Style Guide

Our house style is not static but is a living thing, as is our language; it undergoes continual refinement and updating.

Please talk to us about anything you think needs to be included or amended.


Numbers and measurements

No full points are needed after measurements and weights

Make sure there is a space between number and measurement: 25 kg, 6 cm

Use number digits when referring to measurements and length of time: i.e. 2 weeks / 1.2 mm

When referring to patients use spelled out numbers up to 9: i.e. one patient / 12 cases

Numbers occurring at the beginning of a sentence should always be spelt out

Where possible please present number of patients in study as x/y (%)

Referred to as p-value but as a formula P =

Make sure search strategy dates are not 10/03/2009 but 10 March 2009

Dosage of drugs: prefer / [slash] rather than per; e.g. 3 mg/day, not 3 mg per day

Less than/more than: prefer write in full, do not use < or > in text. Except in tables, for example the study summaries you may use symbols

Fractions: These are spelled out in words and hyphenated: three-quarters, two-thirds.



Hyphens are utilitarian, therefore usage may alter according to context and whatever seems best for clarity. There is a difference between ‘the deep-blue sea’ and ‘the deep blue sea’; and between ‘four year- old children’ and ‘four-year-old children’. Avoid over- use of hyphens. VE house style is generally to close up words where this makes sense, rather than hyphenating. Except in the following instance; follow-up, not follow up

Nouns do not need hyphenation: decision making, problem solving, health care, the local authority (although they may need a hyphen to avoid ambiguity when used in an adjectival phrase, e.g. the decision- making process).

Prefixes: generally closed up, as follows:

co…, e.g. cooperate, coordinate

intra…, e.g. intrauterine, intrapartum

multi…, e.g. multidisciplinary, multinational

post…, e.g. postsurgery, postoperative (but post-treatment, to avoid two t’s together)

pre…, e.g. preoperative, prelabour, preovulatory

peri…, e.g. perinatal, perimenopausal

There are some exceptions where two vowels or consonants come together, e.g. multi-organ, interrelationship, etc.


En dash

An en dash (en rule) is longer than a hyphen. Use an en dash to give a range; e.g. 12–15 years old (in Microsoft Word, hold down Control and press the minus key on the numeric keypad).

Elide dates 1994–97 and ‘from’ and ‘to’ not from 1976–2004

Use an en dash to indicate a minus number; e.g. –23.

Where two words are linked to indicate some form of inter-relationship, use an en-dash rather than a hyphen; e.g. Beckwith–Weidemann syndrome, Denys–Drash syndrome, Breslow–Day test, cost–benefit analysis, blood–brain barrier, dose–response. This is often found where surnames of two people (discoverers/inventors) are used as the name of something. En dashes can be used if you need to avoid using brackets (see above). Avoid using an en dash in a sentence where a colon will work just as well. Do not use an en dash where the word ‘and’ should be used, such as to follow ‘between’; e.g. the drug should be administered between 12 and 24 hours apart.


Confidence intervals

Separate the elements in a confidence interval with an en dash, unless there is a negative number involved, when the word ‘to’ should replace the en dash to avoid confusion; e.g. 95% CI 1.2–3.6 but 95% CI –1.2 to 1.0.



Always spell the words out in full first. Include the abbreviation in brackets after the first instance of use.

There are a very few universally acknowledged abbreviations that do not need to be spelled out in full first:

Plurals of capital abbreviations take a lower-case s and need no apostrophe: MPs, HAs.

Versus: prefer in full, not vs. / vs (unless to save space in a table) and roman not italic type.

& (ampersand): should not be used in text except where part of a proper name; e.g. The Obstetrician & Gynaecologist journal.

et al.




Use bulleted rather than numbered lists, unless there is a specific reason for needing numbers. Introduce a list with a colon.

Two styles are used:






anaesthesia, not anesthesia

caesarean, not cesarean or Caesarean

estrogen/estradiol (now official British and International Approved Names)

leucocyte, not leukocyte

fetal, not foetal (which is actually incorrect etymologically)

focused/focusing, not focussed/focussing

judgement, not judgment

regimen, not regime (for drug or treatment)

specialty, not speciality (in medical contexts)

Use -ise, not-ize: organise, organisation, realise, advise, advertise, sympathise, legalise, etc. However, the World Health Organization keeps the z, as this is its proper name

All names should be spelled correctly and not ‘translated’ into English; e.g. American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, not American College Obstetrics of Gynaecology.

Drugs should be described by their generic name rather than their brand name wherever possible (e.g. ibuprofen NOT Nurofen)

Use UK generic names where possible, e.g. oxytocin



Do not use italics for Latin words in common medical usage (et al., in vitro, in vivo, in utero, in situ, etc.) However, please use italics for latin such as bacterium; Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis (if mentioned again in text can be abbreviated to C. pseudotuberculosis)

Avoid capital letters in the text wherever possible. Most headings should have an initial capital only. Named organisations or authorities take capitals but general references do not

Capitalise Knowledge Summary

Breed names should be capitalised – Poodle; German Shepherd



Use a single space after a full point. Many typists have been trained to use two spaces after the end of a sentence. This was fine in the days of typewriters. However, when using MS Word, the program automatically spaces the sentence once you have used a full point. If you use two spaces, this unbalances the program’s spacing and causes problems when the text is flowed into our typesetting program.



Summary of evidence sections should be listed alphabetically

Use single quotes throughout.



Always use the author-date system, otherwise known as Harvard system of referencing. This relies on brief parathetical references in the text to take the reader to the appropriate point in the reference list. The reference list only contains those reference mentioned in the text. Works of related interest should be listed in a bibliography or supplementary material section.

The reference in the text should consist of just the authors surname and date of publication. Unless, if the work is by authors of the same surname then their initials may be used to distinguish between them.

                (Smith, 2021)

                (Smith & Jones, 2021)

                (Smith et al., 2021) – do not italicise et al. for multiple authors (more than two)

If the authors name appears in open text, it need not be repeated in parentheses, the date alone will suffice – According to Smith et al. (2021) dogs in…

Several references may be included within the same parentheses separated by a semi colon – (Smith et al., 2021; Jones & Morris, 1988; and Baker, 1984)

If there is more than one work by an author in a single year they are distinguished by lower-case letters appended to the year – (Smith, 2021a), (Smith, 2021b)

Reference to a work produced by a corporate body may use the name of the body, followed by the publication date. Abbreviate the corporate body name if very long

Reference to an anonymous work may use anon. followed by the publication date


In the reference list full references are listed alphabetically. Authors initials should follow their surnames. Publication date should follow the authors names. Journal titles should be in full and italicised. Please provide a DOI number where possible.



Last name, First initial. (Year published). Article title. Journal. Volume(Issue), Page(s). DOI identifier:

Examples –

Poole, A. (2021). ‘Don’t pee on that!’ Comparing environmental modification and medical management in cats with FIC. Veterinary Evidence. 6(1), 1–20. DOI:

Thomas, J., Marshall, S., Gormley, K., Conway, G. & Borgeat, K. (2021). Does medical or surgical treatment for aortic stenosis improve outcome in dogs? Veterinary Evidence. 6(2), 1–13. DOI:


Chapter in edited books:

Last name, First initial. (Year published). Chapter title. In: First initial. Last name, ed., Book title, 1st ed. City: Publisher, Page(s).


Print journal articles:

Last name, First initial. (Year published). Article title. Journal. Volume(Issue), Page(s).



Last name, First initial. (Year published). Article Title. Journal, [online] Volume(Issue), Page(s). Available at: URL [Accessed Day Mo. Year].