Cleveland Clinic employee working on a computer

Writing Guidelines

As a global academic medical center, Cleveland Clinic has many audiences. We write for patients, consumers, employees, physicians, potential trainees and donors.

We generally rely on the Associated Press (AP) Stylebook first, followed by Merriam Webster’s Dictionary. But we do make exceptions. You’ll find them here in our Cleveland Clinic House Style Guide.

This guide will help you:

  • Know how to refer to Cleveland Clinic locations and titles.
  • Follow our Cleveland Clinic exceptions to style.
  • Understand AP style, web writing for health and medical writing and analytics.
  • Avoid common style errors.

Please note:

  • Consumer audiences are different from physician audiences. Physician audiences are different from donors. Advertising is an entirely different type of writing. We realize that there may be differences in voice, tone and style for each. That’s natural. And that’s OK.
  • Spell checks and grammar checks are helpful, but don’t follow them automatically!

Cleveland Clinic Enterprise

How to refer to Cleveland Clinic institutes and departments

Cleveland Clinic

We are ONE Cleveland Clinic. The name applies to all of our operations worldwide. This includes our:

  • Main campus in Cleveland, Ohio.
  • 15 regional hospitals.
  • 20 family health (and surgery) centers, health and wellness centers, specialty centers.
  • Locations in Florida, Nevada, Canada, Abu Dhabi and London.

You can refer to our enterprise simply as Cleveland Clinic. Or you can say “the organization” or “the enterprise.”

Please note:

  • DON’T use “The” in front of Cleveland Clinic.
  • Don’t say “the Clinic.”
  • Don’t say “CCF.”
  • Use possessives instead of putting “the” in front of a name. (Cleveland Clinic’s Division of Radiology or Cleveland Clinic’s Communications Department.)
  • Officially, we’re a nonprofit. So our legal name is still The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. But this name should ONLY be used on letterhead, brochure boilerplates, legal agreements and mailing panels.

Building, location and program names

Here’s a list of how to refer to many of our brick-and-mortar sites. Use formal names on first reference. Capitalize all major words. After that, you can use less formal and shorter versions.

Is a philanthropy gift involved? If a building, center, etc. is named after a donor, you need to follow the naming convention that’s established in the gift contract. You’ll find the correct name and acceptable second/subsequent references in this style guide. Otherwise, use a full name (with Cleveland Clinic in front of) on first reference, followed by the shorter version without Cleveland Clinic on subsequent references. Such as: Cleveland Clinic Hillcrest Hospital, followed by Hillcrest Hospital.

  • Ferchill Center for Innovation and Technology Transfer (formerly the Ohio Renal Care Center).
  • The Mitzi and L. David Guitar, DMV, Liver Transplant Research Center.
    Please note: “The” isn’t capitalized unless it starts a sentence.
  • Floyd D. Loop Alumni Library (located at main campus in the JJ Building). Second/subsequent reference: Loop Alumni Library.
  • InterContinental Hotel & Bank of America Conference Center, Cleveland.
  • Sydell and Arnold Miller Family Pavilion.
    Second/subsequent reference: Miller Family Pavilion (The entire rooftop is the rooftop plaza. The outdoor walkway is the Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Foundation Rooftop Terrace.)
  • The Maria and Sam Miller Emergency Services Building.
  • Tomsich Pathology Laboratories.
  • Tanya I. Edwards, MD, Center for Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine (located at the Lyndhurst Campus).
  • William and Bob Risman Building (housing the Cleveland Clinic Beachwood Family Health and Surgery Center).


Clinical Institutes

  • Anesthesiology.
  • Cole Eye.
  • Community Care.
  • Dermatology & Plastic Surgery.
  • Digestive Disease & Surgery.
  • Emergency Services.
  • Endocrinology & Metabolism.
  • Glickman Urological & Kidney.
  • Head and Neck.
  • Imaging.
  • Medicine.
  • Neurological.
  • Ob/Gyn & Women’s Health.
  • Orthopaedic & Rheumatologic.
  • Pediatrics & Children’s Hospital.
  • Respiratory.
  • The Stanley Shalom Zielony for Nursing Excellence.
  • Sydell and Arnold Miller Family Heart, Vascular & Thoracic.
  • Taussig Cancer.
  • Robert J. Tomsich Pathology & Laboratory Medicine.
  • Wellness.

Special Expertise Institutes

  • Education.
  • Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Global Leadership & Learning.
  • Lerner Research.
  • Philanthropy.
  • Quality & Patient Safety.
  • Regional Operations.


Use these first, second and subsequent references. Note they’re not the same across the board because of philanthropic gift agreements:

Cleveland Clinic Children’s & Pediatric Institute
Use mainly in internal communications. Use in external communications only when institutes are the focus.

Cleveland Clinic Cole Eye Institute
Second/subsequent reference: the Cole Eye Institute

Cleveland Clinic Digestive Disease & Surgery Institute
Second/subsequent reference: the Digestive Disease & Surgery Institute

Cleveland Clinic Head & Neck Institute
Second/subsequent reference: the Head & Neck Institute

Cleveland Clinic Glickman Urological & Kidney Institute
Second/subsequent reference: Urological & Kidney Institute

Robert J. Tomsich Pathology & Laboratory Medicine Institute
Second/subsequent reference: R. Tomsich Pathology & Laboratory Medicine Institute

The Stanley Shalom Zielony Center for Nursing Education
The Stanley Shalom Zielony Institute for Nursing Excellence
Second/subsequent reference: the Zielony Institute (external); our Nursing Institute (internal)

Sydell and Arnold Miller Family Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute
Second reference: Miller Family Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute
Subsequent reference: the Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute (HVTI). Using Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute or the acronym HVTI is OK in a longer publication only after introducing it with the full name.

Departments & Divisions

Refer to as follows:

Department of eRadiology
Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology
Robert and Suzanne Tomsich Department of Cardiovascular Medicine

Please note:

When mentioning more than one department, lowercase departments. Also, lowercase department, institute, center, etc. when used in a generic sense.

For external publications it isn’t necessary to say “the Department of” or “the Division of”.

    John Smith, MD, Chairman of Radiology, sees hundreds of patients each year, rather than “John Smith, MD, Chairman of the Division of Radiology,…”

    Jan Smith, MD, of Clinical Dermatology, is new to Cleveland Clinic, rather than “Jan Smith, MD, of the Department of Clinical Dermatology…”

Cleveland Clinic Locations

How to refer to Cleveland Clinic hospitals and facilities

Cleveland Clinic Children’s

Cleveland Clinic Children’s is the name of our children’s hospital, services and locations in Ohio ONLY. (Cleveland Clinic Children’s used to be known as Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital. We no longer use that branding.)

First and second reference: Cleveland Clinic Children’s.

Please note:

Refer to Cleveland Clinic Children’s locations by adding a comma followed by the location:

  • Cleveland Clinic Children’s, main campus.
  • Cleveland Clinic Children’s, Westlake.

Lowercase ‘children’s hospital’ in generic references such as:

  • Cleveland Clinic Children’s is ranked higher than any other children’s hospital in Northeast Ohio.

There’s no need to repeat Cleveland Clinic Children’s on second reference when pediatric, neonatal, infant, etc., are used:

  • Cleveland Clinic Children’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
    Second/subsequent reference: NICU.
  • Cleveland Clinic Children’s Department of Community Pediatrics.
    Second/subsequent reference: Department of Community Pediatrics or Community Pediatrics.

There’s no need to use ‘pediatric’ with Cleveland Clinic Children’s unless it’s part of a formal title:

  • Cleveland Clinic Children’s pulmonologist (rather than Cleveland Clinic Children’s pediatric pulmonologist).
  • Cleveland Clinic Children’s Department of Pediatric Gastroenterology.

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi

Second/subsequent reference: same

Arabian Gulf/Persian Gulf

When we’re talking about our Abu Dhabi location in the UAE, we should ALWAYS refer to this body of water as the Arabian Gulf, NEVER as the Persian Gulf.

Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center

We use this name to talk about our cancer program. It includes Taussig Cancer Institute and the clinical, research and specialty institutes whose staff and/or efforts support cancer care.

First and second/subsequent reference: Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center

Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Center is the name of the cancer building on Cleveland Clinic’s main campus, which houses the Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center. Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Center should only be used when referring to the physical facility on main campus.

Please note:

Refer to Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center’s locations by adding a comma followed by the location.

  • Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center, Mansfield.
  • Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center, Sandusky.

First reference: Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center, Location
Second/subsequent references: Cancer Center in location
In a listing, place locations alphabetically.

Refer to hospital locations as follows:

  • Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center at Fairview Hospital.
  • Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center at Hillcrest Hospital.
  • Second/subsequent reference: Cancer Center at location.

Cleveland Clinic Florida

Second/subsequent reference: same

The Egil and Pauline Braathen Center
On first reference: the Egil and Pauline Braathen Center.
On second reference: the Braathen Center.

When writing about the Egil and Pauline Braathen Center building, we recommend the first reference, when starting a sentence, as:

The Egil and Pauline Braathen Center houses the Pauline Braathen Neurological Center and the Maroone Cancer Center. Or, within a sentence: the Egil and Pauline Braathen Center, which houses the Pauline Braathen Neurological Center and the Maroone Cancer Center, etc.

The Maroone Cancer Center
First reference: the Maroone Cancer Center.
Second/subsequent reference: the Maroone Center.

The Pauline Braathen Neurological Center
First reference: the Pauline Braathen Neurological Center.
Second/subsequent reference: the Braathen Neurological Center.

The Robert and Suzanne Tomsich Departments of Cardiac Surgery and Cardiology
(Formerly known as Cleveland Clinic Florida’s Cardiology and Cardiothoracic Surgery Departments)

Cleveland Clinic Health System

We don’t use the phrase Cleveland Clinic Health System anymore. We’re ONE Cleveland Clinic. You may see informal references or mentions of the health system in an annual report, but this shouldn’t typically appear in print or electronic communications.

Cleveland Clinic London

Refer to Cleveland Clinic London’s locations by adding a comma followed by the location.

Cleveland Clinic London Hospital, 33 Grosvenor Place, Belgravia.
Cleveland Clinic London Outpatient Centre, 24 Portland Place, Marylebone

First reference: Cleveland Clinic London Hospital, 33 Grosvenor Place, Belgravia.
Second/subsequent references: London Hospital, 33 Grosvenor Place, Belgravia.

Common Words/ Style Issues

We use the British spellings instead of the American ones in our Cleveland Clinic London materials. Here are some of the most common ones you’ll need to know:

  • Anaesthesia NOT Anesthesia.
  • Centre NOT Center.
  • Consultants vs. Physicians.
    Commonly referred to as consultants in the UK.
    • Please note: Consultants are senior doctors that have completed full medical training in a specialised area of medicine and are listed on the General Medical Council’s specialist register. They have clinical responsibilities and administrative responsibilities in managing staff. A group of consultants is commonly referred to as doctors.
  • General Practitioners NOT Family Practitioners.
    Commonly referred to as General Practitioners (GPs) / GP doctors in the UK.
    • Please note: Some GP doctors have a GPwSI (GP with a special interest) accreditation, which supplements their role as a generalist to provide an extra area of specialist knowledge.
  • Gynecology NOT Gynaecology.
  • Locum doctors.
    • A locum doctor is a fully qualified doctor who is temporarily covering a position. For example, if a doctor is on sick leave or there is large workload in a GP surgery or hospital ward that requires the support of a temporary doctor.
    • He was working as a locum doctor in a local teaching hospital. He was then appointed as locum consultant urologist at South Hospital.
  • Organisation NOT organization.
    • Some words in British English use “s” where “z” is used in American English. However, usage of the “z” can also be occasionally seen in British English, in words such as “citizen”.
  • Theater NOT Theatre.
  • Tumour NOT Tumor.
  • U.K. NOT UK.
  • Waiting List NOT Wait List.


Dr vs. MD
Include a physician’s or scientist’s degree information after his or her name on first reference:

John Smith, MD, spoke at the conference.

NEVER use Dr. and MD (or DO or PhD) together with a reference to a doctor. For example, DON’T say Dr. Jane Smith, DO, is an internist. It should be the full name and MD, DO, or PhD on first reference and Dr. Smith on second reference.

Other than for medical students, all medically qualified doctors will usually use the title ‘Dr’ before their name. Doctors who perform surgery may (for historical reasons) use the titles ‘Mr’, ‘Mrs’, ‘Miss’ or ‘Ms’ instead. A doctor that is a university professor may also use the title ‘Prof’ instead of ‘Dr’.

Dr NOT Doctor
Don’t put periods after Dr/ Mr/ Mrs for London materials.

Common academic job titles (in order from most junior to most senior position):

  • ACF – academic clinical fellow.
  • CL – clinical lecturer.
  • CRF – clinical research fellow.
  • CSL – senior clinical lecturer.
  • Reader/Associate professor.
  • Prof – professor.

Numbers (months, dates and times)
Don’t abbreviate months (Jan., Feb.). Always spell them out and don’t use commas.

The health talk will be held in January 2023.

When referring to specific dates, use numbers only. Don’t use 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, etc.

The health talk will be held on October 1 2023.

Date ranges should read as day-month-year.

For time of day, use the 12-hour clock.
4:10 p.m. NOT 16:10 p.m.

Phone numbers
Don’t use periods between numbers.

+44 (0)XX XXX XXXX

999 (for the emergency telephone number)

Change $ to £

Regional Hospitals & Centers

In headlines, the shortened names of hospitals is preferred.
Mentor Hospital


Cleveland Clinic Akron General
Second/subsequent reference: Akron General

Cleveland Clinic Akron General Lodi Hospital
Second/subsequent reference: Lodi Hospital

Cleveland Clinic Akron General Edwin Shaw Rehabilitation Hospital
Second/subsequent reference: Edwin Shaw Rehabilitation Hospital

Cleveland Clinic Avon Hospital
Second/subsequent reference: Avon Hospital

Cleveland Clinic Euclid Hospital
Second/subsequent reference: Euclid Hospital

Cleveland Clinic Fairview Hospital
Second/subsequent reference: Fairview Hospital

Cleveland Clinic Hillcrest Hospital
Second/subsequent reference: Hillcrest Hospital

Cleveland Clinic Akron General Lodi Hospital
Second/subsequent reference: Lodi Hospital

Cleveland Clinic Lutheran Hospital
Second/subsequent reference: Lutheran Hospital

Cleveland Clinic Marymount Hospital
Second/subsequent reference: Marymount Hospital

Cleveland Clinic Medina Hospital
Second/subsequent reference: Medina Hospital

Cleveland Clinic Mentor Hospital, a location of Hillcrest Hospital
Second/subsequent reference: Mentor Hospital

Cleveland Clinic Mercy Hospital
Second/subsequent reference: Mercy Hospital

Cleveland Clinic South Pointe Hospital
Second/subsequent reference: South Pointe Hospital

Cleveland Clinic Union Hospital
Second/subsequent reference: Union Hospital


Cleveland Clinic Weston Hospital
Second/subsequent reference: Weston Hospital

Cleveland Clinic Indian River Hospital
Second/subsequent reference: Indian River Hospital

Cleveland Clinic Martin Health (there are three hospitals in this group ─ see more below)
Second/subsequent reference: Martin Health

Cleveland Clinic Martin North Hospital
Second/subsequent reference: Martin North Hospital

Cleveland Clinic Martin South Hospital
Second/subsequent reference: Martin South Hospital

Cleveland Clinic Tradition Hospital
Second/subsequent reference: Tradition Hospital

Please note:

  • Cleveland Clinic hospitals are regional hospitals (not community hospitals).
  • First plural reference: Cleveland Clinic regional hospitals
  • Second/subsequent reference: the hospitals or regional hospitals.
  • When listing the hospitals, use alpha order and lowercase “hospitals” at the end. Our affiliate Ashtabula County Medical Center is an exception and should be listed last.
  • We no longer use “west” and “east” region. Internally, we refer to “markets” rather than regions. Markets are east market (Euclid, Hillcrest, Marymount, Mentor and South Pointe), south market (Akron General, Lodi, Medina, Mercy, and Union) and west market (Avon, Lutheran and Fairview).


Use these first, second and subsequent references for our centers:

Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center
This includes the Moll Pavilion at Fairview and the Hirsch Pavilion at Hillcrest, although those names should be used on their own when appropriate:

Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center at Fairview Hospital Moll Pavilion
Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center at Hillcrest Hospital Hirsch Pavilion

Second reference: the Cancer Center

Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health
Second/subsequent reference: Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health

Cleveland Clinic Transplant Center
Second/subsequent reference: the Transplant Center

Cleveland Clinic Women’s Health and Breast Center
Second/subsequent reference: the Women’s Health and Breast Center

Cleveland Clinic Regional Operations
Second/subsequent reference: Regional Operations

Sanford R. Weiss, MD, Center for Hereditary Colorectal Neoplasia
Second/subsequent reference: The Weiss Center

Main campus
Generally, should be lowercase. Use “Cleveland Clinic main campus” when referring to the entire campus in Cleveland near University Circle. Exceptions include in headlines or captions where all words are capped.

Family Health Centers & Health and Wellness Centers

Some of our regional medical practice sites are family health centers, others are family health and surgery centers because they also offer outpatient surgery.

If you’re referring to them in general — as a whole — say, “Cleveland Clinic family health centers.” Or say “Solon and Chagrin Falls family health centers.” Drop the “surgery” in these instances.

Here are a few examples of how to reference specific centers:

Cleveland Clinic Westlake Family Health Center
Second/subsequent reference: Cleveland Clinic Westlake.

Cleveland Clinic Lorain Family Health and Surgery Center
Second/subsequent reference: Cleveland Clinic Lorain.

Cleveland Clinic Richard E. Jacobs Health Center at Richard E. Jacobs Campus
Second/subsequent reference: the Richard E. Jacobs Health Center.
In references to the center’s location, use “in Avon.”

Cleveland Clinic Stephanie Tubbs Jones Health Center
Second/subsequent reference: the center.

Cleveland Clinic Wooster Family Health Center
Second/subsequent reference: Wooster Family Health Center.
(no longer known as Cleveland Clinic Wooster).

When referring to community surgery centers alone, use ambulatory for physician audiences, but outpatient for lay audiences.

Cleveland Clinic Lorain Ambulatory Surgery Center
Second/subsequent reference: Lorain Ambulatory Surgery Center

Cleveland Clinic Lorain Outpatient Surgery Center
Second/subsequent reference: Lorain Outpatient Surgery Center

Health and wellness centers

Because of the dual employer relationship, Akron General always needs to be referenced to by the full “Cleveland Clinic Akron General” names, such as:

Cleveland Clinic Akron General Health & Wellness Center, Bath
Second/subsequent reference: Bath Health & Wellness Center

Cleveland Clinic Akron General Medical Office Building, Akron
Second/subsequent reference: Akron Medical Office Building

Plural reference example: Akron General medical office buildings in Fairlawn and Kent

Please note: Joint ventures require their own logos on signage and print. These include Akron General, Indian River Hospital, Union Hospital and Akron General Lodi.


Cleveland Clinic Akron General Justin T. Rogers Hospice Care Center
Second/subsequent reference: Akron General Justin T. Rogers Hospice Care Center

Cleveland Clinic Children’s Center for Autism
Second/subsequent reference: Center for Autism

Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital for Rehabilitation
Second/subsequent reference: Children’s Hospital for Rehabilitation

Cleveland Clinic Children’s Lerner School for Autism
When referring to the Lerner School for Autism as a place or an event location, always identify it as the Debra Ann November Wing of the Lerner School for Autism. Mort and Iris November donated a large sum of money in memory of their daughter.

The meeting was in the Debra Ann November Wing of the Lerner School for Autism.

But this isn’t necessary when referring to the school as an institutional entity.

Today, we announced a new curriculum for students at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner School for Autism.

Cleveland Clinic Children’s Outpatient Center
Refer to the building on main campus as Cleveland Clinic Children’s Outpatient Center.

Cleveland Clinic Community Care
Second/subsequent reference: Community Care

Cleveland Clinic Langston Hughes Community Health and Education Center
Second/subsequent reference: Langston Hughes Center or the center

Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine
Second/subsequent reference: Lerner College of Medicine

Cleveland Clinic Library Services
The medical library in the Lerner Building at main campus has been named the Floyd D. Loop Alumni Library
First reference: Floyd D. Loop Alumni Library
Second reference: Loop Alumni Library

This applies just to the main campus library physical space; if you’re referring to our libraries as a whole (main, Hillcrest, etc.), you would say Library Services because that’s the name of the entire department.

Cleveland Clinic Regions

Use only in internal communications. Capitalize Cleveland Clinic regions (East, West and South regions).

She works at Hillcrest Hospital, which is part of Cleveland Clinic’s East Region.

Cleveland’s East Side/West Side

These are capitalized because they’re a specific geographic location.

Hillcrest hospital is an East Side hospital.


Dr. vs. MD

Include a physician’s or scientist’s degree information after his or her name on first reference:

John Smith, MD, spoke at the conference.
Mary Smith, DO, spoke at the conference.
David Smith, PhD, spoke at the conference.
Janet Smith, MD, PhD, spoke at the conference.

On subsequent references you can use Dr. Smith.

NEVER use Dr. and MD (or DO or PhD) together with a reference to a doctor. For example, DON’T say Dr. Jane Smith, DO, is an internist. It should be the full name and MD, DO, or PhD on first reference and Dr. Smith on second reference.

Academic and courtesy titles

We break from AP style by uppercasing a person’s job title both before and after a name. Capitalize official titles of institutions, organizations, departments, sections, centers and programs.

John Smith, MD, Chairman of the Imaging Institute
Imaging Institute Chairman John Smith, MD


Use chair NOT chairman.

When a chair of a department or division also holds an endowed chair, the department/division chair is listed first.

Tom Mihaljevic, MD, is CEO and President and Morton L. Mandel CEO Chair of Cleveland Clinic.

Leadership titles

Tom Mihaljevic, MD
Chief Executive Officer and President
Morton L. Mandel CEO Chair

says Tom Mihaljevic, MD, CEO and President of Cleveland Clinic and the holder of the Morton L. Mandel CEO Chair.

Please note:

CEO always comes first.

Use the full title “Morton L. Mandel CEO Chair” for the first reference. On the rare occasion that a title needs to be referenced more than once in a speech or publication, shorten subsequent references to “Mandel CEO Chair.”

K. Kelly Hancock, DNP, RN, NE-BC, FAAN
Executive Vice President and Chief Caregiver Officer
Rich Family Chief Caregiver Chair
Cleveland Clinic

says Kelly Hancock, DNP, Executive Vice President and Chief Caregiver Officer of Cleveland Clinic and the holder of the Rich Family Chief Caregiver Chair.

Find additional titles of our leaders here.

Common Words & Style Issues


These are words formed from the first letters of a long name or phrase. Quickly recognizable acronyms like COVID can be used on first reference, and you don’t need to spell them out for any audience. For physicians and scientists, acronyms like NIH are quickly recognizable. Less recognizable acronyms should be spelled out on first reference in the story, followed by the acronym in parentheses.

C-reactive protein (CRP)

Avoid using too many acronyms in one sentence/paragraph/article, or you’ll have copy that looks like alphabet soup!


When used with a numbered street address, spell out Road, Drive, Alley and Terrace. Abbreviate Ave., Blvd., and St. (spell these out if used with just the street name).

The Lakewood Family Health Center is at 16215 Madison Ave.
The Lakewood Family Health Center is on Madison Avenue

advance directive(s)

A written statement of a person’s wishes for medical treatment. This often includes a living will to make sure those wishes are carried out if they’re unable to let their care team know.

It is important that a patient have an advance directive prior to surgery.
Have you talked to your patients about advance directives?

attainment and cash flow

We no longer use “attainment” or “cash flow.” These words are confusing and often misinterpreted in philanthropic communications.

We now use “commitments” instead of “attainment,” and “assets received” instead of “cash flow.”

atrial fibrillation

  • For consumers – Use atrial fibrillation (AF or AFib) for first reference. On second/subsequent reference, you may use AFib or spell out.
  • For physicians – Use atrial fibrillation (AF of AFib) for first reference. On second/subsequent reference, use AF.


When quoting sources, always use magazine-style “says,” not “said.”

“When you’re sick, it’s best to simply stay home to protect others,” says Dr. Allan.

Please note:

Varying up is preferred. Try: notes, stresses, points out.
Always use the last name on subsequent reference, not he/she.


Always hyphenated. It’s either a compound modifier, or it follows a form of the verb to be:

He is board-certified in pediatrics.

brand names vs. generic

Generic names are preferred to avoid any appearance of endorsing one brand over another.

Use brand names only when they’re essential to the story or to help health literacy. In these cases, use the generic name (if there’s one), with the brand name in parentheses (with the ® or ™) afterward (only on first reference). If possible, use two or three examples (like popular apps Strava, AllTrails or GaiaGPS) so it doesn’t look like we back or support them.

Capitalize brand names and lower-case generic names. For example: acetaminophen and Tylenol®.

(See also drug names)


Bulleted lists can make your content easier to read, and they’re good for search engines.

  • Start all bullets with a capital letter. Always use a period at the end. (This applies whether it’s a full sentence or merely one word).
  • Keep the same verb tense in lists, like keeping, watching, reviewing.
  • You need at least three bullets and keep them to about eight max.


Don’t capitalize other than at the start of a sentence.

care path(s)

Capitalize when referring to a specific care path’s formal name

Cleveland Clinic Spine Care Path

Lowercase when referring to “Cleveland Clinic care paths” collectively or when generically referencing care paths.

colons and capitalization

Capitalize after a colon only when what follows is a complete sentence.

He promised this: Patients would come first.
There were three considerations: expense, time and feasibility.

courtesy titles

We don’t use courtesy titles for lay people. This means don’t use:

  • Mr.
  • Mrs.
  • Miss
  • Ms.

Refer to by last name only.

Beck says he’s never felt better after his open-heart surgery at Cleveland Clinic.


  • For consumers – Use “data is.”
  • For physicians – Use “data are.” Datum is rarely used anymore.


Don’t use periods in all abbreviated credentials, like MD, PharmD, PhD, DO, RN, MBA, MBBS. Limit the number of credentials following a name to two or three maximum.

We follow the American Medical Association Manual of Style and eliminate the periods within abbreviated credentials like MD, PharmD, PhD and DO. This is true for all degree abbreviations, including RN, FRACP, MBA and MBBS (bachelor of medicine, bachelor of surgery). Limit the number of degrees following a name to two or three at the most.

Please note:

Staff with a doctorate degree — PhD, DNP, DPM, DPT, AuD, PharmD, etc. — should be referred to as “Dr. LAST NAME” on second reference. For consumers, reference the kind of degree the staff holds (nursing, podiatric medicine or physical therapy) to be clear that they don’t have a medical degree (MD or DO).

degrees (temperature)

We’re a global enterprise. Use degrees in Fahrenheit with Celsius in parentheses.

Converters online aren’t always accurate! Incremental increases or decreases in degrees Fahrenheit can be converted to increments in degrees Celsuis by multiplying the degrees F by 5/9 (because 1 degree C is equal to 1.8 degrees F). To convert C incremental rises to F, simply divide degrees C by 5/9.

So, a .36 rise in Fahrenheit comes to .2 rise in Celsius, for example (.36 x ((5/9)) = .2)

Most people think a body’s normal temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (or 37 degrees Celsius).

Newer studies suggest the average person today runs somewhere between 97.5 F (36.4 C) and 97.9 F (36.6 C).

disc, disk

Use disk for all medical references, like a pinched disk. Disc is for laser devices and records.

disease names (Parkinson’s disease vs. Parkinson disease; Alzheimer’s vs. Alzheimer disease)

For consumers and physicians – Use the disease name with an apostrophe + s. The word disease is always lowercase.

Parkinson’s disease
Alzheimer’s disease

drug names

Use the generic name with the brand name in parentheses. This helps health literacy since consumers may not know that acetaminophen is Tylenol®. You can find out which is which by Googling.

If you are taking blood thinners like wayfarin (Coumadin®), you need to be careful not to overdo vitamin K.


lowercase and no hyphen


Hyphenate most e- terms. Use e-newsletter, e-reader, e-book. Lowercase the letter after the e-. The only exceptions to using a hyphen are email and esports.


Initial cap only, not all caps. Cleveland Clinic’s electronic medical records system was developed by the company Epic Systems. These online guidelines include MyChart®, MyConsult, DrConnect and MyPractice.


Capitalize the official name of a fellowship. When referring to a fellow, use FULL NAME, followed by the phrase: “a fellow in AREA.”


Used as a noun or adjective.

She went for her follow-up appointment.
The follow-up is important

follow up 

Used as a verb.

I need to follow up with you.

fundraising, fundraiser

Always one word.


Always one word

home page

Always two words

inpatient, outpatient

  • For consumers – Avoid using except for in names of facilities because consumers don’t know what this means. Don’t say “an outpatient procedure.” Say “a procedure that doesn’t require a hospital stay.” Don’t say “an inpatient stay.” Say that “you’ll need to stay in the hospital after your procedure.”
  • For physicians – Use with no spaces or hyphens.


Use insure when referring to insurance. Use ensure when you mean guarantee.


Always lowercase.

The Joint Commission

Formerly JCAHO, or Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations. Now called The Joint Commission. Don’t abbreviate. Spell out.

log in, login

Use log in as a verb.
Use login as an adjective.

Use your assigned login name to log in to your account.

medical/Latin terms

Don’t italicize commonly used medical and Latin terms, like ex vivo and in utero. Italicize scientific and biological names.


Abbreviate months when they’re used with a specific date: Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec. Spell out if used alone or with the year.

The health talk is on Jan. 27.
The health talk will be held in January.
The health talk will be held on Oct. 1, Oct. 22 and Oct. 25.
When referring to specific dates, use the numerals only. Don’t use 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th.


The virus that originates in wild animals and can spread to people. Formerly known as monkey pox. For SEO purposes, can include formerly known as:

According to the most recent data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are more than 11,800 confirmed cases of mpox (formerly known as monkeypox) in the United States and an estimated 36,500 infections globally.


Don’t hyphenate unless two vowels or identical consonants run together (non-nuclear) or the second part is a formal capitalized name (Non-Hodgkin lymphoma).

nonprofit v. not-for-profit

When referring to Cleveland Clinic, use nonprofit.


  • Figures – Spell out numbers below 10. Use figures for 10 and above. Don’t start sentences with a numeral.
  • Ages – Always write as numerals. The patient was 7 years old. The 7-year-old patient.
  • Fractions – Spell out one-third, four-fifths in text. For mixed numbers, use 1 ½ or 2 ¾.
  • Measurements – Use figures. The baby weighed 7 pounds, 6 ounces.
  • Ratios – Use numerals. About 1 in 10 people in the U.S. have diabetes. (But if it’s at the beginning of a sentence, it would be “One in 10 people…”).
  • Tables and charts – Use figures.

nursing degrees/certifications/licensures

List the highest level of academic achievement first, followed by other degrees and certifications or licensures. Certifications or licensures go after earned degrees. This is because these can be revoked and/or need to be renewed.

Amy Adams, MSN, RN, and Zoe Zone, BSN, RN


Use in all instances. Not OB/GYN or ob/gyn.


OK, OK’d, OK’ing. Don’t use okay.

open heart surgery

No hyphen because it isn’t the heart that is being opened. Open heart surgery is open surgery on the heart.


Spelled the British way using “ae.” Only exceptions are referencing non-Cleveland Clinic names spelled orthopedic.


Don’t use this word when you only mean that we’re working with another organization or business entity. “Partnership” or “partnering” implies a specific legal arrangement. Instead, use “join forces with,” “in cooperation with,” “team with,” or “work with.”

Patients First/patients first

Capitalize when using it when referring to our mission or the overall initiative.

As part of our Patients First efforts, Cleveland Clinic is committed to quality.

Don’t capitalize when using in a generic sense.

Mary is a great nurse who is putting patients first.

percent vs. percentage

A percent is a specific number. Like 15%. Percentage is used without a firm number. The noun requires an adjective to describe the size (Think: A large percentage).

About 15% of patients responded to treatment with aspirin.
A large percentage of patients responded to treatment with aspirin.
The percentage of patients who responded to treatment with aspirin ranged from 15% to 50%.

percent vs. %

Use the symbol %. Don’t spell out percent. In copy we now use the symbol %  (we do not spell out percent)

phone numbers

Use periods, not dashes.

The main line to Cleveland Clinic is 216.444.2200.
To make a reservation, call 800.223.2273.
To make a reservation, call 888.555.0000.

plan-of-care visit

Use lowercase and hyphenate when describing the visit itself. Use lowercase plan of care as a noun.


Use preventive, not preventative.


Never use profanity (swear words, cussing, cursing). If it’s part of a direct quote from a patient, revise to the closest meaning (with permission). If it’s from a clinical source, edit it since they approve all content before publishing.

publication titles

Italicize all publication journal titles, including the names of all Cleveland Clinic newsletters, e-newsletters, magazines, etc.


Refer to their PGY (postgraduate year) with a dash between PGY and the year.

We are pleased to announce the PGY-2 Critical Care Pharmacy Residency Program has been selected as the winner of the ASHP Residency Excellence Award.

Congratulations to Jane Smith, MD (PGY-2, internal medicine Fairview Hospital), who has been selected to participate in the 2023 Minority Resident Hematology Award Program.

shared medical appointment (SMA)

Always lowercase unless in a headline. Use SMA on second/subsequent reference.

specialty/field of medicine

Lowercase generic references. Uppercase when part of an official name.

He finished his plastic surgery residency last year.
He joined the Plastic Surgery Department.


Lowercase when referring to our physicians as “professional staff” or “staff.”

state of the art vs. state-of-the-art

Don’t hyphenate when it follows the word it’s modifying.

The center was state of the art.

Hyphenate when used as a modifier.

Cleveland Clinic is known for state-of-the-art care.

Please note: This phrase is overused. Use sparingly. We prefer “leading edge.”

swear words (see profanity)


  • a.m. and p.m. – Use periods except for printed invitations, if desired.
  • noon and midnight – Don’t capitalize. And don’t put the number before (not 12 noon).
  • times – Use 2 p.m., not 2:00 p.m. In fliers, can say 2-3 p.m.

trademarks/registration marks

Use the appropriate symbols on all first references (except in headlines and quotes). Say Tylenol® and Novacor®.


Always one word.

URLs/web addresses

Use all lowercase characters, except when doing so may result in confusion or misreading.

Please note: Don’t include “www.” before the address UNLESS the web address doesn’t work without it. Include http// before Intranet site addresses.

In print: Avoid URLs that are lengthy and complicated unless essential to guide the reader to a document. (Ask for a vanity URL). Avoid breaking a URL. When necessary, break after a dot or slash and don’t use a hyphen.

Online: Don’t say “Visit” Hyperlink to the URL. Don’t say, “click here.” Simply hyperlink the appropriate text.


Can use as a noun or adjective, even on first reference. Use periods except in headlines. Then, use US.


Always lowercase.

  • web-based.
  • webchat.
  • webpage.
  • website.
  • webmaster.
  • webfeed.
  • web address.
  • web browser.


Don’t hyphenate: enterprisewide, communitywide, nationwide, etc.

world class care

This phrase should ONLY be used in our advertising tagline: Every life deserves world class care, or in other advertising uses. World-class should NOT be used in any copy as a descriptor. (Yes, we realize this ought to be hyphenated in proper grammar. This was an advertising decision made years ago that is grandfathered.)


Hyphenate and add -ed when used as a modifier. When used alone as a noun, drop the hyphen and the -ed: world renown. (Think of renown as fame and renowned as famous.)


Don’t hyphenate.

Words We Don’t Use

There are certain words we just don’t use. Some we used to use, but they’re now outdated or political. Some label and judge. Some consumers simply don’t understand. This list will grow and evolve over time:

  • Alcoholic – Is judging. Say someone has alcohol use disorder.
  • Addict – Is judging, but can mention addictions in a proper medical context.
  • Comorbidities – Don’t use for consumers. They don’t understand it. Talk about having more than one medical condition at the same time.
  • Diabetic – Isn’t person-first language. Say someone who has diabetes.
  • Issues – Don’t use “someone has issues” or “weight issues.”
  • Obese – Is judging. Say BMI greater than 30 (has obesity) or BMI greater than 25 (has overweight).
  • Smoker – Is judging. Say “someone who smokes.”
  • Suffer – Assumes everyone has the same experience with a medical condition.
  • Unborn baby – Use fetus.
  • Victim – Avoid use like the “victim” of a mental illness.
  • Womb – Use the medical term “uterus.”

Writing for Web

Understand and write for YOUR audience.

For consumers – Aim for a 6th- to 8th-grade reading level that reflects health literacy rates. Short, simple sentences work best. Talk directly to them, using “you” and “yours.” Say “people” and not “patients.” Avoid medical jargon.

For physicians/clinicians – Write for an audience with a doctorate degree. Use (and assume they understand) medical terminology. But write clear and succinctly.

Talk to your assigning editor or supervisor for additional details.



  • Don’t use bold in body copy. It can be distracting.
  • If you use bold, use black so it’s not mistaken for a link.
  • Exceptions: Bold can help clarify meaning in bulleted lists or lead ins.


Bulleted lists can make your content easier to read, and they’re good for search engines.

  • Start all bullets with a capital letter. Always use a period at the end. (This applies whether it’s a full sentence or merely one word).
  • Keep the same verb tense in lists, like keeping, watching, reviewing.
  • You need at least three bullets and keep them to about eight max.


For consumers – We seldom use bylines on our consumer sites. These are mostly older ghostwritten pieces that we’re rewriting.

For physicians – Byline physician/ghost-written material, but don’t link to their emails on our public site.


  • Use sentence case (only cap the first letter of the first word) for headlines.
  • Never use ALL CAPS, which is distracting to readers and can be interpreted as shouting.


  • Don’t use smileys or other emojis on our websites.
  • Be careful when you’re writing and editing in Word. Sometimes, emojis are automatically inserted instead of intended punctuation combinations.
  • Exception: Our social team uses emojis frequently (yes, even the poop emoji) on our channels.


See Font Guidelines.

Formatting text

  • Article, report, journal titles – Put in quotation marks. Don’t use italics.
  • Italics – Avoid italics. You can use sparingly for emphasis in articles. Recommended for titles of books, films, newspapers, magazines and journals. Use for works of art, foreign words or when you’re referring to a letter, word or term itself. Don’t use for website names.
  • Underline and bold – Don’t use underlined and bold text, especially in another color. This can be mistaken for a link.

Please note: Sometimes bold helps understanding, like a bold lead-in. (See entry “bold” for more).


Hyphens are meant to help readers understand what they’re reading. We use far fewer of them these days. Not sub-specialty or pre-diabetes, but subspecialty and prediabetes. Use hyphens for compound modifiers — two words connected by a hyphen that act as an adjective (like yellow-green bile). Use to avoid double vowels (anti-inflammatory), but don’t use anymore for double e (preemptive).


A lede is the opening (sentence, paragraph or two) of an article. Use simple, engaging ledes for consumers. For clinicians, more technical but direct ledes are appropriate.


Use links to direct readers to another source of relevant information. In online articles, there’s no true SEO limit to the number of links, but make sure links aren’t visually excessive or too close together. In other words, make sure links add value. Also, only link to other Cleveland Clinic sites, reputable sources (CDC, peer-reviewed medical journals) and NEVER link to our competitors (other hospitals, WebMD, Healthline, etc.).


See “Bullets” entry above.

Page title

A form of metadata that helps search engines index your website. The page title is located at the very top of the webpage. It provides a general description of the page (Homepage, About Us, Contact Us, etc.).


SEO-friendly paragraphs are short. They help the eye move through the article. Be concise. But they don’t have to be exactly the same length. Aim for no more than 150 words per paragraph. And don’t fear the one-sentence graph used well!

Semicolons (;)

  • Use to separate phrases in a list, or to indicate two parallel parts of a sentence.
  • Semicolons can get lost onscreen, so use sparingly. If a comma or period can separate the sentence, use them instead.

Sentence spacing

Use only one space after a period.


Subheads give a structure to the topics covered on your page. They carry more weight to search engines than body copy, and should contain your keywords.

  • Ideal for scanning, insert subheads roughly every three to five paragraphs.
  • Use sentence case (cap only the first letter of the first word and any other proper nouns).
  • Use 4-8 words max.
  • Can use & if needed.

Understanding Web Terms


Cleveland Clinic uses Google Analytics ( as its enterprise-wide web analytics system. Here are the metrics that you will use most often when discussing web traffic:

  • Pageviews – Each time a user loads a page, it counts as a pageview.
  • Impressions – This is used to define every instance when an online ad appears.
  • Visitors – Each individual person who visits a website over a specific time period. This metric is also referred to as unique visitors.
  • Visits – Any instance where a visitor visits a website. For example, if you visit a website 10 times this month, you would be counted as one visitor and 10 visits.
  • Unique Pageviews – The number of visits where a specific page is viewed at least once. For example, if you view the Cleveland Clinic home page 10 times during a visit to our site, that page would have 10 pageviews but only one unique pageview.
  • SEO – Stands for search engine optimization. Want to learn more about SEO? We recommend this guide.
  • SEM  Stands for search engine marketing. If you want to learn more about SEM, we recommend this guide.
  • PPC  Stands for pay-per-click marketing. This is used to refer to paid search ads on Google and Bing. Here are the basics about PPC.

Please note: One metric that you shouldn’t use when discussing web traffic is hits. Hits are any instance where a single file (text files, images, icons, logos, etc.) is requested and loaded from a web server. A single web page can trigger dozens of hits each time it’s loaded, so hits are an unreliable, outdated means of tracking web traffic.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • FAQs answer commonly asked questions.
  • They’re a standard feature on many search engines.
  • The tone is typically conversational.
  • They help reduce support demands.


  • A relevant word (or words) that describe a webpage’s content.
  • Search engines use keywords to find information about topics.
  • Critical to optimizing a website or webpage for search engine relevance.


  • The data that’s embedded into the back-end (HTML) code of a website and/or webpage. It helps the search engine index your site.
  • Includes keywords, title tags, alt-image tags and site description.
  • Often used interchangeably with metatags.
  • Always one word.

URL (web address)

  • Always capitalized. The URL of our site is org.
  • The URL itself is always lowercase
  • If the URL is more than 65 characters long, enclose it between angle brackets (< >). If it doesn’t fit on one line, break it using a hyphen.
  • It’s OK to cap things in vanity URLs to make it easier for the audience to understand.
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