RCN house style for print and web


haemorrhage, haemorrhaging


the girl is six and a half; the six and a half-year-old girl. A half-eaten hospital meal. Half a dozen nurses

handbook, handout

no hyphens

hanged, hung

the patient was found hanged; the sheet was hung out to dry

harass, harassment

hay fever


health care-associated infection, not hospital-acquired infection. Spell out at first mention


where possible, make active rather than passive – “RCN updates guidance on nutrition” rather than “Nutrition guidance updated”. Avoid exclamation marks in headings. Strive to make headings and sub-headings engaging so they entice the reader to read on

[RCN] headquarters

acceptable shorthand for 20 Cavendish Square but use with caution in the context of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, where readers might justifiably assume you mean Edinburgh, Cardiff or Belfast

health care

not healthcare

health care assistant

but abbreviate to HCA. Also beware of local variations such as health care support worker


in metres; for example, 1.68 metres (see also metric system)



not hiccough

high court

lower case






not high-tech


no need to spell out. “An HIV-positive man”, but “The man is HIV positive” (no hyphen)


of a website. One word


cap up proper names – for example, Derby District General Hospital, but the district general hospital in Derby

humanity, humankind

not man, mankind

Huntingdon’s disease

formerly Huntingdon’s chorea

hyperthermia, hypothermia

hot; cold


There is a trend towards less use of hyphens and turning two words into one (chatroom; thinktank) but hyphens do help clarify potential ambiguities – for example, black-cab drivers. Will a hyphen help convey the sense you want? Be consistent throughout your text. Hyphens are used:

  • to avoid ambiguity. For example: four year-old children (four children aged one)
  • to separate identical letters, as in co-operate
  • when nouns are formed from prepositional verbs – build-up or shake-up
  • with short compound adjectives, such as three-year pay deal; second-year nursing student.

Note that hyphens do not have spaces either side – while dashes do