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Your punctuation, your way: NHS to relax colon rules

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Your punctuation, your way: NHS to relax colon rules

The NHS is to relax the rules on the use of colons to make it easier to write informative titles for documents and headlines for news stories.

Under new proposals, restrictions on multiple colon use will be scrapped giving comms teams the freedom to write titles of unlimited length and complexity.

Until now, anyone composing a long title has only been permitted a single colon, forcing them to resort to alternative punctuation if they wish to include a further clause.

Take the following example from NHS England:

Ask Listen Do – Making conversations count in health, social care and education: Tips for health, social care and education organisations and practitioners

Note how the author is forced to substitute a dash for the initial colon and how he or she subsequently has nowhere to go if the subject requires extended explanatory treatment.

Communications professionals welcomed the move. Martin Plackard, interim lifetime president of the NHS Council of Communicators Committed to Transforming Style, Substance, Clarity and Brevity (NHS CCCTSSCB) took to social media to break the news.

“Thrilled to be asked to lead this inspirational initiative to transform outmoded notions of ‘grammar’ and ‘syntax’ #NHSColonRevolution #NoLimits,” he tweeted.

In a blog for the NHS England website, Plackard added: “For too long NHS Communications Professionals have been forced to choose between strategic words and phrases, sometimes having to reduce a single title to just three or four fantastic ideas.

“Now, thanks to the pioneering work of my dedicated team at NHS CCCTSSCB, a document title or headline will be able to represent the full range of outcomes from ideation sessions and imagineering workshops.

“If your team comes up with several great titles, no one will have to suffer the humiliation of seeing theirs discarded or relegated to a subtitle or chapter heading. They can simply be strung together: nothing will go to waste.”

Officials claim that the new “light usage” regime will encourage NHS communicators to new levels of creative innovation.

“With the NHS long term plan in the offing and STPs about to set to work on new five year plans, we finally have the tools we need to make a real difference to people’s lives,” Plackard said.

He dismissed as a “ridiculous oversimplification” the suggestion that NHS communications could be improved by shorter titles free of jargon and hyperbole.

Style guide: Julian Patterson


Anonymous says:
Nov 01, 2018 04:48 PM

....not sure I want people in the NHS relaxing their colons :)