

Internal extensions use a hyphen between the 7 and the last four digits.

Example: 7-1234

Toll-free numbers do not require a 1 at the beginning.

Example: 800-987-1234

that vs. who – use of

Use “who” when writing about people.

The man who left the store was tall.
The bird that flew into the window was stunned.
Incorrect: Employees that are affected by layoffs will be greatly missed.
Incorrect: The dog who ate my homework was white.

Time of day

Use figures except for noon and midnight. Hours between midnight and noon take a.m.; hours between noon and midnight take p.m. It is expressed with a space between the numeric time and the letters, the letters are lowercase and each takes a period.

Example: 11:15 a.m., 3:28 p.m.

Use a colon to separate hours from minutes.

Example: 3:30 p.m.

Do not include minutes when something occurs on the hour.

Example: 11 a.m., not 11:00 a.m.

Use the word to, not a hyphen or dash, to designate a time range.

Example: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

If both elements in the time range occur within the morning or the evening; use a.m. or p.m. only once.


9 to 11:30 a.m

9:15 a.m. to noon

9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Titles, job titles, courtesy titles, academic titles and degrees (see also first name vs. last name)

Titles are capitalized when used before a person’s name, and lowercase when used when used after a person’s name. (For readability, it is better to put the person before their title.)


Correct: Executive Vice President Jane Doe

Correct: John Doe, executive vice president

It’s not necessary to use the word “department” with the department name after a person’s name and title.

Example: Jane Doe, analyst, Strategic Planning and Business Development

Using descriptive language that communicates what a person does rather than a formal job description (unless the title is self-explanatory, like CEO or president) is preferred, especially in communications geared to a general audience. For internal audiences, use your judgment about whether the reader will understand what a job title means.

Preferred for external communications:

Beatrice Smith, an editor who maintains the Editorial Style Guide

John James, who evaluates and treats children with hearing loss, led the seminar on cochlear implants.

Preferred internal communications:

John James, who evaluates and treats children with hearing loss, led the seminar on cochlear implants.

John James, an audiologist, led the seminar on cochlear implants.

Courtesy titles Within text, “Dr.” is used on first reference for physicians and, when appropriate in the context, for others who hold doctoral degrees (PhD). Last names only are used on subsequent reference in external communications. First names only are used on subsequent reference in internal communications.

Example for external communications: Dr. Bruder Stapleton was Seattle Children’s chief academic officer. Stapleton is also a nephrologist.

Example for internal communications: Dr. Bruder Stapleton was Seattle Children’s chief academic officer. Bruder is also a nephrologist.

Use “Drs.” when identifying more than one person with a medical degree or doctorate

Example: Drs. Bruder Stapleton and Jim Hendricks are dedicated to academic research.

Credentials Avoid using credential letters that are not commonly understood, especially in communications geared to a general audience. For internal communications, the credential letters should be used at the writer’s discretion. Descriptions of someone’s role is preferred to stating their credentials.

Preferred: Molly Brown, an advanced practice nurse in Nephrology, oversees patients’ medication compliance after transplant.

Not preferred: Molly Brown, ARNP, oversees patients’ medication compliance after transplant.

When listing more than one credential, put the most advanced degree last, or just the most advanced degree (as the previous degree is inferred).

Example: Joe Doe, RN, MN

Preferred: Joe Doe, MN

No periods are used with credentials.

Correct: Joe Doe, RN, MN

Incorrect: Joe Doe, R.N., M.N.

Use credentials, rather than courtesy titles, in listings.

Correct: Tumaini Coker, MD

Incorrect: Dr. Tumaini Coker

Academic degrees If mentioning a degree is necessary to establish someone’s credentials, the preferred form is to name the degree and avoid using the abbreviation. There is an apostrophe in bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, etc., but no possessive in Bachelor of Arts, etc.

Correct: Henny Penny has a master’s degree in mass communications.

Correct: Henny Penny has a Master of Science in mass communications.


One word, no hyphen, lowercase.

URLs in online text

For online links, use descriptive words rather than a URL for the link text whenever possible (this text is also known as anchor text). If the URL needs to be written out, do not include https:// or www. Follow these best practices for creating links.

To learn more, visit the CDC’s website.
Incorrect: To learn more, visit the CDC’s website (cdc.gov).

Do not include the punctuation in a link at the end of a sentence.

If you’re looking for a job you can search for jobs online.
(Period should not be underlined.)
Incorrect: If you’re looking for a job you can search for jobs online at www.xxxxxxxxx.com.

Do not use “click here” for a link.

Correct: Learn more about Seattle Children's.
Incorrect: Click here to learn more about Seattle Children's.

URLs in printed text

Do not underline a URL. It is no longer necessary to include https:// or www. at the beginning of a URL.

Learn more about our training courses at training.org.
Incorrect: Learn more about our training courses at www.training.org.

Web-specific header guidelines for seattlechildrens.org
  • For page titles, use title case. Example: “Drowning Prevention and Water Safety for All Ages”
  • For paragraph headers (H2), use title case unless the heading is in the form of a question . Example: “Have Fun and Be Safe” but “Can you have fun and be safe?”
  • For accordion expandable headers, use sentence case with no period. Example: “Our approach means fewer surgeries”
  • For paragraph sub-heads (H3), use sentence case with no period. Example: “Find a CCTR faculty member by last name”
  • For “right-nav module” headers (modules featured in the right column), use title case. Example: “Passion for Prevention”
  • For “call to action” links at the end of a content blurb, whether in the left or right column, use sentence case with no period. Example: “Download a donation form”; “Start a guild”; “Donate a vehicle”
  • For buttons, use title case. Example: “Learn More” button at the bottom of the right-nav “Passion for Prevention” module.

Work-up (noun)

Two words connected by a hyphen

Example: She documented the complete work-up.


Use capital "X" and hyphenate.


Use figures, without commas: 2011. Use an “s” without an apostrophe to indicate spans of decades or centuries.

Example: the 1890s, the 1900s

When stating a month and year without a date, do not place a comma after the month.

Example: November 2011

Years are the lone exception to the general rule in numbers that a figure is not used to start a sentence.

Zones (see also, “Area, or zone, names” entry)

Each area of the hospital is called a “zone.” The zone names are Forest, River, Mountain and Ocean. Each has a unique icon and artwork. Always capitalize the name of the zone; the word “zone” need not be capitalized.

Example: River zone