The entries on this page include exceptions and additions to AP Stylebook guidance. Dictionary: Merriam-Webster Online

Updated May 2024

  • Abbreviations, Acronyms, Initialisms

    An informative explainer on abbreviations, acronyms, and initialisms appears in Merriam-Webster online.

    Names of institutions, organizations, diseases, programs, and projects are spelled out the first time they appear in a story. On subsequent mentions, use the abbreviated form. 

    If in doubt, err on the side of including the abbreviation following the spelled-out full name. 

    Do not include periods between letters in abbreviations (UCLA, CDC) unless their absence could cause confusion: U.S.

    Options for styling abbreviations:

    • The benefits of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) are familiar to many.
    • The benefits of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, or ERISA, are familiar to many.

    Please note: Some abbreviations, such as CDC, NIH, FDA appear in M-W as main entries; these are likely to be understood by our readers and do stand alone in some cases.

    And: Some medical journals are identified by their abbreviated titles: PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America), JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), BMJ (British Medical Journal).


    What Will It Take to End Tuberculosis?

    It’s about an ambitious project that, over the past decade, has brought new, patient-friendly treatments to some of the places hardest hit by the deadly global epidemic of drug-resistant tuberculosis.

    Patients who have participated in these studies told doctors and researchers that when they received their TB diagnosis, they were afraid.

    Schizophrenia and Aging May Share a Biological Basis

    The team called this coordinated set of changes the Synaptic Neuron and Astrocyte Program, or SNAP.

  • Academic/Faculty Titles

    It is not unusual for HMS faculty to have multiple titles and affiliations. Which title to use depends on its context and relevance within a story, as well as the faculty member’s preference. Consult your editor for additional guidance and exceptions.

    General guidelines

    Linking to HMS faculty:
    In news stories, link faculty names to their HMS lab page or Catalyst profile.

    Some HMS faculty have several titles: 
    Consider relevance of titles within a given story. If there are more than two titles, sprinkle them throughout the story rather than stacking them all up in one sentence/paragraph.

    Hierarchy of titles: 
    HMS academic title, affiliate title, corporate title if context requires (e.g., faculty with a corporate position with MassGeneral Brigham or Beth Israel Lahey). 

    Note: HMS faculty appointments are tied to affiliate hospitals, not corporate entities (as of March 2024).

    Quad department chairs:
    Always include department chair title and academic title for Quad department chairs.

    Affiliate title examples:

    • Staci Gruber, HMS associate professor of psychiatry at McLean Hospital
    • Adam Gaffney, HMS assistant professor of medicine at Cambridge Health Alliance
    • S. Jean Emans, the HMS Mary Ellen Avery Professor of Pediatrics, Emerita, at Boston Children’s Hospital

    Corporate title example:

    • Tom Sequist, HMS professor of medicine and of health care policy at Brigham and Women’s Hospital but
    • Tom Sequist, chief patient experience and equity officer at Mass General Brigham

    Note:  academic appointments are tied to hospitals, not corporate entities.

    Professor of the practice title example:

    • Mark Namchuk, director of therapeutics translation at HMS
    • Mark Namchuk, professor of the practice in the Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology in the Blavatnik Institute at HMS

    Honorifics and degrees:
    Do not use “Dr.” or other honorific (e.g., Mrs., Mr.) unless in quoted material or half-staff emails.

    Do not include academic degrees in news stories, but if there is an exception, style as Jane Doc, MD ’95.

    If requested by event planners, it is OK to include academic degrees on event announcements, programs, and collateral (posters, signage, etc.) for events such as the Alpert Symposium.

    Capitalize a title when it immediately precedes a name:

    • Harvard University Treasurer Timothy Barakett
    • Dean George Q. Daley
    • Professor Arlene Sharpe

    Exception: appositive, for example, “the university’s treasurer, Timothy Barakett”
    Lowercase a title when it follows a name or stands alone. It is preferable to have titles follow names for consistency and readability.

    • Timothy Barakett, treasurer of Harvard; the treasurer
    • George Q. Daley, dean of HMS; the dean
    • David Reich, HMS professor of genetics; the professor

    Exception: named professorships are always capitalized
    Stephen Blacklow, the Gustavus Adolphus Pfeiffer Professor of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology in the Blavatnik Institute at HMS

    Note:  In the Dean’s Report, dean-level titles always appear before the name —  capitalized. Named professorships appear before other titles. Do not include titles in photo captions.

    Lowercase emeritus unless it appears with a named professorship title

    • Edward Guadagnoli, HMS professor of health care policy, emeritus 
    • Joan Ruderman, the HMS Marion V. Nelson Professor of Cell Biology, Emerita

    Include “part-time” if it is part of a faculty member’s title listed in MARS/Catalyst; check with Office for Faculty Affairs if you have questions

    Spyros Artavanis-Tsakonas, lecturer on cell biology, part-time, at HMS

    Harvard faculty affiliations:
    Use Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) if requested, but otherwise use Harvard University or name the University school or department associated with the faculty member or their lab. Consider the relevance of the department or program name to the story and the faculty member's preference.

    Now, a collaboration among researchers at Harvard Medical School and Harvard University has provided a glimpse into exactly how cells in the heart start beating.

    Now, a collaboration among researchers at Harvard Medical School and the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University has provided a glimpse into exactly how cells in the heart start beating.

    Sources for faculty titles and affiliations:
    Authoritative sources for faculty titles and affiliations: CatalystMARS, and the HU internal directory

    PRO TIP 1: If a named professorship is in Catalyst or MARS, it is considered an HMS title, not an affiliate title.

    PRO TIP 2: Not all institutions are appointing institutions; e.g., Dana-Farber funnels faculty appointments through the Brigham. Verify the faculty member's affiliation on Catalyst, which gives the primary institution for the faculty member, not the appointing institution.

    Check with the Office for Faculty Affairs if you have questions or need verification of affiliation.

    Example of affiliations with appointing institutions: 
    Awards & Recognitions: March 2024

    More information on faculty titles and departments available from OFA here.

    See style guide section on Blavatnik Institute for more on Quad faculty titles.

  • Accent Marks/Diacritics

    Use accent marks for personal names and place names as appropriate; check M-W and/or AP for guidance on words, such as cliché, that may need a diacritical mark in English.

  • Awards

    The names of awards should be capitalized, including the word “award” when part of the full award name: the A. Clifford Barger Excellence in Mentoring Award.


    Awards & Recognitions: May 2024

  • Blavatnik Institute

    The Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School comprises 11 preclinical departments on the HMS Quad.

    In reporting on research done by HMS Quad-based faculty, reference Blavatnik as early in the story as possible: researchers in the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School; Blavatnik Institute at HMS [as second reference if Harvard Medical School appears prior to the Blavatnik ID]

    After this initial mention of Blavatnik, there is no need to repeat it throughout the story.

    “Some of our causal models of disease are failing, and there is a growing interest to understand how diseases arise so that we can develop therapies and interventions that factor environmental and behavioral sources of variation,” said exposome researcher Chirag Patel, associate professor of biomedical informatics in the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School.

    For research done by both HMS Quad-based faculty and affiliate-based faculty, reference to the Blavatnik Institute should be attached to the first Quad-based faculty member identified in the story/release.

    Timothy Hammond, a research fellow in neurology in the lab of Beth Stevens at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s and first author of the study. Hammond’s team collaborated with the lab of Steven McCarroll, the Dorothy and Milton Flier Professor of Biomedical Science and Genetics in the Blavatnik Institute at HMS.

    Department names

    Department of Biomedical Informatics in the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School

    Faculty titles

    David Sinclair, professor of genetics in the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School

    >>But named professorship titles do not include Blavatnik Institute as part of the title:

    George Church, the Robert Winthrop Professor of Genetics in the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School


    Blavatnik Harvard Life Lab Longwood/Blavatnik Life Lab

    HMS labs, initiatives, centers retain current names without Blavatnik ID: HiTS, HST, Sharpe Lab, and others.

  • Capitalization

    Administrative and academic units

    Capitalize “School” and “University” only when they specifically refer to HMS (“the School”) and Harvard University (“the University”), respectively, but “our school,” “our university,” which are generic.

    Do not capitalize “university” or “department” or other similar entities when modified by two or more institutional names: She attended Duke and Columbia universities.

    Do not capitalize "center" on second reference; the Harvard Center for Genomics, but the center; Task Force on Minority Admissions, but “the task force”

    Full titles of departments and divisions are capitalized

    • Clifford Tabin, chair of the Department of Genetics, but Tabin is chair of the genetics department
    • Houman Javedan, HMS assistant professor of medicine and clinical director for the Division of Aging at Brigham and Women’s Hospital

    Clinics within hospitals: keep lowercase unless it’s an officially named clinic.

    Committees, offices within the University

    Cap when using the official name of the entity; lowercase otherwise:

    Office of Student Affairs, but student affairs
    Visiting Committee, but committee
    HMS Quad; Quad

  • Degrees

    Do not include academic degrees/years in news stories unless called for in stories about alumni or in stories where degrees are otherwise relevant.


    Belonging in the Halls of Medicine 

    Higginbotham’s portrait joins those of three other distinguished HMS alumnae—Raquel Cohen, MD ’49. Yeu-Tsu Margaret Lee, MD ’61, and Gina Moreno-John, MD ’94—that are also on display in the TMEC Student Study and Collaboration Center

    Harvard Medical School Alumna Melissa Gilliam Named 2024 Class Day Speaker

    She graduated with an MD from HMS in 1993 and went on to earn a master of public health from the University of Illinois Chicago.

    Degrees/years may be included if requested in posters, event emails, letters, etc.

    If included, all caps, no periods: MD, PhD; MMSc, MD-MPH; with year: MD ’20, PhD ’21

    HMS Class of 2024; MD ’17

    HSDM Class of 2024; DMD ’07

  • Digital Accessibility

    Harvard’s guidelines for online content

    Hyperlink best practice:

    • All links should open in same window. This is the default in Word, and the formatting will carry over into Drupal.
    • Grab enough text to give meaningful context for screen readers; do not link on single words such as “here.” 
    • Avoid too many long links in a few sentences or a paragraph. 


    Repurposed Cancer Drugs May Improve Tuberculosis Treatment

    In a study conducted in rabbits and led by Harvard Medical School researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, the repurposed drugs enhanced delivery of antibacterial medications that target tuberculosis-causing bacteria. Findings published March 27 in PNAS.

    Although it is often overlooked in industrialized countries such as the United States, tuberculosis remains one of the deadliest diseases globally, causing millions of deaths every year.

  • Events and Lectures

    Do not enclose title in quotation marks; use initial cap and cap first word following a colon; also cap proper nouns. If the event sponsor already has a website and collateral materials, you may have to conform with the established style.

    Behind Bars: Ethics and human rights in U.S. prisons

  • Inclusive Language

    The following links include guidance on race, disability, age, size, gender, and sexuality and more. This is not an exhaustive list. It is always good to double-check current sources in this rapidly evolving style area!

    Some AP guidance
    Race-related coverage
    Transgender coverage

    Inclusive communication guides for health care & public health professionals
    APA Style: Bias-free language
    AMA-AAMC Center for Health Equity: Advancing health equity—A guide to language, narrative and concepts
    CDC health equity guiding principles for inclusive communication
    NIH Style Guide

    Other guidance
    BuzzFeed Style Guide
    Conscious Style Guide
    Diversity Style Guide
    Trans Journalists Association
    National Association of Black Journalists
    Conscious Style Toolkit 
    Diversity Style Guides for Journalists

  • Italics

    • Italicize gene, genus, and genus/species names: BRCA1; FOXP3; Salpingoeca rosetta (S. rosetta 2nd reference); Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans)
    • Italicize publication titles (e.g., magazines, journals, newspapers, books, movies, podcasts); the New England Journal of Medicine; but The Wall Street Journal. Check publications’ preferences.
  • Names

    Style using source's preference; keep style used in quoted material. See AP guidance on foreign names here.

    Do not use middle initials unless there are two people at HMS with the same name, e.g., Michael L. Rich and Michael O. Rich. OK to use middle initials in half-staffs or if an individual specifically requests it.

  • Punctuation

    Diverging from AP style, all HMS publications use the series (Oxford) comma: I have two peaches, one apple, and three pears.

    Apostrophe with possessive: HMS’ (not HMS’s). The AP guidance for possessives for nouns ending in “s” extends to abbreviations ending in “s.”

  • Quote Check

    Reasonably reliable sources for checking quotes include the Yale Book of Quotations (HU library), Quote Investigator (free online), and Wikiquote.

    Note: For some quotes, it’s almost impossible to know who said it or what the exact words were. Better to paraphrase without quotation marks if you cannot get authoritative confirmation.

    “I never said most of the things I said.” — Yogi Berra [?]

  • Time of Day

    Use ET, Eastern Time [CT, Central; MT, Mountain; PT, Pacific]
    2 p.m. ET, 5:30 p.m. ET, 2 – 5:30 p.m. ET, 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. ET

    For international audiences, consider U.S. Eastern Time for greater clarity. 

    Reference: National Institute of Standards and Technology