ODPHP Content Style Guide

Last updated: June 19, 2020

This style guide is a resource for ODPHP and CH writers and project leads. The guidance in this resource is based on best practices in clear communication and user experience — as well as what we know from years of supporting multiple communication efforts on behalf of ODPHP.

Use the guide to create a unified ODPHP voice on health.gov and related microsites.

For style guidance that’s not covered in this guide, refer to:

Note: Occasional exceptions to the instructions in this guide are okay if they make a specific piece of content clearer or more user-friendly.

Table of Contents

Style and Usage


  • All documents uploaded to ODPHP websites must be 508 compliant, so the filename must:
    • Be clear and concise
    • Have fewer than 30 characters
    • Make the contents of the file clear
  • Use alternative text (alt text) for online images to make them accessible to people who have vision or cognitive problems and may use screen readers.
    • Example: An older man sits across from his doctor, who is holding a medical chart.
    • Note: When writing alt text, think through the information users need to understand the image without seeing it.

Acronyms and Initialisms

  • On each webpage, introduce an acronym or initialism in parentheses after first using the full name — then use the abbreviation on its own.
    • Example: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) looked into the outbreak. When conducting research, CDC looked at all affected populations.
    • Exception: Only spell out the full name “Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion” in copy on main landing pages or main section pages. Using just the acronym “ODPHP” on most pages is fine.
  • Only include the acronym or initialism after the full name if the abbreviation is used elsewhere on the page. 
    • Exception: Always include the abbreviation for a government agency in parentheses after first using the full name, even if you don’t refer to the agency again.
  • When an abbreviation for an agency is the subject of a sentence, don’t add “the” before the term. 
    • Yes: CDC reports …
    • No: The CDC reports …
    • Note: CDC and NIH call for singular verbs.
  • Don’t punctuate initialisms, acronyms, abbreviations, or degrees. 
    • Exception: U.S. (when used as an adjective)
      • United States vs. U.S.: When using “United States” as a noun, always spell out the name. When using it as an adjective, use “U.S.” — unless you’re writing for social media, when it’s okay to use “US.”
      • Example: About 327 million people live in the United States. About 685,000 people live in Boston, a U.S. city.
    • Yes: CDC is located in Atlanta, GA, and NIH is located near Washington, DC — both of which are U.S. cities.
    • No: C.D.C. is located in Atlanta, G.A., and N.I.H. is located near Washington, D.C. — both of which are US cities.
    • Yes: Tom studied for his MPH and Nancy became an EMT.
    • No: Tom studied for his M.P.H. and Nancy became an E.M.T.

Acronyms to lead with

  • In almost all cases, lead with the acronyms listed below and define the term after. This is because the acronym is more familiar to most people than the spelled-out term.
    • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
    • HIV (human immunodeficiency virus)
    • HPV (human papillomavirus)
    • MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus)

Bulleted Lists

  • Use bulleted lists as often as possible. This makes information easier to read and process.
  • In general, don’t use punctuation (including periods, commas, and semicolons) at the end of a bulleted item. 
    • Exception: If one or more items in the list have multiple sentences, use a period at the end of all the items.
    • Exception: If the list is made up of complete, independent sentences that don’t connect grammatically to an introductory sentence for the list, use a period at the end of all items.
  • Try to keep bulleted lists to 7 items or fewer — consider splitting a list into 2 or more lists with headers if there are more than 7 items.
  • Use a descriptive sentence to introduce a bulleted list (“Here’s a selection of resources…”).
  • Capitalize the first word of each bullet.
  • Don’t use numbered lists unless outlining steps or actions that have to happen in a specific order.
  • Don’t use “and,” “but,” or “or” before the last bullet.
  • Use parallel grammatical structure in bullets.


Titles and headers

  • If titles and headers aren’t complete sentences, use title case — capitalize all words except articles, conjunctions, and prepositions with fewer than 4 letters.
    • Yes: Health Literacy and Communication
      No: Health literacy and communication
  • If headers are complete sentences, it’s okay to use sentence case (capitalize only the first word).
    • Yes: What is health communication?
      No: What Is Health Communication?
  • If a title contains a colon, capitalize the first word after the colon even if it’s an article, conjunction, or preposition. Capitalize the rest of the words using title case.
    • Yes: Staying Active: A Guide for New Parents
      No: Staying Active: A guide for new parents
  • Never use all capitals in titles or headers.
  • In title case, capitalize prepositions with 5 or more letters.
  • In title case, capitalize the second word of a hyphenated term, unless the first word has no meaning without the second word. 
    • Yes: Evidence-Based Research
    • No: Evidence-based Research
    • Yes: Pre-test
    • No: Pre-Test
  • Don’t capitalize “webinar” except in titles.
  • Capitalize the official name of an event or webinar. Don’t capitalize “event,” “summit,” “conference,” or the like when used alone.
    • Yes: The 2016 Healthy Aging Summit will take place in July.
    • Yes: The summit features 72 speakers and 4 tracks.
    • No: The Summit features 72 speakers and 4 tracks.
  • Don’t capitalize “workgroup” except when part of a full proper name. 
    • Yes: The Federal Interagency Workgroup met in August to review comments.
    • Yes: The workgroup met in August to review comments.
    • No: The Workgroup met in August to review comments.
  • When referring to another page on the website, capitalize the page name. Don’t use quotation marks. 
    • Example: Check out the Events page.

Professional titles

  • For professional titles, capitalize the title when it comes before an individual’s name. Lowercase the title when it comes after the name.
    • Example: George Washington, president of the United States
    • Example: President George Washington
    • Exception: If using lower case for a title looks inconsistent or an individual has requested that their title be capitalized, it’s okay to disregard this guidance.


  • Use contractions (e.g., she’s, won’t, they’re, doesn’t). This establishes a conversational and friendly tone for readers.


  • Use numerals (2) instead of words (two). Numerals are more easily recognizable for readers.
    • Yes: HHS and USDA jointly publish Dietary Guidelines every 5 years.
    • No: HHS and USDA jointly publish Dietary Guidelines every five years.
    • Exception: Don’t use a numeral to start a sentence.
    • Exception: The word “one” is appropriate when used as a pronoun (“caring for a loved one”), or to denote a particular item of a pair or set of items (“one of the most common”; “trouble seeing in one or both eyes”).
  • For ordinal numbers 10 and under, use words instead of numerals (e.g., first, third, tenth).
    • Exception: Use numerals without superscript for grade levels (e.g., use “8th grade,” not “eighth grade,” 8th grade,” or “grade 8”). 
  • For ordinal numbers 11 and higher, use numerals without superscript (e.g., 13th, 75th, 100th). 
    • Exception: If there are lots of numbers or it gets unwieldy, it’s okay to use numerals.
  • Use the words “million” and “billion” — but not “hundred” and “thousand.”
    • Examples: 500, 200,000, 3 million, 2 billion
  • Use frequencies (“1 in…” or “1 out of…”) instead of percentages when possible. 
    • Exception: Percentages are acceptable when discussing a population as a whole, or a non-specific number.
    • Yes: One out of 4 Americans …
    • Yes: 25 percent of Americans …        
    • Yes: Although they represent only one-third of the total U.S. population, racial/ethnic minorities comprise more than half of uninsured people.
  • Spell out fractions.
    • Yes: Two-thirds
    • No: 2/3
  • When using a percentage, don’t include decimal points — instead, say less than 1 percent.
  • Use numerals (digits) rather than spelled-out numbers for numbers of any size, except when beginning a sentence. One exception is that bullets can begin with numerals. 
    • Yes: The United States ranks 20th in …
    • Yes: … 100 percent effective.
    • Yes: … 4 times larger than
  • When 2 decades are spanned, use full years for both: 1999 to 2000
  • Avoid Roman numerals unless absolutely necessary.
  • Use the dollar sign “$” — don’t spell out “dollars.”
  • Don’t use superscript and subscript forms of numbers unless they’re referring to chemical and other scientific terms (e.g., CO2).

Periods of Time

  • In general, use the word “to” instead of a dash or hyphen.
    • Yes: Every 1 to 2 years
      No: Every 1 – 2 years
  • Use “to” when appropriate for date and time ranges. If the content needs to be shorter, it’s okay to use an en dash with no spaces.
    • Yes: November 5–7, 2015
      No: November 5 – 7, 2015
  • For times of day, use “a.m.” and “p.m.” Include the time zone abbreviation (without periods).
    • Yes: 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. ET

    • No: 1am to 3pm E.T.


  • It’s okay to use “they” or “their” with a singular subject if rewriting to avoid makes content more awkward or less clear.
    • Example: It’s important for your child to get their first dose of the vaccine by age 5.
  • Don’t use the phrases “he or she” or “his or her.” If the content needs more specific singular pronouns, alternate male/female pronouns between sections.
    • Yes: Take your child to the doctor.
    • No: Take your child to his or her doctor.



  • In general, hyphenate terms that function as adjectives before a noun. 
    • Yes: Short-term health problems…
    • Yes: In the short term…
    • Yes: The report includes age-adjusted data.
    • Yes: The data is age adjusted.
    • Note: This rule does not apply to compound adjectives where the first term is an adverb ending in -ly.
      • Yes: He was a highly regarded physician.
      • No: He was a highly-regarded physician.
  • In title case, don’t capitalize the second hyphenated word when the first word has no meaning of its own.
    • Yes: Non-cancer
    • No: Non-Cancer
    • Yes: Pre-test
    • No: Pre-Test
    • Exception: Capitalize both words in “Co-Chairs”

Periods and commas

  • Use only one space after periods and commas.
  • Use commas after all items in a series (i.e., use the serial or Oxford comma).
    • Yes: apples, oranges, and bananas
    • No: apples, oranges and bananas
  • When using periods to indicate an ellipsis, put a space on either side. But in general, avoid using ellipses.


  • Don’t use slashes (/). Instead of “and/or,” try “and.” Instead of “he/she” or “his/her,” alternate gender pronouns by paragraph or concept, or make the content non-gendered plural.
    • Exception: It’s okay to use “race/ethnicity.”
    • Yes: Teens might not ask you questions about sex, their bodies, or relationships.
    • Yes: Your teen might not ask you questions about sex, her body, or relationships.
    • No: Your teen might not ask you questions about sex, his/her body, and/or relationships.


  • Always use a single space between sentences.
  • Put a space before and after an em dash (—).


  • In general for percentages, spell out “percent.” 
    • Exception: It’s okay to use the symbol (%) in tables and in some other contexts — like when writing about nutrition labels (where people are likely to see it elsewhere).
  • If possible, change percentages to “one in” phrases. For example, use “1 in 4 people” instead of “25 percent of people.”
  • Use “$,” not “dollars.”
  • Avoid using “&.”
    • Exception: “Q&A” is okay in headers or menu labels.
    • Exception: Okay to use “&” in menu labels to minimize line length.

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Bold and Italics

  • In general, avoid italics — including for publication titles — because they can be hard to read on a screen. (Occasional usage may be okay, especially for professional audiences.)
    • Exception: Always italicize proper names of bacteria (e.g., foodborne pathogens, including Salmonella).
  • To emphasize a key word or phrase, use bold — but use it selectively.

Citations and Footnotes

  • Use APA citation style.
  • For informal citations (as in a blog post), it’s okay to simply cite a URL.
  • Place the footnote outside punctuation (except for dashes).
  • Use superscript font that’s smaller than the body copy.
  • Put citations at the bottom of webpages.
  • Hyperlink the footnote to take the user to the citation.
  • Only use citations in materials for professionals.

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What to Do

What to Avoid

  • Don’t hyperlink punctuation at the end of an action link.
  • Don’t hyperlink section headers within page content, because users may not realize the header is also a link — add inline links only to body text.
  • Don’t list full URLs.
  • Avoid using “click” — use more descriptive actions like “check out,” “watch,” etc.
  • Avoid long link text — readers should be able to scan and understand it quickly.
    • Exception: The link text should be descriptive, so it’s okay for it to be longer if a shorter link would make the content less clear.
  • Avoid using blue text for anything but links on your site, because it can be misinterpreted as a link.

Exit Disclaimers

  • Include the exit disclaimer icon after links to all non-federal sites, even state government sites.
  • Insert 1 space between the end of the hyperlink and the exit disclaimer icon.
  • If the linked text ends a sentence, close the hyperlink, insert 1 space, insert the exit disclaimer icon, then punctuate the sentence.
    • Example: Register for the webcast to participate in the meeting.

Opening Links

  • Make links to content located on ODPHP sites open in the same tab.
    • Exception: Open eLearning modules in a new tab.
    • Exception: Open PDFs in a new tab.
  • Make links to content located outside ODPHP sites open in a new tab.


  • In general, give preference to HTML pages over PDFs when linking to resources on other websites. But if the best resource is a PDF, link to it anyway.
  • Always include the PDF label and file size when linking to a PDF file.
  • Round the file size to the nearest whole number — don’t include decimals.
  • Include “PDF” and file size at the end of the text within the link.
  • Enclose the PDF label and file size in brackets.
  • Put a space between the file size number and MB or KB.
  • Use a hyphen with a space on either side of it between “PDF” and the file size.

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Word Choice

Government Bodies

  • Only capitalize the words Federal, State, Tribe, Tribal, or Territory when it’s part of a proper noun.
    • Yes: New York State health officials…
    • No: More funding is needed at Federal, State, and Local levels.
  • Don’t capitalize “nation” when referring to the United States.
    • Example: Physical activity is key to improving the health of the nation.

ODPHP and Site Usage

  • For ODPHP website content, don’t explain that ODPHP is part of HHS (it’s explained on the About page).
  • Using just the acronym “ODPHP” on most pages (not main landing or section pages) is fine.
  • In all public-facing content, write “Healthy People 2030,” not “HP2030.”
  • Write “MyHealthfinder,” not “myhealthfinder” or “Myhealthfinder.”
    • Note: Don't bold, italicize, or put quotes around the word MyHealthfinder.

Dietary Guidelines for Americans

  • Treat the Dietary Guidelines as a singular subject (it’s a set of guidelines).
    • Yes: The Dietary Guidelines is the go-to resource for nutrition recommendations.
    • No: The Dietary Guidelines are the go-to resource for nutrition recommendations.
  • Use “Dietary Guidelines” or “the Guidelines” to abbreviate the Dietary Guidelines for Americans — not “DGA.”
    • Note: If referring to it as “the Guidelines,” check that the context makes it clear whether it’s the Dietary or Physical Guidelines. If it’s not, don’t shorten the resource title.
  • When referring to a specific edition of the Dietary Guidelines, list the year first.
    • Yes: 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines
    • NoDietary Guidelines, 2015

Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans

  • Treat the Physical Activity Guidelines as a singular subject (it is a set of guidelines).
    • Yes: The Physical Activity Guidelines is the go-to resource for physical activity recommendations.
    • No: The Physical Activity Guidelines are the go-to resource for physical activity recommendations.
  • Use “Physical Activity Guidelines” or “the Guidelines” to abbreviate the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans — not “PAG.”
    • Note: If referring to it as “the Guidelines,” check that the context makes it clear whether it’s the Dietary or Physical Guidelines. If it’s not, don’t shorten the resource title.
  • Use “the Committee” to abbreviate the Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee.
  • Don’t use “PAGAC” or “PAG Advisory Committee.”
  • When referring to a specific edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines, list the edition, not the year published.
  • Only capitalize the word “Edition” when it’s part of the full title.
    • Yes: Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition
    • Yes: Second edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines
    • No: Physical Activity Guidelines, 2018
    • No: Physical Activity Guidelines, Second Edition
    • No: Physical Activity Guidelines, 2nd Edition
  • When referring to the Move Your Way campaign, use the full title. Don’t use “MYW.”



  • When referring to age, use “to” instead of an en dash unless in a table or unless it is unclear from the original data source whether the hyphen indicates “to” or “through.”
    • Yes: Women ages 18 to 24 years
    • No: Women ages 18–24 years
  • Use “age…years,” not “years old,” “the age of,” “aged,” “age” on its own, or just a number. Use “ages” instead of “aged” for age ranges.
    • Yes: Boys and girls need to get the HPV shot at age 11 or 12 years.
    • No: Boys and girls aged 11 or 12 can get the HPV shot.
    • No: Boys and girls can get the HPV shot at 11 or 12.
    • No: Boys and girls can get the HPV shot at 11 or 12 years old.
    • No: Boys and girls can get the HPV shot at the age of 11 or 12.
    • No: Boys and girls can get the HPV shot between the ages of 11 and 12.
    • Exception: For age ranges in Healthy People 2030 objective short titles and descriptions, use “aged” instead of “age” or “ages.”
  • Use “younger/older than,” not “over/under.” If using “younger/older than,” it may not be necessary to use “age.” 
    • Yes: Children older than 5 years
      No: Children over age 5 years
    • Yes: Children age 12 years and older
    • No: Children 12 years and older
    • Exception: In Healthy People 2030 objective short titles and descriptions, use “over/under,” not “younger/older than.”

LGBT people

  • Use “LGBT” (not LGBTQ) when referring to the community as a whole.
  • When referring to LGBT people, use phrases like lesbian women, lesbians, bisexual men and women, gay men, transgender people, etc.

People-first language

  • In general, use people-first language. This centers people in your writing and makes it so they’re not defined by their condition or other labels.
    • Yes: People with disabilities; people living with disabilities
    • No: The disabled
    • Yes: People with diabetes
    • No: Diabetics
    • Yes: Older adults
    • No: The elderly, elderly people, seniors
    • Exceptions: use “Deaf people” and “autistic people” (these communities prefer identity-first language)


  • Don’t capitalize races (e.g., white, black) when they are used as adjectives or nouns (unless the term is the first word in a sentence or a data point heading).
  • Capitalize ethnicities (e.g., Hispanic, Asian, African American).

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Word List

For the words in the table below, use the terms, spelling, and capitalization shown in the Yes column.

adverse drug eventAdverse Drug Event
Affordable Care ActACA
checkupcheck up, check-up
decision-making, decision-makersdecision making, decision makers
disability-adjusted life yeardisability adjusted life year
homepagehome page
emaile-mail, EMail, eMail
health carehealthcare
health care-associated infectionhealth care associated infection, healthcare-associated infection, health-care-associated infection, Health Care-Associate Infection
lifespanlife-span, life span
okayok, OK, OKAY
policymakerpolicy maker, policy-maker
self-managementself management
sexually transmitted infection, STI

sexually transmitted disease, STD

Exception: MyHealthfinder content

shared decision-makingshared decision making
smartphonesmart phone 
ultravioletultra violet, ultra-violet
webpageWeb page, web page, web-page
web portalweb-portal
websiteweb site, Website, Web-site
___-free___ free
vaccinesshots (exception: MyHealthfinder content on flu shots)
ZIP codezip code, Zip Code

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MyHealthfinder Style Guide

Anatomy of a Topic

Structure of information

In general:

  • Structure the information in Basics to give a behavioral recommendation, then an explanation of the behavior if needed, then background information.
  • Structure the information in Take Action (TA) from most important or specific, to least important or most general.

The Basics vs. Take Action

  • In general, keep background information in Basics. Put more specific, actionable information in Take Action. Basics pages provide a summary of the most important information about a health topic and Take Action helps readers use that information to change behavior.
  • In general, try to make Take Action page names actionable.
  • Address cost in Take Action if applicable.
  • Talk about ACA-covered preventive services if applicable AND if the service is listed on HealthCare.gov
  • For Take Action links, use phrases like “Check out…” or “Try these tips…” instead of “Learn more” or “Read more.”


Listing resources

  • In general, try to list resources (such as hyperlinks) as the title of the destination page or resource. It’s okay to not follow this exactly if the title is too long or clunky. Just make sure the reader knows where they’re going.
    • Note: When capitalizing the title of the resource, follow the rules outlined in this guide rather than the style of the destination page.


Writing page headers:

  • “The Basics” or “Take Action” appears at the top of each topic page.

Writing topic headers:

  • Use sentence case. Capitalize only the first letter of the first word.
  • Whenever practical, write headers as complete sentences.
  • Use punctuation, unless the header isn’t a complete sentence.

Word Choice


  • Chronic vs. long-term: Only use “chronic” if necessary, and define it when doing so. “Long-term” alone may be fine in many cases.
  • Doctor vs. doctor or nurse: When referring to doctors within the body of text, say “doctor or nurse” where appropriate. In headers, just use “doctor.” When referencing another type of clinician, use “doctor or …”
    • Example: When writing about pregnancy, use “doctor or midwife.”
  • Glucose: Write as “glucose (sugar)” on first mention, and simply “glucose” for every mention after that.
  • Screening vs. tests: When mentioning screenings, write “screenings (tests)” on first mention. After that, you can just write “screening.”
  • Talk to or talk with: "Talk to" a doctor is good advice if it's something straightforward or routine, like talking to a doctor about getting your blood pressure checked. "Talk with" a doctor is good advice if it's something more complicated, like which colorectal screening method is right for you. It’s okay to vary.
  • Vaccines: Lead with “vaccines,” but introduce “shots” to clarify meaning when appropriate. 
    • Exception: Content related to the flu shot can lead with “shot.”
  • Your doctor, a doctor, or the doctor: Any of the 3 options is fine. We aim for variety between health topics.
    • Exception: Avoid switching back and forth from “your” to “a” within a section under the same header.

Nutrition topics

  • Pluralize food categories.
    • Example: Avoid added sugars and saturated fats; eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables; choose whole-grain breads.
  • You can use the singular when referring to each of the above as hyphenated adjectives.
    • Example: Fat-free; sugar-sweetened.
  • Fat-free: Not “skim” or “non-fat.”
  • Trans fat: Trans is italicized (but not capitalized within a sentence).

Phone numbers

  • If a phone number uses letters for easy memory, also include the numeric-only version.
    • Example: Call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).


  • Replace this with alternate language, such as “need to.” Very occasional use of “should” may be appropriate. 
    • Yes: Women ages 50 to 74 need mammograms every 2 years.
    • No: Women ages 50 to 74 should get mammograms every 2 years.


  • STDs (sexually transmitted diseases): Write it like this on first mention — initialism first, full term second. STDs is more recognizable and conversational, so we want to lead with that. In all subsequent mentions, just say “STDs.” 
  • Note: Non-MyHealthfinder ODPHP content uses “STIs/sexually transmitted infections.”)


  • Use the degree symbol and capital “F” when noting temperatures. Then include “degrees Fahrenheit" in parentheses.  
    • Example: 90 °F (degrees Fahrenheit)

Questions for the doctor

  • Use this for introduction to questions:
    “When you visit the doctor, it helps to have questions written down ahead of time. You can also ask a family member or friend to go with you to take notes. Print this list of questions and take it to your next appointment.”

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Healthy People Style Guide

Capitalization and Italicization

  • Don’t capitalize the words “objective” or “topic” when referring to Healthy People objectives and topics, except in titles.
  • Don’t capitalize “core,” “developmental,” or “research” objectives.

Data and Decimals

  • Limit decimal numbers to one decimal point. When using decimals, don’t add a decimal to whole numbers without a decimal in the same description. Whole numbers without “.0” may appear alongside other decimals — it’s more important to be accurate than consistent.
  • When referring to a specific data point, always specify the population metric.
    • Yes: per 100,000 population
    • No: per 100,000
  • Use “proportion” rather than “percentage” when making objective statements. 
    • Example: Increase the proportion of people with medical insurance
  • Try to avoid using time-sensitive language that will go out of date. Instead, use the most recent data available.
    • Yes: In 2014 there were 18,000 people suffering from the disease, and rates are continuing to rise.
    • No: By 2015, 20,000 an estimated people will be have the disease.
  • Use “data” as a plural word.
    • Yes: The data are…
    • No: The data is…

Objective short titles, objective descriptions, and topic descriptions

Word choice

  • Use “adults” in short titles, and “adults” or “people” in descriptions (okay to vary). “Patients” is okay sparingly.
  • Use “adolescents” not “teens” — except when talking about teen pregnancy.
  • In general, use “chronic” not “long-term” when talking about disease.
  • Use “health care provider” or “provider,” not “clinician,” “health care professional,” “physician,” etc.
    • Exception: If original objective statement uses “physician,” use “doctor.”
  • Use “emergency department” not “emergency room.” Don’t abbreviate to “ED.”
  • Use “people” not “persons.”
  • Use “people on Medicare” not “Medicare beneficiaries.”
  • Use “medication” not “medicine.”
  • In general, use “infants” not “babies.” “Babies” is okay occasionally.
  • Specify “months” when writing about ages of infants.
  • Use singular “level” in phrases like “at the local, state, and national level.”


  • Introduce key acronyms in descriptions of core objectives and use them if the term repeats.
  • It’s okay to use very familiar acronyms in short titles of objectives to address character count limit.


  • Use full sentences for the EBRs descriptions at the top of the page. Avoid complex sentences. In general, spell out abbreviations (no need to spell out familiar terms such as LGBT).
  • For EBR developer names, spell out organization or agency names without including the acronym. (Exception: If an organization or agency is more well known by its acronym than its full name.)
  • Use lowercase if not a label or tag such as “health care programs.”
  • Don’t use the royal “we.”
  • Use full term and appropriate abbreviation in each cell.
  • Don’t use italics for journal names.


  • Use “LHI topics” or “Leading Health Indicator topics,” not “Leading Health topics.”
  • Capitalize "Leading Health Indicators”— for topics, use “Leading Health Indicator topics.”
  • Use “Leading Health Indicators” and “LHIs” to refer to the indicators and “Leading Health Indicator topic” to refer to the topic areas.
  • For “Who’s Leading the Leading Health Indicators?” use quotes and italics the first time it is referred to on the page. If it’s mentioned again, use italics but not quotes.
  • Write “Who’s Leading the Leading Health Indicators?” in title case, with a question mark.

File Details

  • File naming conventions
  • When naming a file:
  • Use the document title as the file name (unless it’s too long).
  • Use hyphens to separate words (not underscores or camelcase).
  • Don’t include a date in the file name.
    • Yes: hp-2020-user-study.pdf
    • No: 2015_Healthy_People_UserStudy_2016-12-12.pdf

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ODPHP Social Media Style Guide

General Guidance

  • Keep posts brief, especially on Twitter (shorter messages perform better!). 
  • Use a friendly and conversational tone.
  • Use actionable language to drive users to resources, like:  
    • Check out [X] to learn about…
    • Learn more about…
    • Join us for…
    • Register today: [link]
  • Use engaging hooks. For example: 
    • Did you know? or #DYK?
    • Want to learn more about…?
    • Interested in…?
  • Many abbreviations are okay (especially on Twitter). For example: 
    • “&” instead of “and”
    • “M” instead of “million”
    • “US” instead of “U.S.”
  • Use colons before most links. 
    • Exception: If there’s already a colon in the post, it’s okay to skip punctuation before the link. 
  • Always credit/tag sources when sharing partner content.
    • Use “from [@handle]” or “[@handle]’s” when crediting a resource in a tweet.
    • Use “via [@handle]” when sharing something you saw from another handle that’s not an actual RT.
    • Use [@handle] to tag organizations in Facebook posts.
  • When promoting a video or infographic, specify that in the post.
  • If you ask a question, the link you share should answer the question for the users without too much digging (occasional exceptions are okay).
  • Include relevant graphics, videos, and GIFs when possible.
    • Note: Always check the size of the images to be sure it will appear correctly on social media.
  • Use bitly to shorten a link if: 
    • It takes up more than 2 lines of text
    • The URL isn’t descriptive
    • The URL isn’t a .gov resource (e.g., YouTube or Webex)


  • Promote relevant ODPHP resources and priority partner resources. 
    • Yes: Other .gov resources
    • Yes: Relevant .org resources (e.g., American Heart Organization)
    • No: Most .com resources (unless it’s a client request — e.g., a news article) 
    • No: Resources with lots of ads
  • Promote interactive content when possible.
  • Tie resource promotion to NHOs when possible.
  • Vary ODPHP resources so as not to share the same content more than once in a given month.
    • Exception: When promoting an event or following a promotion plan

Twitter Hashtags

  • Check hashtags to see if people are using them.
  • Type the hashtag into Twitter to see how people are using it.
  • Hashtag at least 1 key term in tweets.
    • For example: #Diabetes affects more than 30M people in the US.
  • Aim for no more than 3 hashtags in a single tweet (if there’s a good reason to use more, it’s okay).
  • When possible, include the hashtag in the tweet language (as opposed to after the link).
    • Yes: Help users #GetActive by sharing @HHSPrevention’s resource: [link]
    • No: Help users get active by sharing @HHSPrevention’s resource: [link] #GetActive
  • Capitalize the first letter of all words in multi-word hashtags for readability.
    • Yes: #MentalHealthMonth
    • No: #mentalhealthmonth
  • Don’t use hashtags in Facebook content.
  • When searching for NHO hashtags, start by checking the sponsor organization’s Twitter handle/website.

Commonly Used Hashtags

In addition to hashtagging key terms in Twitter content (e.g., #pregnancy or #SkinCancer), consider using hashtags like:

  • #DietaryGuidelines
  • #DYK
  • #GetActive
  • #HealthLiteracy
  • #HP2020 and #HP2030
  • #LawHealthPolicy
  • #MentalHealth
  • #MoveYourWay
  • #OlderAdults
  • #PhysicalActivity
  • #PreventionMatters
  • #PublicHealth
  • #SDOH
  • #SubstanceUse
  • #WomensHealth
  • #YouthSports

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ODPHP Photo Guide

  • Choose positive images that feature people.
    • Exception: For topics like immunizations, you can occasionally use pictures of a vaccine bottle instead of a person getting a vaccine.
  • Look for subjects that are diverse in terms of race/ethnicity, age, sex, and sexuality.
  • Try to find photos of “real people,” not polished models (e.g., avoid photos of people in matching business suits).
  • When showing professionals, pick a diverse range and avoid stereotypes (e.g., pick a male nurse and a female doctor).
  • Make sure everyone in the picture is displaying safe behaviors. For example:
    • In a car, make sure there’s a fastened seatbelt.
    • On a bike, make sure there’s a fastened helmet.
    • If there’s a baby, make sure there’s no excess bedding and all aspects of the photo comply with AAP sleeping recommendations.
    • Medical professionals working with patients should be wearing latex gloves.

  • We can’t show:
    • People getting shots (or other medical procedures that are easy to misrepresent)
    • People smoking
    • Devices with product labels/logos

    • Alcoholic beverages