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Follow PHSA Style

It is critical that our content is error free and presented in a professional format. Our content must also be user-friendly when serving such a large audience with diverse needs.

In order to keep the style and tone consistent across our websites, please follow the PHSA style guide. 

General style

The PHSA style guide is available on POD. The guide includes general writing guidelines as well as specific style information on: 

  • abbreviations & acronyms 
  • capitalization 
  • common mistakes
  • lists 
  • numbers 
  • guidelines for referring to PHSA and its programs
  • punctuation 
  • spelling, including health-care spellings, spellings and capitalization for words about technology and web, and trick spellings
  • style & usage 
Ideally, PHSA style should be followed as much as possible. 

Sometimes, however, a program will need to develop its own style around a particular item. In this case, as long as the style makes sense it should be followed. The style should be documented so that others can follow it consistently throughout the program.

It is better to be consistent within a program than to sometimes follow PHSA and sometimes depart from it for a single item. 

Web style

It is much harder to read on a screen than in print. When writing for our websites:

  • keep your audience needs in mind
  • write tight (keep words to the minimum needed to accurately convey the message, no filler)
  • maintain a friendly, yet professional tone
  • break the text up visually for easy consumption. 
Common mistakes

Mistakes get in the way of your message. Here are some of the mistakes we've commonly seen.

Don't use specialized acronyms. It's okay to use well-known acronyms such as HIV/AIDS, but RT will mean little to the average reader. Don't use agency acronyms on our public site.

Poor: BCCA
Good: BC Cancer 

Poor: RT
Good: radiation therapy

Poor: BCCH
Good: BC Children's or BC Children's Hospital

Poor: VC
Good: Vancouver Centre


Don't use all capital letters:

  • Good: Youth Health Referral Form

Don't use capitals for job roles in body text:

  • Poor: You will have a chance to talk to the Surgical Oncologist, Tom Smith.
  • Good: You will have a chance to talk to the surgical oncologist, Tom Smith.

Don't use capitals for important words that are not proper nouns:

  • Poor: The support team includes Nutritionists, Social Workers and Therapists.
  • Good: The support team includes nutritionists, social workers and therapists.

Don't use title case in accordions & tabs:

  • Poor: General Style / Web Style / Common Mistakes
  • Good General style / Web style / Common mistakes


Always refer to the same thing the same way to avoid confusion. For example, don't call it the Patient-Reported Information & Symptom Management (PRISM) Questionaire on one page, and the Health Assessment Form on another.

Inconsistent entries

Fraser Valley Centre

13750 96th Avenue,

Surrey, BC, V3V 1Z2

Tel: 604-930-2098

BC Cancer's Research Centre

675 West Tenth Ave

Vancouver, BC

V5Z 1L3


Phone: (604) 675-8000

Consistent entries

Fraser Valley Centre

13750 96th Avenue

Surrey, BC V3V 1Z2

Phone: 604-930-2098

BC Cancer Research Centre

675 West 10th Avenue

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1L3

Phone: 604-675-8000


Always do a final check to catch clumsy or embarassing spelling, punctuation and grammar errors. Can you spot the errors in these sentences? (Reading aloud helps.)

The team is based at the Vancouver Centre loction of BC Crancer. [2 errors]

According to Adaire, 60 to 80% of youth with substance use disorders also have an emotional or behavioral disorders.

The program, in partnership with the familiy doctor and the hospital to pilot a program that screens high-risk newborns for infection. [2 errors]

Common procedures include:
  • fetal diagnosis and treatment
  • talk to your doctor or midwife about your need for any of these services
  • pre-pregnancy counselling
Your feedback will help us continue to providing excellent patient care.

Staff act as an advocate to help families make an an informed decision and then carries out the family's wishes. [2 errors]

(this can be done later by drawing and testing a blood sample from the mother.) 

Some of the issues are are routine and some are more complicated It is good practice to ask patients ahead of time if they think they'll need help with the more complicated routines. [2 errors)

The plan outlines BCs' existing system and sets out provincial objectives and strategies to make system work better. [2 errors]


Its and it's are two different words with entirely different meanings. Can you use them both correctly? Hint: It's is a contraction; if a sentence still makes sense when you replace it's with it is, you've used it's correctly.


Don’t put two spaces after a period. This custom is a holdover from the days of typewriters, when it was necessary to add a second space to separate sentences more clearly. Modern typography does not require two spaces.


Use an ampersand (&) instead of “and” in page titles, tab headings, subheadings, accordion panel titles and the headings in web parts. Please do not use an ampersand in body text (spell out “and”).


If you want to set off content in the middle of a sentence – often called a parenthetical phrase – use an en dash with a space on either side of it, not a hyphen. Hyphens are generally to be used only in hyphenated words and telephone numbers.

To get an en dash, hold down the ALT key and key in 0150.


Don't use mathematical symbols in content; spell out words. You can use an ampersand in page titles and headings, but not in body text.

For example, the mathmatical symbols for greater than (≥) or less than (≤) are not clear to many people.  

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SOURCE: Follow PHSA Style ( )
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