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A to Z of terms

The A to Z guide covers style, spelling and grammar conventions for all content published on HSE.ie.

ageing

not aging

AIDS

not acquired immune deficiency syndrome

alcohol misuse

not alcohol abuse

Alzheimer’s disease

not alzheimers disease

and/or

avoid using and/or. Instead, use ‘or’. For example: ask the nurse or midwife to explain what everything is for.

bacteria

plural; a bacterium is one of them but use ‘bacteria’ generally. If you give the full Latin name, cap the first word (Staphylococcus aureus); but the shortened staphylococcus is lower case. Don’t use italics.

brackets

information in brackets should only be used for definitions, abbreviations, PDF document details and common explanations.

An example used for a common explanation is: Hyperarousal (feeling 'on edge').

breastfeeding

One word, no hyphen

breast milk

2 words

bottle-feeding

hyphenated

bottom

not back passage, anus, rectum, bum or bottom

caesarean

lower case and ends ‘ean’

carer

An unpaid family member, partner or friend who helps a disabled, ill or older person with the activities of daily living. Do not use it to describe someone who works in a caring job or profession – for that use careworker or their professional title, for example, nurse.

commas

Use a comma before 'and' (Oxford comma) only in cases where sentences are complex or confusing.

 For example, find out information about your holiday entitlement or sickness absence, calculating leave, and disputes.

conditions

lower case except where they start with a name.

For example, cancer of the colon, multiple sclerosis, but Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease.

When stating the name of a condition or treatment, lead with plain English description and follow up with terms a health professional might use.

For example, 'this is a screening test. It is also known as a smear test.'

connected to

use 'connected to' for a machine and use common sense for other examples, e.g. 'attached' or 'inserted' depending on context. Never use 'hooked-up'.

counsellor 

not counselor

CT scan

CT scan (computerised tomography scan), then use ‘CT scan’ for subsequent mentions. Also known as CAT scan (computerised axial tomography) – we use CT scan.

dependent or dependant

Dependent is an adjective describing something that depends on something; dependant is a noun meaning a person who depends on another for support (your dependants are dependent on you).

diabetes

lowercase. For example, type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes.

diagnostic

As an adjective; serving to identify a particular disease. As a noun; the practice of medical diagnosis or a technique used in diagnosis

dietitian

not dietician

doctor

Use GP, not doctor, for general practitioner. Keep doctor for hospital doctors or consultants, or use their job title with an explanation if necessary, for example ‘a child health doctor (paediatrician)’.

drugs

See medicines. When you talk about drugs, ensure the context makes clear whether you mean legal or illegal ones.

drug misuse

not drug abuse

drug users

The preferred term is people who use drugs

emergency department 

not A&E. Use emergency department (ED). It can be referred to as the ED if the full term is already mentioned on the same page.

equivalent

use ‘same as’

fractions

one third, not 1/3

freephone

not free phone

health professionals, healthcare professionals

People who work in identifying, preventing or treating illness or disability. Avoid where possible and instead use a term that describes what the people do – GPs, nurses.

the HSE

Refer to the Health Service Executive as ‘the HSE’ (for example, ‘You can apply for a job at the HSE’)

HSE.ie

This is the name of the HSE website (for example, ‘Find out how to get a medical card on HSE.ie’)

HSELive

not HSE Live

 

medicines

Generally, use the generic (scientific name) first followed by the brand name with an initial cap and in brackets, for example: atorvastatin (Lipitor).

Some medicines are better-known by their brand names than their generic names. In that case, use the generic name in brackets – for example, Viagra (sildenafil). Once medicines have lost their patent protection, there may be rival branded generics that have a brand name and ordinary generics that use just the generic name. Some might have several brand names. For example, the asthma drug salbutamol has Airomir, Asmasal and Ventolin brand names as well as the generic name. In cases such as this give the best-known brand name (tested using keyword research), but indicate there are several – salbutamol (brand names include Ventolin).

Some medicines have no brand names in use – examples include warfarin and hydrocortisone.

menopause

Use 'the menopause' except for page titles.

methadone

lower case

Life-threatening

not life threatening

Over-the-counter medicines

use hyphens

overtreatment

not over-treatment

papillomavirus

not papilloma virus

penis

not genitals

people who use the HSE (see patients, service users)

There is no single term for people who use the HSE. What you call them depends on which part of the HSE they are using. Normally on HSE.ie you address people directly, as ‘you’. If you ever need to refer to people indirectly, be as specific as possible: employees, HSE.ie users, older people applying for medical cards.

per cent

% in titles and copy

When using a percentage range, use the % symbol twice. For example, 20% to 30%.

poo

not stool sample, faeces or poop 

 

service user

lower case

spina bifida

lower case, spina bifida. See also hydrocephalus

substance misuse

not substance abuse

suicide

died by suicide, not committed suicide

symphysiotomy

lower case

 

talk 

use 'talk to your GP', not 'speak to your GP' or 'visit your GP'

Traveller

upper case

treating

‘for treating’ not ‘in treating’

For example, antiviral medicines are used for treating Cytomegalovirus (CMV)

urinate

urinate or urinating, not weeing, wee, going for a pee, going to the toilet

For example, side effects include agitation, excessive sleepiness, constipation and difficulty urinating

vagina

vagina not genitals

whether or if

prioritise using ‘if’ unless using ‘whether or not’ (conditional).

Examples:

 Use if here:

 The GP didn't know whether the patient would arrive on Friday.

 The GP didn't know if the patient would arrive on Friday.

 

Use whether here:

 Call the GP if you are going to arrive on Friday.

 Call the GP whether or not you are going to arrive on Friday.

x-ray

Don’t capitalise unless referring to a specific department