Writing and Style Guide

Web Writing Guide

Readers on the web search for answers, information, or to finish a task. A web writer must make it as easy as possible for the user to find what they seek, and must do it quickly or they will go on to another page.

As a web writer, you must adapt. You must be considerate of formatting, terminology, and style to hang on to the reader. Know that they will read every word only occasionally; so, clarity, subtitles, and headlines matter.

Know your reader, what they expect, what they will share, and what they care about to keep coming back.

This guide covers structure and formatting, and discoverability. Each section outlines how to write great content without sacrificing your charm as a writer.

Know Your Audience

You’re not creating content in a vacuum; on the other end there’s another human being who has all of the power-the back button. These powerful people are your audience. Once you determine who your audience is (patients, students, researchers, donors), you must write for them.

Tips for writing for an audience:

  • Avoid technical jargon, unless you take the time to define the term or you are writing for an audience of peers.
  • Assume your reader has many more interesting things to do with their time, so don't waste it. Get to the point.
  • Anticipate your readers' reactions.
  • Assume that anything not plainly stated will be misinterpreted by your reader.
  • Avoid the heft of long paragraphs and the hyperactivity of too many short ones.
  • • Read out loud what you've written. Then rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.

Headers & Titles

Titles should be short and sweet.

Body Text

Section headers

Follow the audience guidelines in the “Know Your Audience” section of this guide, remembering to avoid paragraphs that are too long. Keep italic, bold, and underlined text at a minimum.

Break up text into

For links, make sure to write concise content that describes what’s behind the link within the flow of the sentence.

Digestible, topic-ordered chunks

Don’t be afraid of content with a high word count. As long as it is worthwhile and considerate of the reader, it will be read. These tips help to ensure that it does get read, instead of ignored at first sight.


  • Lists help break up monotonous text.
  • Lists are more likely to be shared.
  • Lists can break up complicated content.
  • Lists make the text more scannable.
  • Only use numbered lists when the order matters.
  • Don't use an unreasonable amount of list items.
  • Don't repeat the content of the body text in a list.

Style Guide 1


Friendly, sympathetic, reassuring, not clinical.


University of Utah Health Sciences comprises two main components:

  1. Health Sciences—teaching and research
  2. University of Utah Health Care—clinical health care

Health Sciences Abbreviations 2

  • University of Utah School of Medicine
  • University of Utah College of Pharmacy
  • University of Utah College of Nursing (CON)
  • University of Utah College of Health
  • Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library
  • George and Dolores Doré Eccles Institute of Human Genetics or Eccles Institute of Human Genetics
  • Nora Eccles Harrison Cardiovascular Research and Training Institute (CVRTI)

Health Care & Clinic Abbreviations

  • University Hospital
  • Huntsman Cancer Hospital
  • University Neuropsychiatric Institute (UNI)
  • University Orthopaedic Center
  • Alzheimer’s Clinic
  • Burn Trauma Center
  • Cardiovascular Center
  • Clinical Neurosciences Center
  • Emergency Department
  • Geriatric Clinic
  • Huntsman Cancer Institute
  • John A. Moran Eye Center
  • Miners Hospital
  • Neuropsychiatric Institute
  • Sleep | Wake Center
  • Transplant Center
  • University Orthopaedic Center
  • University Spine Center
  • Utah Center for Reproductive Medicine
  • Utah Diabetes Center
Community Health Centers
  • Centerville Health Center, Centerville
  • Greenwood Family Health Center, Midvale
  • Madsen Family Health Center, Salt Lake City
  • Parkway Health Center, Orem
  • Red Butte Health Center, Salt Lake City
  • Redstone Health Center, Park City
  • Redwood Health Center, Salt Lake City
  • Stansbury Health Center, Stansbury Park (Tooele County)
  • Sugar House Family Health Center, Salt Lake City
  • Westridge Health Center, West Valley City

Never abbreviate University Health Care as UHC.

AirMed is one word with an uppercase M.

University of Utah Abbreviations

University of Utah

On first use, always refer to the university as University of Utah. On second use, refer to the university as either the U or the university. DO NOT use the U of U. 

Academic Colleges, Departments, and Divisions

Formal names are capitalized on first reference and in titles but are lowercased on second reference and when used informally (see capitalization).
Example: She is a physician in the Department of Dermatology. He practices in the dermatology department.

Department & Division Abbreviations

OB/GYN Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Academic Degrees 3

  • Susan L. Smith, MD
  • Susan L. Smith, PhD
  • Susan L. Smith, DDS
  • Susan L. Smith, RN
  • Susan L. Smith, LSW
  • Susan L. Smith, BS, BA, MA, MS

Academic Titles

Capitalize academic titles before a person’s name but not after. 4
Example: Trauma Director Eric Scaife is board certified in general surgery. Eric Scaife is trauma director for Primary Children’s Hospital.

In publications use the full name, middle initial, followed by degree(s) and academic rank on first reference. On second reference use only the last name. Never use Dr. before names.
Example: Susan L. Smith, MD, PhD, associate professor of surgery, presented her paper at the conference. Smith is widely acclaimed for her research.

Contact Information

Susan L. Smith, MD
Director of XXX
Phone: (801) xxx-xxxx
Email: susan.smith@utah.edu



One space between sentences; never double space.


Use between grammatically complete introductory clause and a final phrase or clause. Do not use after an incomplete sentence or verb without a direct object or modifier.


Use the Oxford comma or comma between the second to last adjective and the conjunction in a list.
Example: We offer care for problems including abdominal organs, esophagus, and stomach.


Capitalize complete titles of tests.


Hours: no period after am and pm.
Example: 10am–3pm

Use noon and midnight rather than 12 pm and 12 am.


Spell out numbers below 10; use figures for 10 and above. 5

Spell out numbers at the beginning of a sentence (reword the sentence if necessary). 6
Example: 2005 was a good year.

Spell out first through ninth when they indicate a sequence in time or location.
Example: first floor, second in line.

Starting with 10th use figures.
Example: 10th place.


Spell out amounts less than one. Use figures for precise amounts greater than one.
Example: Her textbook sold more than 1.3 million copies.

Monetary Units

Always use figures.
Example: 5 cents or $3.04


Always use figures.
Example: A 34-year-old man has a daughter that is 2 months old. The man is in his 50s.


Always use figures, and when a month is used with a specific date, abbreviate the month. Spell out months used without a date.
Example: On May 23, 2006, she performed the surgery. He will give the lecture on Feb. 23. The lecture in January was quite good.


Always punctuate at the end of list items that are complete sentences.

Never punctuate at the end of list items that are incomplete sentences.

Using Apostrophes to Form Plurals

Use 's only to pluralize individual letters (p's and q's), signs, symbols, or period-separated abbreviations (M.D.'s).

Word Usage

Health care is two words.

X-ray is not capitalized unless it is the first word in a sentence.

Inpatient is one word.

Outpatient is one word.

IVs: no periods used in the abbreviation; do not use an apostrophe when plural.


1 Primary Reference Style Guide: APA Style Guide (Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, Sixth Edition); Secondary Reference Style Guide: AMA Style Guide (AMA Manual of Style: A Guide for Authors and Editors, Tenth Edition). (Continue where you left off.)

2 Capitalize the first reference, such as U of U School of Medicine; don’t capitalize on the second, such as medical school. (Continue where you left off.)

3 In reference to degrees, use bachelor of science, bachelor of arts or bachelor’s degree; master of arts, master of science or master’s degree; doctorate in biochemistry, doctoral degree or doctorate; bachelor’s degree, bachelor’s; master’s degree, master’s; and doctoral degree or doctorate. (Continue where you left off.)

4 (AMA pg. 378) (Continue where you left off.)

5 Exception: When the number is a percentage, use figures: The budget was cut by 3 percent. (Continue where you left off.)

6 Exception: When a sentence begins with a year, you don’t have to spell it out. (Continue where you left off.)