Corporate document

Punctuation, formatting and bullet points

Punctuation, formatting and bullet points


Use brackets sparingly. They are fine for adding technical details of trial results, but avoid them if you can for subclauses in sentences. They can be confusing, particularly for people using screenreaders.

Do not put 2 sets of brackets next to each other. Use 1 set of brackets and other punctuation like commas, semi-colons or dashes to separate the text: (23.4 compared with 56.9; p<0.05) instead of (23.4 compared with 56.9) (p<0.05).

For brackets within brackets, use round brackets then square brackets (like this [for example]).

Bold and italics

Do not use bold or italics for emphasis. Use headings and bullet lists instead, and structure your content logically.

Do not use italics to describe Latin names of genes, bacteria, viruses and fungi.  Make it clear from the text what you are talking about. For example, 'the genetic variant m.1555A>g in the gene MT-RNR1', or 'Clostridium difficile (C. diff) is a type of bacteria that can cause diarrhoea'.

Bullet points

Use bullet points to break up large chunks of text and to avoid long lists in sentences. Use the existing bullet style in the template you're using. Do not use a bullet if you only have 1 item. A screenreader will describe it as a bullet list and the user will be expecting more points in the list.

There are 2 bullet styles, for short lists and long lists. For both types, every bullet should follow from the stem. Avoid ending a bullet point with 'and' and 'or'. Use the lead-in to let people know the options (for example, 'including all of the following', 'only use 1 of these options').

Short lists should:

  • start with a lower case letter

  • not have a full stop

  • until the last bullet.

For longer lists, treat each bullet as a separate sentence:

  • Each bullet should start with a capital letter and end with a full stop.

  • You can include as many bullets as necessary in the list.

Quote marks

Do not overdo quotation marks. Use single quotes for everything except direct speech. For example, for unusual words, non-standard use, or phrases or words that have a specific meaning in the context ('In this guidance, 'rapidly' is used to mean within 4 hours'), and for words and phrases that are not in NICE style but cannot be changed (when quoting from a marketing authorisation or a research paper).

Use double quotes to reproduce direct speech (for example in a press release). If the quote is a complete sentence, put it in this format (note the full stop inside the quotation marks):

In the opening speech at the conference, Dr Brown said: "This guidance will help improve services for children."

If the quote is part of a sentence, use this format (note the full stop outside the quote marks):

Dr Smith said the new guidance would lead to "a big improvement in care for many patients".

If you're quoting a large amount of text, use quote marks at the beginning of each paragraph but do not close them until the end of the quote:

"The need for support at home is something that is likely to affect many of us. As we age, most of us will want to continue living in our own homes, surrounded by a lifetime of memories, for as long as we can.

"Helping a person remain as independent as possible is an important component to maintaining their wellbeing."

If you're leaving text out, show this using 3 dots (an ellipsis) in square brackets: […].