Titles, Tense & More
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
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
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.
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:
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.
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:
10 p.m. (not 10:00 p.m. or 10:00 PM)
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:
Jan. 28, 2018
April 6, 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.”
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
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).
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.”)
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.”)
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.”)