Do not use block capitals as they are difficult for people to read.
The first letter of the first word in titles should be capitalised, the remainder in lower case except for proper nouns.
Exceptions to this rule include:
- Acronyms should be explained at first use and capitals should be used for each word. For example, DLQI (Dermatology Life Quality Index).
- Capitalise government legislation ('the Care Act 2014'). If the context is clear, refer to legislation as 'the Act' after the first mention.
- Titles of projects or campaigns should have initial capitals (Active for Life, No Smoking Day).
Use lower case for all other text, including adjectival forms of proper nouns (caesarean, darwinian, parkinsonian) and words that derive from a proper name but that have passed into common use (braille, doppler, gram stain, hoover).
Note: X-ray has a capital X.
Use a lower case n and p for patient numbers (n=43) and p values (p=0.001).
Do not use italics for emphasis.
Italicise Latin names of bacteria, viruses and fungi (for example, 'test for S. typhimurium'). Do not italicise a virus name when used generically ('people with any hepatitis virus'). For more information see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guide on scientific nomenclature.
Headings and subheadings
The editor in consultation with the guideline author(s) should decide what looks clearer for their content and apply the same format throughout.
Headings and subheadings should never be a smaller font size than the body text. Use ‘Subsection Title (H4)’ format throughout although the following may also be appropriate:
- For sections of content with a lot of text to break up, ‘Info Panel’ format followed by ‘subsection title (H4)’ format can be a useful combination of headings.
- ‘Section title (H3)’ format followed by ‘subsection title (H4)’ can also be used (but ‘info panel’ format may make things clearer).
As a general rule, do not use bold or italics for emphasis. Use headings and bullet lists instead, and structure your content logically. Where necessary, bold may be used within text for emphasis when it is not appropriate to use a heading.
This is a general guide and editors/authors should use their judgement to decide what style looks better for their particular content and take care to use the same approach throughout.
With the exception of task/process lists (see below) use bullet points to break up large chunks of text and to avoid long lists in sentences.
Do not use a bullet if you only have 1 item.
As a general rule there are two bullet styles, for short lists and long lists. For both types, every bullet should follow from the stem. An extra layer of bullets can be added if necessary.
Short lists should:
- start with a lower case letter
- not have a full stop
- until the last bullet.
For longer lists, treat each bullet as a separate sentence:
- Each bullet should start with a capital letter and end with a full stop.
- You can include as many bullets as necessary in the list.
Aim to avoid more than one sentence in a bullet point but if more than one sentence needs to be used a full stop should be added at the end of each sentence.
Avoid ending a bullet point with "and" and "or".
Use numbered lists instead of bullet points to guide a user through a process. Start each point with a capital letter and end with a full stop because each step should be a complete sentence.
How to gargle with salt water
- Dissolve half a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water.
- Gargle with the solution then spit it out – do not swallow it.
- Repeat as often as you like.
Use brackets sparingly and avoid them if you can for subclauses in sentences as they can be confusing.
Do not put 2 sets of brackets next to each other. Use 1 set of brackets and other punctuation like commas, semi-colons or dashes to separate the text: (23.4 compared with 56.9; p<0.05) instead of (23.4 compared with 56.9) (p<0.05).
For brackets within brackets, use round brackets then square brackets (like this [for example]).