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External Affairs Style Guide Cheat Sheet

This cheat sheet addresses common issues faced in editorial writing at Weill Cornell Medicine. Our guide is based on AP Style, aside from a few exceptions detailed below.

Academic/medical degrees: Use the title "Dr." before a full name in first reference for anyone who holds an MD or a PhD, and before last name only in all subsequent references. If including a list of doctors, can write as Drs. X, Y and Z. Do not use MD/PhD. Try to use "she received her medical degree from" instead of "she received her MD from." Use the same rule for bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees. Exception is to use MD/PhD etc. for donor walls, formal programs and invitations (see below entry "Event Invitations and Programs").

Academic titles (formal): Capitalize and spell out formal titles such as chancellor, chair, etc. only when they precede a name, such as Chairman Jessica Bibliowicz, but not in other uses, such as Dr. Smith, director of the HeartHealth Program. Capitalize formally named professorships, such as the Arthur J. Mahon Professor of Neuroscience. If the named professorship does not include the person's specialty, use descriptors to clarify (neurologist, cardiologist, etc.).

Academic titles (nonformal): Lower case, i.e. associate professor of neuroscience. Only use when lacking a formal title or named professorship.

Alumni: Use degree and class year in parentheses on first reference for prose. For example, "Dr. John Leonard (MD '75)." Exception is to use John Leonard, MD ‘75 for donor walls, formal programs and invitations (see below entry "Event Invitations and Programs").

Associations and Institutes: When referring to a formal association or institute (ex. Meyer Cancer Center, Englander Institute for Precision Medicine), should use lowercase shortened reference in subsequent mentions (the center; the institute).

Boards: When referring to boards, capitalize the following: Overseer, Board of Directors, Board of Overseers, Board of Trustees, Executive Committee, etc. but do not capitalize "member". Do not capitalize when used as a verb. For example, "Mrs. Bluth chaired the Orange County Beautification Executive Committee." This rule applies to boards for all institutions, not just Weill Cornell Medicine.

Campaign: Do not capitalize "campaign.” This includes when attached to a campaign name and when referring to it without the full name (the campaign, this campaign, a campaign, etc.). Example: Driving Discoveries, Changing Lives campaign.

Commas: Do not use Oxford comma (i.e. correct version would be "he was tall, dark and handsome"). Consult the punctuation guide in the AP Stylebook for help in determining when to use commas.

Composition titles: Apply these guidelines to titles of books, movies, radio and television programs, etc.: put quotation marks around the names of all such works except the Bible and books that are primarily catalogs of reference material (i.e. encyclopedias, handbooks etc.) Examples: "Good Morning America," "War and Peace." Do not italicize or use any other style elements around journal or magazine titles (see below).

Department and division names: Capitalize department and division names, regardless of whether they have donor names attached (Weill Department of Medicine will be capitalized as well as Department of Neurology). This rule applies to all institutions.

Events Invitations and Programs: Capitalize both formal titles and nonformal academic titles, using MD, PhD and DPhil (no periods) when listing speakers/participants. Please note these exceptions are for lists only; bios should follow standard style guide above.

Magazine and journal names: Capitalize the initial letters of the name but do not place it in quotes and do not italicize. Lowercase "magazine" and "journal" unless it is part of the publication's formal title: Harper's Magazine, Newsweek magazine, Journal of the American Medical Association.

Middle initials: Avoid use of middle initials in body copy whenever possible.

Years: Use figures, without commas or apostrophes: 1975, the 1970s. Use class years when relevant: MD '75.


Q: How much color/text is too much?

A: Use bold, bright colors selectively. The colors in the presentation should compliment and highlight the content, not distract the audience.

Keep the amount of text on your page to a minimum. The text sizes have been set for optimum readability in a variety of presentation settings. Long blocks of small text decreases readability and may reduce the clarity and impact of the message.