Abbreviations and Acronyms
as noted below, do not use abbreviations in official correspondence.
- You may abbreviate honorifics (Mr.,
Mrs., Ms., Dr.),
academic degrees (like M.D., Ph.D.,
or R.N.), or religious
orders (S.J., for example) appearing with a person's name,
whether in the correspondence or on the envelope.
- When addressing envelopes, you should use the
Postal Service abbreviations. Spell out the names of
U.S. states and Canadian provinces in the inside address
(except use D.C. instead of spelling out District of Columbia).
- Spell out United States when used as a noun, but abbreviate
it (U.S.) as an adjective.
Acronymswords formed from the initial letters of the
words in a multiword name or termmay be used in correspondence,
but you should follow these rules for using them:
- Spell out the full meaning of an acronym, followed by the
acronym in parentheses, at first usefor example, Food and
Drug Administration (FDA). It is not necessary, however, to define
acronyms such as NCI, NHLBI, or NIDCD in correspondence
within the NIH.
- To make an acronym plural, add s; to make an acronym
possessive, add 's. To make a plural acronym possessive,
add s' (note that this rule differs from that prescribed
in some style and usage guides):
EKG's (possessive of electrocardiogram)
EKGs' (possessive of electrocardiograms)
Refer to the Gregg Reference Manual for
questions of capitalization not covered in the points below.
If a question remains, refer to the
GPO Style Manual.
- Use capitals for FY 2003 or FY03, but use
lower case when spelling out fiscal year 2003 or next
- In text, use lower case for parts of a document
- In text, use upper case for specific geographical identifications
such as the following:
the Deep South
the Eastern Shore
the Far East
the Middle East
the Near East
But use lower case for the following:
the eastern region
the western region
the east coast (or east coast as a modifier)
the west coast (or west coast as a modifier)
the bay area
Similarly, use Metropolitan
Washington, but the
Washington metropolitan area. (The
Style Manual contains more extensive guidance and examples
of proper capitalization of geographical names and terms.)
- Use upper case for trade names like Plexiglas, Velcro,
Xerox, and Kleenex.
- Use upper case for a title preceding or following a name:
George Washington, President of the United States
Also use upper case when a title refers to a specific
individual (or specific individuals):
the IC Directors
Use lower case for generic titles:
|The Chairman called the meeting to order.
|A function of a chairman is to call meetings
- Do not capitalize names of the seasonsfall, autumn,
winter, spring, summer.
- Capitalize words that refer to racial or ethnic groups:
Our research is focused on determining why this
disorder affects more Blacks than Whites.
Programs are in place to strengthen recruitment
of Asian and Hispanic scientists.
- Capitalize the following words:
Nation (as a synonym for United States)
Government (referring to the U.S. Government)
Federal (concerning the U.S. Federal Government)
Administration (referring to the Government
under a particular president)
State (when it follows the name of a state):
Washington State apples
|the state of Ohio or home state
- Capitalize Bill or Act only when the word is part of
the full title of a bill or act.
The report is required by the NIH Revitalization
Act of 1993.
Section 125 of the act requires an annual report.
- Do not capitalize county or city. Do not capitalize congressional,
congressionally, or federally.
- Capitalize the word national as part of the proper
name of an organization or program but not when used merely
as an adjective:
|National Institutes of Health
To answer questions concerning compounding
not covered in the points below, look up the word in Webster's
II New Riverside University Dictionary to see if a word
in question is listed as a hyphenated word or as a single
word with no hyphen. If you are still in doubt, refer to The
Gregg Reference Manual, section 8, "Compound Words."
- Except after two- or three-letter prefixes, use a hyphen
to avoid double vowels or triple consonants.
- Always write cannot, anyone, anywhere, and someone as
one word. No one is always two words.
- Used as a verb, follow up should be two words;
as a noun or adjective, use a hyphenated compound: follow-up.
- Use a hyphen between words that form a unit modifier (adjectival
phrase) before a modified word.
He is a member of the hard-of-hearing community.
She purchased a state-of-the-art system.
Do not use the hyphens, however, when the phrase is
used as a predicate.
The visitors were hard of hearing.
The system is state of the art.
Also do not hyphenate an adverb-participle combination
if the adverb ends in -ly: a well-operating
a poorly operating laboratory.
- Do not add a hyphen to a foreign phrase of more than
one word when used as a unit modifier.
ex officio member
post mortem evaluation
ante bellum era
- Do not add a hyphen to a two-word modifier having a letter
or numeral as the second element.
page 2 revisions
World War II related injuries
- Do not hyphenate a compound ending in like unless
the first element is a proper name or unless a triple consonant
will be formed.
- Write words beginning with non as one word unless
the word following non is capitalized or is itself
a hyphenated word; in those cases, insert a hyphen.
- Do not hyphenate a compound made up of two nouns when
the resulting compound noun has one primary accent, especially
when the second element of the compound has only one syllable
or one of the elements loses its original accent.
Contractions are fine for informal use
but should normally be avoided in official correspondence.
If in doubt about whether to use a contraction, you probably
shouldn't use it.
Use the American, not military or European,
format of month, day, and year. Spell out the month.
April 3rd, 2003
3 April 2003
Apr. 3, 2003
- In text, do not add st, nd, rd, or th to
|The meeting will be held on May 10, not May
- Do not include the year in a date if including it is
unnecessary. For example, if a letter dated March 1, 2003,
mentions a meeting held last
December 10, it is
obvious that the December 10 referred to was in 2002.
Dividing Names or Dates Between Lines
Do not divide a date between lines. If an entire date will not
fit at the end of a line, begin the date on the next line down.
Avoid dividing a person's name (including honorific and
degree) between lines. If you must type a name partly on
one line and partly on the next, the person's last name must
begin the new line.
Forms of Address
of Address link shows conventional forms of address in general use.
These usages may vary under certain circumstances. For example,
you may replace The Honorable
with a title such as General,
Dr., or His Excellency if appropriate.
- Address all presidential appointees and elected Federal
and state officials as The Honorable. As a general
rule, also use The Honorable to address mayors,
but not other city and county officials.
- When a woman occupies a position that may be held by
either a man or a woman, use the title Madam before
such formal terms as President, Vice President, Chairman,
Secretary, Ambassador, and Minister. Use the
title Senator for a female member of the Senate
and Mrs., Miss, or Ms. for a female member
of the House of Representatives, Senator-elect, or Representative-elect.
- Eliminate unnecessary gender-specific terms in correspondence.
When the gender of the addressee is unknown, use a non-gender-specific
salutation such as Dear Colleague or use the individual's
name or initials, if known.
Dear S. Smith:
Dear Lee Jones:
Spell out numbers zero through nine. Use
numerals for numbers 10 or greater.
We have already spoken to three members of the
The committee comprises 16 members.
If several numbers appear in a sentence and at least one
of them is greater than nine, use a numeral for each.
|There are 11 men and 5 women on the committee.
|There are eight men and nine women on the committee.
Avoid beginning a sentence with a numeral; rearrange the
sentence if possible. If you must begin a sentence with a
number, spell it out.
Twelve of the
16 members are doctors.
|| Of the 16 members,
12 are doctors
Always use numerals for units of money, time, or measurement.
also $3,500, but $6 million
2- or 3-inch sticks
Short quotations are set off by quotation
marks within the text.
Dr. Smith asked, "What is the next item on
There was a brief delay while the Chairman consulted
his notes. "We will consider Dr. Robinson's request
to attend the next meeting," the Chairman finally
Quotations of three lines or longer should be indented five
spaces (½-inch if not using a 10-characters-per-inch
font) from the left margin. Use quotation marks at the beginning
and end of the quotation. If the quotation is two or more
paragraphs in length, place opening quotation marks at the
beginning of each paragraph and closing quotation marks at
the end of only the last paragraph.
Avoid the use of symbols in letters. The
dollar sign ($) may be used.
25 percent (not 25%)
145 degrees Celsius (not 145º C)