Titles, Tense & More

Below are resources that guide our editorial style and usage at Michigan Medicine. Please email MichMedmedia@med.umich.edu with questions or feedback.

  • Unless otherwise noted, Michigan Medicine generally follows Associated Press (AP) style for all text content. Below you will find both examples that reinforce AP style and examples of how our usage departs from AP style. If you are unsure of AP style or Michigan Medicine style for a particular instance, contact MichMedMedia@med.umich.edu

  • As we move toward a transition to our new unified external web presence, web content may diverge from AP style or Michigan Medicine style on occasion in other ways than those listed below.

  • The U-M Style Guide should be consulted for university-wide style regarding schools, colleges, executive offices, Regents, etc.

  • Health care should always be two words (unless you are referring to a formal name, such as the “Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation”)


In document titles, secondary headlines of articles, subject lines of mass emails, and sections of text:

  • Use sentence case: Only capitalize the first word, and any proper nouns and acronyms

  • Do not use punctuation at the end except when a question is being asked or a quotation mark is necessary

  • It is not necessary to go back and change headlines etc., on previously published content

Job titles

For academic degrees, see Professional Credentials

  • A person’s job title is always LOWERCASE when listed after the person’s name (Smith, the director of infection prevention)

  • It is also lowercase in any situation if it is merely a job description and not a formal title (i.e., nurse Jane Jones)

  • It is UPPERCASE only if it is a formal title and listed before a person’s name. When possible, put titles after a person's name except when they are very short (U-M President Jane Jones)

  • Capitalize proper nouns, such as Michigan Medicine (Jane Jones, chief of rheumatology at Michigan Medicine)

  • When a faculty member holds a named professorship, give the full or shortened name of the professorship after the faculty member’s name. If using the full Regents-approved name, capitalize all major words; for a shortened name, only the surname associated with the professorship should be capitalized.

    • John Smith, M.D., the Robert Brown Professor of Internal Medicine

    • John Smith, M.D., who holds the Brown professorship of internal medicine

  • You can refer to faculty appointments in multiple ways, depending on the situation:

    • James Smith, M.D., is an assistant professor of internal medicine in the University of Michigan Medical School, part of Michigan Medicine. (If the University of Michigan has already been mentioned in the text, it could be shortened to U-M here.)

    • James Smith, M.D., is an assistant professor and cardiologist at Michigan Medicine.

    • Mary Jones, M.D., is lead physician for the skin cancer team at University of Michigan Health Rogel Cancer Center and an associate professor of dermatology in the U-M Medical School, both part of Michigan Medicine.

    • James Lopez, Ph.D., is a biological chemistry professor at the University of Michigan Medical School.

  • Other job title examples:

    • James Smith, M.D., assistant professor of otolaryngology

    • Preeti Patel, Michigan Medicine’s chief quality officer …

    • Michigan Medicine’s Chief Quality Officer Preeti Patel …

    • For all other titles use AP style

Professional credentials

  • While Michigan Medicine deviates from AP style and U-M style in using professional credentials after a name, we do not use profession-based titles before a person's name (such as Dr. before a physician’s name), even on second reference to that person within an article or block of text. The only exceptions are in biographies or as part of a quote.

  • Examples:

    • Jennifer Lee, Ph.D. - but on second reference, just use "Lee"

    • “Dr. Lee was a fascinating person to interview,” said Joan Jackson.

  • In credentials based on earned degrees, use periods between the letters or after a string of upper/lowercase letters that are used in the official abbreviation used by the degree-granting or credential-granting institution. If it is four or more capitalized letters, no periods should be used. Common credentials that we use:

    • M.D.

    • Ph.D.

    • D.O.

    • M.Sc.

    • M.P.H.

    • Sci.D.

    • R.N.

    • M.S.N.

    • R.T.

    • D.P.T.

    • J.D.

    • C.N.M.

    • M.S.W.

    • MBBS

    • MBBCh

    • MBChB

    • CRNA

    • PA-C

    • Pharm.D.

    • Psy.D.

    • Ph.D. (Hon.)

    • M.P.H.

    • M.B.A.

  • We do not commonly use abbreviations that do not refer to earned degrees (ie. FACS, FAAN). If it is integral to the story, it is preferable to spell it out.

  • A master’s degree earned on the way to a doctorate is not normally noted.

  • A bachelor’s degree can be noted if that is the highest degree yet attained by an individual name within a list of others with higher degrees – for example “The study was led by medical student Jane Brown, B.S., who worked with pediatrics resident Sophia Jones, M.D., and Juan Esteban, M.D., Ph.D. a professor of pediatrics.”

  • For individuals who hold more than three post-bachelor’s degrees, it is preferable to mention the three most pertinent to the topic at hand.

  • Whenever possible in external communication, create a hyperlink to a complete biography of a quoted or named person.


  • Never include minutes if an event is happening on the hour; use minutes in every other scenario

  • In external communications, be certain that ET is referenced. Internal communication should not refer to the time zone unless it is different from Eastern Time.

  • Use lowercase letters with periods and no spaces when referring to a.m. and p.m. Examples include:

    • 9:15 a.m.

    • 10 p.m. (not 10:00 p.m. or 10:00 PM)

    • noon

    • midnight

    • When giving a specific time followed by a.m. or p.m. it is not necessary to say "in the morning" or "in the evening"


  • If months are used with a specific date, abbreviate the following: January (Jan.), February (Feb.), August (Aug.), September (Sept.), October (Oct.), November (Nov.), December (Dec.)

    • Monday, Nov. 27

    • Tuesday, March 16

  • Never abbreviate March, April, May, June, July

  • If a month is used by itself or only with a year, always spell it out. Examples include:

    • January

    • January 2018

    • Jan. 28, 2018

    • April 6, 2018

    • April 2018

  • Never use “st” or “th,” etc., at the end of a date

    • Jan. 28th is incorrect

  • If the date takes place in this calendar year, no year is necessary. If it takes place in any other year, include the year.

    • Jan. 28 if you’re referring to Jan. 28, 2021

    • Jan. 28, 2022 if referring to next year’s date

  • Every article we produce should have a date stamp on it.

  • If substantial updates are made, notation of new date should be made somewhere in the story.

Tense of attribution

  • Going forward, to be consistent with AP Style regarding news stories, when using quotes or when paraphrasing a speaker, refer to the person who said it in the past tense (i.e., “John Jones said,” not “John Jones says”).

  • In other instances unrelated to quotes, it may be more accurate to use present tense: “The CDC recommends…” instead of “The CDC recommended…” Using past tense makes it seem as though the recommendation is no longer accurate or relevant.

  • More feature (magazine)-style publications can continue using “says.”


  • If the name of the person quoted is used with a title, the verb should proceed the name and title. If no title is used, or if only a pronoun is used to refer to a previously identified person, the name or pronoun should go before the verb.

    • Example: “This is encouraging,” said John Smith, M.D., professor of biochemistry. And later: “We have more work to do,” Smith said.

  • Any time you end a quote, insert a comma at the end of the quote and before the attribution. The comma always goes before the closed-quote symbol.

    • Example: “Quality Month is my favorite,” said nurse Cathy Jacobs.

  • If you end a paragraph with a quote and then start the next paragraph with another quote from the same person, you do not need to use a closed-quote symbol to end the first paragraph. You DO need to use an open-quote symbol to start the second paragraph.

    • Example: “I can’t believe how fascinating it has been to put this style guide together,” said Jose Ramirez. “It hearkens back to college journalism classes.

“Not only that, but I adore eating coffee ice cream.”

  • Whenever possible, use the word “said” as opposed to anything else. It is the most neutral way of saying something, though “added” or “continued” are acceptable as well if you want to change it up.

  • Try not to use only a partial quote in a sentence (i.e., Ali Abdullah worked for Zingerman’s, where he “loved the matzo ball soup.”)

    • Instead, make the quote an entire sentence or offset the quote with a colon (i.e., “I absolutely loved Zingerman’s,” Ali Abdullah said. “The matzo ball soup was off the charts.” OR Ali Abdullah worked for Zingerman’s: “The matzo ball soup is second-to-none,” he said.)

  • When using a quoted phrase or quoting someone else within a spoken quote, use single-quotation marks: “I love Patient Safety Week, it’s my favorite ‘special week’ on the calendar,” said Mara O'Brien.


  • In almost every case, spell out the full name of a group, program, product, etc., on first reference.

  • If you want to use an acronym that is not in common public use, do not put it in parentheses, instead use it shortly after the reference and then use the acronym on all future references (i.e. Health Information Technology & Services, known widely as HITS, is rolling out new software.) Consider your audience; if they are not likely to encounter the acronym in other settings, use a description rather than an acronym on second reference.

  • Some well-known organizations or acronyms don’t need to be spelled out on first reference

    • Among the nationally known ones would be FBI, CIA, CDC, NASA

    • Some regulations, acts of Congress and laws are known by acronyms (ADA, ACA), use the full name on first reference.

    • You should follow the preference of well-known organizations that no longer use the spelled-out versions of their original names (AARP, JDRF, NAACP) and then describe the organization afterward.

    • Medical organizations should be spelled out: American Heart Association, American Medical Association, etc. Can be shortened on second reference.

    • On an organizational level, MPLAN, OB-GYN, IV (for intravenous), ID (for identification) can be used on first reference.

    • Certain ailments can be referred to as an acronym on all references: AIDS, HIV

    • Names of genes are often abbreviations or shorthand for a much longer name but the abbreviation is more well known. Use both in the first reference if possible, and use the abbreviation after the first reference. Note that the short names of genes in mice, rats and some other organisms are usually given with a capital first letter and the rest of the letters are lower case; short names for genes in bacteria and viruses are given in all lower-case letters, and short names for genes in humans and other primates use all capital letters.

    • Other medical terms sufficient with an acronym on first reference: DNA, RNA, MRI and CT.

      • It is best practice to give enough information that someone who doesn’t know what a CT scan or MRI is could infer: “Smith had a CT scan of his head, which allowed doctors to look for signs of damage to his brain.”

  • Avoid using acronyms for named centers and programs on external communications as much as possible. For example, Rogel Cancer Center would not be shortened to RCC.

  • The University of Michigan should be U-M on all second references.


  • Spell out state names when listed with cities.

  • International cities need city and country. Example:

    • The partnership reached La Paz, Bolivia in 2019.

  • Only exceptions are if the city is near Ann Arbor and well known that it is in Michigan. Examples:

    • Michigan Medicine recently opened a health center in nearby Northville.

    • Michigan Medicine doctors frequently travel to Marquette, Michigan to carry out clinical work.

Prefixes and suffixes

  • Do not use a hyphen after a prefix, unless the last letter of the prefix is the same as the first letter of the rest of the word

    • For example, replay and coworker are correct, but so is re-enter and non-negotiable.

  • Do not use a hyphen when there is a suffix at the end of a word

    • For example, campuswide and universitywide (not campus-wide).


  • Contracting two words together (isn’t, aren’t, can’t) is a more informal style. It is best to avoid excessive use of them, though contractions listed in the dictionary are acceptable especially in informal context or in quotes.

    • Incorrect: Lee said the mRNA vaccines are very powerful and safe. He explains that they’re based on a molecule called messenger RNA.

    • Correct: “They’re based on a molecule called messenger RNA,” he said.

    • Incorrect: Smith said women who are pregnant shouldn’t hesitate to contact their provider’s office.

    • Correct: Smith said women should not hesitate to contact their provider’s office.


  • Spell out every number between one and nine (unless it is used as a percentage – 9%).

  • Numbers 10 and above should always be referred to with digits.

    • The ONLY exception is when you begin a sentence with a number. The number needs to be spelled out entirely in that scenario (i.e., “Thirty-seven people read the curriculum story last month.”)

  • Percentages are always given as a number and percent sign, except at the start of a sentence. When a range of percentage is given use the percent sign or word after each percentage.

    • In all, 10% of older adults said they do not watch television.

    • Forty-seven percent of young adults use Instagram.

    • Depending on how the question was asked, 17% to 21% of teens said they slept enough.

  • Phone numbers should be listed with digits and hyphens, but no parentheses (i.e., “For more information, Jones can be reached at 734-555-1212.”)

  • Round large numbers, and numbers ending in decimals, up to the nearest round number for general audiences.

  • The AP Style Guide has an extensive entry on numbers; email MichMedmedia@med.umich.edu for further guidance.

Providing plain English explanations

Always explain medical and scientific terms that are necessary to the article — or used by people being quoted — and those explanations should come close to the first incidence of the term.

  • “A majority of patients were extubated by the end of the first week,” said Jackson, using the medical term for removing a ventilator tube and allowing patients to try to breathe on their own.

  • Chan and his colleagues focus on circadian rhythms, the natural cycles in the brain related to sleep and wakefulness.

  • Brown said the mRNA vaccines are very powerful and safe. They got their name because they use a kind of genetic material called messenger RNA to prime the immune system to react to a coronavirus infection.


  • There is no Oxford comma in AP style (don’t use a comma between “and” and the final item in a list (i.e., Sally likes diversity, equity and inclusion…)

  • If two words together are modifying a noun, they should be hyphenated (i.e., “She plays a well-known character on The Good Place.”) If those same two words do not directly modify a noun, they should not be hyphenated (“Her character on The Good Place is well known.”)