RCN house style for print and web



upper case

campaign titles 

italics and initial caps: Nursing Counts; Frontline First

cannula, cannulae (plural)


keep to a minimum. Too many capitals make text difficult to read. If in doubt use lower case: the Government; the Coalition Government; the Scottish Government; the Welsh Assembly; a government minister; green paper; white paper
with geographical regions, use capital letters only for political divisions or formal names, not for points of the compass: Northern Ireland; northern England; south London; the East End; East Sussex

RCN regions: Yorkshire & The Humber region; Northern region etc

RCN boards: lower case b

lower case t when talking about NHS trusts in general, but upper case when referring to a specific one: for example, Sussex Partnership Trust; likewise social services, but Brighton and Hove Social Services Department

member, steward, safety representative, regional officer


one word


one word

CD, CDs, CD-Rom


abbreviated to cm, not cms


not chairman or chairperson


one word


one word

Christmas Day, Christmas Eve


avoid like the plague


Cumulative Index of Nursing and Allied Health Literature. No need to spell out

class A drug

Clostridium difficile spell out, then C difficile, not C diff

[the NMC] code of conduct

proper title is The Code: Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics for Nurses and Midwives, but usually known as “the code of conduct”

coeliac disease

colons and semicolons

semicolons are used to link two or more clauses in a sentence which are of equal importance and are linked together. For example: To make a mistake when administering drugs is incompetent; to do it wilfully is professional misconduct.
The course has five sessions: introduction to the issues; getting started; after the first six months; and planning for the future.

Whereas the semicolon links equal or balanced clauses, the colon generally indicates a progression in some way: To make a mistake when administering drugs is incompetent: incompetence that must be dealt with in some way.

Colons should also precede a sentence that is quoted in full – Dr Carter said: “This style guide must have taken a lot of work.”



in lists of individual items, do not put a comma before the final “and” – for example, nurses, midwives and health visitors. The exception – known as the Oxford comma – is where a sequence already includes an item that contains “and” – for example, She worked in oncology, accident and emergency, and theatres

Also use a comma before “and” in lists where the last two items are made up of clauses – for example: advice on the course, what information is available, and how to find it.

Use commas either side of job titles: Peter Piper, RCN Officer, said…

common foundation programme

Commons health committee

upper case C for Commons

House of Commons, the

upper case H and C

compare to

for similarities

compare with

for differences

complementary or complimentary

complementary: serving to complete – for example: complementary medicine; the workshop complemented her existing skills.
complimentary: free or expressing praise – for example: complimentary Congress bag; the patient was complimentary about the nurse’s skills


means “to consist of”, “to be made up of”. “The committee comprises nurses and doctors” is right; “Doctors and nurses comprise the committee” is wrong.

conference titles

caps, italics: The Power of Nursing


not consult with

continence products

continence pads, not incontinence pads


avoid overuse of I’ve, they’ve, can’t, couldn’t, I’m. They look bad and although they may be appropriate in some cases, tend to make an article look frivolous


no hyphen



corporate/government bodies

always singular: the NMC is consulting; the Government is listening

consultant nurses

wrong; use nurse consultants

cost effective

no hyphen if “the care is cost effective”; but “the cost-effective care”