Writing Guidelines

To ensure uniform writing in our publications and communications for patients, consumers, employees and physicians, we have developed the Cleveland Clinic House Style Guide. In addition to these, we generally rely on the Associated Press (AP) Stylebook as a reference.

For ease of writing, we developed this guide to:

  • Feature copy choices and nomenclature specific to Cleveland Clinic
  • Highlight areas of AP style that specifically relate to health and medical writing
  • Clear up confusion about common style errors
  • Address special exceptions to AP style that arise from the nature of our work, and our sensitivity to patients and donors

Intro to Writing Style

Who determines style?

We follow the AP Stylebook and Libel Manual, a widely respected and readable reference developed for journalists. Anyone who writes frequently for Cleveland Clinic may want to have a copy on hand. The AP Stylebook recommends Webster’s New World Dictionary as a fallback reference for terms that are not listed.

Two cautions

  • These guidelines do not apply to advertising copy, which has a unique style.
  • Microsoft spell-check and grammar-check often make recommendations that differ from AP style; suggested substitutions should not be automatically accepted, but deserve further checking.

Cleveland Clinic Enterprise

Use formal titles on first reference, capitalizing all major words. On later references, less formal, shorter versions may be used. (Please note: When named for a philanthropist, a building, center and/or institute reference must adhere to a naming convention that is sometimes established in the gift contract. In these instances, the correct name and second reference are included in the institute information within this style guide.) Use an ampersand instead of “and,” as in Dermatology & Plastic Surgery Institute.

In all written and web communications, we use ampersands in the names of institutes; we spell out “and” in all family health and surgery centers, department names, clinics, etc.

For Institute lockups (formal logos) “and” is used. THIS IS AN EXCEPTION TO THE RULE.

Some titles include The and some titles do not. It’s worthwhile to double-check if you’re unsure. Here are some examples:

building/location names

  • Ferchill Center for Innovation and Technology Transfer (formerly the Ohio Renal Care Center)
  • The Mitzi and L. David Guitar, DMV, Liver Transplant Research Center
    Note: “The” isn’t capitalized unless it starts a sentence.
  • Floyd D. Loop Alumni Library (located at main campus in the Lerner Research Building).
    Second reference: Loop Alumni Library
  • InterContinental Hotel & Bank of America Conference Center, Cleveland
  • Sydell and Arnold Miller Family Pavilion
    Second reference: Miller Family Pavilion
  • The Maria and Sam Miller Emergency Services Building
  • Tomsich Pathology Laboratories
  • Tonya 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)

Cleveland Clinic

The name Cleveland Clinic encompasses all of our operations worldwide; this includes main campus, our 11 regional hospitals, 19 family health (and surgery) centers, health and wellness centers, specialty centers, and our operations in Florida, Nevada, Canada and Abu Dhabi. Cleveland Clinic is an integrated healthcare delivery system. This system is Cleveland Clinic on first reference and on as many subsequent references as possible. We may also refer to ourselves in totality as the organization or the enterprise.

As an organization we refer to ourselves as Cleveland Clinic without “The” in front of it. On second reference, we DO NOT use “the Clinic,” rather we use the full “Cleveland Clinic” on all references. Removal of “The” provides more prominent placement of our name in our company logo and more closely mirrors current trends in organization/business names.

When referring to a Cleveland Clinic department or entity such as “Cleveland Clinic’s Division of Radiology” or “Cleveland Clinic’s Communications Department,” it is preferable to use the possessive rather than “the Cleveland Clinic Communications Department.”

As a nonprofit organization, our legal name is still The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, however, this name should ONLY be used on certain materials as follows: letterhead and the back of brochures with the mailing information.

Also: DO NOT use the abbreviation CCF to refer to the organization

Cleveland Clinic Children’s

Cleveland Clinic Children’s is the name encompassing our children’s hospital as well as our many pediatric outpatient services and locations. Use Cleveland Clinic Children’s in place of Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital.
First and second reference: Cleveland Clinic Children’s

Locations: Indicate 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’: 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.

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi

Second reference: same

Arabian Gulf/Persian Gulf
Related to 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 Florida

Second 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
On first reference: the Maroone Cancer Center.
On second reference: the Maroone Center.

The Pauline Braathen Neurological Center
On first reference:  the Pauline Braathen Neurological Center.
On second 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 Cancer Center

This name represents the enterprise cancer program, including Taussig Cancer Institute and all the clinical, research and specialty institutes whose staff and/or efforts support cancer care. It is the go-to-market name that defines our cancer program.

First and second 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.

Locations: Indicate Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center’s locations by adding a comma followed by the location.
Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center, Clyde
Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center, Mansfield
Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center, Norwalk
Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center, Sandusky

First reference: Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center, Location
Second and remaining references: Cancer Center in location

In a listing, place locations alphabetically.

hospital locations
Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center at Fairview Hospital
Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center at Hillcrest Hospital
Second reference: Cancer Center at location.

Cleveland Clinic Health System

When referring to Cleveland Clinic and its hospitals, family health centers, health and wellness centers, Florida, etc., use Cleveland Clinic health system (lowercase health system).
Second reference is health system, lowercase.

Cleveland Clinic Human Resources (HR)

This name refers to the enterprisewide delivery of human resource services. These include ONE HR: Workday and Portal, our online technology for employees and managers to access work and personal information. The ONE HR Service Center answers specific human resource questions and provides phone support to caregivers who need assistance navigating Workday or the ONE HR Portal.

ONE HR: Workday and Portal
First reference: ONE HR: Workday and Portal
Second reference (overall system):ONE HR
Second reference (Workday only): Workday
Second reference (portal only): ONE HR Portal

Cleveland Clinic Location/Entities

Cleveland Clinic Akron General
Second reference: Akron General

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

Cleveland Clinic Akron General Lodi Hospital
Second reference: Lodi Hospital

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

Cleveland Clinic Children’s Center for Autism
First reference: Cleveland Clinic Children’s Center for Autism
Second reference: Center for Autism

Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital for Rehabilitation
First reference: Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital for Rehabilitation
Second 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 the location of an event, we should 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. e.g. “The meeting was held in the Debra Ann November Wing of the Lerner School for Autism.” But it wouldn’t be necessary when referring to the school as an institutional entity, as in “A new curriculum was announced today for students at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner School for Autism.”

Cleveland Clinic Children’s Outpatient Center
The official reference to the Children’s building on main campus is Cleveland Clinic Children’s Outpatient Center.

Cleveland Clinic Children’s & Pediatric Institute
Reserve for internal communications; use in external communications only when institutes are the focus.

Repetition: There is 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 reference: NICU
Cleveland Clinic Children’s Department of Community Pediatrics
Second reference: Department of Community Pediatrics or Community Pediatrics

There is no need to use ‘pediatric’ with Cleveland Clinic Children’s unless it is 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 Langston Hughes Community Health and Education Center
First reference: Cleveland Clinic Langston Hughes Community Health and Education Center
Second reference: Langston Hughes Center or the center

Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine
Second 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 Office of Civic Education Initiatives Innovative Scholars Program™

This formerly was called “Cleveland Clinic Office of Civic Education Initiatives Innovative Teaching and Learning Scholars Academy™.”

Cleveland Clinic Regions (for internal communications)
We capitalized the Cleveland Clinic regions, ie, East, West and South regions.
i.e. 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 are a known geographic location.
i.e. Hillcrest hospital is an East Side hospital.

community hospitals
(now regional hospitals/see regional hospitals entry)

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

When mentioning more than one department, lowercase departments, as in the departments of Cardiology and Cardiothoracic Surgery, because that is no longer a formal title. Also, lowercase department, institute, center, etc. when used alone.

For external publications it is not 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…”

departments on second reference
Generic terms such as the department or center are acceptable after a first reference such as Department of Colorectal Surgery. They should be lowercase. Also, when mentioning two departments, lower-case the word departments; it is no longer the formal title.

family health centers and 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. First reference Cleveland Clinic family health centers for the collective whole. Some of our regional medical practices are also health and wellness centers and should be noted as such. For example: Cleveland Clinic Akron General health and wellness centers

Cleveland Clinic Westlake Family Health Center
Second reference: Cleveland Clinic Westlake

Cleveland Clinic Lorain Family Health and Surgery Center
Second reference: Cleveland Clinic Lorain

Cleveland Clinic Wooster is now Wooster Family Health and Surgery Center

When family health centers is used in the plural, use lowercase and drop the words and Surgery. Ex. Solon and Chagrin Falls family health centers.

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

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

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

Cleveland Clinic Richard E. Jacobs Health Center
Second 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 reference: the center

Health and wellness centers

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

Cleveland Clinic Akron General Health & Wellness Center, Green
Second reference: Green Health & Wellness Center

Cleveland Clinic Akron General Health & Wellness Center, Stow
Second reference: Stow Health & Wellness Center

Medical buildings

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

Cleveland Clinic Akron General Medical Office Building, Fairlawn
Second reference: Fairlawn Medical Office Building

Cleveland Clinic Akron General Medical Office Building, Hudson
Second reference: Hudson Medical Office Building

Cleveland Clinic Akron General Medical Office Building, Kent
Second reference: Kent Medical Office Building

Cleveland Clinic Akron General Medical Office Building, Tallmadge
Second reference: Tallmadge Medical Office Building


Clinical Institutes
Cole Eye
Dermatology & Plastic Surgery
Digestive Disease & Surgery
Emergency Services
Endocrinology & Metabolism
Glickman Urological & Kidney
Head and Neck
Ob/Gyn & Women’s Health
Orthopaedic & Rheumatologic
Pediatrics & Children’s Hospital
Stanley Shalom Zielony for Nursing Excellence
Sydell and Arnold Miller Family Heart & Vascular
Taussig Cancer
Robert J. Tomsich Pathology & Laboratory Medicine

Special Expertise Institutes
Arts & Medicine
Global Leadership & Learning
Lerner Research
Quality & Patient Safety
Regional Operations

Institutes or Centers-Details

  • Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center
    This incorporates the Moll Pavilion at Fairview and the Hirsch Pavilion at Hillcrest, although those names should be used on their own when appropriate in this way:
    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 Cole Eye Institute
    Second reference: the Cole Eye Institute
  • Cleveland Clinic Digestive Disease & Surgery Institute
    Second reference…the Digestive Disease & Surgery Institute
  • Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health
    Second reference: Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health
  • Cleveland Clinic Transplant Center
    Second reference: the Transplant Center
  • Cleveland Clinic Women’s Health and Breast Center
    Second reference: the Women’s Health and Breast Center
  • Cleveland Clinic Head & Neck Institute
    Second reference: the Head & Neck Institute
  • Cleveland Clinic Glickman Urological & Kidney Institute
    Second reference: Urological & Kidney Institute
  • Cleveland Clinic Regional Operations
    Second Reference: Regional Operations
  • Robert J. Tomsich Pathology & Laboratory Medicine Institute
    Second reference: R. Tomsich Pathology & Laboratory Medicine Institute
  • Sanford R. Weiss, MD, Center for Hereditary Colorectal Neoplasia
  • Stanley Shalom Zielony Center for Nursing Education
  • Stanley Shalom Zielony Institute for Nursing Excellence
    Second reference: the Zielony Institute (external); our Nursing Institute (internal)
  • Sydell and Arnold Miller Family Heart & Vascular Institute
    Second reference: Miller Family Heart & Vascular Institute; then the Heart & Vascular Institute (HVI). Using Heart & Vascular Institute or the acronym HVI is ok in a longer publication only after it has been formally introduced with the full name.

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. Also cap in titles, such as Edmund Sabanegh, MD, Hospital President, Main Campus.

regional hospitals

Cleveland Clinic hospitals are regional hospitals (not community hospitals)

Cleveland Clinic regional hospitals on first reference to the collective. On second reference, use the hospitals or regional hospitals because the reader will know to what hospitals you are referring.

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.
The new bike racks are available at Euclid, Lutheran, Medina and South Pointe hospitals.

When referring to an individual hospital, use the name of the hospital: Akron General, Avon Hospital, Euclid Hospital, Fairview Hospital, Hillcrest Hospital, Lodi Hospital, Lutheran Hospital, Marymount Hospital, Medina Hospital, South Pointe Hospital.

We are no longer using “west” and “east” region. Internally we refer to “markets” rather than regions. Markets are east market (Euclid, Hillcrest and Ashtabula), south market (Akron General, Lodi, Marymount, Medina and South Pointe) and west market (Avon, Lutheran and Fairview).

  • Cleveland Clinic Akron General
    Second reference: Akron General
  • Cleveland Clinic Avon Hospital
    Second reference: Avon Hospital
  • Cleveland Clinic Euclid Hospital
    Second reference: Euclid Hospital
  • Cleveland Clinic Fairview Hospital
    Second reference: Fairview Hospital
  • Cleveland Clinic Hillcrest Hospital
    Second reference: Hillcrest Hospital
  • Cleveland Clinic Akron General Lodi Hospital
    Second reference: Lodi Hospital
  • Cleveland Clinic Lutheran Hospital
    Second reference: Lutheran Hospital
  • Cleveland Clinic Marymount Hospital
    Second reference: Marymount Hospital
  • Cleveland Clinic Medina Hospital
    Second reference: Medina Hospital
  • Cleveland Clinic South Pointe Hospital
    Second reference: South Pointe Hospital

The Sydell and Arnold Miller Family Pavilion rooftop
The entire rooftop is referred to as the rooftop plaza. The outdoor walkway is called the Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Foundation Rooftop Terrace.


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.

Tom Mihaljevic, MD:
Cleveland Clinic CEO and President (CEO is always first)
(Dr. Mihaljevic became CEO and President of Cleveland Clinic in January 2018.)

Edmund Sabanegh, MD:
Hospital President, Main Campus

academic and courtesy (for people)/medical (staff):
We break from AP style by uppercasing a person’s job title both before and after a name: John Smith, MD, Chairman of the Imaging Institute, or Imaging Institute Chairman John Smith, MD. Capitalize official titles of institutions, organizations, departments, sections, centers and programs. On second reference, use “Dr.” NAME.

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

Dr. Loop’s title in his former role from 1989-2004: Floyd D. Loop, MD, Cleveland Clinic’s CEO and Chairman of the Board of Governors

non-medical (employees and patients):
For external communications, after including their full name on first reference, use “Ms.” LAST NAME or “Mr.” LAST NAME on second reference if they are 18 or older; if they are younger, use their first name on second reference. Internal communications may choose to use first names when referring to employees (non-physicians/scientists) and patients.

Common Words/Style Issues

These are words formed from the initial letters of a long name. Quickly recognizable acronyms like AIDS can be used on first reference and need not be spelled out. 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. For example: C-reactive protein (CRP).

Try to avoid 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)
    Defined as: “a written statement of a person’s wishes regarding medical treatment, often including a living will, made to ensure those wishes are carried out should the person be unable to communicate them to a doctor.”.Example:
    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.” Interpretation of these words has caused confusion when used in philanthropic communications materials. We now use “commitments” instead of “attainment,” and “assets received” instead of “cash flow.”

atrial fibrillation
For consumer audience – on first reference: atrial fibrillation (AF of AFib); on second reference use AFib (or spell out per AP).
For physician audience – on first reference: atrial fibrillation (AF of AFib); on second reference use AF.

Always hyphenated, because it is 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. Cleveland Clinic’s legal department advises against any appearance of advocating one brand over others. The AP Stylebook calls for using brand names only when they are essential to the story. In these cases, use the generic name, if there is one, adding the brand name in parentheses afterward on first reference. An R or TM is required on first reference; capitalize brand names and lower-case generic names. For example: acetominophen and Tylenol®. (See also drug names)

not capitalized other than at the start of a sentence.

care path(s)
Capitalize when referring to a specific care path by its formal, proper noun-type name
Cleveland Clinic Spine Care Path
Lowercase when referring to “Cleveland Clinic care paths” collectively or when care paths stands alone

colons and capitalization
When a complete sentence follows a colon, capitalize the first word. When a phrase or series follows the colon, lowercase the first word.

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

Say “data are” for the physician audience; “data is” for consumer audience; datum is rarely used anymore.

We now follow the American Medical Association Manual of Style and eliminate the periods within abbreviated credentials such as MD, PharmD, PhD and DO. This is true for all degree abbreviations (e.g., RN, FRACP, MBA). Also, MBBS, without a comma, for the bachelor of medicine, bachelor of surgery designation. Furthermore, we limit the number of degrees following a name to two or three at the most. Note: A PharmD is referred to as a doctor. (See also Nursing Degrees/Certifications/Licensures)

disc, disk
Use disk for all medical references such as a pinched disk. Also for computer-related references (diskette); disc is for laser-devices and phonograph records.

disease names (Parkinson’s disease vs. Parkinson disease; Alzheimer’s vs. Alzheimer disease)
For both consumer and professional audiences, use the name and include the apostrophe plus s. Note that disease is lowercase.

doctorate degrees
Staff with the following degrees: PhD, DNP, DPM, DPT – should be referred to as “Dr. LAST NAME” on second reference. For the consumer audience, when there could be cause for confusion (such as when the article is on medical care and MDs/DOs are also quoted), it is recommended that somewhere in the article (or in the doctor’s profile) there be a reference to the specific kind of degree the person holds (nursing, podiatric medicine or physical therapy). In this way, it will be clear that the individual referenced does not have a medical degree (MD or DO).

donor (transplant)
Use deceased donor.

donor/donation (philanthropy)
Don’t use donor or donation when speaking about philanthropy. Use “supporter” and “philanthropic gift” or “gift.”

drug names
We prefer using the generic and would lowercase; if brand name is used for some reason (as an example say), include registration mark. Use Google to search if you do not know if it is generic or brand names.

Coumadin® and warfarin

lowercase and no hyphen

Per AP, this is one “e” word where hyphen is used; lowercase the n.

Initial cap only, not all caps. Cleveland Clinic’s electronic medical records system, which was developed by the company Epic Systems. These online guidelines include MyChart®, MyConsult, DrConnect and MyPractice. (For details, see online services on ClevelandClinic.org)

follow-up – noun or adjective

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

follow up – verb

I need to follow up with you.

fundraising, fundraiser
always write as one word (per the Philanthropy Institute)

headline/subhead style
We do not have one style. Because of the different purposes and needs of each publication, the style of headlines should be set by the editor and designer of the publication. The key is to be consistent throughout a publication.

headline treatments
Newspaper style is recommended for internal communications and press releases; this means that the first word is capitalized and all proper nouns, everything else is lower case. When doing other publications, headlines are part of the design and should just be consistent throughout. This may include capitalizing all words, including 5-letter prepositions, with the exception of short conjunctions (such as “a” and “and” etc.). The key is being consistent throughout a publication.

write as one word

home page (on the Web)
always two words

inpatient, outpatient
no spaces or hyphens.

use insure when referring to insurance and ensure when you mean guarantee.

Both  are used in lowercase in all cases per AP Style (6/2016)

The Joint Commission (formerly JCAHO, or Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations)
now called The Joint Commission. No abbreviation; spell out in full.

medical/Latin terms
commonly used and medically oriented Latin terms such as “ex vivo”, “in utero” should be used without italics, as this is consistent with AMA style and AP style.

abbreviate months when they are 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; do not use 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, etc.

Health talks will be held on Oct. 1, Oct. 22, and Oct. 25.

“non” words
Generally no hyphen needed (AP) unless two vowels or identical consonants run together (non-nuclear). When in doubt, check Webster’s New World Dictionary.

nonprofit v. not-for-profit
When referring to Cleveland Clinic, the preferred term is nonprofit. The Legal department prefers to use nonprofit because, technically, that is what the Ohio statute says. Nonprofit is the term used in our boilerplate language and also throughout our annual reports.

ages should always be written as numerals. For example, The patient was 7 years old. Ratios should always be written as numerals. For example, The recipe calls for 1-1/2 cups of wheat flour.

spell out whole numbers below 10; use figures for 10 and above. Avoid beginning a sentence with a numeral. Use figures for ages and measurements, even under 10: The baby weighed 7 pounds, 6 ounces. Use all figures in tables and charts as well.

nursing degrees/certifications/licensures
the highest level of academic achievement should go first, followed by other degrees and certifications or licensures; certifications or licensures should go after earned degrees as these can be revoked and/or need to be renewed.

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

This is the style used by Cleveland Clinic’s Ob/Gyn & Women’s Institute and it should be used in all references.

OK, OK’d, OK’ing are preferred to Okay.

open heart surgery
No hyphen because it is not the heart that is being opened. Open heart surgery is “open surgery on the heart.

Spelled the British (ae) way unless it’s a proper name spelled Orthopedic.

Avoid this word when you only mean that Cleveland Clinic is working with another organization or business entity in some capacity because “partnership” or “partnering” implies a specific legal arrangement. Instead, use “join forces with,” “team with,” or “work with.”

Patients First/patients first
Capitalize when using it to mean our mission or the overall initiative. e.g. “As part of our Patients First efforts, Cleveland Clinic is committed to quality.”

Do not capitalize when using in a sentence: e.g. “Mary is a great nurse who is putting patients first.”

percent vs. percentage
Percent (the word or the symbol %) accompanies a specific number. The more general word, “percentage,” is used without a number. The noun, “percentage,” requires an adjective to describe its size (e.g., “a large percentage”) when it does not refer to specific numbers in the sentence.

– Fifteen percent 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.

Percent vs. %

In copy we now use the symbol %  (we do not spell out percent)

phone numbers
use periods as follows:
the main line to Cleveland Clinic is 216.444.2200
to make a reservation call 800.223.2273

If it is an 888 or 877 number, say that it is “toll-free” so the reader knows it is treated like a 1.800 number

To make a reservation, call toll-free 888.555.0000.

preventive (not “preventative”)
Use preventive. Dictionaries and other style guides also recommend this.

Do NOT use swear words or profanity in any written communication from or by Cleveland Clinic. If it is part of a direct quote from a patient or story source, it should be revised to approximate the meaning (with the person’s permission).

publication titles
In copy, all publication/journal titles should be italicized, including the names of all Cleveland Clinic newsletters, enewsletters, magazines, etc. (as we do for U.S. News and World Report); this differs from AP.

shared medical appointment (SMA)
Always lowercase unless in a headline; use SMA on second reference.

specialty/field of medicine
Lowercase generic references; uppercase when part of an official designation:
He finished his plastic surgery residency last year.
He joined the Department of Plastic Surgery.

When referring to our physicians as “professional staff” or “staff” these terms should be lowercase

state of the art vs. state-of-the-art
No hyphen needed when it follows the word it is modifying as in the center was state of the art; hyphenate all the words when used as a modifier, as in state-of-the-art care. Caution: This phrase is overused. There is a preference for leading edge.

swear words (see profanity)

Use a.m. and p.m. (with the periods). Also spell out noon and midnight (no caps; and don’t use the number before the words). For time spans, do not use the zeros; for example, The health talk will be held from 2 to 3 p.m. When in a list or used as a parenthetical you can use a hyphen for time spans (ie, 2-3 p.m.)

trademarks/registration marks
Per our Legal Department, we must use symbols on all drugs and medical product/name first references. Thus, Tylenol® and Novacor® would appear as such on first reference. Exceptions would be a product name used in a headline or in a quotation.

Always one word.

See web addresses.

URLs/web addresses
For Cleveland Clinic-related URLs, use all lowercase characters except when doing so may result in confusion or a misread.


Acceptable as a noun or adjective. Acceptable as first reference. Use periods in copy. In headlines, it’s US without periods. See AP for more info

This is short for the World Wide Web and it should always be used in lowercase (per AP)

With addresses: Follow the website owner’s spelling and capitalization. If an address breaks between lines, do not hyphenate it; split the address just before a slash or a dot.

NOTE: No need to include “www” designation before address UNLESS the web address doesn’t work without it. CHECK FIRST. Do include http// designation before Intranet site addresses; avoid URLs that are lengthy and complicated unless essential to guide the reader to a document. Avoid breaking a URL; when necessary, break after a dot or slash and do not use a hyphen

  • Other web words:
    web address and web brower are two wordsweb addresses/URLs
    For Cleveland Clinic-related URLs, use all lowercase characters except when doing so may result in confusion or a misread.Examples:

There is no hyphen: enterprisewide, communitywide, nationwide, etc.

world class care
This phrase should ONLY be used in our advertising tag line: Every life deserves world class care. It should NOT be used in any copy as a descriptor.

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.)

When referring to the emergency telephone number, do not use hyphens.

The Power of Every One Centennial Campaign

The Power of Every One Centennial Campaign is a $2 billion fundraising effort supporting Cleveland Clinic and leading up to its centennial year, 2021. The style guidelines when referring to the campaign are as follows:

The Power of Every One campaign

When used within the campaign’s official name, capitalize Centennial Campaign, as in: The Power of Every One Centennial Campaign

It is not necessary to use “centennial campaign” each time. You can use: The Power of Every One campaign – No italics, no quotation marks, capital “t” on The, and lower case “campaign.” (The word “One” is not italicized in regular copy, only in advertisements and logos.)

Cleveland Clinic’s centennial campaign

In this use, lower case “centennial campaign” as a description.

When referring to the centennial campaign, alone, lower case “the,” as in: All gifts raised go to the centennial campaign. (Of course, if it starts a sentence, “the” would be capitalized. Ex.: The centennial campaign will support medical research and patient care.)

Campaign Brand Guidelines

U.S. News & World Report

When referring to Cleveland Clinic’s ranking, we recommend that when possible and appropriate, use the active voice. For example: U.S. News & World Report ranks Cleveland Clinic’s gynecology program best in Ohio and No. 3 in the nation.

For the word “number” always use No. (not #) in copy. For example, Cleveland Clinic is ranked the No. 4 hospital in the country. The # symbol may be used in headlines, but body copy should always use No.

Also, do not use the U.S. News badge with language that mentions being ranked in Ohio. (U.S. News doesn’t rank regionally, only nationally.)


  1. Format for using U.S. News title:
    U.S. News & World Report – must have ampersand
    U.S. News – shortened version
  2. The title of the magazine must ALWAYS be italicized
  3. “America’s Best ….” – should always be in quotes
  4. You may distinguish the hospital by the state in which it is ranked – nothing else – no city, county, or tri-state area
  5. Please correctly state the name of the category in which you are ranked.
  6. The badge should be accompanied by a sentence, article, or information about the rankings. Per the terms and conditions, the sole purpose of the badge is to advertise our rankings. Otherwise, it may look like an endorsement of a product.
  7. Please do not include information about other rankings, awards, or distinctions. (EXCEPTION: Non-commercial material and Press Releases)

Writing for Web



  • Use of bold in the body of the text is discouraged, as it can be distracting to the reader.
  • If bold must be used, ensure the font color is black, not any other color as it could be mistaken for a link.
  • Exception: There are cases in which bold helps to clarify meaning, as in a bulleted list of items in which each item is an extended paragraph and the first line in each item is a summary statement. Internet marketing is working on creating a specific type of tag to allow for bold in this example and to allow screen readers to properly interpret the information for the visually impaired.


  • If appropriate, include a byline, and link it to an email address for reader comments/feedback.
  • Exception: Physician-written material is often an exception since many physicians do not post their email on our public site. The department or institute would need to determine what contact email, if any, is best to offer users.


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


  • Use News Gothic, our branded font, or Arial.

Formatting text

  • Use regular font in quotation marks for article, report and journal titles.
  • Avoid italics in general text.
  • Avoid underline and bold, especially colored bold, as both can be mistaken for a link.
  • Exception: There are cases in which bold helps to clarify meaning, as in a bulleted list of items in which each item is an extended paragraph and the first line in each item is a summary statement. (See entry “bold” for more).


  • Provides an at-a-glance description of page content.
  • Use 4-8 words max.
  • Appropriately make use of ampersand (&)
  • Use sentence case (cap only the first letter of the first word and any other proper nouns only).
  • When a headline-style heading includes a hyphenated phrase, always capitalize the first element. Capitalize the second element unless it is an article, preposition, or any of the coordinating conjunctions noted above. Exception: if the first element is a prefix like pre-, post-, or anti-, or if the phrase is a written-out number, do not capitalize the second element.


  • Best avoided in general text for onscreen reading, but there are exceptions.
  • Use italics for the following:
  • Titles of books, films, periodicals (including newspapers, magazines and journals).
  • Note: Do not use italics for website names, even if they are online periodicals.
  • Works of art, foreign words and expressions.
  • Letters, words and terms used to refer to the letter, word or term itself.


  • Used to direct readers to another source of relevant information.
  • Linked text should go to an HTML page. If not, inform the reader upfront. For example, if the link leads to an audio file, PDF or anything other than an HTML page, let readers know before they click.
  • Provide a link to a copy of any necessary software (e.g. Adobe Reader, Microsoft Windows Media Player) they will need to download or already have installed on their computer to view the content.


  • Bulleted lists are great for easing the readability of your content on the Web. Here are some things to keep in mind.
  • If list items are fragments, start with an uppercase initial. No punctuation at the end.
  • If list items are full sentences, start with a capital letter. Do have end punctuation.
  • If the lists themselves are very long, they can begin with a capital letter and have no punctuation, if the list items are not full sentences.
  • Regardless, you should apply the same list format to each item in the same list. The grammatical form of each item in the list should not change. In other words, be consistent.


  • For easier reading, the average paragraph length of online copy should be no more than 50 words.

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 between sentences, not two.

Smileys ☺

  • Use of smileys or other emoticons is discouraged.
  • Be careful when writing and editing in Microsoft Word, as sometimes emoticons can be automatically inserted instead of the actual punctuation.

Spacing after period

  • Use only one space after a period.


  • Short headings that “pull out” a key word, thought or interesting detail from the text that follows.
  • Ideal for scan reading, sub-heads are usually inserted roughly every screen and a half (around five paragraphs).
  • They should be created in sentence case, with the first letter of the first word capitalized.

Copy Style


  • The opening sentence, paragraph or paragraphs of an article, story or document.
  • Simple, direct leads with a conversational tone are best for web writing.


  • Bulleted lists are great for easing the readability of your content on the Web. Here are some things to keep in mind.
    • If list items are fragments, start with a lowercase initial. No punctuation at the end.
    • If list items are full sentences, start with a capital letter. Do have end punctuation.
    • If the lists themselves are very long, they can begin with a capital letter and have no punctuation, if the list items are not full sentences.
  • Regardless, you should apply the same list format to each item in the same list. The grammatical form of each item in the list should not change. In other words, be consistent.

Log in, login

  • Verb: log in
  • Noun/adjective: login
    Use your assigned login name to log in to your profile.

Mobile health apps

  • Refer to as mHealth

Page Title

  • A form of metadata that aids in the indexing of a website by search engines.
  • Onscreen, the page title is located at the very top of the webpage and provides a general description of the page itself. (e.g. Homepage, About Us, Contact Us, etc.)


  • Avoid complex sentence structures that hinder readability and understanding.
  • Short, simple sentences work best.



Cleveland Clinic uses Google Analytics (google.com/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 one time. 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.
  • One metric that you shouldn’t use when discussing web traffic is hits. Hits are defined as any instance where a single file such as 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 is loaded, so hits are an unreliable, outdated means of tracking web traffic.
  • SEO: Stands for search engine optimization. To learn more about SEO, please visit http://searchengineland.com/guide/what-is-seo.
  • SEM: Stands for search engine marketing. To learn more about SEM, please visit http://searchengineland.com/guide/what-is-paid-search.
  • PPC: Stands for pay-per-click marketing. This is used to refer to paid search ads on Google and Bing. To learn more about PPC, please visit http://searchengineland.com/guide/what-is-paid-search.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • Commonly asked questions are answered.
  • Tone of answers is typically conversational.
  • A standard feature included on many websites.
  • Helps reduce support demands.


  • A relevant word or words that describe the content of a webpage.
  • Keywords are used to find information about a certain topic on a search engine.
  • Critical to optimizing a website or webpage for search engine relevance.


  • The body of data that is embedded into the backend code of a website and/or webpage, which aids in the search engine indexing process.
  • Includes keywords, title tags, alt-image tags, and site description.
  • Often used interchangeably with metatags.
  • Always one word.


  • Individual data embedded into the HTML that does not appear on the page, but rather in the backend source code.
  • Metatag data includes keywords, title tags and site description – all of which are used by search engines during the indexing process.
  • Always one word.


  • One full page that the reader downloads.
  • A page view is the same as a page impression.


  • Always capitalized. The URL of our site is www.clevelandclinic.org.
  • The URL itself is always lowercase. www.amazon.com
  • If the URL is more than 65 characters long, enclose it between angle brackets (< >).
  • Also known as a Web address.
  • It is OK cap things in URLs to make it easier for the audience to understand.

To view a complete list of our staff and providers please visit clevelandclinic.org/CIMstaff (rather than clevelandclinic.org/cimstaff

When the URL does not fit entirely on one line, break it into two or more lines without adding a hyphen or other punctuation mark.

 The URL should always be the last line on a story; other under-dash material, such as a list of contributors to the store, goes above the URL.