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Writing & Style Overview

NIH Exec Sec sets NIH-wide writing and document preparation standards and guidelines for correspondence, memoranda, and other documents for the NIH Director's and Principal Deputy Director's approval and signature.

Update: Effective November 9, 2023, Dr. Bertagnolli's signature block is:   
                  Monica M. Bertagnolli, M.D.   
                  Director, NIH

This section outlines the appropriate forms of address for congressional correspondence, as well as correspondence with other government officials. Note: all U.S. Senators and Representatives also have webpages that include proper contact information.

General Guidelines
Guideline Salutation
In official correspondence, the salutation is followed by a colon. Informal courtesy notes may use a comma, if preferred.
  • Dear Senator Smith:
  • Dear Judge Smith:
For high-level officials, e.g., Vice President, Cabinet Members, Judges, etc., use the person’s title in the salutation.
  • Dear Mr./Madam Secretary:
  • Dear Mr./Madam Vice:
  • President:
Most elected officials, e.g., Governors, Members of Congress, Judges, are greeted with Dear [Title last name]:
  • Dear Governor [last name]:
  • Dear Senator [last name]:
For lower-level officials, use Dear Mr./Ms. [not Mrs.] [Surname]:
  • Dear Ms. Smith: [e.g., State Representative]
  • Dear Mr. Jones: [e.g., Deputy Secretary]
Use Dear Mrs.[Surname] only for the First Lady or when addressing the spouse of a deceased official (such as for a condolence note.)
  • Dear Dr. Biden:
  • Dear Mr. Emhoff:
  • Dear Mrs. McCain:

Signature blocks are used in letters signed by the official who is approving the content. For memoranda, use only the signer’s name as their title appears in the FROM line of the memoranda’s heading. Please see the Exec Sec Guide, located above, for more guidance on preparing letters and memoranda.    

NIH Officials    
For NIH officials, use NIH letterhead. All letters and memos should be submitted in Times New Roman 12 pt., single-spaced (no additional before or after points). Draft emails should be prepared in Calibri, 11 pt., also single-spaced. These are the signature blocks for NIH Director and NIH Principal Deputy Director:    

Updated 11/17/2023:    
Monica M. Bertagnolli, M.D.    
Director, NIH   

Lawrence A. Tabak, D.D.S., Ph.D.    
Principal Deputy Director, NIH    

HHS Secretary    
Xavier Becerra

NIH Exec Sec fully supports the Plain Language initiative, which has its origins in the Plain Writing Act of 2010 which requires agencies to incorporate plain language elements in the development of communications materials for the public. For information on Plain Language at NIH, including training, resources, and contacts, please visit the NIH Office of Communications & Public Liaison. Additional information about using Plain Language is available from the federal government group "PLAIN," the Plain Language Action and Information Network, which helps government agencies use clear communications. PLAIN members offer training and train-the-trainer bootcamp.