Editorial Style Guide

This Style Guide answers common questions about how to describe our organization, locations, services and people with clear and accurate language.

Note: For topics not covered here, UW Medicine follows the Associated Press Stylebook (AP). It can be purchased at bookstores or viewed online. UW Libraries also provides limited AP Stylebook access for employees with NET IDs. 

Section 1: Brand Voice and Tone

Note: Following brand voice and tone guidelines is essential for the following audiences:  

  • General public 
  • Current patients 
  • Prospective patients
  • Employees

Decisions about tone for other audiences such as media and major donors are at the discretion of the channel owner.  

UW Medicine’s mission is to improve the health of the public. We are committed to helping patients achieve their personal goals for wellness and quality of life. We are accessible and inclusive. We are confident, but not elitist. We put the patient’s needs first and pledge to: 

  • Create a welcoming environment
  • Respect their values
  • Empower and collaborate with them
  • Coordinate and integrate their care
  • Offer comfort and support to them and their families
  • Enable access to services, system-wide
  • Advance their care through research

The tone of our copy echoes the humanity, warmth and intimacy of our visual design by speaking to the patient experience. Our tone is empathic, friendly and conversational.

The brand voice supports the language of storytelling — each person represents a story and a real-world experience, need or success. We use active voice and common words to express our extraordinary capabilities, expertise and care.

  • We use words like “we,” “you,” “let’s” and “together.”
  • We explain medical terms if they need to be used and do not use medical jargon.
  • Resource: See the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Plain Language Materials & Resources to find accurate, simple options for common healthcare terms.

Examples of headlines that speak to this voice/tone:

  • Everything from nose to toes
  • Healthcare that really sees you
  • Let us get to know you

Key messages

  • About UW Medicine
    • UW Medicine is an integrated clinical, research and learning health system. Its mission is to improve the health of the public. 
    • UW Medicine is the only integrated research and learning health system in the five-state Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, Idaho region. 
    • Our faculty, staff, students, and trainees work together in a family of organizations: Airlift Northwest, Harborview Medical Center, UW Medical Center, UW Medicine Primary Care, UW Physicians, UW School of Medicine and Valley Medical Center. 
    • UW Medicine has one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive medical research programs.  
  • Our mission
    • UW Medicine is more than a collection of hospitals and clinics. We’re 29,000 caring professionals who come together each day with a single mission: to improve the health of the public.  
    • UW Medicine works to improve health for all people through excellence in integrated clinical care, research and medical education.  
  •  Our care
    • UW Medicine is the only health system in Washington that directly connects patient care with a top-rated medical school and an internationally recognized research powerhouse.   
    • Because UW Medicine is the only health system with an inseparable connection to medical education and research, we offer the highest quality care — from the routine to the most complex — in Washington. 
    • Studies show that patients of health systems that integrate clinical care with learning and research, like UW Medicine, have better outcomes. 

Best practices for writing consumer-facing content

Always consider who will be reading your content and why. Readers/consumers are seeking advice and guidance about their health. Sometimes they’ve received a scary diagnosis or have a health concern. They don’t engage with — and, frankly, don’t like — content that sounds distant, elitist, generic, overly “medical” or confusing. For these reasons, try to avoid the following types of words or phrases in your writing. 

  •  Healthcare/medical jargon: These words are alienating and don’t mean anything to those not in the healthcare industry. Ask yourself, “Would my great aunt understand this? My neighbor? My mail carrier? My barista?” If the phrase isn’t a term that someone would use in an everyday conversation, consider rewording it in plain language or further explaining it. Some common examples include: 
    • Integrated
    • Tertiary, quaternary
    • Medical home model
    • Provider (there are exceptions but, in general, people say doctors not providers) 
  • Clichés: These phrases and statements feel generic, and they also tell instead of show. Including clichés in your content makes the writing feel nonspecific and tired. Some common examples include: 
    • State-of-the-art
    • Convenient care
    • Cutting-edge
    • Knowledgeable 
    • Innovative
    • Comprehensive care
    • Clinical excellence
  • Superlatives/marketing speak: Superlatives are difficult to verify and sound fake. When someone feels like they’re being sold something using unsupported claims, that’s a turn-off. Most consumers are already skeptical enough. Instead opt for a friendly, conversational tone that is authentic and approachable. Remember: Show, don’t tell. Some common examples of words to avoid include: 
    • Breakthrough
    • Most advanced
    • World-class
    • Best-in-class
  • Acronyms: The goal of audience-centered communications is to connect, but acronyms do the opposite. Acronyms essentially require users to learn a new language and translate terms back into meaningful words. Make your message accessible and easy to understand by avoiding acronyms. If an acronym must be used, make sure to translate it for the reader.  

DON’T: The AAP recommends when treating a fever, the primary goal should be to help the child feel more comfortable, rather than maintain a “normal” temperature. 
WHY: Many people do not know what the AAP is. 

DO: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends when treating a fever, the primary goal should be to help the child feel more comfortable, rather than maintain a “normal” temperature.
WHY: The acronym is spelled out and requires no translation for the reader.  

DON’T: We provide the most comprehensive and convenient care in the Puget Sound region. 
WHY: This statement doesn’t provide any useful information. Readers are left wondering, “How is it the most comprehensive care? How do you know what’s convenient for me? Why should I believe you?”  

DO: 300 clinics across 44 zip codes treating every medical condition under the sun? Yes, please. 
WHY: This tells the readers a lot: how many clinics we have, in what size area, for what sorts of conditions. It’s also approachable, funny and conversational. 

DON’T: We offer innovative, advanced and minimally invasive treatment options to get you “back in the game.” 
WHY: The cliché is corny, while the jargon-y adjectives are too general to connect with a reader. 

DO: We customize our rehab programs to fit you and your injury so you can get you back to owning that weekend basketball league.  
WHY: Calling out a specific service and directly connecting that to a reader’s experience increases engagement and trust. Throwing in a funny quip at the end adds another layer of personality. 

Section 2: UW Medicine Editorial Guidelines

About UW Medicine

UW Medicine is the trademarked brand name. It is not University of Washington Medicine. Do not use UWM.  

The UW School of Medicine is part of UW Medicine’s integrated health system. Use UW Medicine hospitals and clinics to indicate the locations for patient care within this health system 

UW Medicine includes the following: 

  • Airlift Northwest: Airlift on second reference; do not use ALNW.
  • Harborview Medical Center: Harborview on second reference; do not use HMC.
  • UW Medical Center:
    • Use UW Medical Center for communications targeting audiences in the Puget Sound region or where the context of the publication makes it clear that the organization being referred to is us and not another UW.  
    • Use University of Washington Medical Center on first reference for communications targeting audiences outside of the Puget Sound region. UW Medical Center can be used on second reference.  
    • Do not use UWMC. 
    • UW Medical Center – Montlake is the correct name for the facility on Pacific Ave.
    • UW Medical Center – Northwest is the correct name for the former Northwest Hospital facility.
    • UW Medical Center – Roosevelt is the correct name for the facility on Roosevelt Ave.
    • The dash in UW Medical Center – Montlake, UW Medical Center – Northwest and UW Medical Center – Roosevelt is an en-dash.
      • On a mac, create an en-dash by: OPTION + –
      • On a PC, create an en-dash by: holding down ALT + 0150 
    • UW Medical Center Eastside Specialty Center is the correct name for the facility in Bellevue.
    • Using UW Medical Center alone refers to the two-campus hospital operating under a single hospital license. Do not use UW Medical Center to refer only to the Montlake campus.
  • UW Medicine Primary Care (previously UW Neighborhood Clinics):
    • The new brand name is UW Medicine Primary Care. 
    • When referencing a specific clinic, the correct format is: 
      • UW Medicine Primary Care at Fremont 
      • UW Medicine Primary Care at Issaquah 
      • UW Medicine Primary Care at Shoreline 
      • UW Medicine Primary Care at South Lake Union 
      • UW Medicine Primary Care at Woodinville 
      • UW Medicine Primary Care at Lopez Island
      • UW Medicine Primary & Urgent Care at Ballard 
      • UW Medicine Primary & Urgent Care at Federal Way 
      • UW Medicine Primary & Urgent Care at Ravenna 
    • Do not use UW Medicine Primary Care Clinics or UW Neighborhood Clinics 
    • The Fremont clinic or clinic on second reference.  
    • Examples:
      • UW Medicine Primary Care clinics are located throughout the Puget Sound region.  
      • Dr. Jones practices at UW Medicine Primary & Urgent Care at Federal Way. 
      • Please visit a UW Medicine primary care clinic near you. 
      • UW Medicine has primary and urgent care services in Fremont.
  • UW Medicine Primary & Specialty Care Center at Ballard 
    Refers to the Primary & Specialty Care Center at Ballard. Can be shortened to UW Medicine in Ballard. It includes: 
    • Primary & Urgent Care at Ballard 
    • Meridian Women’s Health at Ballard 
    • Sports Medicine Clinic at Ballard  
    • Advanced Manual Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation at Ballard 
    • Heart Institute at Ballard  
  • Examples:
    • UW Medicine has primary, urgent and specialty care services in Ballard.
    • UW Medicine Primary & Specialty Care Center at Ballard offers primary, urgent and specialty care services. 
    • Trust your heart to the experts at UW Medicine Heart Institute at Ballard.
    • Meridian Women’s Health at Ballard provides a full range of obstetrics and gynecology care.
  • UW Physicians: Do not use UWP.
  • UW School of Medicine:
    • Use UW School of Medicine for communications targeting audiences in the Puget Sound region or where the context of the publication makes it clear that the organization being referred to is us and not another UW.
    • Use University of Washington School of Medicine on first reference for communications targeting audiences outside of the Puget Sound region.
    • On second reference, “the School” can be used.  
    • Do not use UWSOM. 
    • Use UW School of Medicine – Gonzaga University Health Partnership
      • Shortened to UW-GU Health Partnership
  • Valley Medical Center: Valley on second reference. Do not use VMC.

UW Medicine’s partnerships and affiliations include:  

  • Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center: Fred Hutch on second reference.  
    • Use for all current references.
    • Use Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center when referencing future merger with SCCA occurring in 2022.  
  • Seattle Cancer Care Alliance: SCCA on second reference.  
  • Seattle Children’s: Children’s on second reference. 
  • VA Puget Sound Health Care System: VA Puget Sound on second reference. 
  • Boise VA Medical Center: Boise VAMC on second reference.
  • LifePoint Health: LifePoint on second reference. 
  • The Clinic at Hobson Place. Not Hobson Clinic.
    • All services are provided by the DESC except those at the Harborview Primary Care Clinic, which are provided by Harborview. 

Paul Ramsey titles

  • Paul G. Ramsey, MD, CEO, UW Medicine, executive vice president for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, University of Washington (full title for lists and directories).  
  • Dr. Paul Ramsey, chief executive officer (or CEO) of UW Medicine (in articles and quotations). 
  • Paul G. Ramsey, CEO, UW Medicine (short title).

Faculty and clinician titles

  • The titles of faculty and clinicians should include “UW Medicine” or “University of Washington School of Medicine.”  
    • Dr. Jane Smith, UW Medicine surgeon at Harborview Medical Center.
    • Dr. Jane Smith, professor of surgery at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
  • The titles of faculty at Seattle Children’s, Fred Hutch, SCCA, VA Puget Sound and Boise VAMC should include their UW Medicine affiliation.
    • Dr. John Smith, professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine and chief of Seattle Children’s cardiology unit.
  • Many faculty have multiple titles: academic, clinical and administrative. Not all titles need to be in every article — just the relevant ones.
  • Do not capitalize a specialist’s field, such as “vascular surgeon,” even if it comes before the name. 
  • Use chair rather than chairman or chairwoman. 
  • Do not use periods in degrees.
    • Exception: Follow AP style and use periods in news releases.
    • See also “Academic degrees and certifications” in Section 2.

Use of “Dr.”

  • Use the title “Dr.” if the person holds a doctoral degree, including dental surgery (DDS), medicine (MD), optometry (OD), osteopathic medicine (DO), podiatric medicine (DPM), or veterinary medicine (DVM). On second reference, use Dr. and last name.  
    • Exception: Follow AP style and use only last name on second reference in news releases and articles. 
  • If appropriate in the context, “Dr.” also may be used on first reference before the names of individuals who hold other types of doctoral degrees, including, naturopathic medicine (ND), nursing practice (DNP), pharmacy (PharmD), philosophy (PhD), and physical therapy (DPT). This is an exception to AP Style. 
  • Since patients frequently identify Dr. with physicians only, a person’s specialty should be stated in first or second reference to avoid confusion:  
    • Dr. John Smith, a doctoral-prepared nurse practitioner, recently published a book on patient care. 
    • Dr. Jane Smith is a nurse practitioner who specializes in geriatric medicine. She received her doctoral degree in advanced nursing practice from the School of Nursing at University of Washington. 
  • Sometimes it may be necessary to specify that an individual identified as Dr. is a physician, such as a story about joint research by physicians and scientists.  

Use of degrees 

  • As a general rule, use Dr. when appropriate (see “Use of ‘Dr.’” section above). 
  • Listing degrees should be done intentionally and at the discretion of the writer/editor.  
    • Jessica Jones, PhD, recently published a book on patient care.  

General titles

  • Identify healthcare professionals such as nurses, therapists, physician assistants or nurse practitioners by their professional title, not by their degree. 
    • Correct: Nurse Jane Smith and physical therapist Sally Smith tended to the patient. 
    • Incorrect: Jane Smith, RN, and Sally Smith, PT, tended to the patient.
  • When identifying healthcare professionals in a listing or directory (such as online bios), academic degrees and professional certifications are acceptable. 
    • See also “Academic degrees and certifications” in Section 3. 
  • Capitalize a title before a proper name but not after.  
    • UW Medical Center Executive Director John Smith 
    • John Smith, executive director, UW Medical Center
  • The term provider is used to describe a person who provides any form of care (physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, dentists, mental health workers, clinical social workers, etc.)  

Hospital campuses

(A list of named hospital buildings on each campus follows. For all UW Medicine locations, see directory. 

  • Harborview Medical Center
    • Ninth & Jefferson Building
    • Norm Maleng Building
    • Patricia Bracelin Steel Building or Patricia Steel Building
    • Research & Training Building
  • UW Medicine Northwest Campus
    • UW Medical Center – Northwest (where hospital-based operations take place)
    • McMurray Medical Building
    • Medical Arts Building
    • Medical Office Building
    • SCCA Proton Therapy Center
    • Northwest Outpatient Medical Center (located at 10330 Meridian Ave N.)
    • Note that UW Medical Center – Northwest is located on the UW Medicine Northwest Campus. The campus includes buildings that are not part of UW Medical Center, such as the SCCA Proton Therapy Center.
  • UW Medical Center – Montlake
    • Cascade Tower
    • Montlake Tower
    • Pacific Tower
    • Brotman Baty Surgery Pavilion
  • Valley Medical Center
    • Northwest Pavilion
    • Olympic Building

Telehealth terms

  • Telemedicine refers to 1:1 video visits with a provider; telehealth and virtual care refer to the larger body of virtual modes of healthcare.
  • On-demand virtual care (instead of virtual clinic care)
  • Specific types of telehealth/virtual care offered by UW Medicine 
    • Telemedicine Visit with UW Medicine experts 
      • A 1:1 video-based appointment with a UW Medicine provider (primary and specialty care) during regular clinic hours
      • Uses Zoom on mobile phone, tablet or computer
      • Typically is a covered benefit of health insurance
      • Includes interpreter services
      • Lowercase “telemedicine visit” for general usage 
    • UW Medicine On-Demand Virtual Care with 98point6® 
      • 24/7 unlimited text-based care with board-certified 98point6 providers (a third-party service partner)
      • Uses the 98point6 app
      • Personal Plan subscription fee applies
      • Care is coordinated with UW Medicine
      • Add registered trademark (®) to 98point6® on first usage
        • You do not need the registered trademark on second reference. 
      • Lowercase “on-demand virtual care with 98point6” for general usage
      • ALWAYS: reference 98point6 and board-certified 98point6 physicians
      • DON’T: use the following phrases in reference to the 98point6 service
        • Texting/text 
        • Chatting/chat 
  • Destination One
    • Single electronic health record across the UW Medicine and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
    • Shortened to D1 on second reference
  • MyChart
    • New online patient portal for UW Medicine (replaced eCare)
    • Launched in accordance with Destination One on March 27, 2021

Schools, departments, divisions and units

  • Capitalize the full names of schools, departments, divisions, institutes and centers.
    • School of Medicine, Department of Surgery, Division of Cardiology
    • Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, The Sports Institute
    • Center for AIDS Research, Vision Science Center
  • Unit names are lowercase:
    • John Smith is a nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit.
  • “Orthopaedics” is the correct spelling when referencing the academic department.  
    • UW Department of Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine.
    • Use “orthopedics” in all other cases.

Section 3: Usage Guidelines

Academic degrees and certifications

  • In general text and news releases, do not use degrees or certifications with a person’s name.  
  • When identifying healthcare professionals in a listing or directory (such as online bios), academic degrees and professional certifications are acceptable. 
    • MD, PhD, RN, MPH, MHA, ARNP, CRNA, MSW, PA
    • Use commas to separate degrees: MD, PhD.
  • Do not use periods in degrees. 
    • Note: This is a change from previous editions of the editorial style guide. 
    • Exception: Follow AP style and use periods in news releases. 
  • If degrees are used, the name should not be preceded by “Dr.” or another title. 
  • Do not include academic degrees below a master’s level. 

Headlines and bulleted items

  • Use AP Title Case capitalization for first headline:
    • Capitalize the first word and the last word of the title 
    • Capitalize the principal words 
    • Capitalize all words of four letters or more 
    • Capitalize verbs, including to-be verbs under four letters
      • is, are, was, be, etc.
    • Do not capitalize articles, conjunctions and prepositions of three letters or fewer 
  • Use sentence case capitalization for subsequent headings, sub-headlines, information boxes and bulleted items. Sentence case means only the first word and proper nouns are capitalized.

Healthcare and medical terms

  • Academic Medical Center: Avoid using in marketing copy to describe UW Medicine.
    • Correct: Patients of health systems that integrate patient care with teaching and research, like UW Medicine, have better outcomes.
    • Incorrect: Patients of academic medical centers, like UW Medicine, have better outcomes.
  • Board certified or board-certified: Do not capitalize.
    • Dr. Johnson is board certified in family medicine.
    • Dr. Johnson is a board-certified family doctor.
  • Diseases or conditions:
    • Do not capitalize unless a person’s name is included. Even if a condition is commonly referred to by initials, the full name should still be lowercase.
      • Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, peripheral artery disease (PAD).
    • Substance use disorder. Not substance abuse disorder.
  • Healthcare is one word, whether used as noun or adjective.
    • Sam Smith argues for universal healthcare.
    • Sam Smith is an expert in healthcare finance.
    • Note: One exception to this is mental health care which is three words. 
  • Obstetrician-gynecologist: OB-GYN is the preferred abbreviation. May use on first reference if the context is clear to the reader.
  • Procedures: Do not capitalize unless the procedure was named after a person.
    • Bruce protocol, treadmill test
  • See the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Plain Language Materials & Resources to find accurate, simple options for common healthcare terms.

COVID-19 terms

  • Coronaviruses are a family of viruses named for crownlike spikes on their surfaces. Some coronaviruses cause disease in people and animals.
    • It is OK to use “the coronavirus” on first reference in stories about COVID-19 to refer to the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19.  
  • SARS-CoV-2 is the correct capitalization and format for the scientific name of the new virus that causes COVID-19. 
  • COVID-19 stands for the coronavirus disease 2019. 
    • Do not shorten to COVID.
  •  Drive-up testing. Not drive-thru or drive-through.
    • UW Medicine offers drive-up testing.   
  • Physical distancing. Not social distancing.
  • Superspreader one word, no hyphen.
  • Front line (n); front-line (adj) 
    • We are proud of our nurses on the front line.  
    • We are proud of our front-line nurses.   
  • Wait-list (v.) waitlist (n.)
    • Join the waitlist to schedule a vaccine appointment.  
    • We will call waitlist candidates when appointments open. 
    • UW Medicine wait-listed patients under the age of 50. 
  • Standby (n., adj., adv.); Stand by (v.)
    • Add your name to the standby list. 
    • Stand by for further instruction.  
  • Virus variant 
    • Avoid using numbers given to variants, such as B.1.1.7. 
    • Avoid using country labels like “the South African variant.” Instead: “the variant first detected in South Africa.” 
  • Vaccine names. Use manufacturer names to reference a specific vaccine. Mention a manufacturing partner only when relevant; do not use hyphenated vaccine names.  
    • Pfizer (not Pfizer-BioNTech) 
    • AstraZeneca (not AstraZeneca-Oxford) 
    • Moderna 
    • Novavax 
    • Johnson & Johnson; J&J on second reference 
  • Virus variant
    • Following WHO guidance, refer to variants by letters of the Greek alphabet and include a reference to where the variant was first seen.
    • Example: The latest outbreak was linked to the alpha variant, first detected in the United Kingdom.
  • Third dose. Part of the initial vaccine series if you received the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines and are immunocompromised. This dose is required to create immunity and is different from a booster.
  • Booster. Provides a boost when an initially sufficient immune response to a vaccine weakens over time.

Awards and Recognitions

  • Use roman numerals for designated levels of care.
    • Harborview is a Level I adult and pediatric trauma center.
    • Valley Medical Center is a Level III trauma center.
  • # – Use as the abbreviation for number in conjunction with a figure to indicate position or rank (#1 hospital, #2 in the nation) in digital and advertising copy. Continue to follow AP Style and use No. in press releases and articles.
    • Digital copy: UW Medical Center is Washington’s #1 hospital. 
    • Article: UW Medical Center was named the No. 1 hospital in Washington state by U.S. News & World Report. 
  • U.S. News & World Report
    • Hospitals/specialties are ranked; procedures are rated. 
    • Hospital/specialties: “UW Medical Center is Washington’s #1 Hospital 10 years in row and is nationally ranked in six specialties.”
    • Ratings: “We were also recognized as high performing, the highest rating, in 14 common procedures and conditions.”

Phone numbers

  • Always include area codes; use periods between numbers, not brackets or dashes: 206.543.3620.

Plain language

  • Make your content easy to read and understand at the seventh grade reading level.
  • Avoid using academic or medical jargon that is not recognized by the audience.
  • Plain language is characterized by these elements:
    • Logical organization
    • Active voice
    • Common, everyday words
    • Short sentences
    • Short lists and simple tables
    • Pictures and graphics relevant to the message
    • Easy-to-read design
  • See the word substitution list or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Plain Language Materials & Resources to find accurate, simple options for common healthcare terms.

Referencing publications

  • Italics: Do not use italics for publication titles, but do use italics for scientific terms.
    • E. coli  
  • Quotation marks: Use quotation marks for titles of articles in magazines or periodicals, book chapters, essays, individual blog posts, individual episodes of radio or TV shows, poems, songs, stories and unpublished works.
    • “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “The Purloined Letter”
  • Plain text: Bible, Koran, Talmud

Punctuation

  • Ampersands: Do not use ampersands (&). Use the word “and” unless an ampersand is part of a proper name.
    • U.S. News & World Report
  • Commas: Use commas to separate elements in a series, but do not put a comma before the conjunction in most simple series.
    • The flag is red, white and blue.
    • He would nominate Tom, Dick, Harry or Jeannette.
  • Dashes: Use dashes to signal a break in the sentence flow; add a space before and after the dash.
    • Jane wanted him to use the most recent — and, in her view, best — version of the document.
  • Exclamation points: Avoid use of exclamation points.
  • Hyphens: Use hyphens as joiners for compound modifiers and for ranges. No hyphen is needed if the modifier is commonly recognized as one phrase, and if the meaning is clear and unambiguous without the hyphen. Do use a hyphen if it’s needed to make the meaning clear and avoid unintended meanings 
    • physician-researcher 
    • 2002-2003 
    • third grade teacher, chocolate chip cookie, early morning traffic 
    • small-business owner, better-qualified candidate, little-known song 
  • Periods: The period at the end of a sentence is followed by one space, not two.  

Website links

  • Hyperlinks: Use descriptive words rather than a URL to link text whenever possible.
    • If the URL needs to be written out, do not include http:// or www.
    • Do not use “click here” to indicate website links. 
  • Lowercase website URLs.
    • CORRECT: uwmedicine.org 
    • INCORRECT: UWMedicine.org 

Other usage notes

  • Pacific Northwest: Includes British Columbia and the states of Washington, Idaho and Oregon. Take caution when using this to describe the region. For example, we are not the only Level I trauma center in the Pacific Northwest. OSHU Hospital and Legacy Emanuel Medical Center are Level I trauma centers in Portland, which is in the Pacific Northwest.
  • Time: Use am/pm for website lists and leadership emails. In running text, use a.m./p.m. 

Section 4: Writing for Digital Channels

When writing content for digital, including websites, blogs and email, we take a “mobile-first” approach where we optimize for the small screen viewing experience over the desktop screen experience.

Be direct and concise

  • A good rule to remember when writing for mobile is: if in doubt, leave it out.
  • Use inverted pyramid style, just like a journalist. Put the most important information up front in short, simple sentences. Remember the basics of journalism: who, what, where, when, how and why.

Cut the fluff

  • Leave out greetings, transitions, and framing phrases such as “the following information” or “welcome to the department.” Say what you mean in as few words as possible.
  • Divide content into paragraphs of 50 words or less. One-sentence paragraphs are OK.
  • Defer supporting and detailed information to accordions or secondary pages. However, a best practice to follow when deferring information is to make the click for the extra information worth the effort.
  • Avoid within-page links (also known as deep links, anchor tags or jump links) when deferring to supporting information because it violates user expectation that links bring up new pages. If you find yourself needing to rely on within-page links for secondary content, there is a good chance your content should be structured differently.

Prioritize the content on the page

  • Move essential information into the main body of the page, preferably at the top. This includes moving vital information out of the sidebar and documents such as PDFs.
  • Avoid information clutter. Evaluate whether related content items are necessary and directly related to the main content. Excessive content blocks can overwhelm and distract people.
  • For content with bylines, put the byline at the bottom of the content unless the author is famous or has credentials that support its credibility.

Make it easy to find

Over 70 percent of users find our web pages via a search engine, completely bypassing a website’s home page. You must optimize your web pages for SEO so people can find them.

  • Use keywords in your page titles and page headings.
  • Write meta titles and meta descriptions when developing content. This is what people see when your page displays in search results and tells them what they found.
  • Look at current search results for your keywords and assess those results for content ROT (redundant, outdated, trivial). You want to make it easy for people to find the latest, greatest, most relevant information on the topic. Determine what should be removed from the website, what should be updated, and what should be linked together.

Make it easy to scan

  • Use bullet points to make information more scannable.
  • Use headers to break up pages into more digestible sections.
    • Write headlines so they preview the breadth of information in a section or on a page.
    • Structure content so it is scannable and headers preview the most important ideas captured in the body copy. 
  • Use expandable accordions to condense longer pages and make them more scannable.
    • If you choose to use a ‘View More’ expandable, make sure that the most important information is visible on the page without needing to click. The expandable should include extra details that only some users may require.

Consider the structure of content groups

  • If you include multiple calls-to-action within a content area, ensure the text style is parallel. Ex. Call to action buttons in the hero image. All should be an action or none should be.
  • Ensure text in a given content group works together. Ex. If you are writing content for a new accordion subsection that includes an item title, paragraph and call to action button that links to a new page, consider how the paragraph and content within the Call-to-action button can set the user’s expectation about what they will see if they click.

Section 5: Website Provider Bios

Provider bios should be written with the patient’s point of view in mind.

  • Bios are written in third person voice (e.g. he/she).
  • On first reference use full name and credential(s). On second reference, use Dr. and last name for providers with doctorates (see “Use of ‘Dr.’”). Use last name only or first name, if preferred, for those who do not hold doctorate degrees.
  • Do not use Mr., Mrs., or Ms.
  • Use plain language instead of medical jargon.
  • The first sentence should give a general overview of the medical service provided.
  • Clinical interests and expertise should be included, as well as personal interests.
  • UW professorship should always be mentioned secondary to clinical practice.
  • The term “provider” is used to describe a person who provides any form of care (physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, dentists, mental health workers, clinical social workers, etc.) 

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