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Introduction

The NIH Style Guide is intended for use in writing web content, fact sheets, brochures, newsletters, and other promotional materials. NIH follows the Associated Press (AP) Stylebook for news releases. For items not covered by this guide, please refer to HHS’ style guide and AP. Whenever we diverge from HHS or AP’s guidance, it is explicitly stated in the style guide.

As language evolves, so will this style guide to reflect current best practices.

Open and read the links to the AP Stylebook found in many entries; the AP guidance for that topic is primary and anything included here is in addition to AP or providing additional context. These links require subscription access to view. If you need a subscription for access to the stylebook, coordinate with your ICO’s communications office.

Note that this style guide is not intended for scientific publications, which typically follow the American Medical Association, the National Library of Medicine, and other styles.

Other resources

  • Plain Language: The Plain Writing Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-274) aims to improve clarity and simplicity in government communication. The law requires federal agencies to use clear language that the public can understand and use.
  • Science, Health, and the Public Trust webpage: Provides guidelines on communicating science and health research to the public. Be sure to reference the Understanding Clinical Studies page when writing about studies and clinical trials.
  • NIH Spanish Style Guide: Provides best practices for communications professionals who translate and write Spanish health, science, or clinical research materials.
  • NIH Executive Secretariat Style Guide: Provides guidance for controlled correspondence.
  • List of NIH grant types.
  • PubMed and PubMed Central: Provides information on the National Library of Medicine (NLM) style for journal abbreviations, date formats, page numbers, and authors, as well as other styles.
    • PubMed is a database hosted by NLM that contains more than 34 million biomedical literature citations and abstracts.
    • PubMed Central (PMC) is a digital archive hosted by NLM containing millions of freely accessible, full-text biomedical and life sciences journal articles.
    • These resources are scientific literature databases offered to the public by NLM. NLM is not a publisher, but rather collects, indexes, and archives scientific literature published by other organizations. The presence of any article, book, or document in these databases does not imply an endorsement of, or concurrence with, the contents by NLM, NIH, or the U.S. Federal Government.
  • CDC’s Health Equity Guiding Principles for Inclusive Communication: Provides guidance for health communicators to ensure their communication products and strategies adapt to the specific cultural, linguistic, environmental, and historical situation of each population or audience of focus.
  • Section508 Guide to Accessible Web Design and Development: Provides guidance for developers, designers, and content creators to ensure that federal websites and digital products meet the Revised 508 Standards, part of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.