Writing and Style

Follow the Associated Press stylebook and the Health System copy guidelines.


  • It’s OK to refer to a doctor as “Dr. Mike Smith” or “Dr. Smith” on second reference instead of “Mike Smith, MD” if you feel casual is better.
  • Shorter is better on Twitter; write numerals instead of spelling them out and abbreviate. For example, Dr. Mike Smith has lived in Cville for 7 years.

A few mistakes almost everyone makes:

  • Health System style uses UVA, not UVa or U.Va.
  • You usually don’t need to say “UVA” or “University of Virginia” unless it’s unclear. Your account probably has “UVA” in the name or description. People know what hospital you’re talking about.
  • One space between periods, not two or more.
  • Titles and services aren’t capitalized unless they’re proper nouns or named titles. Examples:
    • Michael Smith, MD, associate professor of orthopedics, said…
    • Our primary care team saw over 500 cases of the flu this week.
    • The Department of Surgery is honoring Jane Smith, MD, associate professor of surgery.

Use “we” or “our” when speaking as your department or UVA. If you’re quoting a specific person, you should use that person’s name. This is especially important when offering medical advice.

Social media language needs to take a casual and conversational tone, but you also have to remember you’re publicly representing your department. Take a moment to proofread before posting. Ask yourself if what you wrote is as clear and succinct as possible.

If you’re sharing an article, you’ll want to have a teaser that encourages users to click. On Facebook, we often pull out one interesting tidbit from the article that’s not already included with the link, “95 percent of women diagnosed with pancreatic cancer will die within five years.”

On Twitter, it’s sometimes acceptable to just post the headline or a quick description. Getting in a hashtag or keyword or tagging another user can be more beneficial than an interesting teaser. For example: “Great @NBC29 story about how you can prevent SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome): (link).

If you’re unsure, read through some past posts and tweets to get more of an idea of language and tone.

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