Writing for the web is tricky; writing about healthcare for the web is even trickier! Nothing detracts from an email or social media post more than a glaring mistake, and nothing turns readers away quicker than a confusing post littered with medical jargon.
Make sure you are communicating clearly (and correctly) with your audience by following these rules:
1. I.e. vs. e.g.
Both abbreviations stand for Latin terms, so the easy way to remember the difference is to focus on the first letter. I.e. means “in other words” and e.g. means “for example.” Don’t italicize either abbreviation and remember the period after each letter.
2. One space after periods
While this is a fairly recent style evolution, it’s supported by both Chicago and MLA style guides. Typing classes once taught students to insert two spaces following periods, but this extra space is now considered redundant.
3. Limit acronym use
The medical field is full of acronyms, and while intended to simplify communication, the average patient may actually become more confused by them. As a general rule, limit acronym use if you think your audience won’t know the acronym. However, if you do use an acronym, define it the first time and then subsequently use the acronym.
4. Graduated vs. graduated from
When writing physician bios, make sure you aren’t forgetting the “from”! By neglecting this extra word (i.e. “Dr. Smith graduated medical school in 1994”), you’re implying the physician did something to the college or university instead of the other way around. Technically, graduating is an act the school does to the student.
5. Alumna vs. alumnae vs. alumnus vs. alumni
This is another important lesson to remember when writing about your physicians or staff. A female graduate is an alumna; a group of female graduates are alumnae. A male graduate is an alumnus; a group of male graduates are alumni. If both genders are represented, they are collectively alumni.
6. Referring to academic degrees
Degree names derived from proper nouns are capitalized (i.e. degree in English), while degree names from common nouns are lowercased (i.e. degree in chemistry). Another grammatical rule to keep in mind is that a degree is the property of the student, so don’t forget the apostrophe in bachelor’s and master’s degree. Only capitalize these degrees if referring to the formal name (i.e. “Dr. Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in biology” or “Dr. Smith earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology.”)
7. When to capitalize specialty
As a general rule of thumb, do not capitalize a physician’s specialty unless it is part of their title (i.e. Head of Cardiology). Do not capitalize specialty when referring to board certification unless referring to the certification’s formal name (i.e. “board certified in internal medicine” or “ABMS board certified in Internal Medicine – Hematology”).
For more information, check out Grammar Girl. This is a great online resource for short and sweet grammar and usage tips.