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Style Guide

Featured content, templates, code snippets, support instructions, digital writing, formatting, iconography and brand colors.

Brand Summary

Moving mental health forward: mind, brain and body.

It’s an exciting time for our organization as we shape the future of mental health treatment. This means a change in our priorities as well as our visual brand. The American Psychiatric Association is leading the charge for better treatments, more acceptance and stronger policies to improve the lives of those with mental illness. And we will succeed only with your help.

The complete branding guide — accessible on the APA Intranet — contains everything you need to understand and use our brand system. By consistently adhering to our brand architecture, you will strengthen our collective presence and thus the cause.


Voice and tone are critical to our effort because we want our audience to have a consistent experience with the site and to easily understand the information we are providing.


Our audiences include psychiatrists and other health professionals, residents, medical students, media, and patients and families.


Smart, engaged, lively.


The tone may change depending on the situation and primary audience.


  • Accomplished but not arrogant
  • Informative but not dense
  • Conversational but not lazy
  • Serious but not too serious

Guidance for Writing

  • Keep writing tight and concise
  • Use active voice
  • Use correct grammar in most cases (making allowances for some colloquialisms)
  • Use headlines, subheads, and bullet points to make information clear and accessible and to emphasize what’s important
  • Don’t be overtly promotional or cheerleadery
  • When appropriate, use “we” instead of “APA” and address the audience as “you"
  • Except on the rarest occasion, no exclamation marks

Guidance for Web Writing

Writing for the web is a unique style. This UK Government resource on writing is a helpful reference.

Usage, Grammar and Formatting

AP Style adheres to AP Style for general guidance, and to the DSM-5-TR for the names and treatments of mental illnesses. There are certain exceptions and special situations we’ve outlined below here.

Titles Capitalization

Use U&lc. Capitalize all words in a title except for articles (a, an, the), coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or, nor, so), and prepositions with fewer than four letters and “important” words (e.g., forms of the verb “to be”; “up” and “do” in “Growing Up Is Hard to Do”). Headlines may use abbreviations if the term is spelled out in text. Use numerals for all numbers except for in casual uses. Do not abbreviate percent.

Do capitalize prepositions that are part of a verb phrase (“Backing Up Your Disk”).


Generally, the rules in AP apply. Hyphenate compound modifiers except “mental health,” “health care,” “integrated care,” “primary care,” “early career,” etc. In general, when not otherwise specified, hyphens should be used only as an aid to the reader’s understanding, avoid ambiguity.

  • Use a hyphen (-) in African-American, Asian-American, etc., ONLY if the term is used as an adjective (i.e., African-American Culture; Asian-American Community)
  • Do not use a hyphen when the term is used alone (i.e., Somatization in Chinese Americans; Depression and the African American)
  • In general, whenever “self” precedes a word it should be followed by a hyphen (-)

Compound Words and Modifiers:

In general, whenever “based,” induced,” onset,” or “resistant” follows a word and the compound is used as an adjective, there should be a hyphen (-) before it.


In general, whenever “non,” “anti,” “post,” or “pre” precedes a word, a hyphen should not be used.

Names with Degrees

All participants should be listed as follows:

  • Only three degrees maximum may be listed
  • M.D. should always be listed first and the rest of the degrees should follow by doctoral and then masters levels and then alphabetically
  • Undergraduate degree should be dropped if participant has an advanced degree
  • Only earned degrees should be listed, honorary degrees should not be included
  • Place a comma after each name and degree
  • Use periods in degree abbreviations
  • If “Jr.” no comma after last name
  • If “II” or “III” no comma after last name

Types of degrees:

M.D., M.B., D.O., M.B.B.S., M.B.Ch.B., J.D., Sc.D., M.Sc., B.Sc., Ph.D., Ed.D., Psy.D., L.C.S.W., L.I.C.S.W., M.A., M.S., B.S.N., R.N., LL.M., M.B.A., M.P.A.

Correct examples:

  • Jim Smith Jr., M.D., Ph.D.
  • Jim Smith III, M.D., Ph.D.

Incorrect examples:

  • Jim Smith, Jr MD PhD


All times should be listed as follows:

  • Lower case with periods: a.m. and p.m.
  • Noon should be used to indicate mid-day
  • En dashes should be used for duration (with a space before and after) instead of hyphens or the word “to”

Correct examples:

  • Noon – 1:30 p.m.
  • 4:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • 3:30 p.m. – Noon

Incorrect examples:

  • 8:00 AM-12:00 PM
  • 8:00 AM to 12 noon 8am to noon

State Abbreviations

In titles, spell out “United States” when used alone; abbreviate as U.S. when used as an adjective. Use state abbreviations in addresses and after the names of cities (exceptions listed below.) Spell out state if used alone in a title (e.g., “Prevalence of Depression in Minnesota”).

State abbreviations in AP style differ from the two-letter ZIP code abbreviations:

  • Ala.
  • Ariz.
  • Ark.
  • Calif.
  • Colo.
  • Conn.
  • Del.
  • Fla.
  • Ga.
  • Ill.
  • Ind.
  • Kan.
  • Ky.
  • La.
  • Md.
  • Mass.
  • Mich.
  • Minn.
  • Miss.
  • Mo.
  • Mont.
  • Neb.
  • Nev.
  • N.H.
  • N.J.
  • N.M.
  • N.Y.
  • N.C.
  • N.D.
  • Okla.
  • Ore.
  • Pa.
  • R.I.
  • S.C.
  • S.D.
  • Tenn.
  • Vt.
  • Va.
  • Wash.
  • W.Va.
  • Wis.
  • Wyo.

States whose names are not abbreviated:

  • Alaska
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Maine
  • Ohio
  • Texas
  • Utah

General principles around writing about mental illness

Mental illness is only one aspect of a person’s life, not the defining characteristic. Specific disorders are types of mental illness and should be used whenever possible. Avoid derogatory language. Terms such as “psycho,” “crazy” and “junkie” should not be used. In addition, avoid words like “suffering” or “victim” when discussing those who have mental health challenges. Preferred: She is a person with schizophrenia. Not preferred: She is schizophrenic. Preferred: She has a mental health illness. She has a substance use disorder. Not preferred: She suffers from mental illness. She’s a drug abuser. Usage notes:

abbreviations, acronyms

Spell out on first reference, followed by the abbreviation in parentheses. Also, abbreviations may be used in headlines and captions if spelled out in text. Do not add an abbreviation in parens if the abbreviation never comes up again in text. Avoid too many acronyms.


Should be “the AMA”

Annual Meeting

Always capitalize when referring to APA’s Annual Meeting.

APA Administration

When referring to the Administration, use the term “members of the APA Administration” to refer to APA staff.

APA lingo

Generally lowercased when generic, uppercased when specific. “At the district branch level”, but the “New York County District Branch.” May abbreviate DB after first reference. Note: Almost all district branch official titles include “Psychiatric Society” or ”Psychiatric Association” Resident-Fellow Member Trustee-Elect Ravi Shah, M.D.; but a member can join a district branch and can run for resident-fellow member trustee-elect. Resident- Fellow member is abbreviated (RFM)


APA’s Political Action Committee. Do not italicize PAC.

American Psychiatric Association Publishing

or APA Publishing

American Psychiatric Association Foundation

or APA Foundation; not American Psychiatric Foundation


Include bill name and number; no periods after HR or S. “The bill, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (HR 2646), was first introduced in 2013 in response to the tragic shootings in Newtown, Conn.”

Board of Trustees

Board should be capitalized when referring to APA and used alone. “…the Board had been asked by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology for input…” The same rule applies when referring to the AMA’s Board of Trustees. When referring to all other organizations, board should be lowercase.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

Spell out ampersand.

Collaborative Care Model (CoCM)

When referring to model, cap. When referring loosely to term “collaborative care,” lowercase is fine.

COVID-19 or coronavirus

Use either to refer to the disease, cap COVID-19 and no cap necessary in coronavirus. Use “the” when using coronavirus. See AP usage note.

diverse populations

APA uses African Americans or Black people (Black used as adjective and always capped), Appalachian people, American Indian/Alaska Native/Native Hawaiian, Asian Americans, Hispanics and Latinos/as, International Medical Graduates or IMGs on second usage, and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer/Questioning or LGBTQ on second reference.


Always italicize. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) on first usage. DSM-5 is first to use Arabic numbers. Earlier issues should be referred to using Roman numerals. Editor-in-Chief: Capitalize, add hyphens when used as formal title before name. “AJP Editor-in-Chief Robert Freedman, M.D., told Psychiatric News.”

Fiscal Year

To indicate fiscal period, use fiscal year 2020 on first usage, which can be shortened to FY 2020 in subsequent usage.


The first instance of the title of a journal should use the full title and not be italicized. E.g. American Journal of Psychiatry, Psychiatric Services


Only list location of institution when it is not apparent. “…psychiatry residents at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minn.”

Levin, Saul


“mental health condition”

Do not refer to “mental health conditions,” use mental illness, mental disorder, or mental health disorder instead, e.g. Person with a mental illness.

Practice guidance

Any text that is meant to help psychiatrists or other physicians in the diagnosing and treatment of patients MUST be reviewed and approved by the appropriate APA governance body and physician reviewed.

Phone numbers

Should be written with no spaces, separated by hyphens: 1-800-123-1234 or 202-123-1234.


Cap both before the name, e.g. “APA President-Elect Vivian Pender, M.D.”


Do not use “provider” to refer to a psychiatrist, who is a medical doctor. Try to avoid this term if at all possible. Use “psychiatrist” and “patient” in place of “provider” and “client.” When referring more broadly to mental health professionals, use mental health professionals or mental health clinicians.

randomized, controlled trial

not randomized control trial

statistics and facts claimed about population groups

All statistics and facts claimed about population groups must be referenced and sourced. Example of a statistic or fact claimed about population groups: "1 in 5 psychiatrists experience anxiety." "African Americans are more likely to experience xyz." etc.

substance use disorder

The phrase “substance abuse” no longer appears in DSM diagnoses. The new terminology uses the word “use” instead of “abuse.” Here are examples of the correct terms: substance use or substance use disorder, cannabis use disorder, inhalant use disorder, opioid use disorder. Do not use the phrase “mental illness and substance abuse”—instead, if you must use this phrase, write “mental illness, including substance use disorders,”


Do not use the word “committed”; instead, use “died by suicide” or “took his/her life.” Do not refer to a suicide attempt as “successful,” “unsuccessful” or as a “failed attempt.”

surgeon general

When introducing surgeon general, capitalize (U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, M.D., M.PH.) in all other instances, lowercase.


Note: not interchangeable with teletherapy or telemental health, which can be offered by psychologists or other mental health workers. It is a subset of telemedicine (the online or distanced delivery of health care) involving a psychiatrist and a patient. More specifically:

  • Telemedicine: medical care provided at a distance.
  • Telehealth: broader than telemedicine, includes all health-related services.
  • Telepsychiatry: the practice of psychiatry at a distance, using either asynchronous ("store-and-forward") or synchronous methods. For official policy, APA only defines synchronous telepsychiatry (live audio/video).
  • Telemental health: mental healthcare, usually psychotherapy, delivered via live video. Can include all mental health providers, including psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, nurse practitioners, and so on.

Brand Colors

Brand Colors

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  • #2e5797
  • #2c6fb6
  • #e05929
  • #09839B
  • #692e44
  • #00667f
  • #245e38
  • #4d9d44


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