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Grammar and style

The AAD adheres to AP style with some exceptions. Below is a collection of those exceptions, along with other common grammar and style issues.

AAD/AADA/Academy: The full name of the relevant organization (American Academy of Dermatology or American Academy of Dermatology Association) should be used on first reference, however the Academy can be used interchangeably with AAD or AADA as shorthand on subsequent reference. Note that American Academy of Dermatology Association/AADA should always be used when referencing Academy federal, state, or advocacy work or when reporting on work involving SkinPAC.

Abbreviations and acronyms: If there’s a chance your reader won’t recognize an abbreviation or acronym, spell it out the first time you mention it. Then use the short version for all other references. If the abbreviation isn’t clearly related to the full version, specify in parentheses. Generally, the style of an acronym should be National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). In cases where the acronym refers to an uncapitalized phrase, such as absent without leave (AWOL), do not capitalize the initial letters just because they are identified as part of an acronym. Do not use apostrophes in a pluralized acronym, such as nurse practitioners (NPs).

Abbreviations and acronyms AAD members commonly recognize include:


Advice/advise: Advice is a noun meaning “an opinion given about what to do.” Advise is a verb meaning “to give advice.”

Affect/effect: Affect is most commonly a verb meaning “to influence or bring about a change upon.” Effect is most commonly a noun meaning “a change produced by an action or cause.”

Severe psoriasis negatively affected his quality of life.
Severe psoriasis had a negative effect on his quality of life.

Aka: Per AP, the proper style for aka is all lowercase, without periods. Incorrect: a.k.a. Technically, this is an acronym for “also known as,” but it has come into common usage.

Alright: Never use alright. Spell out all right.

Ampersands: Don't use ampersands (&) in sentences unless part of a brand name. It's OK to use ampersands in navigation and buttons.

Annual Meeting: Capitalize Annual Meeting.

The 2020 Annual Meeting will take place in Denver.

Apostrophes: The apostrophe's most common use is making a word possessive. If the word already ends in an s and it’s singular, you also add an ’s. If the word ends in an s and is plural, just add an apostrophe. Do not use apostrophes in a pluralized acronym, such as nurse practitioners (NPs).

The donut thief ate Sam’s donut.
The donut thief ate Chris’s donut.
The donut thief ate the managers’ donuts.

Because vs. since: Generally, use “because” to refer to causally or logically connected subjects, not since. Correct: Because the changes are extensive. Incorrect: Since the changes are extensive. Generally, "since" should refer to time relations, not causal relations, though in some cases “since” may be used to avoid repetition.

Bolding and italics: When words are styled with bold or italics, the styling should include any punctuation that follows the word. Correct: The dog is happy. Incorrect: The dog is unhappy. This is a common problem with colons and headers. This is Correct: This is not Correct:

Bulleted lists: Capitalize the first letter after the bullet. Include periods after independent clauses, dependent clauses, and long phrases, and also after short phrases or words that are necessary to make the sentence grammatically complete:

To register for the Annual Meeting:

  • Go to aad.org.

  • Input your member identification number.

  • Select your preferred sessions.

  • Click the submit button.

Periods may be omitted after short phrases if the introductory statement is grammatically complete.

Sessions at the Annual Meeting covered the following:

  • Psoriasis

  • Skin cancer

  • Atopic dermatitis

Capitalization: We use a few different forms of capitalization. Title case capitalizes the first letter of every word except articles, prepositions, and conjunctions. Sentence case capitalizes the first letter of the first word.

Title case: AAD programs, e.g. Shade Structure Program, brand names, and periodicals.

Sentence case: Page titles, subheads, and just about everything else.

When writing out an email address or website URL, use all lowercase.


Don’t capitalize random words in the middle of sentences. Here are some words that we never capitalize in a sentence. 


Do capitalize proper names, including the names of AAD councils, committees, and task forces, including the AAD Board of Directors.

CME: Spell out continuing medical education for audiences who may not be familiar, otherwise CME is acceptable on first reference.

CMS: Although the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has a plural name, it refers to a single institution within HHS. Thus, do not treat CMS as if it is plural. Correct: CMS’s Incorrect: CMS’ Correct: CMS has determined Incorrect: CMS have determined

Colons: Use a colon (rather than an ellipsis, em dash, or comma) to offset a list.

Erin ordered three kinds of donuts: glazed, chocolate, and pumpkin.

You can also use a colon to join two related phrases. If a complete sentence follows the colon, capitalize the first word.

He was faced with a dilemma: He wanted a donut, but he’d just eaten a bagel.


Serial commas (also known as the Oxford comma): When writing a list, use the serial comma. Yes: David’s favorite foods are donuts, pizza, and cake. No: David’s favorite foods are donuts, pizza and cake.

Conjunctions: Never set off conjunctions that begin a sentence with a comma.  Correct: But all things being equal. Incorrect: But, all things being equal.

Otherwise, use common sense. If you’re unsure, read the sentence out loud. Where you find yourself taking a breath, use a comma.

Co-morbidity/comorbidity: Comorbidity (comorbidities) is preferred.

Contractions: They’re great! They give your writing an informal, friendly tone. In most cases, use them as you see fit. Avoid them if you're writing content that will be translated for an international audience.

Dates: Generally, spell out the day of the week and the month. Abbreviate the month if followed by a year or day.

The first Saturday in January.
January 2018
Saturday, Jan. 24
Saturday, Jan. 24, 2018

Dermatologist vs. Provider: Never use provider to refer to dermatologists and use only sparingly as a catch-all term for non-dermatologists who also provide patient care. Statements that imply equivalence between dermatologist and non-physician clinicians such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners should be avoided.

A group consisting of dermatologists can be referred to as “dermatologists” or “physicians” or “doctors.” A group consisting of dermatologists and other physicians can be referred to using the terms “physicians” or “doctors.”

When referring dermatologists alongside a member of the health care team who does not have medical degree, be specific about each professional whenever possible, but you may use non-physician clinician for brevity as required to refer to PAs and NPs as a group:

“A dermatologist may employ a team of nurse practitioners and physician assistants.”
“A dermatologist may employ non-physician clinicians.”

Use of provider is acceptable in member communications when directly quoting, with attribution, external sources such as CMS who use the term.

Decimals and fractions: Spell out fractions. Yes: two-thirds No: 2/3

Use decimal points when a number can’t be easily written out as a fraction, such as 1.375 or 47.2. Use a 0 before a decimal that is less than 1, such as 0.29.

Dashes and hyphens: Use a hyphen (-) without spaces on either side to link words into single phrase, or to indicate a span or range.

first-time user

In accordance with AP style, em dashes should be formatted with spaces to increase readability.

Note than an em-dash is distinct from a hyphen. It is a dash the length of three character spaces. Use a true em dash, not hyphens (- or --).

The Academy’s DataDerm — just one of our Practice Management Center features — can help you improve quality of care.

Austin thought Brad was the donut thief, but he was wrong — it was Jennifer.

Use em-dashes sparingly. They can be useful for making parenthetical asides and for setting off complicated information. They become distracting when used excessively. Never use em-dashes in place of a comma. Incorrect: As it happens — there actually is an answer.

Ellipses: Ellipses (...) can be used to indicate that you’re trailing off before the end of a thought. Use them sparingly. Don’t use them for emphasis or drama, and don’t use them in titles or headers. Correct: “Where did all those donuts go?” Christy asked. Jennifer said, “I don’t know ...”

Ellipses, in brackets, can also be used to show that you're omitting words in a quote.

“When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, [...] a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

When ellipses appear in a sentence, outside of brackets, they should be set off by a space on either side, such as this ... rather than this...

E-mail/email: Email is preferred. Also ecard, enewsletter, etc.

Ensure/insure: Ensure means to make certain. Insure means to protect against loss.

These guidelines will ensure that our programs are in compliance.
I will insure the assets for $100,000.

Exclamation points: Use exclamation points sparingly, and never use more than one at a time. They’re like high-fives: A well-timed one is great, but too many can be annoying.

Like other punctuation, exclamation points usually go inside quotation marks. Like periods and question marks, they go outside parentheses when the parenthetical is part of a larger sentence, and inside parentheses when the parenthetical stands alone.

When in doubt, avoid!

FAAD: The FAAD designation (Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology) should always be used alongside other credentials in communications to outside stakeholders, including the public, patients, media, house of medicine, and policymakers. It does not need to be used in copy for member-facing communications.

Each letter in the pronunciation is pronounced, so it should be preceded by the indefinite article an.

Face mask vs. facemask vs. face-mask [noun]: Always use face mask when used as a noun and/or a modifier of a noun. Face mask is now a commonly recognized term. Therefore, no hyphen is needed when the term is used as a modifier when the meaning is clear and unambiguous without the hyphen.

Fewer vs. less: Fewer should be used instead of less when referring to distinct quantities. For example, there were once fewer entries in this style guide.

File extensions: When referring generally to a file extension type, use all uppercase without a period. Add a lowercase s to make plural.


When referring to a specific file, the filename should be lowercase:


Frontline vs. front line: Use frontline when used as an adjective, e.g., he is a frontline worker. Use front line when used as a noun, e.g. he works on the front line. Front line is now a commonly recognized noun. Therefore, no hyphen is needed when the term is used as a modifier when the meaning is clear and unambiguous without the hyphen.

Health care/healthcare: Health care is preferred.

Home page/homepage: Home page is preferred.

Hyphens: A hyphen should be used with compound modifiers appearing before the word they modify. However, hyphens can be omitted with compound modifiers that include very and -ly adverbs:

This is a scaled-down version, but the version I saw was scaled down.
This is a newly formed committee.

Lead/led: Use lead in the present and future tenses. Use led for past tense.

She will lead us to new heights.
She led us to the promised land.

Life-long/lifelong: Lifelong is preferred.

Linking in digital content: Links are an important component of the online experience and should be used appropriately to optimize the user’s convenience without distracting. Some rules to follow:

  • Do not add bold styling to a hyperlink.

  • Be careful not to include stray spaces in the link text. 

  • Link the first instance of an item, but not all subsequent mentions. (If DataDerm is mentioned 12 times on a page, a link to the program’s webpage should be included with the first mention and then omitted unless part of a call to action.)

  • External links should always go to a separate window.

  • Links should only be included when they are useful to the reader. An article that mentions CMS need not include a link to www.cms.gov. An article that discusses a particular CMS online tool should include a link to that tool.

Login/log in and logon/log on: A single word for both when used as a noun, two words when used in verb form.

Supply your login for the site.
I will log on to my system.

Money: When writing about U.S. currency, use the dollar sign before the amount. Include a decimal and number of cents if more than 0.


Numbers: Spell out a number when it begins a sentence. Also spell out numbers that are below 10, unless they refer to the age of a person or animal, or refer to a percentage. In any sentence that already contains a numeral, use the numeral in place of the word. In all other cases, use the numeral. This includes ordinals, too.

Ten new employees started on Monday, and 12 start next week.
We hired 12 new employees last week, and 9 more start next week.
There are 8, 9, or even 10 good possibilities.
I ate three donuts at the monthly birthday party.
Timmy is 3 years old. His 6-year-old parakeet is twice his age.
Meg won 17th place in last year’s Halloween contest.
I ate 5% of the donuts in the box.

Numbers with more than 3 digits get commas:


Write out big numbers in full. Abbreviate them if there are space restraints, as in a chart: 1k, 150k.

In headlines and headers, numerals are acceptable in all cases:

Top 10 tips for healthy skin
8 ways to manage psoriasis MIPS

OK vs. Okay: OK is preferred.

Online/on-line: The preferred style is online.

On site/onsite/on-site: Two words. Hyphenate when used as an adjective modifying a noun. Omit hyphen when used as a prepositional phrase:

On-site registration opens at 8 a.m.
Members may register on site beginning at 8 a.m.

Payer/payor: Payer is preferred.

Percentages: When noting percentages in copy, use numerals followed by the symbol:

3.2% of dermatologists practice in …
The survey found a 4.5% increase in …

Use care in differentiating between a percentage increase and a percentage point increase; an increase from 20% to 40% represents a change of 20 percentage points as well as a 100% increase. Percentages and percentage points should always be discussed using numerals.

Periods: Periods go inside quotation marks. They go outside parentheses when the parenthetical is part of a larger sentence, and inside parentheses when the parenthetical stands alone.

Jennifer said, “I ate a donut.”
I ate a donut (and I ate a bagel, too).
I ate a donut and a bagel. (The donut was Sam’s.)

Only one space is used after a period. Double spaces are a holdover from typewriters and are no longer necessary.

Professional, organizational, social titles: Do not capitalize titles except formal titles used directly before a person’s name. A comma should be used to offset a title used after a person’s name, but omitted with titles used preceding the name:

Academy President C. William Hanke, MD, MPH
C. William Hanke, MD, MPH, president, American Academy of Dermatology

Social titles designating academic degrees should be used in second reference to an individual. Use full name followed by degree abbreviation in first reference. Omit social titles that do not designate academic degrees (Mr., Ms., Mrs., etc.):

John Smith, MD
Dr. Smith

Do not use commas to offset Jr., Sr., or roman numerals following an individual’s name. Do not include with surname only:

John Smith Jr., MD
Dr. Smith
Steven White III, MD
Dr. White

Pronouns: If your subject’s gender is unknown or irrelevant, use “they,” “them,” and “their” as a singular pronoun. Use “he/him/his” and “she/her/her” pronouns as appropriate. Don’t use “one” as a pronoun.

When the patient disagreed with their bill, they complained to the receptionist.

Question marks: Question marks go inside quotation marks if they’re part of the quote. Like periods, they go outside parentheses when the parenthetical is part of a larger sentence, and inside parentheses when the parenthetical stands alone.

Quotation marks: Use quotes to refer to words and letters, titles of short works (such as articles), and direct quotations.

Periods and commas go within quotation marks. Question marks within quotes follow logic — if the question mark is part of the quotation, it goes within. If you’re asking a question that ends with a quote, it goes outside the quote.

Use single quotation marks for quotes within quotes.
Who was it that said, “A fool and his donut are easily parted”?
Jennifer said, “A wise man once told me, ‘A fool and his donut are easily parted.’”

Quotes: When quoting someone, use the appropriate tense.

In marketing copy: “Using the Practice Management Center has helped me master coding,” says Jamie Smith, MD, FAAD.

In an article: “I used the Practice Management Center to master coding,” said Janie Smith, MD.

In a dated news release: “Many people with vitiligo do not have any other signs or symptoms and feel completely healthy,” says board-certified dermatologist Anisha Patel, MD, FAAD.

Race: Black and white. The Academy will follow the AP Style guidelines by capitalizing Black. Use the term as an adjective in a racial, ethnic, or cultural sense.

African American is also acceptable for those in the U.S. African American should not be hyphenated, per AP. The terms African American and Black are not necessarily interchangeable.

The Academy will follow the AP Style guidelines by lowercasing white.

Ranges and spans: Use a hyphen (-) to indicate a range or span of numbers.

It takes 20-30 days.

References and citations: Follow the AMA Manual of Style. A copy of the manual is available in Integrated Communications. A quick guide is available online.

Scientific names: Should be italicized. The genus name should be capitalized when it appears with the species name, e.g., Propionibacterium acnes.

Skin care vs. skincare: Skin care is preferred.

Semicolons: Go easy on semicolons. They usually support long, complicated sentences that could be simplified. Try an em dash (—) instead, or simply start a new sentence.

Spellings (preferred): Use the following spellings (which are listed under separate entries throughout this style guide):

email, ecard, enewsletter
health care
home page
skin care
website, webcast, webcam, webpage

SPOT me: The AAD has registered the term “SPOT me®” to refer to its skin cancer screening programs. It has NOT registered the term SPOTME as a single word without a space, in any configuration of capital and lowercase letters. The term SPOTME should not be used in AAD materials.

States, cities, and countries: Per AP Style, all U.S. cities should be accompanied by their state, with the exception of: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Honolulu, Houston, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New Orleans, New York, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington.

State names should be spelled out except in lists.

On first mention, write out United States. On subsequent mentions, U.S. (with periods, per AP style and to avoid confusion with an all-caps version of the word “us”) is fine. Any other country or federation with a common abbreviation (European Union, EU; United Kingdom, UK) may be abbreviated without periods on second and subsequent references.

Summer meeting: The preferred style for the Academy’s summer scientific meeting before 2020 was “AAD Summer Meeting” preceded by the date:

Dr. Smith will be speaking at the 2018 AAD Summer Meeting.
Starting in 2020, refer to the AAD Innovation Academy instead.
Dr. Smith will be speaking at the AAD Innovation Academy in Seattle on Aug. 13, 2020.

Teledermatology vs. telemedicine vs. telehealth: All three terms are acceptable. The use of one term over the others depends on audience and context.

Teledermatology is utilized when referring to dermatologists using electronic platforms to provide care (primarily for aad.org information, internal publications).

Telemedicine is the preferred term when referring to the electronic provision of care with, and/or from, external, non-dermatologist audiences (legislation/legislators, regulatory policies/officials, and public-facing content).

Telehealth can be used when it’s being utilized in a formal external manner (i.e., quotation, government online resource center, insurance code, legislation bill name, etc.)

Telephone numbers: Use dashes without spaces between numbers. Use a country code if your reader is in another country.


Temperature: Use the degree symbol and the capital F abbreviation for Fahrenheit.


Thru/through: Always use through unless spelling simplification is preferred for marketing copy only.

Time: Use numerals and a.m. or p.m., with a space in between. Don’t use minutes for on-the-hour time. Noon and midnight are acceptable in place of 12 a.m. and 12 p.m., which can cause confusion.

7 a.m. 
7:30 p.m.

Use a hyphen between times to indicate a time period. 

7 a.m.-10:30 p.m.

Specify time zones when writing about an event or something else people would need to schedule. Abbreviate time zones within the continental United States as follows:

Eastern time: ET
Central time: CT
Mountain time: MT
Pacific time: PT

When referring to international time zones, spell them out: Nepal Standard Time, Australian Eastern Time.

Titles: For titles of complete works such as books, periodical publications, public relations campaigns, meetings, pamphlets, etc., capitalize the principal words and other words more than four letters long. Italicize the title, but omit quotation marks:

The Atopic Dermatitis pamphlet is online.
LeAnn Rimes is the spokesperson for the Stop Hiding, Start Living campaign.
Dermatology World is published on a monthly basis.

For titles of parts of works, such as sessions at meetings, book chapter titles, articles, speeches, lectures, etc., capitalize principal words, present in quotations marks, and do not italicize.

Her lecture, “Forty Years of Fun with Contact Dermatitis,” brought hearty applause.
The headline of the article was “Top 10 Skin Care Myths.”

For column names, such as Cracking the Code, capitalize principal words, do not present in quotations marks, and do not italicize.

Learn more about modifier 59 in Dermatology World’s Cracking the Code column.

For campaigns, where the trademarked design elements are lowercase, capitalize the proper nouns when referred to within text/copy for readability (i.e., skinserious® in design; SkinSerious in text/copy).

Trademark symbols: The registered trademark symbol ® should be used for any registered trademark, but only on the first use, e.g. CPT® codes. The unregistered trademark symbol should be used for any unregistered trademark, but only on the first use, e.g. the JAMA Network. To properly style the symbol in online copy, write it as:

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illustration of superscript html tags

Toward/towards: Use toward.

Web site/website: Website, one word with a lowercase w is correct. Also webcast, webcam, webpage. Capitalize the names of websites and web publications. Don’t italicize.

Avoid spelling out URLs, but when you need to, leave off the http://www.

If spelling out URLs, avoid capitalizing words within the URL unless utilized as part of a campaign/strategic initiative (i.e., SPOTSkinCancer.org, SkinSerious.org).