Brand Voice

Sanford Health’s voice is trustworthy, approachable and straightforward. Our voice connects our purpose to the needs of our audience. It is a direct reflection of our core values. Our voice is confident but not superior, professional but not inflated, welcoming to all. We want to educate our communities and draw readers in by forming a connection and deeper understanding of who we are.

Sanford Health Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Style Guide


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Please reference this guide often. Terms change and evolve and are continuously updated to be current and relevant.

To ensure inclusivity, we at Sanford Health are careful and thoughtful when choosing language and terms in our written and spoken communications to project a sense of sincerity, comfort and trust. The Sanford Health Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Style Guide is a tool to ensure we are choosing the most current term and phrase preferences.

American Indian, indigenous American, Native American – terminology specific to regions served by Sanford Health

Sanford Health adheres to the Associated Press Stylebook with some exceptions. However, since it is a national reference guide that doesn’t represent the specific regions that Sanford Health serves, locally-focused guidelines are not listed.

Be sure to inquire about your subjects’ regional and personal preferences to describe themselves and their tribal communities. The term Native American refers to hundreds of tribes and nations that were present before the arrival of Europeans, each with its own identity, history, culture and language. Always attempt to obtain more precise terminology.

For national information, see American Indians, Native Americans

race-related coverage

Based on the Associated Press Stylebook

Reporting and writing about issues involving race calls for thoughtful consideration, precise language, and discussions with others of diverse backgrounds whenever possible about how to frame coverage or what language is most appropriate, accurate and fair.

Avoid broad generalizations and labels; race and ethnicity are one part of a person’s identity. Identifying people by race and reporting on actions that have to do with race often go beyond simple style questions, challenging journalists to think broadly about racial issues before having to make decisions on specific situations and stories.

In all coverage — not just race-related coverage — strive to accurately represent the world, or a particular community, and its diversity through the people you quote and depict in all formats. Omissions and lack of inclusion can render people invisible.

Be aware that some words and phrases that seem innocuous to one group can carry negative connotations, even be seen as slurs, to another. As with all news coverage, be sensitive to your varied audiences and their different perceptions of language and the larger world.

For instance, many people see thug as code for a racial slur; Black boy has a loaded history and should be avoided in referring to Black males of any age; unarmed Black man could be seen as assuming the default is for Black men to be armed.

Do not write in a way that assumes white is default. Not: The officer is accused of choking Owens, who is Black. Instead: The white officer is accused of choking Owens, who is Black.

Some guidelines:


Consider carefully when deciding whether to identify people by race. Often, it is an irrelevant factor and drawing unnecessary attention to someone’s race or ethnicity can be interpreted as bigotry. There are, however, occasions when race is pertinent:

In stories that involve significant, groundbreaking or historic events, such as being elected U.S. president, being named to the U.S. Supreme Court or other notable occurrences. Barack Obama was the first Black U.S. president. Sonia Sotomayor is the first Hispanic justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Jeremy Lin is the first American-born NBA player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent.

In cases where suspects or missing persons are being sought, and the descriptions provided are detailed and not solely racial. Any racial reference should be removed when the individual is apprehended or found.

When reporting a demonstration, disturbance or other conflict involving race (including verbal conflicts), or issues like civil rights.

In other situations when race is an issue, use news judgment. Include racial or ethnic details only when they are clearly relevant and that relevance is explicit in the story.

Do not use a derogatory term except in rare circumstances — when it is crucial to the story or the understanding of a news event. Flag the contents in an editor’s note.

See obscenities, profanities, vulgarities.

racist, racism 

Racism is a doctrine asserting racial differences in character, intelligence, etc., and the superiority of one race over another, or racial discrimination or feelings of hatred or bigotry toward people of another race.

Deciding whether a specific statement, action, policy, etc., should be termed racist, or characterized in a different way, often is not clear-cut. Such decisions should include discussion with colleagues and/or others from diverse backgrounds and perspectives. At the AP, that conversation should also include senior managers.

Begin by assessing the facts: Does the statement or action meet the definition of racism? That assessment need not involve examining the motivation of the person who spoke or acted, which is a separate issue that may not be related to how the statement or action itself can be characterized.

In general, avoid using racist or any other label as a noun for a person; it’s far harder to match the complexity of a person to a definition or label than it is a statement or action. Instead, be specific in describing the person’s words or actions. Again, discuss with senior managers, colleagues and others from diverse backgrounds when the description may be appropriate for a person.

Cases in which the term racist might be used include identifying as racist support for avowed racist organizations, statements calling another race or ethnic group inferior, or employing negative stereotypes for different racial or ethnic groups. The video shows the candidate wearing blackface and making racist statements including, “You’re not white so you can’t be right.”

If racist is not the appropriate term, give careful thought to how best to describe the situation. Depending on the specifics of what was said or done, alternatives may include xenophobic, bigoted, biased, nativist, racially divisive, or in some cases, simply racial.

Avoid racially charged, racially motivated or racially tinged, euphemisms which convey little meaning.

Always provide specifics to describe the words or actions in question; using a broad and descriptive term such as racist requires supporting details and context. In doing so, avoid repeating derogatory terms except in the rare circumstances when it is crucial to the story or the understanding of a news event.

Provide context and historical perspective when appropriate to help convey the impact or implications of the words or actions. For example, a story about a candidate wearing blackface should include context about performers in the 1800s who darkened their faces to create bigoted caricatures of Black people. A story about comments that certain members of Congress should “go back” to their “broken and crime-infested” countries should include the context that “go back to where you came from” is a racist insult aimed for decades at immigrants and African Americans in the United States. See racially charged, racially motivated, racially tinged, and other entries in race-related coverage.

racially charged, racially motivated, racially tinged 

Avoid using these vague phrases to describe situations in which race is or is alleged or perceived to be a central issue, but that do not meet the definition of racist or racism. As alternatives, terms including xenophobic, bigoted, biased, nativist or racially divisive may be clearer, depending on the context. In some cases, the term racial is appropriate: racial arguments, racial tensions, racial injustice. Always give specifics about what was done, said or alleged.

Do not use euphemisms for racist or racism when the latter terms are truly applicable. Mississippi has a history of racist lynchings, not a history of racially motivated lynchings. He is charged in the racist massacre of nine people at a Black church, not the racially motivated massacre of nine people at a Black church. See racist, racism, and other entries in race-related coverage.


Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. The acronym is widely used by people within these communities but is not as well known outside of them. Spell out the full term; use AAPI only in direct quotations and explain the term.


The term for the people and culture of Afghanistan. Afghani is the Afghan unit of currency.

anti-Asian sentiment 

Avoid this euphemism, which conveys little meaning. Alternatives may include anti-Asian bias, anti-Asian harassment, anti-Asian comments, anti-Asian racism or anti-Asian violence, depending on the situation. Be specific and give details about what happened or what someone says happened.

Asian American 

No hyphen (a change in 2019 for this and other dual heritage terms). Acceptable for an American of Asian descent. When possible, refer to a person’s country of origin or follow the person’s preference. For example: Filipino American or Indian American. Do not describe Pacific Islanders as Asian AmericansAsians or of Asian descent. Avoid using Asian as shorthand for Asian American when possible.

Orient, Oriental

Do not use when referring to East Asian nations and their peoples. Asian is the acceptable term for an inhabitant of those regions.

Pacific Islander 

Used to describe the Indigenous people of the Pacific Islands, including but not limited to Hawaii, Guam and Samoa. Should be used for people who are ethnically Pacific Islander, not for those who happen to live in Pacific Islands. Be specific about which communities you are referring to whenever possible. Do not use Asian Pacific Islander unless referring to Pacific Islanders of Asian descent. Do not describe Pacific Islanders as Asian AmericansAsians or of Asian descent.

Stop AAPI Hate 

A movement that was launched in March 2020 in response to a rise in anti-Asian bias and racism stemming from the coronavirus pandemic that originated in China. The Asian Pacific Planning and Policy Council, Chinese for Affirmative Action and the Asian American Studies Department of San Francisco State University created a reporting center under the name Stop AAPI Hate to track and respond to cases of hate, violence, harassment and discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States. Some prefer to use the hashtag #StopAsianHate.

Black(s), white(s) (n.) 

Do not use either term as a singular noun. For plurals, phrasing such as Black people, white people, Black teachers, white students is often preferable when clearly relevant. White officers account for 64% of the police force, Black officers 21% and Latino officers 15%. The gunman targeted Black churchgoers. The plural nouns Blacks and whites are generally acceptable when clearly relevant and needed for reasons of space or sentence construction. He helped integrate dance halls among Blacks, whites, Latinos and Asian Americans. Black and white are acceptable as adjectives when relevant.

Black (adj.) 

Use the capitalized term as an adjective in a racial, ethnic or cultural sense: Black people, Black culture, Black literature, Black studies, Black colleges.

African American is also acceptable for those in the U.S. The terms are not necessarily interchangeable. Americans of Caribbean heritage, for example, generally refer to themselves as Caribbean American. Follow an individual’s preference if known, and be specific when possible and relevant. Minneapolis has a large Somali American population because of refugee resettlement. The author is Senegalese American.

Use of the capitalized Black recognizes that language has evolved, along with the common understanding that especially in the United States, the term reflects a shared identity and culture rather than a skin color alone.

Also use Black in racial, ethnic and cultural differences outside the U.S. to avoid equating a person with a skin color.

Use Negro or colored only in names of organizations or in rare quotations when essential.

See obscenities, profanities, vulgarities.

boy, girl 

Generally acceptable to describe males or females younger than 18. While it is always inaccurate to call people under 18 men or women and people 18 and older boys or girls, be aware of nuances and unintentional implications. Referring to Black males of any age and in any context as boys, for instance, can be perceived as demeaning and call to mind historical language used by some to address Black men. Be specific about ages if possible, or refer to Black youths, child, teen or similar.

dual heritage 

No hyphen (a change in 2019 from previous style) for terms such as African American, Asian American and Filipino American, used when relevant to refer to an American person’s heritage. The terms are less common when used to describe non-Americans, but may be used when relevant: Turkish German for a German of Turkish descent.

African American 

No hyphen (a change in 2019 for this and other dual heritage terms). Acceptable for an American Black person of African descent. The terms are not necessarily interchangeable. Americans of Caribbean heritage, for example, generally refer to themselves as Caribbean American. Follow a person’s preference.

brown (adj.) 

Avoid this broad and imprecise term in racial, ethnic or cultural references unless as part of a direct quotation. Interpretations of what the term includes vary widely.

COMPOUND PROPER NOUNS AND ADJECTIVES: No hyphen in designating dual heritage: Italian American, Mexican American (a change in 2019).


Avoid as a synonym for white, unless in a quotation.

people of color, racial minority 

The terms people of color and racial minority/minorities are generally acceptable terms to describe people of races other than white in the United States. Avoid using POC. When talking about just one group, be specific: Chinese Americans or members of the Seminole Indian Tribe of Florida, for example. Be mindful that some Native Americans say the terms people of color and racial minority fall short by not encompassing their sovereign status. Avoid referring to an individual as a minority unless in a quotation.

biracial, multiracial 

Acceptable, when clearly relevant, to describe people with more than one racial heritage. Usually more useful when describing large, diverse groups of people than individuals. Avoid mixed-race, which can carry negative connotations, unless a story subject prefers the term. Be specific if possible, and then use biracial for people of two heritages or multiracial for those of two or more on subsequent references if needed. Examples: She has an African American father and a white mother instead of She is biracial. But: The study of biracial people showed a split in support along gender lines. Multiracial can encompass people of any combination of races.


The term should not be used to describe people who have adopted a different racial identity.


A term that Mexican Americans in the U.S. Southwest sometimes use to describe their heritage. Use only if it is a person’s preference.

Latino, Latina 

Latino is often the preferred noun or adjective for a person from, or whose ancestors were from, a Spanish-speaking land or culture or from Latin America. Latina is the feminine form. Some prefer the recently coined gender-neutral term Latinx, which should be confined to quotations, names of organizations or descriptions of individuals who request it and should be accompanied by a short explanation. Hernandez prefers the gender-neutral term Latinx. For groups of females, use the plural Latinas; for groups of males or of mixed gender, use the plural LatinosHispanics is also generally acceptable for those in the U.S. Use a more specific identification when possible, such as Cuban, Puerto Rican, Brazilian or Mexican American.


A person from — or whose ancestors were from — a Spanish-speaking land or culture. Latino, Latina or Latinx are sometimes preferred. Follow the person’s preference. Use a more specific identification when possible, such as Cuban, Puerto Rican or Mexican American.

American Indians, Native Americans 

Also see American Indian, Indigenous American, Native American – Terminology Specific To Regions Served By Sanford Health

Both are acceptable terms in general references for those in the U.S. when referring to two or more people of different tribal affiliations. For individuals, use the name of the tribe; if that information is not immediately available, try to obtain it. He is a Navajo commissioner. She is a member of the Nisqually Indian Tribe. He is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. Some tribes and tribal nations use member; others use citizen. If in doubt, use citizen. Avoid words such as wampum, warpath, powwow, teepee, brave, squaw, etc., which can be disparaging and offensive. In Alaska, the Indigenous groups are collectively known as Alaska Natives.

First Nation is the preferred term for native tribes in Canada.

Indian is used to describe the peoples and cultures of the South Asian nation of India. Do not use the term as a shorthand for American Indians.


Refers to a sovereign political entity, communities sharing a common ancestry, culture or language, and a social group of linked families who may be part of an ethnic group. Capitalize the word tribe when part of a formal name of sovereign political entities, or communities sharing a common ancestry, culture or language. Identify tribes by the political identity specified by the tribe, nation or community: the Apache Tribe of Oklahoma, the Cherokee Nation. The term ethnic group is preferred when referring to ethnicity or ethnic violence.

Indigenous (adj.)

Capitalize this term used to refer to original inhabitants of a place. Aboriginal leaders welcomed a new era of Indigenous relations in Australia. Bolivia’s Indigenous peoples represent some 62% of the population.


An outdated term referring to aboriginal people in Australia. It is considered offensive by some and should be avoided.

ghetto, ghettos 

Do not use indiscriminately as a synonym for the sections of cities inhabited by minorities or poor people. Ghetto has a connotation that government decree has forced people to live in a certain area.

In most cases, district or neighborhood is the more accurate word.

reverse discrimination 

A term sometimes used to describe bias or perceived bias against majority groups. Limit its use to quotes; generally just discrimination will suffice to describe such allegations or practices.


Based on the Associated Press Stylebook

The terms disabilities and disabled include a broad range of physical, psychological, developmental and intellectual conditions both visible and invisible.

Perceptions of disabilities vary widely. Language about disabilities is both wide-ranging and evolving. Disabled people are not monolithic. They use diverse terms to describe themselves. Many, for example, use the term people with disabilities. Both people with disabilities and disabled people are acceptable terms, but try to determine the preference of a person or group.

Use care and precision, considering the impact of specific words and the terms used by the people you are writing about.

When possible, ask people how they want to be described. Be mindful that the question of identity-first vs. person-first language is vital for many.

The terms disabilities and disabled are generally embraced by disabled people and are acceptable when relevant. Do not use euphemisms such as handi-capabledifferently abled or physically challenged, other than in direct quotations or in explaining how an individual describes themself. Do not use handicap for a disability or handicapped for a person.

Limit use of the term disorder other than in the names of specific conditions, as well as words such as impairment, abnormality and special.

In general, refer to a disability only if relevant to the story, and if a medical diagnosis has been made or the person uses the term. If relatives or others use the term, ask how they know, then consider carefully whether to include the information.

Avoid writing that implies ableism: the belief that abilities of people who aren’t disabled are superior. Ableism is a concept similar to racism, sexism and ageism in that it includes stereotypes, generalizations, and demeaning views and language. It is a form of discrimination or prejudice against people with disabilities.

Don’t limit coverage of disabled people to coverage of disabilities. People with disabilities are experts in as many fields as nondisabled people are. Include their voices and their images in your regular coverage of any topic.

Avoid “inspiration porn” — stories or photos meaning to portray something positive or uplifting, with the unintended implication that a disability is negative and that disabled people are objects of pity or wonder.

If a disability is pertinent to the story, provide brief details explaining that relevance. For example: Merritt, who is blind and walks with the help of a guide dog, said she is pleased with the city’s walkway improvements. Feldman said the airline kicked her family off a plane after her 3-year-old refused to wear a mask. She said the mask refusal relates to her son’s autism. But not: Zhang, who has paraplegia, is a fan of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Some people use person-first language in describing themselves: a man with Down syndrome or a woman with schizophrenia.

Others view their disability as central to their identity and use identity-first language, such as an autistic woman or deaf students. Autistic people and deaf people often — but not always — use identity-first language.

When preferences of an individual or group can’t be determined, try to use a mix of person-first and identity-first language.

Avoid using disability-related words lightly or in unrelated situations, and avoid direct quotations using such wording unless essential to the story. Some examples: calling a person or an idea demented, psychotic, lame, blind, catatonic, moronic, retarded, on the spectrum, etc.; saying the warning falls on deaf ears or he turned a blind eye or the awards show is schizophrenic. As in all writing, consider word choice carefully. Words that seem innocuous to some people can have specific and deeply personal or offensive meanings to others. Alternative phrasing is almost always possible.

Do not write in a way that implies a person’s condition or disability is related to a crime or other wrongdoing unless that link has been firmly established by experts in the specific case and is explained in the story.

Other language or constructions not to use:

  • Words that suggest pity, such as afflicted with, battling or suffers from any disability or illness, or that a person overcame her disability. Instead: has cancer, being treated for ADHD. Bear in mind that disabilities can be a combination of both challenges and assets. Generally avoid living with constructions unless a person uses that for themself.
  • Cliches such as inspiring and brave.
  • Dehumanizing mass terms such as the disabled, the blind, the mentally ill, etc. As with all writing, avoid broad generalizations, labels and stereotypes.
  • Terms such as normal or typical for someone who does not have a disability. Instead: People without a disability, nondisabled. Use care in deciding whether to use the term able-bodied, although the term has specific meaning in contexts such as some government reports and is appropriate in such references.

Negative or condescending language such as wheelchair-bound or Alzheimer’s victim. Instead use accurate, neutral language such as uses a wheelchair or a person with Alzheimer’s disease.

gender, sex and sexual orientation

Pronouns format for Sanford Health email signatures, business cards, etc.

  • (They/Them)
  • (She/ Her/ Hers)
  • (He/Him/His)
    • Capitalize, use slashes instead of commas and enclose in parentheses. Whether to list pronouns, how many and which to list is optional, but the format should be consistent.

Based on the Associated Press Stylebook

Gender refers to internal and social identity and often corresponds with but is not synonymous with sex. Experts say gender is a spectrum, not a binary structure consisting of only males and females, that can vary by society and change over time.

Sex refers to biological characteristics, such as chromosomes, hormones and reproductive anatomy, which can also vary or change in understanding over time, or be medically and legally altered.

Since not all people fall under one of two categories for sex or gender — as in the cases of nonbinary and intersex people — avoid references to both, either or opposite sexes or genders.

Relatedly, not all people use gendered pronouns such as his or hers. Such pronouns are often an example of gender expression, but they do not always align with typical or stereotypical expectations of gender and are not certain indicators of someone’s gender identity.

Language around gender is ever-evolving. Newsrooms and organizations outside the AP may need to make decisions, based on timing, necessity and audience, on terms that differ from or are not covered by the AP’s specific recommendations.

More details and key terms:

gender A social construct encompassing a person’s behaviors, intrinsic identity and appearance. Gender often corresponds with but is not synonymous with sex. A person’s sex and gender are usually assigned at birth by parents or attendants and can turn out to be inaccurate. Experts say gender is a spectrum, not a binary structure consisting of only men and women, that can vary among societies and can change over time. See gender expressiongender identitysextransgender.

gender identity A person’s sense of feeling male, female, neither or some combination of both. Often just gender will suffice: She spent a lot of time explaining her gender may work just as well as She spent a lot of time explaining her gender identity. Examples of gender identities include man or boywoman or girlnonbinarybigenderagendergender-fluidgenderqueer; and combinations of identities, such as nonbinary woman. See gendergender expressionLGBTQ+nonbinarypronounstransgender.

gender expression How people outwardly convey their gender, intentionally or not, such as through fashion choices, mannerisms or pronouns. Gender stereotypes can lead others to incorrectly perceive someone’s gender or sexual orientation. See gender identitygender-nonconformingpronouns.

gender-fluid, gender-fluidity Refers to a gender identity or expression that changes over time. Include the hyphen.

gender-nonconforming (adj.) Gender-nonconforming is acceptable in broad references to describe people whose identities or expressions do not follow gender norms. The term gender-expansive is similar but carries a connotation of flexibility and exploration of one’s gender identity. Both terms may include but are not synonymous with transgender. Avoid dated terminology such as gender-bending or tomboy.

genderqueer (adj.) An identity describing people whose gender expression does not follow norms; use only if the person or group identifies as such. Not synonymous with nonbinary.

nonbinary (adj.) Describes people who don’t identify as strictly male or female; can include agender (having no gender), gender-fluid (an identity that fluctuates) or a combination of male and female. Not synonymous with transgender, though some nonbinary people are also transgender. See gender expressiongender identitypronouns.

pronouns See the separate pronouns entry.

transgender (adj.) Describes people whose gender does not match the one usually associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. Identify people as transgender only when relevant, and use the name by which they live publicly. Unless it is central to the story, avoid mention of a person’s gender transition or gender-affirmation surgery in news coverage, which can be intrusive and insensitive.

Avoid references to a transgender person being born a boy or girl, or phrasing like birth genderSex (or genderassigned at birth is the accurate terminology. The shorthand trans is acceptable on second reference and in headlines.

A person who is assigned female at birth and transitions to align with their identity as a boy or man is a transgender boy or transgender man, and a person who is assigned male at birth and transitions to align with their identity as a girl or woman is a transgender girl or woman. Avoid the one-word compounds transman and transwoman. Instead, when relevant, say transgender man or transgender woman. In subsequent references, trans man or trans woman are acceptable.

Do not use as a noun, such as referring to someone as a transgender, or use the term transgendered. Do not use the terms transgendered or transgenderism.

Not synonymous with terms like cross-dresser or drag queen. Do not use the outdated term transsexual unless a source specifically asks to be identified as such.

Avoid derogatory terms such as tranny. Follow guidelines for obscenities, profanities, vulgarities as appropriate.

Refer to a transgender person’s previous name, also called a deadname, only in the rare instance it is relevant to the story. See biologicaldeadnaminggender-affirming caretransition, gender transition.

cisgender Describes people whose gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth; that is, not transgender. Explain if necessary. Do not use terms like normal to describe people who are not transgender. Not synonymous with heterosexual, which refers to sexual orientation. See transgender.

deadnaming The practice, widely considered insensitive, offensive or damaging, of referring to transgender people who have changed their name by the name they used before their transition. Use a person’s previous name or pre-transition image only if required to understand the news or if requested by the person.

The issue of deadnaming often arises when public figures announce a gender transition. In these and other cases, generally use the deadname only once and not in the opening paragraph, with future coverage using only the new name.

Deadnaming a transgender person, even posthumously in obituaries or other coverage, is often considered disrespectful to the deceased, their survivors and any transgender people.

In the AP, use of a transgender person’s previous name must be approved by managers.

When naming suspects or victims in stories about crimes or accidents, be cognizant that authorities or family members may be ignorant of or be disregarding the person’s wishes; when possible, take into account information given by the person or by current friends or others who may have better information about how the person lived and identified. See transgender.

transition (n., v.), gender transition The legal, medical or social processes some transgender or nonbinary people undergo to match their gender identity. Examples can include a formal or informal change to names or pronouns, makeup and hairstyles, hormone therapy, or gender-affirmation surgery. Mention or describe it only when relevant. See gender-affirming caretransgender.

gender dysphoria Use this term, not gender identity disorder, for the distress felt when someone’s gender expression does not match their gender identity. It is also a medical diagnosis often required for people to undergo gender-affirmation procedures.

gender-affirming care Refers to a swath of mental and medical treatments (such as counseling, hormones or surgery) that help bring a person’s gender expression (such as voice, appearance or anatomy) in line with their gender identity. It can be but is not necessarily part of a gender transition. Such care is not limited to transgender people; it can also serve cisgender, nonbinary or intersex people.

If surgery is involved, gender-affirming or gender-affirmation surgery. Do not use abbreviations such as GAS, GCS or SRS unless in quotations, and introduce the full term before the quote. Do not use the outdated term sex change, and avoid describing someone as pre-op or post-op.

Gender-affirming care is the phrasing used by leading medical groups, including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Other common phrasing, such as gender-confirming care and gender-confirmation or sex-reassignment surgery, are acceptable in quotations and in proper names. Phrasing like transgender health care and gender-transition surgery is acceptable when the context is confined to transgender people or a gender transition, respectively, but gender-affirming care is best in broader references or when the scope or context is unclear.

Refer to a person’s gender-affirming surgery only when relevant. See transition, gender transition, gender expression, gender identity.

transsexual Some people who have undergone gender-affirmation procedures refer to themselves as transsexual; use the term only if a person requests it. See gender-affirming care.

biological A word often best confined to medical or scientific contexts, especially in stories or passages about gender. While sex is a biological feature, terms like biological male, man, female or woman are sometimes used by opponents of transgender rights to portray sex as more simplistic than scientists assert, and to downplay the significance of gender and how it differs from sex.

hormones Avoid references to male or female hormones. All humans have varying levels of sex hormones, including testosterone and estrogen. Hormone replacement therapy may be an element of a person’s gender transition. See transition, gender transition.

cross-dresser Use this term instead of the outdated transvestite for someone who wears clothing associated with a different gender, and only when the subject identifies as such. Not synonymous with drag performer or transgender.

drag performer, drag queen, drag king Entertainers who dress and act as a different gender. Drag queens act as women; drag kings act as men. Male impersonator and female impersonator are also acceptable. Not synonymous with cross-dresser or transgender.

sex Refers to biological and physiological characteristics, including but not limited to chromosomes, hormones and reproductive organs. A person’s sex is usually assigned at birth by parents or attendants, sometimes inaccurately. Sex often corresponds with but is not synonymous with gender, which is a social construct. See genderhormonesbiological.

female, male In general, female and male are adjectives that can describe people of any age and are used only rarely as nouns, such as for a range of ages or an unknown age. The study included males ages 10-21. She is the first female governor of North Carolina.

Woman, women, man and men are usually reserved for use as a noun to describe adults, while girl, girls, boy and boys are typically used as a noun for people under age 18.

Be aware of nuances and pitfalls in the use of female and woman/women.

Since female primarily describes sex, not gender, some people object to its use as a descriptor for women because it can be seen as emphasizing biology and reproductive capacity over gender identity. It can also sometimes carry misogynistic tones that may vary in severity by race, class and other factors.

For this reason, woman or women is increasingly common as an adjective. But its use as such can often be awkward, especially if the words man or men would not be used adjectivally in a parallel sense.

For instance: He is the only man construction worker on the otherwise all-woman crew is awkward, and He is the only male construction worker on the all otherwise all-woman crew is not parallel. Options for being both sensitive and eloquent include He is the only man on the otherwise all-woman construction crew. See boy, girlgender-neutral language.

intersex Describes people born with genitalia, chromosomes or reproductive organs that don’t fit typical definitions for males or females. Do not use the outdated term hermaphrodite. Do not conflate with transgender or nonbinary.

sexual orientation Not sexual preference. Examples include lesbian (women attracted to women), gay (men attracted to men), bisexual (attraction to men and women), pansexual (attraction regardless of gender), asexual (people who don’t experience sexual attraction), and straight or heterosexual (women attracted to men, and vice versa). Mention a person’s sexual orientation only when relevant to the subject matter, and do so only if the information is verified.

Avoid references to a gay or alternative lifestyle. Avoid homosexual to describe people, though homosexuality is acceptable as a noun for the concept of same-sex attraction. Gays is acceptable as a plural noun when necessary, but use the singular gay only as an adjective, not as a noun. Lesbian is acceptable as an adjective or as a noun in singular or plural form.

Avoid salacious terminology and unnecessary modifiers in phrasing like gay lovers or lesbian kiss; instead use neutral terms like couple or kiss.

Transgender is not a sexual orientation. Like anyone, transgender people can have any sexual orientation. See asexualbisexualLGBTQ+.

LGBTQ+ (adj.) Acceptable in all references for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer and/or questioning, plus other sexual and gender minorities. Fewer or additional letters can be used to be more inclusive or in quotations and names of organizations and events, such as LGBT or LGBTQIAI stands for intersex, and A typically stands for asexual (a person who doesn’t experience sexual attraction). Use of LGBTQ+ is best used as a collective adjective: Walters joined the LGBTQ+ business association. Avoid using LGBTQ+ to describe individuals, and don’t default to LGBTQ+ if discussing a more specific population: a bisexual advocacy group, a transgender health program. Follow guidelines for obscenities, profanities, vulgarities as appropriate. See sexual orientation; gender identity.

queer Many LGBTQ+ people now use the word queer as a point of empowerment to refer to a sexual orientation or gender identity.

The term sometimes is used as a synonym for LGBTQ+. However, because of its origins as a slur, queer is not universally accepted among LGBTQ+ people, and its use tends to be more prevalent among younger generations. Use caution when it isn’t being used to describe the way an individual identifies, in the names of organizations or in a direct quote. When it is meant as a slur, follow guidelines for obscenities, profanities, vulgarities. See LGBTQ+.

asexual Describes people who don’t experience sexual attraction, though they may feel other types of attraction, such as romantic or aesthetic. Not synonymous with and does not assume celibacy. A person’s asexuality can be constant or change over time. See sexual orientation.

bisexual (n. and adj.) Describes people attracted to men and women. The shortened form bi is acceptable in quotations. See sexual orientation.

conversion therapy The scientifically discredited practice of using therapy to “convert” LGBTQ+ people to heterosexuality or traditional gender expectations. Either refer to it as so-called conversion therapy or put quotation marks around it. Do not do both. Gay conversion therapy should take no hyphen. Always include the disclaimer that it is discredited. See so called, so-called.

homophobia, homophobic Acceptable in broad references or in quotations to the concept of fear or hatred of gays, lesbians and bisexuals. The governor denounced homophobia. In individual cases, be specific about observable actions; avoid descriptions or language that assume motives. The leaflets contained an anti-gay slur. The voters opposed same-sex marriage. Related terms include biphobia (fear or hatred of bisexuals) and transphobia (fear or hatred of transgender people).

openly, out The terms out and openly can imply that to identify as LGBTQ+ is inherently shameful, so use them only when relevant: Xiong is the group’s first openly gay president (which would allow for the possibility that previous presidents were gay but not out) or Xiong, who came out at age 29, wishes he had done so sooner.

Do not use terms like avowed or admitted.

Don’t assume that because news figures address their sexual orientation or gender transition publicly, it qualifies as coming out; public figures may consider themselves out even if they haven’t previously addressed their identity or orientation publicly.

Outing or outed is usually used when someone’s identity or orientation is revealed against their knowledge or will.

same-sex marriage The preferred term over gay marriage, because it is more inclusive and because the laws generally don’t address sexual orientation. Where legal, same-sex marriages do not differ from other marriages, so the term should be used only when relevant and needed to distinguish from marriages of other couples.

sexual identity People’s awareness of themselves in a sexual sense. It incorporates a person’s sex, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation. See SOGI.

SOGI Increasingly popular shorthand for the concept of sexual orientation and gender identity. Avoid using the acronym unless necessary, as in a quote or name of an organization, and explain the term if used. See sexual identity.

homeless, homelessness

Based on the Associated Press Stylebook

Homeless is generally acceptable as an adjective to describe people without a fixed residence. Avoid the dehumanizing collective noun the homeless, instead using constructions like homeless people, people without housing or people without homes. Mention that a person is homeless only when relevant. Do not stereotype homeless people as dirty, mentally ill, addicted to drugs or alcohol, reliant on charity, or criminals. Those conditions can often contribute to or be byproducts of homelessness, but many homeless people also hold jobs and are self-sufficient.

Homeless shelter is an acceptable term for a building that provides free or very inexpensive but temporary indoor refuge for people without homes, generally run by a government or charity. Do not use flophouse.

Government agencies do not always agree on what legally constitutes homelessness, but the term generally refers to people staying in shelters or on the street.

Avoid disparaging terminology such as derelict, bum, beggar, tramp and hobo. Terms like couch surfing (staying temporarily in various households) or transient (someone who moves from city to city but is not necessarily homeless) can be useful to describe specific situations. Avoid vagrant.

migrant is someone who moves from place to place for temporary work or economic advantage and is usually not considered homeless.

Indigent describes someone who is very poor and is not synonymous with homeless.

mental illness 

Behavioral and mental health terms specific to Sanford Health

Always ask Sanford Health providers and professionals for their preferred terms.

Based on the Associated Press Stylebook

Do not describe an individual as having a mental illness unless it is clearly pertinent to a story and the diagnosis is properly sourced.

When used, identify the source for the diagnosis. Seek firsthand knowledge derived from a medical examination; ask how the source knows. Don’t rely on hearsay or speculate on a diagnosis. Specify the time frame for the diagnosis and ask about treatment. A person’s condition can change over time, so a diagnosis of mental illness might not apply anymore. Avoid anonymous sources. On-the-record sources may be family members, mental health professionals, medical authorities, law enforcement officials or court records.

Mental illness is a general term. Specific conditions are disorders and should be used whenever possible: He was diagnosed with schizophrenia, according to court documents. She was diagnosed with anorexia, according to her parents. He said he was treated for depression. Avoid wording such as he is a schizophrenic, she was anorexic or he is mentally ill.

Avoid descriptions that connote pity, such as afflicted with, suffers fromvictim of, battling and demons. Rather, he has obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Avoid terms such as the mentally ill. Instead: people with mental illnesses.

Do not use derogatory terms, such as insane, crazy/crazed, nuts or deranged, unless they are part of a quotation that is essential to the story.

Avoid using mental health terms to describe unrelated issues. Don’t say that an awards show, for example, was schizophrenic.

Do not assume that mental illness is a factor in a violent crime, and avoid unsubstantiated statements by witnesses or first responders attributing violence to mental illness.

Studies have shown that the vast majority of people with mental illnesses are not violent, and experts say most people who are violent do not have mental illnesses.

Nevertheless, a first responder often is quoted as saying, without direct knowledge, that a crime was committed by a person with a “history of mental illness.” If used, such comments must be attributed to law enforcement authorities, medical professionals, family members or others who have knowledge of the history and can authoritatively speak to its relevance. In the absence of definitive information, there should be a disclaimer that a link had yet to be established.

Double-check specific symptoms and diagnoses. Avoid interpreting behavior common to many people as symptoms of mental illness. Sadness, anger, exuberance and the occasional desire to be alone are normal emotions experienced by people who have mental illness as well as those who don’t.

When practical, let people with mental disorders talk about their own diagnoses.

Use the term mental or psychiatric hospital, not asylum.

Here is a link that can be used as a reference:

Sanford Health & Good Samaritan Society Writing Style Guide

Purpose of this guide

Contact: Marketing Standards

How to search this guide

  • Click on Page Contents above to access the table of contents, then click on the desired entry.
  • Press Ctrl+F (Windows) or ⌘ Command+F (Mac) to open a search box in the upper right corner of the webpage. Type a keyword and click Enter.
  • Use the alphabet bar to jump to a letter section.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z


Not 3-D


academic degrees

See “credentials / academic degrees, licensures and certifications / job titles

accept, except

Accept means to receive or believe something; except means excluding or but (if not the fact that).

  • We do not accept out-of-state checks.
  • No one outside the organization except you knows about the takeover


Spell out what the acronym stands for in the first reference with the acronym in parentheses behind it with no periods; in subsequent references, the acronym can be used without the parentheses. Also see “Credentials.”

  • Do not include an acronym if there is no second reference

active voice

Whenever possible, use active voice: the subject of the sentence takes on the action of the verb.

  • Active voice:  The staff presented awards to the volunteers.
  • Passive voice:  The volunteers were presented awards by the staff.

Administrator in Training (as a title)

Not “Administrator-in-Training” or “administrator-in-training”; follow same punctuation and capitalization guidelines as listed in the “Job Titles” entry.

  • “AIT” is acceptable on second reference

Administrator in Training program

Not “Administrator-in-Training program.”

  • “AIT program” is acceptable on second reference


  • Punctuation for addresses:
    • Use standard punctuation; place a comma between the city and state. If address is listed on one line, place a comma between the address and the city. Do not use superscripts in street names that are numerals.
  • Example when written as an address block:
               Sanford Clinic               
               222 N. 7th St.
               Bismarck, ND 58501
  • Example when written on one line:
               Sanford Clinic, 222 N. 7th St., Bismarck, ND 58501
  • Street names:
    • Only abbreviate Ave., Blvd. and St. with a numbered address when not written in copy. Always spell out words such as suite, circle, road and drive.
      • Examples:
        • 394 Main St.
        • Located on Main Street.
        • 992 Serenity Drive
          • Incorrect: 992 Serenity Dr.
    • Lowercase when using in a sentence or when listing more than one address or street name.
      • Examples:
        • Turn left on the next avenue.
        • It’s located by Madison and Solberg avenues.
    • Do not use superscripts.
      • Correct: 22nd Ave.
        • Incorrect: 22nd Ave.
    • Use numerals, even if it’s less than 10, though sentences should not start with a number unless it’s a year.
      • Example:
        • The clinic is located on 7th Street
  • Compass point directions – cardinal and quadrant (or ordinal) direction abbreviations in addresses
    • Both before and after street names, include periods with the abbreviations for north, south, east and west (N., S., E. and W.) But do not include periods with the abbreviations for northeast, northwest, southeast and southwest (NE, NW, SE and SW) unless it appears at the end of a sentence. This is a recent change for Sanford Health as of October 2020 and matches AP Stylebook.
      • Examples:
        • 904 Fifth Ave. NE
        • 414 10th Ave. SW
        • 394 E. Main St.
          • Incorrect: 394 East Main St.
        • 2400 32nd Ave. S.
  • Compass point directions – regions
    • Lowercase when used as an adjective or to indicate compass directions (“he’s from northern California,” “the wind came from the west”); capitalize when it’s a noun, designating a region or proper name of a place (“the Midwest was hit hard by the blizzard,” “his grandfather came from South Korea”).
      • General adjectives are lowercase: north, northern, east, eastern, south, southern, west, western
        • He drove east to get on I-90.
        • She lives in western North Dakota.
        • Examples of proper nouns and definitive regions to capitalize: the Midwest, the South, the North, South Dakota, North Carolina, East Coast, West Coast
        • Some words can be both general adjectives and proper nouns (e.g., the western United States, a Western religion, the Midwest)—use context to determine which capitalization is correct
  • State names:
    • Use United States Postal Service abbreviations when listing a full address. As in AP Stylebook, spell out the full state name in the body copy and abbreviate in headings.
    • Washington, D.C.
      • In copy, use a comma after Washington and periods after D.C. A comma goes after the last period when the term is used in the middle of a sentence (e.g., “We went to Washington, D.C., to see…”). But there are no periods in the postal code: Washington, DC.
  • PO boxes:
    • Don’t use periods in PO. This matches USPS standards.
      • Example:
               1305 W. 18th St.
               PO Box 503
               Sioux Falls, SD 57117-5039

adult day services

Do not use “adult daycare services” or “adult day care.”


Do not use a hyphen after adverbs ending in -ly 

  • A highly successful company
  • The fully functioning equipment
  • The accurately described event
  • Locally owned


Not “adviser.” This is a recent change as of June 2020. Research shows that the spelling “advisor” has a higher search volume on Google and this spelling is much more common on

advisory board

No need to capitalize as “Advisory Board.”

affect, effect

Affect as a verb (more common) means to influence.

  • A poor diet can adversely affect the heart.

Affect as a noun is used less commonly and mostly in the field of psychology to refer to the description of a mood or emotion. The first syllable is stressed when used as a noun.

  • Patients with flat affect do not lack emotion, but their emotions are thought to be unexpressed.

Effect as a noun (more common) means the result of a change.

  • The effect of the medication was tolerable to the patient.

Effect as a verb, it means to cause or bring about.

  • The research scientists wanted to effect change in the field of rare diseases.

affordable housing

Use this instead of “subsidized housing” or “HUD.”

  • Also acceptable is: “budget-friendly senior apartments”


Not “after care”


Always use figures (the girl is 5 years old; her grandfather is 74 years old).

  • Use hyphens for ages expressed as adjectives before a noun (a 67-year-old retiree asked) and as substitutes for a noun (an 8-year-old answered)
  • Do not use apostrophes with ages (the woman is in her 30s)

aid, aide

Aid can be a noun (assistance or something that gives assistance) or a verb (to assist); aide is a noun that always refers to a person (a helper or assistant).

along with

Redundant. Just use with.

The Society’s preferred phrasing when referring to memory-related disorders.

  • Do not capitalize “disease” in “Alzheimer’s disease”
  • OK to use shortened terms within body copy after the preferred phrase has been used (e.g., “Alzheimer’s,” “dementia”)

amount, number 

Amount is how much you have or the mass of something; number represents a specific number of things that can be counted.

and, ampersand

In most references, the word “and” should be used instead of an ampersand (&).

  • Exception: if an ampersand is part of a business’ name (Sanford Seventh & Thayer Clinic, Barnes & Noble)

Annual Business Meeting and Annual Operations Conference

  • Replaced the Society’s Annual Meeting in 2013
  • May be referred to jointly as “Annual Business Meeting and Operations Conference”


  • Hyphenate most, but don’t hyphenate words that have specific means of their own. For example: antibiotic, antibody, antidote, antiseptic.




Capitalize when referring to one of Jesus’ 12 Disciples (“the Apostle Paul says…”), but lowercase when referring to apostles generally (“He was an apostle of prayer”).

apostrophes (‘)

Apostrophes help show possession. Most singular nouns need a simple ‘s at the end, but when a singular common noun ends in s, an ‘s is also used, unless the end word also starts with an s.

  • the surgeon’s scrubs
  • the president’s speech
  • the hostess’s invitation
  • the hostess’ salad
  • When a proper noun ends in s, use only an apostrophe without the s.
    • Hippocrates’ contributions to medicine
    • Dr. Williams’ office
  • When a plural noun ends in s, use only an apostrophe without the s.
    • Construction began on the physicians’ lounge.
  • When a plural noun does not end in s, add ‘s.
    • She is a physician at Sanford Children’s.
    • There are showers in the men’s locker room.
  • Pronouns do not need an apostrophe when in the possessive form: hers, theirs, yours, ours, its.
    • The free scrubs were theirs for the taking.
    • Sanford Health is known for its excellent care (not it’s, which is a contraction for it is).
  • Do not use an apostrophe for figures, plurals of acronyms or with multiple letters.
    • HMOs
    • MDs
    • Dakotas
    • 1980s

apostrophe with year

Use an outward-facing apostrophe before the numeral to indicate the deletion of “19”; do not use an apostrophe to indicate a decade with “s.”

  • Correct: ’90s, 1990s
  • Incorrect: ‘90s, 90’s, 1990’s

Arizona location names

For legal reasons, the full names of Arizona locations begin with “The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society.”

  • Example: The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society – Prescott Valley
  • Logos for Arizona centers should have “The Evangelical Lutheran” above them (like the corporate logo)
  • It is not necessary to use the full name in copy when the logo is used somewhere in the publication
    • This reference applies to usage in newsletters and publications, as long as the publications carry the corporate logo

as well

No comma before this phrase if it ends a sentence.

  • Correct: “She took this cup as well.”
  • Incorrect: “She took this cup, as well.”

as well as

This phrase is always preceded by a comma.

  • Example: “She took this cup, as well as a spoon.”

assisted living

Do not use “congregate living” or “assisted living plus.”

  • Approved terms for the people and buildings associated with assisted living:
    • resident
    • community
    • campus (if applicable)
    • location (if applicable)
    • apartment, unit
    • caregiver (staff)
    • fees
  • Do not use the following terms for the people and buildings associated with assisted living:
    • occupant
    • client
    • patient
    • center
    • agency
    • neighborhood
    • household
    • unlicensed personnel
    • rent

assure, ensure, insure

 Assure means to tell someone something positively or dispel doubt; ensure means to make sure or certain; insure means to cover with an insurance policy.

attributions – says / said SH

  • When attributing a person’s paraphrased idea or direct quote, use says or said.
    • Most news stories and press releases will use said.
    • All ad copywriting uses says (exception to the AP Stylebook)
    • The website at will also use says which is an exception to the AP Stylebook.

Both says and said are acceptable, as long as the present or past tense is consistent throughout a piece of written content.

August “Dad” Hoeger

The Rev. August “Dad” Hoeger is the founder of the Good Samaritan Society.

  • “the Rev. Hoeger” and “Dad Hoeger” are both acceptable on second reference


baby boomer

Not Baby Boomer

basic care

This is a specific legal term in North Dakota for a service line similar to assisted living; assisted living also exists in North Dakota, but it’s more similar to other states’ definitions of senior living.

  • Check with marketing operations for clarifications of the use of the term “basic care”

benefiting and benefited

Not benefitting or benefitted

beta blocker


Capitalize this noun when referring to the Holy Bible.

  • Capitalize when used as an adjective (e.g., “Bible stories,” “Bible verse”)
  • Lowercase when using “bible” in a non-religious context (e.g., “the bible of French cooking techniques”)


Lowercase this adjective in all uses, even when referring to a figure from the Holy Bible (e.g., “the biblical Good Samaritan”).

biblical pronouns

Lowercase when referring to God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Examples:

  • he
  • him
  • himself
  • his
  • one
  • thee
  • thou
  • thy
  • who
  • whose
  • you
  • your

For other religious capitalizations, see “religious references” in the AP Stylebook.

biblical reference punctuation

In body copy, include the book, chapter, verse and Bible version in parentheses after the quote, with the end punctuation going outside the parentheses

  • Example: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16 NRSV).

The book, chapter and verse may instead be a part of the sentence introducing the quote

  • Example: John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (NRSV).

As a standalone quote being used as a graphic element, close the quote with applicable end punctuation, followed by an en dash with full spaces around it, followed by the book, chapter and verse, followed by the Bible version in parentheses

  • Example: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” – John 3:16 (NRSV)

Note: It’s not absolutely required to include the Bible version, but it is considered good practice for attributions

  • is a good reference for checking excerpt accuracy and finding version abbreviations

bio card

Not “biocard.” Two words, like “panel card.”


Not “bi-weekly.”

Board of Directors

If using “national” to describe the Good Samaritan Society Board of Directors, do not capitalize “national.”

  • “the Board” is acceptable on second reference

boys basketball, tennis, etc.

Not boy’s or boys’. See “possessives.


Do not use when denoting missing information in quotes; instead, use parentheses.

break room

Not “breakroom” or “break-room.”

breastfeeding, breastfed, but breast milk


  • Don’t include end punctuation in a bulleted list, unless each bullet is a complete sentence in and of itself, or the bulleted list is in the middle of a sentence that precedes and follows it (semicolons or commas would be used at the end of these bullets).
  • Capitalize the first word in a bulleted list, don’t use semicolons and use periods only after complete sentences. Use a complete sentence or phrase to introduce a list to avoid separating a verb and its object. In presentations, consider using graphics or other elements to avoid overuse of bullets.


The care team:

  • Medical director
  • Clinic director
  • Nurses
  • Chaplain
  • Social worker

The NIAHP’s plans:

  • Focus on new research to address training and competition challenges for youth and other populations.
  • Provide individually customized strategies to athletes and other active individuals that will reduce injury risk, optimize performance, and minimize rehabilitation and return-to-play time.
  • Partner with sport and sports medicine national governing bodies in developing new educational initiatives.


capitalization in the naming of organizations, institutions, departments, etc.

See “naming, capitalization in

canceled, canceling

Not cancelled, cancelling. But cancellation.


Not “can not”


Avoid using in the same sentence as both a noun and a verb to avoid being repetitive or confusing.

  • We give quality care because we care about those we take care of in our facilities.

care center

OK to use on the second reference, after a location has previously been described as a “rehabilitation and skilled care center.”

caregiver, caregiving

Not “care giver” or “care giving”


Not “Care Watch” or “Carewatch”

cell phone

Not “cellphone” or “cell-phone”; use in place of “cellular phone.”


Do not capitalize when standing alone; the word “center” is preferred to the word “facility.”

  • Note: “location” usually can often replace the terms “center,” “campus” and “agency” in internal communications.
  • For external communications, the term “center” is often the preferred terminology.

Center For Solutions

For” is capitalized; in a sentence, use “the Center For Solutions.”

  • Example: If you have questions, please contact the Center For Solutions at (877) 447-7237 or

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

Note the plural “Centers.” “CMS” is acceptable on second reference.


See “credentials / academic degrees, licensures and certifications / job titles

checkup (noun), check up (verb)


Not chicken pox.

child care

Preferred term over daycare or day care. Not childcare.

child day care services

Preferred terminology for service listings.

Christian care or Christ-like care

Avoid; instead, use phrasing like “provide care in a Christian setting” or “provides care that models Christian teachings and beliefs.”

Christian community

Do not use to describe a Society location.

chronically confused dementing illness

In most copy, avoid use when possible.

  • Exception: “chronically confused dementing illness” is the official term used by the state of Iowa, often used in relation to Alzheimer’s disease or dementia units; the acronym CCDI also is used

CI Ops

Not “CIOps,” “C.I. ops,” etc., when abbreviating Clinical Informatics Operations.


We use clichés every day when we talk. But before you use it in the written word, make sure there isn’t a simpler, more direct way to say what you mean. Among clichés to avoid:

  • each and every one of us (all of us)
  • at this point in time (now)


Do not use when referring to a certified medical assistant.

  • The Good Samaritan Society is not authorized to use the abbreviation CMA and can be held liable for the unauthorized use of it; the American Association of Medical Assistants has a trademark on the abbreviation CMA, and it can be used only by authorized people at the Certifying Board of the AAMA


Not “Columbia


The first word after a colon ( : ) should be lowercase unless it is a proper noun or the start of a complete sentence.

  • One trend is clear: Our family continues to grow.
  • He had only one passion: helping others.


  • In lists: Use a comma to separate items listed in a series. But do not put a comma before and or or at the end of the series (Oxford or serial comma), unless the last part of the series contains and or or, or a complex series.
    • The first aid kit contained bandages, ointment and alcohol swabs.
    • The patient had orange juice, ham and eggs, and toast for breakfast.
    • It’s important to consider whether the athlete is ready to compete, if they have the stamina to endure the training, and whether they have the proper mental attitude.
  • In clauses: A nonessential word or clause (one that can be removed without changing the meaning) should be set off by commas. But an essential word or clause (one that’s required for the sentence to make sense) does not. (Hint: If the clause can stand alone as a sentence, use a comma.)
    • The physician worked long hours, but he enjoyed the work.
    • The physician worked long hours but enjoyed the work
  • Do not use a comma after conjunctions (and, but, or, yet, for, nor, so), even when they begin a sentence. See “conjunctions” for example.


Capitalize only when referring to the consecrated bread and wine of the Eucharist; also “Holy Communion.”

complement, compliment

  • Complement
    • As a noun:
      • 1) a thing that completes or enhances
      • 2) a number or quantity that is required to make and group complete
        • Example: A full complement of diagnostic and surgical equipment.
    • As a verb: to enhance or improve; to make perfect,
  • Compliment
    • As a noun: praise or admiration
    • As a verb: to politely praise or congratulate

composition titles

See “titles of works, composition titles, publication names, etc.

congregate living

Do not use.


Do not use a comma after conjunctions (and, but, or, yet, for, nor, so), even when they begin a sentence.

  • Correct: “I took him a sandwich. But he didn’t want it.”
  • Incorrect: “I took him a sandwich. But, he didn’t want it.”
  • Exception: when the conjunction and the phrase it is connecting is separated by a parenthetic/nonessential clause
    • Example: “I took him a sandwich. But, much to my surprise, he didn’t want it.”

Continuing Care Retirement Community 

This is a specific type of tiered senior care community; the Good Samaritan Society’s only current CCRC is in Hot Springs Village

  • Other Society locations may refer to a more general continuum of care
  • “CCRC” is acceptable on second reference

continuum of care

This phrase (all lowercase in all cases) can be used by Society locations that offer multiple levels of care (usually senior housing, assisted living and skilled care), but it is not a service line in and of itself.

  • The phrase “continuum of care” is likely perceived as jargon, so try to reword it and/or explain it in real terms when writing copy for external audiences
  • It is considered useful for digital SEO in many locations

copay, copayment

Note: This is a recent change from co-pay and co-payment to align with the AP Stylebook as of September, 2020.

These mean the same thing; using both (e.g., “copyright © 2016”) is redundant.


See “states and countries.”

core services

OK to use to generically describe service lines.


Use “organization” or “not-for-profit organization” when referring to the Good Samaritan Society.


Do not use:

  • Coronavirus (COVID-19) 
  • Novel coronavirus 
  • Novel coronavirus (COVID-19)


Not “coworker.”

credentials / academic degrees, licensures and certifications / job titles

  • Credentials
    • Exception from AP Stylebook: In the first reference, a person’s abbreviated health care credentials follow their name set off by commas (Jane Smith, MD, joined the team). In any following reference, use the abbreviated title as a prefix (Dr. Smith joined the team). Do not include an acronym if there are no following references. Also see “acronyms” entry.
      • Example:
        • Daniel I. Choo, MD, is available Monday. Then: Dr. Choo
    • Note: A physician’s first name should never be used by itself. But for those without a doctoral degree, you can use either the first or last name, depending on the context, the target audience and the overall desired tone of the piece, in any following reference.
      • Example:
        • Mary Stevens, RN, is available Monday. Then: Mary or Stevens
    • Limit credentials to one set and include the most recent or most prestigious.
      • Exceptions:
        • If the individual has both an MD and a PhD, list both.
        • If the piece is written for other health care professionals, you may include all relevant credentials.
    • Some credentials may be spelled out depending on the context, audience and clarity needed (e.g., if a credential isn’t a widely known acronym).
    • Do not use periods in abbreviations (RN, CNA)
    • Do not use apostrophes for plurals (RNs, CNAs)
    • Do not use acronyms or abbreviate fellowship credentials (such as FACS) with a person’s title.
  • Academic degrees, licensures and certifications:
    • Except in news releases and on Sanford Health News, use capital letters without periods
      • Correct: MD, RN, CNA, PhD, BS, BA, MS, MBA, MPH, SLP, RPh, DDS, DO
    • Use the degree, licensure or certification in the first reference. After that, use the courtesy title with periods. Do not use the redundant, Dr. Joe Padilla, MD.
      • Correct: H. Eugene Hoyme, MD, graduated from the University of Chicago. Dr. Hoyme specializes in genetics.
    • When writing out an academic degree, the following are examples of all available correct formatting:
      • associate degree 
      • bachelor’s degree
      • master’s degree
      • doctoral degree
      • Bachelor of Arts
      • Master of Science
  • Job Titles

We are proud of the work we do and the job titles we hold ­– but job titles are not proper nouns, and therefore are written in lowercase. Only capitalize titles, including professorships, when used immediately before a name, on business cards or letterhead. Do not capitalize a title after a person’s name, and use commas to set off the person’s title from the rest of the sentence.

  • Correct:
    • Sanford Health President and Chief Executive Officer Bill Gassen made an announcement.
  • Correct:
    • Bill Gassen, the president and CEO of Sanford Health, was proud to make the announcement.
      • Do not use the words “for” and “of” in a list of people including their job titles. But for clarity when used in a sentence, the words “for” and “of” are allowed.
  • Correct: 
    • Alexis Jones, vice president, communications
    • Sam Wilson, manager, graphic design
    • Carrie Smith, director, communications
  • When used in a sentence: Carrie Smith, the director of communications, told the group about the news.
  • Doctor vs. physician: Both terms are acceptable and can be used interchangeably.
    • When writing an article or bio on a physician, include board-certified or board-eligible when appropriate.
  • Dr. vs. MD and DO
    • To uphold consistency and brand standards of marketing materials and supply items, list providers’ credentials after their names separated by a comma in headlines and photo captions instead of preceding them with Dr.
    • This also differentiates providers with advanced medical degrees from those with nonmedical PhD and honorary doctoral degrees. 
      • Julia Christianson, MD
      • Matthew Holm, DO
    • In descriptive copy, list credentials after names in the first reference, then use Dr. in subsequent references. 
      • Matthew Holm, DO, specializes in orthopedics and sports medicine. Dr. Holm treats patients of all ages.
  • Advanced Practice Providers (APP): Includes physician assistants (PAs) and certified nurse practitioners (CNPs). Do not use the term mid-levels.
  • Our Teams
    • When listing an entire team of professionals, list them alphabetically. Start with the physicians, followed by NPs and PAs.
      • When referring to a mixed group of physicians, NPs and PAs, the following are acceptable:
        • Medical team
        • Health care professionals
        • Providers


Avoid using.


Dad Hoeger

Use on the second reference only; use “the Rev. August ‘Dad’ Hoeger” on the first reference.


  • Always capitalize the names of months and use numerals for dates without st, nd, rd or th
    • Correct: March 1
    • Incorrect: March first, March 1st, March one, 3/1
  • Spell out months March, April, May, June, July. The remaining months, Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., Dec., may be abbreviated only when they are used with a specific date
    • Sioux Valley Hospital admitted its first patient on Sept. 10, 1894.
    • Thanksgiving will fall on Nov. 24 this year.
  • When using only a month and a year, spell out the month and do not separate the year with commas
    • August 2010 was a hot month.
  • When a phrase refers to a month, day and year, set off the year with commas
    • Feb. 14, 1987, was the target date
      • Note: When using a date in a memo header, spell out the month; in a sentence, follow guidelines above
  • Date rangesSH
    • Use an en dash with no spaces. (Also see en dash –, em dash –)
      • Oct. 15–16
    • Use words like to, through or until instead of a dash in narrative copy.
      • The vaccination clinic will be offered October 15 to November 15.
      • This sales event will occur October 15 through 16.
      • Refreshments will be served at the event from 11:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. (Note. Do not add another period if the sentence ends with a.m. or p.m.)
  • Spell out all names of months when they stand alone or appear only with a year and don’t use a comma when used without a specific date.
    • It’s a long time from December to March in North Dakota. January 2011 was a cold month.
  • If that same span of time is being written in narrative form, use to or through instead of the hyphen.
    • Gala week is Monday, Aug. 15, through Sunday, Aug. 21.
  • Use the days of the week, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc., when referring to events within seven days before or after the publication date.
  • If an event is more distant, use the month and the date.
    • April 22 is Earth Day.
  • Capitalize days of the week and do not abbreviate.
    • The Gala on Saturday, Aug. 20, was a huge success.
  • Use an s without an apostrophe to indicate spans of decades or centuries.
    • the 1970s

day care

Not “daycare.”

daylight saving time 

Not “savings.”


Do not capitalize (“The activities department is the busiest place at the center”), unless it’s part of an official name (“The Department of Health and Human Services issued the warning”).

dialog and dialogue

A “dialog box” is a feature on a computer where you are prompted for information; “dialogue” is a conversation.


Not “dietician.”


See “units of measure” and “numbers

directions and regions

See Compass directions and regions in “addresses


In general, do not describe an individual as disabled unless it is clearly pertinent to a story; see the AP Stylebook for further clarification.

Another source for this topic is available from the National Center on Disability and JournalismDisability Language Style Guide.

disc (body part), disk (computer)


Capitalize this term only when referring to Jesus’ 12 Disciples as a group; all other cases are lowercase.

disinterested, uninterested

Disinterested means impartial; uninterested means not interested in.


All faiths or beliefs are welcome; Not “All faiths and beliefs are welcome.”

  • Note: In very small ads where the full disclaimer would not fit, “All faiths or beliefs welcome” is acceptable; use the full disclaimer whenever possible

doctorate, doctoral

A doctorate is a noun; doctoral is an adjective. You may have a doctorate or a doctoral degree, but not a doctorate degree.

dollar amounts

Use figures (“The committee raised $80”)

  • Only spell out the number if it’s at the beginning of a sentence (“Eighty dollars disappeared from the account”).



Not drive-through

Not “dropdown menu” or “drop down menu.”





Capitalize only when the e-form

e.g. and i.e.

When you want to give an example of something, you can use “e.g.” before that example (generally, “e.g.” is equivalent to the phrase “for example”); when you want to clarify what you just said, you can use “i.e.” before the clarification (generally, “i.e.” is equivalent to the phrases “in other words” and “that is to say”).

  • “e.g.” and “i.e.” always include periods and are always followed by a comma
  • Since any clause that would use “e.g.” or “i.e.” is always a nonessential clause, they must be set off from the rest of the sentence by em dashes or parentheses
  • There is no need to include “etc.” at the end of an “e.g.” list, since it’s already implying the idea that the listed items are examples of a larger pool of options


  • “They said that red foods (e.g., tomatoes, strawberries) taste better.”
    • “The self-appointed queen of our vacation — i.e., my mom — said we couldn’t use our cell phones.”
    • “Common names — e.g., Mary, John, Sarah, Eric — are easier to remember.”
    • “I was told there would be major consequences (i.e., I would lose my job).”

either/or, neither/nor placement in comparative sentences

When writing a sentence with two comparative objects or actions, carefully note the placement of the word “either”:

  • If two nouns/things are being compared, put “either” after the verb
    • Correct: “I want either red or purple streamers at my party.”
    • Incorrect: “I either want red or purple streamers at my party.”
  • If two actions are being compared, put “either” before the first action verb
    • Correct: “She hoped to either finish the book or attend the concert this weekend.”
    • Incorrect: “She either hoped to finish the book or attend the concert this weekend.”
  • Note: This same placement rule applies to “neither”

electronic medical record

No need to capitalize.

  • “EMR” is acceptable on second reference
  • Note: “electronic health record” and “EHR” are incorrect when referring to Good Samaritan Society initiatives


Avoid; use “seniors.”


Not “e-mail”, “E-mail” or “Email” (“Email” if it begins a sentence).

email addresses

Also see “website addresses, URLs and redirects

 In all Sanford Health and Society documents, email addresses are formatted in regular, lowercase text (not underlined, not blue).

  • Correct: Questions may be sent to or
  • Incorrect: Questions may be sent to
    • Note: An email address may be bolded for emphasis
  • Do not break an email address across lines; use a soft return or force break a line so that the entire address fits on one line

emergency department/ED 

Not “emergency room”

employee (not “associate”)

“Employee” is the preferred term to use when referring to people who work for the Good Samaritan Society.

  • Examples: Our organization has 19,000 employees
    • While “employees” should be the default term used, other terms — e.g., staff members, caregivers, co-workers — may be used to give greater contextual meaning to a piece; other terms should not be used simply to create variety in a long, written piece


E-newsletter at the beginning of a sentence.

en dash –, em dash —SH

  • Use an en dash with spaces on either side to create a pause in a sentence to emphasize a thought.
    • The sports medicine team at Sanford Health is passionate about helping athletes of all ages play at their best – even after an injury.
  • Even though an em dash with no spaces is traditionally correct, Sanford Health Marketing uses an en dash with spaces on either side for aesthetics and readability. Marketing materials read more clearly with this exception.
    • Correct: It’s a plan that does more for you – and your health.
    • Incorrect: It’s a plan that does more for you—and your health
  • For date and time range format using en dashes, see Dates and Time

The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Foundation

  • Capitalize “The” when using the full name
  • “the Good Samaritan Foundation” is acceptable when the full legal name isn’t needed (note that “the” isn’t capitalized when this term is used)
  • “the Foundation” is acceptable on second reference

The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society

See also “the Good Samaritan Society

Do not capitalize “the” when using the shortened name (the Good Samaritan Society) unless it begins a sentence. But when writing the full, formal name (The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society), always capitalize “The.”

  • Employees at The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society are happy to talk to residents.
  • Employees at the Good Samaritan Society are happy to talk to residents.
  • The Good Samaritan Society has locations in 24 states.

On second and subsequent references, “the Society” is acceptable.

“The” should NOT be used when the location name is the subject or object of the sentence.

  • The residents at Good Samaritan Society – Prairie Creek like going for walks.
  • Good Samaritan Society – Luther Manor is located by Augustana University.

If the Good Samaritan Society modifies a noun, “the” isn’t needed:

  • When we spoke to Good Samaritan Society employees, they said they were happy to talk to residents.

Do not use “Good Samaritan,” “Good Sam” or “GSS” when referring to the Good Samaritan Society.

everyday and every day

One word only when it’s used as an adjective before a noun (“an everyday activity”); two words all other times (“we do this activity every day”; “every day is special”).





Acceptable in Sanford Health copy but avoid in Good Samaritan Society copy; instead, use “center,” “campus,” “community,” “location”

fall prevention

Not “falls prevention.”

  • Also: fall-prevention tips, tips for preventing falls

Falls Prevention Service Project

The Foundation changed the formerly named Founder’s Day Service Project to this.

family-centered care

farther and further

“Farther” refers to physical distances (“Frank’s house is farther away than Marie’s house”); “further” refers to figurative distances (“He took the argument further than necessary”; “The couple sank further into debt”).

fewer, less

Fewer refers to a smaller number of countable things, less refers to a smaller amount.

  • Fewer people
  • Less water


Not “first-hand”

floor plan

Not “floorplan”

fluff words

Don’t dilute your sentences with fluff words. It makes them weak. Beginning to, striving to, seeking to and in order to are examples of such words.

  • Correct:  The department is implementing a cost-savings program.
  • Incorrect:  The department is beginning to implement a cost-savings program.

  • Correct:  We need your full cooperation to meet the deadline.
  • Incorrect: We need your full cooperation in order to meet the deadline.


Not “flier.”

follow-up (noun or adjective), follow up (verb)

fonts / typography

See Typography: Marketplace and Typography: Operational under the Graphics & Printing tab.

form numbers

Use a nonbreaking space ( ) (control-shift-space) and # sign between “GSS” and the number.

  • Example: GSS #254

Founder’s Day

Not “Founders Day” or “Founders’ Day.”

  • the Good Samaritan Society’s Founder’s Day is Sept. 29

Founder’s Day Service Project

No longer in use. It has been changed to “Falls Prevention Service Project.”


One word as an adjective (e.g., “freewill donations” not “free-will donations”).

full-time and full time

Hyphenate when being used as an adjective before a noun; use as two words (not “fulltime”) in all other instances; Examples:

  • “This is her full-time job now”
  • “The job offer was for a full-time position”
  • “The job is full time, with the possibility for overtime”
  • “She goes to school while also working full time”

fundraiser and fundraising

Not “fund-raiser” or “fund-raising.”

  • Note: “fundraise” is not a verb (e.g., “Why do we fundraise?”) — do not use
  • “fundraiser” is a noun, “fundraising” is an adjective, “to raise funds” is a verb


girls basketball, tennis, etc.

Not girl’s or girls’. See “possessives

Good Samaritan

Capitalize both “Good” and “Samaritan” when referring to the biblical Good Samaritan, or when referring to an individual as a Good Samaritan.

  • Do not use alone when referring to the Good Samaritan Society

the Good Samaritan Foundation

See “The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Foundation

Don’t capitalize “the.”

Good SamaritanNET Purchasing System

Abbreviated GSNPS (also known as DSSI).

the Good Samaritan Society

See also “The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society

Do not capitalize “the” when using the shortened name (the Good Samaritan Society) unless it begins a sentence. But when writing the full, formal name (The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society), always capitalize “The.”

  • Employees at The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society are happy to talk to residents.
  • Employees at the Good Samaritan Society are happy to talk to residents.
  • The Good Samaritan Society has locations in 24 states.

On second and subsequent references, “the Society” is acceptable.

“The” should NOT be used when the location name is the subject or object of the sentence.

  • The residents at Good Samaritan Society – Prairie Creek like going for walks.
  • Good Samaritan Society – Luther Manor is located by Augustana University.

If the Good Samaritan Society modifies a noun, “the” isn’t needed:

  • When we spoke to Good Samaritan Society employees, they said they were happy to talk to residents.

Do not use “Good Samaritan,” “Good Sam” or “GSS” when referring to the Good Samaritan Society.

Good Samaritan Society data (as of August 2019)

  • the largest not-for-profit provider of senior housing and services
  • more than 380 locations
  • 24 states
  • more than 19,000 employees
  • more than 30,000 people served daily

Good Samaritan Society DBA (“doing business as”) names

Use an en dash (–) (alt+hyphen) with a full space on either side (“Good Samaritan Society – Millard”). For materials that can be designed in InDesign or website coding that allows it, use thin spaces (command+option+shift+space) instead of full spaces around the en dash.

“The” should NOT be used when a location DBA name is the subject or object of the sentence.

  • The residents at Good Samaritan Society – Prairie Creek like going for walks.
  • Good Samaritan Society – Luther Manor is located by Augustana University.

Note: Not all location DBAs begin with “Good Samaritan Society – .” Some locations are joint ventures or managed locations. Refer to the Society Directory for more information on a location’s DBA name.

Also see the Good Samaritan Society and The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society entries.


Capitalize “Gospel” when referring to the books of the Holy Bible written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (“Luke’s Gospel illustrates that…”; “In the Gospel according to Mark, we see…”).

  • Lowercase “gospel” when using it as a general term meaning “good news” (“Paul took the gospel to the Romans”) and in non-biblical references (“that’s the gospel truth”; “the gospel singer performed”)

governing body


  • Exceptions: when referring to the HCBS Governing Body or Governing Body of the Society

great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren

Each use of “great” must be hyphenated when referring to the descendants of a family member (without a hyphen, they’re just fantastic grandchildren).

  • This hyphenation rule applies to all generations of family members (e.g., great-great-uncle, great-grandmother, great-great-great-great-grandniece)
  • Note: There is no hyphen after “grand” in familial terms (“granddaughter” not “grand-daughter”; “grandnephew” not “grand-nephew”)

GreatLIFE Fitness Center at National Campus

OK to use “GreatLIFE Fitness Center” for better readability


Not “ground breaking” or “ground-breaking.”


Don’t use, unless it’s part of the name of a form.

GSS form

The title of a GSS form goes first in boldface italics with every word capitalized, followed by the form number in parentheses in regular font.

  • Example: Mechanical Total Lift Competency Verification Checklist (GSS #670)


hand-foot-mouth disease

Not “hand, foot and mouth disease” or “hand-foot-and-mouth disease.”


Not “hand-held.”


Avoid; use “wheelchair-accessible.”


Avoid; please refer to AP Stylebook.


In copy, capitalize only the first word of a headline and any proper nouns within the headline.

  • Avoid ending headlines with a preposition (also avoid splitting lines to end on a preposition)
  • Use single quotation marks in a headline, but double quotation marks in the story
  • Use numerals in headlines, unless it starts the sentence
    • Exception: On the external website, numerals should be used in all cases, even if it begins the sentence

Healing Touch

When referring to the integrative medicine therapy Healing Touch, capitalize both words. Not Healing touch.

health care

Not “healthcare” (unless “healthcare” is part of an official name).

health care reform

Lowercased when referring generally to proposed changes in laws, bills and regulations; specific laws should be capitalized (e.g., the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act).

Health Cooperative / Health Co-op

The first reference of “Health Cooperative” should be written out. Then shorten to “Health Co-op” in subsequent references.

health maintenance organization

“HMO” after first reference.

HERE FOR ALL. HERE FOR GOOD. / Here for all. Here for good.

This phrase appears all uppercase only when used along with the Sanford Health wordmark in marketing materials approved by management. In copy, always use sentence case.

  • Examples:
    • The Sanford Health campaign “Here for all. Here for good.” focuses on extending health care to rural and underserved communities.
    • By connecting with patients where they are and extending our specialty services to more remote, rural areas, we will be “Here for all. Here for good.”
    • We’re here for all. We’re here for good.


Per AP Stylebook: Where possible, avoid using the term, which is an acronym for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. Instead, refer to privacy laws or the federal law restricting the release of medical information. If HIPAA is used in a quote, explain it.

Hoeger Scholarship and Loan Program

This is the complete name for this scholarship; through this program, nursing students can qualify for financial assistance of up to two-thirds the cost of tuition and books.

home- and community-based services

Note the punctuation; no need to capitalize this phrase.

  • “HCBS” is acceptable on second reference internally, but avoid using this jargon in external communications

home care

General umbrella term for all HCBS services, including home health, Services@Home and hospice; home care is not a service offering in and of itself.

  • People who use home care services are “clients” (not “residents”, “occupants”, “patients”)
  • Home care is provided by an “agency” (not “center”, “community”, “campus”)

home health

A Society service line that includes medical services delivered at home.

  • Note: “home health care” is a term that could be used generally to describe the services being provided, but the preferred term for the Society’s service line is “home health”


Avoid; try “those who cannot leave their homes unassisted.”


Not “home-like” or “homey.”


Not “home page” or “home-page.”


Use “honorary gifts” or “in honor of.”


Approved names and terms to use when describing this service line:

  • hospice care
  • terminal diagnosis
  • end-of-life care
  • final days
  • final stages of life/life’s journey
  • last steps of the journey

Approved names/terms to describe the people/buildings:

  • patient
  • hospice agency
  • location
  • agency

Names and terms not to use when referring to hospice:

  • resident
  • occupant
  • client
  • center
  • community
  • campus
  • provider (referral use only)

Only hospice agencies can use the word “hospice”; all other references must use “hospice contracted services” or “end-of-life care” or “help arranging hospice services”

HUD/subsidized housing

Use “affordable housing” or “budget-friendly senior apartments” when referring to the Society’s service line.

  • Some affordable housing properties are subsidized by HUD programs, while others are LIHTC communities; refer to the specific community for appropriate terminology and program names to use


Also see “ranges

Hyphens are joiners and should be used to avoid confusion or to form a single idea from two or more words: health and well-being.

They are also used to avoid the occurrence of duplicate vowels and consonants: anti-intellectual.

  • Hyphens should be used with compound proper names and adjectives.
    • Dr. Smith-Jones
  • Hyphens are also helpful in avoiding ambiguity.
    • She recovered from the surgery quickly.
    • He re-covered his chair.
  • Hyphenate compound adjectives before nouns
    • It was a well-lit foyer
    • The up-to-date report
      • Use a hyphen when the modifier that would be hyphenated follows the noun and a “to be”
        • The report is up-to-date
      • Compound adjectives that follow the noun and a non-“to be” verb (or any other word) don’t need to be hyphenated
        • The report will keep you up to date

  • Do not use a hyphen after adverbs ending in -ly 
    • A highly successful company
    • The fully functioning equipment
    • The accurately described event
    • Locally owned

Hyphens are used with some prefixes and suffixes but not all. See the AP Stylebook or Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.



See “e.g. and i.e.” entry.


Unless it refers to a blow of force, consider affect or another word to avoid overuse.


independence / independent

Avoid; if necessary, use “as independent as possible.”


Not “in-patient.”


Avoid this overused word. Use descriptive terms such as communicate or share ideas as appropriate.

interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary

internet, intranet

Not “Internet”, “Intranet.”

  • The internet is the electronic communications network that connects computer networks and facilities around the world. Intranet refers to an internal website that is available only to employees or members of a specific organization. At Sanford Health, it is Inside Sanford.




This is not a word. Use “regardless.”


See “titles of works, composition titles, publication names, etc.

It’s Never 2 Late (iN2L)

Note the lowercase “i” in the acronym.


job titles

See “credentials / academic degrees, licensures and certifications / job titles.”


kickoff (noun), kick off (verb) AP


lab coat

lectern, podium 

Lectern is a stand for holding notes or a microphone; podium is a platform.

  • She stood at a lectern to give her presentation.
  • He stood on a podium to speak to the audience.

less, fewer

Less refers to a smaller amount, fewer refers to a smaller number of countable things.

  • Less water
  • Fewer people

Level II trauma center

(Roman numeral two)


See “credentials / academic degrees, licensures and certifications / job titles


Not “life-long”


Not “list serve” or “Listserv.”

livestream, livestreaming, livestreamed

One word in all uses.

  • Examples:
    • Register to livestream.
    • The event is livestreaming on our website.
    • The event was livestreamed on Monday.


Remove any references. This service line ended in February 2018.


The Society’s preferred term for speaking generally about centers, agencies, campuses, etc. in internal communications.


  • “You can find this service at any of our 18 locations in the state”
  • “We have more than 380 locations across the country”
  • “Contact us to find a location near you”
  • Note: When referring to a specific service line’s location, refer to the service line’s entry in this style guide for the preferred terminology for that service

The Lodge

Can be used on second reference in body copy; capitalize both words (“Welcome to The Lodge of Howard Lake. Some amenities you’ll find at The Lodge include…”).

  • Note: Capitalize “the” only when it’s part of the location’s proper name

log in, log out, log on, log off

These are all action verbs and two words. Examples:

  • “When are you logging in?”
  • “Log out and give your supervisor a call.”
  • “Are you able to log on?”
  • “Let’s log off and go to lunch.”
  • Note: users “log into” a website

login, logout, logon, logoff

These are all nouns and one word.


  • “What is my login?”
  • “My logout isn’t functioning.”
  • “Our logon is at 4 p.m.”
  • “I don’t know why the logoff occurred.”

long-term care

Always hyphenated; not “longterm care” or “long term care.”


Not “long-time.”


Not necessary to use “LORD.”

lose, loose 

Lose is unable to find; loose is not tight.

  • Don’t lose your keys.
  • My pants are too loose.



mature adults

Avoid; using “seniors.”

managed care


Stands for “minimum data set.”

  • In copy aimed at an external audience, try to use “employee” (or “nurse,” if that’s accurate) to describe the person who coordinates MDS; if a more general term will not suffice because credentials need to be established, spell it out as a job description after the person’s name
    • Example: “The initiative works well,” says Jane Anderson, the minimum data set coordinator for the center. In her position, Jane assists in assessing the healthcare needs of residents.
  • In an employee directory, “MDS coordinator” is acceptable

Meals on Wheels


Always capitalized.


Always capitalized.

medium, media 

Medium is singular; media is plural.

  • The medium of radio has spawned numerous talk show personalities.
  • The news media are resisting attempts to limit their freedom.

memory care

Preferred terminology when referring to the service line.

  • terms and descriptions like “special care unit,” “Alzheimer’s care” and “dementia care” can be used to refer to named parts of a building or the type of care provided, but they all are part of the memory care service line

memory care assisted living

Note that assisted living and memory care assisted living should not have interchangeable language. It should be “Memory care assisted living” as a headline/bullet point or “memory care assisted living” in copy.

  • Approved terms to use when referring to people and buildings associated with this service line:
    • resident
    • community
    • caregiver (staff)
    • household
    • room
    • suite
  • Terms not to use when referring to this service line:
    • congregate living
    • assisted living plus
    • memory care (used alone)
    • assisted living (used alone)
    • assisted living memory care
      • exception: this term may be used internally on manuals and policies and procedures; it should not be used on marketing or communications materials
    • occupant
    • client
    • patient
    • center
    • agency
    • unit (this is a skilled term; use “neighborhood” or “community” instead)
    • MCAL
  • In the text of a story or article, memory care assisted living should be lowercased
    • The ONLY exceptions will be:
      • In the color bars on the graphics materials – the color-coded brochures. Memory Care Assisted Living is part of the graphic element there.
      • In the customized name of a specific service unit, as in “The Evergreen Memory Care Assisted Living Center in Podunk, Nebraska.”


mind, body and soul

Not “mind, body and spirit” when referring to the Society’s dimensions of care, service or well-being.


“In Christ’s Love, Everyone Is Someone.”


Not “multi-disciplinary.”

music therapy program and music therapist

Use “music therapy program” only if there is a certified music therapist on staff; otherwise, use “therapeutic music program.”

  • “Music therapist” is a term for a specific healthcare professional

My Sanford Chart

My Sanford Chart is the preferred term for the portion of the Sanford Health app where patients can message their provider, check results and request appointments. In select cases, materials that may be used by affiliate partners who have purchased the right to use our license should instead reference MyChart. The preferred term when communicating to Sanford Health employees who are using the non-patient side of the technology is One Chart. Also see One Chart.


naming, capitalization in

Capitalize the full names of organizations, institutions, departments, units and groups since they are proper nouns, but use lowercase letters in an informal reference.

  • Examples with the formal/proper name and acronym or second reference:
    • Sanford Health Board of Trustees/board of trustees or the board
    • Sanford Health Human Resources Department/human resources department
    • Medical Association/AMA or the association
    • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/CDC
    • National Association of Children’s Hospitals and Related Institutions/NACHRI or the association
    • University of South Dakota/USD or the university
  • Examples of common nouns that are lowercase and their acronym:
    • intensive care unit/ICU
    • maternal-fetal medicine/MFM
    • neonatal intensive care unit/NICU
    • pediatric intensive care unit/PICU

names (proper) with descriptors: punctuation

  • If the descriptor before a name limits who the phrase is referring to (thus making the person’s name nonessential), the person’s name should be set off by commas. Examples:
    • “Harry’s wife, Sally, visited yesterday.” (Harry only has one wife)
    • “Jason’s sister, Olivia, is coming to dinner.” (Jason only has one sister)

  • If the descriptor before a name doesn’t limit who the phrase is referring to and is simply an adjective describing the person (thus making the person’s name essential to the meaning of the sentence), the person’s name should not have commas around it. Examples:
    • “My friend Lisa asked the question.” (I have more than one friend, but I’m specifically referring to Lisa here)
    • “Peter’s daughter Emma gave the gift.” (Peter has more than one daughter, but it was Emma who gave the gift.)

  • For more general descriptors before a name or title, you can also look at the word that precedes the descriptor to determine if the name is essential (no commas around it) or nonessential (commas around it) — “the” creates an essential clause, while “a” creates a nonessential clause. Examples:
    • “Have you read the book Ever Forward?” (There is more than one book that exists, but I’m specifically asking about Ever Forward here)
    • “I received a book, Ever Forward, for my birthday.” (I only received one book, and I’m letting you know what the title of it is)

Nathan Schema

The Good Samaritan Society’s president and chief executive officer since January 2022.

  • “Nate” or “Nathan” may be used.

National Campus

The Good Samaritan Society’s National Campus is located in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

  • In external communications, it may be more effective to use a general term, such as “national headquarters”


Capitalize when referring to the birth of Jesus and representations and depictions of his birth.


See “either/or, neither/nor placement in comparative sentences


The central location for Good Samaritan Society news and information for employees.

  • Newsfeed URL:
  • Newsfeed is an internal blog specifically for Society employees; news and information for an external audience is communicated on the website and the Society’s social media channels


Not “non-profit.”

  • Note: Some organizations are legally categorized as nonprofits, while others are not-for-profits


Not “non-surgical”

not-for-profit organization

The Good Samaritan Society is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization.

  • Note: When typing this term, make sure the “(c)” in “501(c)3” is not autocorrected to a “©” symbol


  • Whole numbers:
    • Except for the uses below, one through nine should be spelled out, and numbers 10 and higher get figures. The same applies to first through ninth. Examples:
      • The program had 12 residents and five interns.
      • The 10th resident fell in love with the fourth intern.
        • Note: This rule does not apply to ages, figures containing decimals, statistics, results of voting, percentages, sums of money, times of day, days of the month, degrees of temperature, dimension, measurements and proportion, numbers that are part of titles; these are always numerals
    • If a number begins a sentence, always spell it out instead of using a numeral
      • Thirty-two whales began their migration; One hundred people signed up; Forty cupcakes were on the plate
    • With four digits, use a comma (2,000 people attended), except in reference to a year (She graduated in 2000)
    • Use numerals for the following, even if it’s less than 10, though sentences should not start with a number unless it’s a year:
      • Ages: By the age of 8, he knew he wanted to be a doctor.
      • Percentages: Last month, 5% of the students had the flu.
      • Addresses: The clinic is located on 7th Street. See “addresses.”
      • Height, weight, dimensions and other measurements: The patient was 7 feet tall and weighed 250 pounds.
      • Temperatures: The little boy had a fever of 101.2 degrees.
      • Years: 2010 was an exciting year for Sanford Health.
  • Telephone numbers:
    • Use parenthesis for the area code with one space before the seven-digit number. The number 1 is not necessary:
      • (605) 333-1000
      • (701) 234-5000
      • (800) 445-5788
      • Note: If needed or desired, you can specify a number is toll-free in the text accompanying it. Examples:
        • Toll-free: (800) 123-4567
        • Call us toll-free at (866) 123-4567
    • Format for teletypewriter (TTY) relay call numbers:
      • Call (877) 280-1649 (TTY: 711) for more information. 
  • Money: 
    • When writing out money figures, decimals and zeros are not necessary for whole dollar amounts:
      • Bill’s share of the tab was $10, while Ted’s was $7.50.
  • Large numbers:
    • Use commas where appropriate, round up or down when possible and write out long numbers that have lots of zeroes:
      • more than 2,300
      • 34,546
      • 7 billion
  • Decimal points:
    • Use no more than two decimal points (round up or down) and use a zero in front of decimals that equal less than 1%.
      • 0.68%

number of Good Samaritan Society centers

See “Good Samaritan Society data.”

number of Good Samaritan Society employees

See “Good Samaritan Society data.”

number of people served by the Good Samaritan Society every day

See “Good Samaritan Society data.”


NuStep recumbent cross trainer



This is an exception to the OB-GYN entry in the AP Stylebook.


Not “okay,” “O.K.,” “o.k.,” “ok”, ‘Ok”

One Chart

Though it’s commonly referred to as Epic, One Chart is the preferred term to reference the system for electronic medical records (EMR) in communications to Sanford employees. See also My Sanford Chart.


Not “on-going.”


Not “on-line.”




Not “out-patient.”



  • Use instead of brackets to denote missing information in quotes
  • Use around parenthetical information and to define terms within text to help make them easier to understand.
    • The multinational study will evaluate the incidence and outcome of Staphylococcal sepsis (a kind of bacterial infection) in babies born between 24 and 33 weeks of gestation.
  • If what is inside the parentheses is not a complete sentence, the punctuation goes after the parenthesis.
    • The man lost 50 pounds (after his heart attack).
  • Put a period inside the parenthesis if what’s inside the parentheses is a complete sentence. Add another period at the end of the sentence.
    • The doctor determined it was not cancer. (It was a benign growth.)

part-time and part time

Hyphenate when being used as an adjective before a noun; use as two words (not “parttime”) in all other instances; Examples:

  • “This is her part-time job now”
  • “The job offer was for a part-time position”
  • “The job is part time, with the possibility for turning into a full-time job”
  • “She goes to school while also working part time”

patient-care provider, patient-care setting



Preferred spelling, especially in use with Medicare, CMS and RAI documentation.

  • “payor” is also acceptable, especially in use with ARC documentation
  • Check for consistency within each document


  • Use the % symbol with no space when paired with a numeral:
    • She scored 100% on her exam.
  • Use decimals rather than fractions:
    • The current unemployment rate in South Dakota is 2.5%.
  • When not pairing with a numeral, spell out percentage:
    • Scientists have reported the percentage of water in the atmosphere on Mars.
  • However, if you must start a sentence with a number, spell out percent:
    •  Fifty percent of Americans believe in some conspiracy theory

period (and spaces)

In all forms of writing, use only one space between sentences.

personal emergency response system

Not “Personal Emergency Response System.”

  • Do not use the abbreviation “PERS” in official internal or external communications

phone numbers

See “Telephone numbers” under the “numbers” section.

physician assistant

Not “physician’s assistant”

pickup, pick up, pick-up

  • “pickup” is a noun (“the apartment has trash pickup”)
  • “pick up” is a verb (“we will pick up your trash weekly”)
  • “pick-up” is an adjective (“the pick-up services are included in your monthly fees”)


See the “possessives” entry in the AP Stylebook for a full listing; General guidelines when indicating a possessive:

  • Noun not ending in s: Add ( ’s ) (apostrophe and s)
  • Examples: Emily’s notebook, the bird’s wing, our religion’s belief, women’s rights, the alumni’s contribution, the children’s playground, the center’s needs
  • Noun ending in s: Add ( ’ ), just an apostrophe
    • Examples: Jesus’ teachings, Kansas’ schools, the horses’ food, the campus’ needs, the centers’ needs
  • Possessive pronouns: no apostrophes
    • Includes:
      • mine
      • ours
      • your
      • yours
      • his
      • hers
      • its
      • theirs
      • whose
    • Be careful with homonyms of some of these possessive pronouns, which are actually contractions, not possessives:
      • “you’re” means “you are”
      • “it’s” means “it is”
      • “there’s” means “there is”
      • “who’s” means “who is”
  • Possessive apostrophes with multiple nouns:
    • Use a possessive form after only the last word if the ownership is joint
      • Examples: Fred and Sylvia’s apartment, Fred and Sylvia’s children, a resident and her family’s celebration
    • Use a possessive form after both words if the objects are individually owned
      • Examples: Fred’s and Sylvia’s books, a resident’s room, a resident’s or employee’s suggestion
  • Descriptive phrases such as sports teams:
    • Do not add an apostrophe to a word ending in s when it is used primarily in a descriptive sense
      • girls basketball, not girl’s or girls’ basketball
      • boys tennis, not boy’s or boys’ tennis
        • But, women’s and men’s
          • See AP Stylebook for detailed explanation

post-acute rehabilitation services

A service line within rehabilitation/skilled care. It should be “Post-acute rehabilitation services” as a headline/bullet or “post-acute rehabilitation services” in copy.

  • Acceptable punctuation and wording when referring to the service line:
    • post-acute rehabilitation services (recommended)
    • post-acute rehab services
    • post-acute rehab
  • Acceptable terms to help describe (but not replace) the term post-acute rehabilitation services:
    • focused rehab
    • inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation therapy
    • inpatient and outpatient therapy
    • inpatient rehabilitation therapy
    • inpatient therapy
    • occupational therapy
    • outpatient rehabilitation therapy
    • physical, occupational and speech therapies
    • physical therapy
    • post-acute care
    • rehabilitation services
    • rehabilitation therapy
    • short-term rehab
    • short-term rehabilitation
    • skilled care
    • speech therapy
    • therapy
  • The following terms are not to be used in any Society materials or publications:
    • long-term rehab
    • long-term rehabilitation
    • post-acute services
    • rehab services
    • short-term and long-term rehab, short- and long-term rehab
    • short-term and long-term rehabilitation, short- and long-term rehabilitation
    • sub-acute, subacute
    • sub-acute care
    • transitional care
    • transitional care unit
  • Post-acute rehabilitation services should never be abbreviated to PA, PAR or PARS in materials, documents or publications
  • In the text of a story or article, the approved terms should be lowercased.
    • The ONLY exceptions will be:
      1. In the color bars on the graphics materials – the color-coded brochures. Post-Acute Rehabilitation Services is part of the graphic element there.
      2. In the customized name of a specific service unit, as in “The Evergreen Rehabilitation Center in Podunk, Nebraska.”
  • People who use post-acute rehab services are “patients” or “guests” (not residents, clients, occupants)
  • People receive post-acute rehab services at a “center” (not community, campus, agency)
  • Outpatient therapy is a separately licensed service from post-acute rehab services, so it should be considered a separate/optional rehab service

post-grant, pre-grantSH


Not “post card.”




One word, not two.

pre-grant, post-grantSH

preexist, preexisting

Not pre-existing or pre existing.



Sentences should not end with a preposition such as for, with, of, to, by, over.

  • Correct: Send the invite to the physicians on this list.
  • Incorrect:  This is the list of physicians to send the invite to.




Not “preventative”

principal, principle 

Principal is most important or influential or person with controlling authority; principle is a basic truth or belief.

  • She is the principal investigator.
  • This style guide is a matter of principles.


Personal pronouns change depending on whether they are the subject or object in a sentence.

  • Correct: The doctor offered mom and me advice on lowering our cholesterol.
  • Incorrect: The doctor offered mom and I advice on lowering our cholesterol.
  • Correct: Mom and I got advice on nutrition from a dietitian.
  • Incorrect: Mom and me got advice on nutrition from a dietitian.

Still not sure? It’s easy to check yourself by leaving out the other party.

  • I got advice
  • The doctor offered me

Use the simple personal pronoun as the subject.

  • Correct: My sister and I volunteered at the NICU.
  • Incorrect:  My sister and myself volunteered at the NICU.

Though grammatically the proper pronoun for Sanford Health is it, using a personal pronoun like our is OK because it makes our communication more personal. Similarly, you may use they as a pronoun instead of he or she.

publication names

See “titles of works, composition titles, publication names, etc.


quotation marks

Generally, quotation marks (“ ”) should be used for direct quotes, dialog or conversation, and unfamiliar terms. In news releases, put quotes around composition titles such as books and movies but otherwise, put those titles in italics.

  • Quotations marks and punctuation
    • The period and the comma always go within the quotation marks.
    • The dash, semicolon and colon do not go within the quotation marks unless they are part of the quote.
    • If the question mark or exclamation point is part of the quote, it stays within. The question mark and exclamation point only go outside the closing quotation mark if they are not part of the quote. Otherwise, the context of the quotation may be misread.
    • HEADLINES: Use single quote marks in headlines.

See the AP Stylebook for a full explanation.



When stating a range of a quantity — such as pages, dates or Scripture verses — use a hyphen.

  • Examples of best practices:
    • “see pages 47-52”
    • “the event takes place June 4-8”
    • “Luke 3:1-5”
  • Note: The hyphen takes the place of the phrase “from x to y”
    • using both “from” and a hyphen (e.g., “from June 4-8”) is redundant; use either “from June 4 to (or through) 8” or “June 4-8”


Not “readmission.”


Good Samaritan Society regions should be capitalized.

  • Examples:
    • Good Samaritan Society – Moscow Village is part of Region 31


rehabilitation and skilled care, rehabilitation/skilled care, rehab and skilled care, rehab/skilled care

Preferred in most references when referring to Good Samaritan Society nursing home care and skilled nursing care.

  • When referring to the place where this service is offered, add the word “center” (“rehabilitation and skilled care center”)
  • People who live in rehab/skilled care centers are “residents” (not “clients”, “occupants”, “patients”)
  • OK to use “RSC” in internal communications and some collateral with abbreviations legends; avoid this abbreviation in body copy, though, for easiest readability

Relay For Life

Note the capitalized “For.”

remodel and remodeling

  • “Remodel” is a verb, and should not be used as an adjective (“our dining room remodel project”) or noun (“our dining room remodel is complete”)
  • “Remodeling” can be used as a verb or adjective
  • “Remodeled” is an adjective or past-tense verb
  • Correct examples:
    • “As we remodel, we hope to…”
    • “We are remodeling our dining room.”
    • “Help us with our dining room remodeling project.”
    • “We’ve completely remodeled our dining room.”
    • “Our remodeled dining room features…”

rent and rental

Avoid; the circumstances for a fee to be considered rent are incredibly complex — “monthly fees” are a safer terminology.


Use “the Rev.” in body text and captions with the person’s name.

  • Example: “We asked the Rev. Julie Berndt to offer a prayer for…”


safe, safety

Avoid using in reference to service provided.

said / says

See “attributions – says/said.”

same-day vs. same day

When two words are used together as an adjective, use a hyphen. For example, both statements are correct:

  • They are having same-day surgery.
  • They will be able to go home on the same day as their surgery.

Sanford or Sanford Health

We are Sanford Health. While we might shorten our name to Sanford when we speak, it should always be written out as Sanford Health.

The exception is when writing about one of our Centers of Excellence. The parent brand, Sanford Health, has five centers of excellence and three core entities that are also proper names, so they should be capitalized but never shortened or abbreviated

Centers of Excellence

  • Sanford Women’s
  • Sanford Children’s
  • Sanford Orthopedics & Sports Medicine
  • Sanford Heart
  • Sanford Cancer

Sanford Family 

May be used with a capital “F” as a proper noun when addressing employees in an email or letter but otherwise should be used as a common noun, Sanford family.


Capitalize when referring to the Bible.


The names of seasons are lowercase (examples: winter, spring, summer, fall, autumn) unless it is part of a title or a publication issue’s name (examples: “the Spring 2012 issue of The Disciple”).


Do not use when talking about services (usually related to memory care); it’s too synonymous with the word “safe” and should not be used as it may imply promises in care we cannot guarantee.

  • OK to say “secured” (with a “d” at the end) when describing an environment, neighborhood, wing, hallway or door


The semicolon ( ; ) is a great tool for separating lists or two closely related thoughts and when you want less emphasis than a period. Semicolons also separate independent clauses that are not joined by a conjunction such as and or but.

  • She planned on taking a vacation in the summer; it didn’t happen until late fall.
  • She took numerous things: enough food for a two-week stay; clothing and gear for swimming, snorkeling and boating; and newspapers, magazines and books.

Send a Note

Use this format when referring to the Good Samaritan Society’s “Send a Note” website feature. Not “send-a-note,” “Send a note,” etc.

senior housing with services

Do not use “independent housing” to describe these services.

  • Approved terms for the people and buildings associated with senior housing with services:
    • resident
    • community
    • campus (if applicable)
    • location (if applicable)
    • apartment, unit
    • caregiver (staff)
    • fees
  • Do not use the following terms for the people and buildings associated with senior housing with services:
    • occupant
    • client
    • patient
    • center
    • agency
    • neighborhood
    • household
    • unlicensed personnel
    • rent

senior living

Note: This is not a service listing; the umbrella term of senior living includes the services of affordable housing, assisted living and housing with services; see the approved terms above for senior housing with services.


Not “Sharepoint,” “Share Point.”

short-term care

Always hyphenated; not “shortterm care” or “short term care.”


Not “sing-along,” “sing-a-long,” “sing along.”

skilled nursing facility (SNF)

This term and acronym are OK to use in documents related specifically to things like Medicare, EMR and billing (as appropriate and needed); see the “rehabilitation and skilled care” entry for the Society’s preferred wording in all other uses.

skin care

But if “skincare” appears in the official name of a product or company, it should remain one word to match.


Not “smart phone,” “smart-phone,” “Smartphone,” “SmartPhone.”

sneak peek

Not “sneek peek,” “sneak peak,” “sneek peak.”

Social Accountability grant program

  • Capitalize “Social Accountability” when referring to the program or a grant a center received through the program; lowercase “social accountability” when referring generally to the concept of being socially accountable
  • “grant” and “program” do not need to be capitalized

Social Security

Always capitalized when referring to the federal program.


The Good Samaritan Society may be referred to as “the Society” in subsequent references as long as the context makes it clear that the writer is referring to the Good Samaritan Society, not society in general.

  • A generic word such as “the organization” also may be used
  • For longer stories, the full name may need to be repeated for clarity


  • SOP stands for Strategic Operational Plan.

special care unit

staff, faculty 

These words take a singular verb when used to refer to the group as a whole.

  • The staff is having a party.
  • The staff members are having a party.

staff members

See “employee” entry.

Stage 2 cancer

Uppercase and numeral.

STAR Ministry

states and countries

Spell out state names when used in datelines and in a narrative style such as a report, web content, story or letter.

  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • Minnesota
  • California  
  • Washington, D.C.
    • In copy, use a comma after Washington and periods after D.C. A comma goes after the last period when the term is used in the middle of a sentence (e.g., “We went to Washington, D.C., to see…”). But there are no periods in the postal code: Washington, DC.

Offset the state with commas when it’s used with a city: “Sanford Health has large operations in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Fargo, North Dakota.”

In non-narrative text, like a resume, social media, headlines or mailing address, use the US Postal Service two-letter abbreviation for states.

  • ND
  • SD
  • MN
  • CA
  • Do not use postal abbreviations to refer to states, unless it is part of a mailing address that also lists a ZIP code

When the state name accompanies a city, place a comma between the city and state name, and another comma after the state name, unless ending a sentence or indicating a dateline.

  • Example: He was traveling from Nashville, Tennessee, to Austin, Texas, en route to his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

stepdown unit

Not “step down” or “step-down”; preferred is intermediate or transitional

style guide

Not “styleguide” or “Style Guide.”


subacute care

Do not use; see “post-acute rehabilitation services” entry

subspecialty, subspecialist


teen, teenager

telehealth, telemedicine

than or then

  • “Than” is used to compare things (examples: he is taller than I am; I’d rather listen to music than watch a movie; Fred makes more money than Jimmy)
  • “Then” is used to denote time or a sequence of events (examples: wash your hair, then brush your teeth; he filled out the form, then waited in the lobby; preheat the oven first, then mix the ingredients)

that or which

  • That defines or restricts. Use when the clause is important to the meaning of a sentence. Do not use commas.
    • The bus that broke down is in the garage. (Not just any bus.)
    • The dissertation that she wrote is published. (Not just any dissertation.) Often, as in this example, that can be eliminated to simplify the sentence.
  • Which describes. When the sentence includes which, use commas to set off the descriptive phrase.
    • The bus, which broke down last week, is in the garage.
    • The dissertation, which she wrote while earning her PhD, is published.
  • From AP Stylebook: (Tip: If you can drop the clause and not lose the meaning of the sentence, use which; otherwise, use that. A which clause is surrounded by commas; no commas are used with that clauses.)

theater or theatre

Generally, “theater” is the preferred spelling, but either may be used as long as it’s consistent within a document.

their, there, they’re 

Their means belonging to or associated with; there is a place, they’re is the contraction of they are. Also see “possessives.”

  • They’re going to the park over there to play their game.

third party or third-party

  • Do not hyphenate when using the term as a noun (“we contract that service through a third party”)
  • Hyphenate when using the term as an adjective (“that question is being directed to a third-party administrator”)

Thrivent Financial for Lutherans


  • Use a space between numerals and p.m. or a.m. in lowercase with periods. Don’t include “:00” if something occurs on the hour.
    • 8 a.m.
    • 3:30 p.m.
  • Use numbers, except for noon and midnight. Also, it’s redundant to put a 12 in front of noon or midnight.
    • The meeting starts at noon.
  • Use words like to, until or between instead of a dash in narrative copy.
    • Our office hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
    • Join our open house between 3 and 5:30 p.m.
    • Our vaccination clinic will be open from noon until 5 p.m.

time frame

Not “timeframe,” “time-frame.”


Not “time line,” “time-line.”

titles of works, composition titles, publication names, etc.

For titles of books, movies, plays, albums, songs, speeches, works of art, television or radio programs, and other compositions: capitalize principal words and the first word if it’s fewer than four letters and put the title in italics (or quotes if writing for media):

  • The titles of complete/long pieces of work are italicized, including titles of:
    • movies (e.g., The Shawshank Redemption)
    • books (e.g., To Kill a Mockingbird)
    • newsletters (e.g., Samaritan Times)
    • magazines (e.g., National Geographic)
    • newspapers (e.g., The New York Times)
    • TV series (e.g., Seinfeld)
    • CDs (e.g., Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits)

tracheostomy and tracheotomy

While these terms are sometimes used interchangeably (as long as they’re consistently used—one or the other), a tracheostomy is a hole/opening in a person’s neck through which a breathing apparatus is inserted and/or an air passage is opened, while a tracheotomy is the surgical procedure that creates this hole.

  • Note: With the distinction above, a Good Samaritan Society location’s rehabilitation program may offer “tracheostomy care”

transitional care

Do not use; see “post-acute rehabilitation services” entry.

twin home

Not “twinhome.”

type 2 diabetes

Numeric digit, not Roman numeral when referring to diabetes.



One word is acceptable in all uses (no need to use “under way” as a verb).


Avoid overuse. Either something is unique (without like or equal) or it isn’t. Do not say more unique or very unique.

units of measurement

Use numerals and spell out the units of measurement (e.g., inches, feet, yards, miles); hyphenate compound adjectives before nouns.


  • He is 5 feet 6 inches tall.
  • The 5-foot-6-inch man asked for directions.
  • The storm left 5 inches of snow.
  • The 3-mile race begins at 9 a.m.
  • The rug is 9 feet wide and 12 feet long.
  • The 9-by-12-foot rug won’t fit in the room.
  • The 8,000-square-foot facility houses the clinic.

up-to-date, up to date

“Up-to-date” (as an adjective before a noun), “up to date” (elsewhere in a sentence)

  • See “hyphens” entry for examples


Not “up-coming.”

URL addresses

See “website addresses, URLs and redirects” entry.

use, usage, utilize

Utilize and usage are not synonyms of use/use. Consider the precise definitions of each before choosing.
When in doubt, choose use over either utilize or usage.

  • use (yüz)(verb) vs. utilize
    • Use as a verb means to put something into service as a means of accomplishing something.
      • I use a spoon to eat soup.
    • Utilize means to put something to use for a reason other than its ordinary purpose.
      • I sometimes utilize a spoon to open a jar.
  • use (yüs)(noun) vs. usage
    • Use as a noun refers to the act of using something for a particular purpose.
      • The use of a spoon to open a jar should be a last-resort solution.
    • Usage refers to an established, habitual and accepted practice of something.
      • Spoon usage among humans began as early as 1000 BC.



  • If a subject is singular, use a singular verb; if a subject is plural, give it a plural verb.
    • My father was a doctor too.
    • Many children in the hospital are being treated for RSV.
  • Prepositional phrases can be tricky so pay attention when writing them. See below for examples of correct use.
    • The group of students was introduced to the researchers.
    • He is one of the smartest students who has joined the program.
  • Certain words are singular and require singular verbs: each, either, neither, none, everyone, everybody, nobody, someone.
    • Neither student studies hard for the final.
    • None of the candidates is a good fit for the job.


Capitalize on the second reference when standing alone as a center name.


waiting list

This is the term used in forms and policies and procedures; “wait list” is also OK to use, as long as the terminology is consistent within the document.

Washington, D.C.

In copy, use a comma after Washington and periods after D.C. A comma goes after the last period when the term is used in the middle of a sentence (e.g., “We went to Washington, D.C., to see…”). But there are no periods in the postal code: Washington, DC.


Not “Web”; Also:

  • webcam
  • webcast
  • webmaster
  • webpage (not “web page,” “Webpage,” “web page,” “web-page”)
  • website (not “Web site,” “Website,” “web site,” web-site”)

webcam, webcast, webmaster, webpage, website

One word, not two.

website addresses, URLs and redirects

  • Use lowercase letters and omit www. Capitalize only if it starts a sentence and use a period if the address ends a sentence. There are no spaces or caps in any website addresses, URLs or redirects.
    • Correct:
      • is the company website.
      • The company website is
    • Incorrect:
      • a location
  • Format URLs in regular text (not underlined or in blue). Do not break a URL across lines; use a soft return or force break a line so that the entire address fits on one line.


Not “week-long.”

weight loss


Always hyphenated.

well child care

well woman care


Preferred to “handicapped-accessible.”



Who, whom 

Who is a pronoun referring to the subject of a sentence, clause or phrase; whom is the object of a verb or preposition.

  • The doctor who performed the surgery was one of the best.
  • The patient to whom the room was assigned left it in disarray.

Who’s, whose 

Who’s is a contraction for who iswhose means belonging to.

  • Who’s the person whose car is parked in my spot?


Not “wifi,” “WiFi”

wise men

Lowercase, even when referring to the Magi who visited Jesus after his birth.

  • Note: No translation of the Bible specifies how many wise men there were; people guess/assume it was three because there were three gifts brought (gold, frankincense, myrrh)


Do not capitalize when referring to God’s word.

workers’ compensation

Not “Workers’ Compensation,” “worker’s compensation,” “workers compensation.”


Not “work force.”





Capital “X” and hyphen.



Use a hyphen when writing as both a noun and an adjective.



ZIP or ZIP code

Not “Zip” or “Zip code.”

  • “ZIP” is an acronym (“zoning improvement plan”), which is why it should appear in all caps

Writing for the Web

People tend to read online by skimming. Research shows that many don’t scroll past the first screen or past “the fold” which is the part of the page that is visible without scrolling. This can determine page design. That’s why our new design offers many entry points into the website without forcing visitors to scroll for the information they need.

This also determines our content text which affects our search engine results, shareability on social media, and the general usefulness to patients and other users of our site. Make your web copy skimmable with short sentences, small blocks of text, subheadings, bullet points and numbered lists.

In other words, get right to the point to make clear what the page is about and what you want the reader to do. Here’s how:

Write for People – and for Google

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, capitalizes on the terms people are searching for and makes our website a top result in their search. We research what keywords people are using in their searches and find ways to place them on our site in important areas such as web addresses, headlines and first paragraphs.

Write in Patient-first Language

Tell the reader about the benefit to them. Include a clear call-to-action. No one enjoys a conversation with someone who only talks about themselves.

  • Good example: At Sanford Health, you have access to a team of experienced providers ready to make a care plan that fits you. You’ll find compassionate care combined with the latest treatments and techniques. Make an appointment today.
  • Bad example: Sanford Health has the largest team of experienced, board-certified providers in the region with state-of-the-art technology and millions of dollars in improvements to facilities. Sanford staff is ready to help you with registration and scheduling appointments.

Use Active Voice

Speak directly to the patient and use energetic verbs to keep the reader’s attention. 

  • Good examples: She treats patients. We offer medical services. You find care. 
  • Bad examples: Patients are treated. Medical services are offered. Care is found.

Write at a 7th-Grade Level

When in doubt, find a similar word with fewer syllables. Translate medical jargon into everyday conversational language. Spell out most acronyms. (See Associated Press Stylebook for exceptions.) If someone outside the medical profession would wonder what a word or phrase means, find another way to say it. You can be informational without sounding like a textbook.

  • Good examples: high blood pressure, lab work, diabetes, showing symptoms, older adults
  • Bad examples: hypertension, specimen collection, diabetes mellitus, presenting with symptoms, geriatrics

Web pages should contain a minimum of 150 to 250 words (for search engines) and should focus on one topic. Avoid long pages. Each paragraph should contain no more than five sentences; try to keep the sentences fairly short. Break up the text using bullets, subheads, etc.

Use Short Sentences

Aim to keep most sentences to 104 characters or less. Write one idea per sentence and split longer sentences into two or more. We communicate one idea per sentence for maximum readability – a quality that’s especially important for health information.

Be brief and to the point when writing for the web; avoid unnecessary words.

Avoid direct references such as:

  • Click here
  • Below
  • To the right
  • The graphic on the left
  • This page
  • This chapter

Bottom Line

People are more likely to read your web content if it is authentic, brief, clear, relevant, useful, credible, scannable and friendly. Once you’ve hit those marks, stop what you’re doing and push the “Publish” button.

If you want to convert people with your content, do all of the above, plus craft well-designed conversion elements and position them smartly on the page. Avoid promotional writing and small talk – readers will scan right to the information they need. Separate informational and promotional content visually and use the new design elements to make your content work best for your readers.