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SelectAccount Production 2

Writing Style Guide

Why do we need a writing style guide?

Why should you take time to improve your writing when you could be making more sales or improving your customer service? The answer is simple: credibility.

To get your message across to readers – whether they are customers, employees, vendors, or colleagues – you need credibility. When inaccuracy, error, inconsistency, jargon and carelessness riddle a written communication, you put your credibility on the line – and credibility is a key factor to cultivating business relationships.

Writing is part of our brand. A simple, clear, concise style is a courtesy to the reader and serves you and Further well. That’s why we wrote this guide – to help Further writers with grammar, usage, writing mechanics and approach.

Have you ever wondered or worried about which was correct:

  • Periods or no punctuation for bullets?
  • Which or that?
  • % sign or percent?

You can quickly find answers to these questions—and most of your style-related dilemmas—in this guide.

These standards apply to print and web content

The purpose of this guide is to provide style consistency for all Further content, regardless of the team you’re on, the document you’re creating, or the channel for which you’re writing. It addresses some issues that are specific to web writing, but most of the advice applies to all the writing you do including reports, marketing collateral, PowerPoint presentations, emails, newsletters, etc. Along with Further brand standards, use this document as your resource for spelling, usage, grammar, punctuation, formatting, and more.

Ten guidelines for clear, effective writing

  1. Talk to people, rather than at them. Use “you” or “your” whenever appropriate.
    • Example: “If you can afford to let your HSA balance grow, saving and investing your HSA could be a smart move.”
  2. Show that you’re a person and that your organization is made up of people – use “we, our, us” instead of always using a company name. It helps you sound conversational.
    • Example: “We share your vision of guiding people to a healthier tomorrow.”
  3. Write in active voice (most of the time). It’s easier for people to absorb quickly and puts the correct emphasis on the subject/action of the sentence.
    • Example: Active: “Steve loves Amy.” Passive: “Amy is loved by Steve.”
  4. Simple language, shorter sentences. A good rule of thumb is to try to use no more than 25 words per sentence. (Microsoft Word has a “word count” function that is useful for this.) Cut unnecessary “fluff” language, and keep each sentence to one or two tightly connected thoughts.
    • Example: NOT: “Subsequent to your enrollment, an educational program will be implemented, and a training video and pamphlet will be given to you.”
    • Instead: “We’ll send you a training video and brochure after you enroll.”
  5. Cut unnecessary words, use short words when possible.
    • Example: “use” not “utilize”
  6. Present information in the most impactful and clear way possible.
    • Use infographics, charts, graphs, images where helpful.
    • Consider if a video would be more appropriate.
  7. Keep paragraphs short.
    • Writing that’s broken up into lots of shorter paragraphs is easier to understand than one giant block of text and much more likely to be read. Try to stick to just two or three sentences per paragraph.
  8. One idea per paragraph.
    • If your content is complicated, consider lists, tables, or other approaches to make it clear.
  9. Start with the context – first things first. Start each paragraph with a topic sentence – introducing what the rest of the paragraph is about – because people “jump to act.”
    • Example: “Abraham Lincoln, born in 1809, was one of the most influential politicians in history.”
    • NOT: “Abraham Lincoln was born in 1809.”
  10. Put the action in verbs, not the noun
    • Example: “The committee has to approach it differently.”
    • NOT: “The establishment of a different approach on the part of the committee has become a necessity.”

Further® terminology guide

This section provides a listing of commonly used, Further®-specific, terms and phrases that you should use in all Further® communications. The goal is to provide consistent and universal terminology and to use plain language whenever possible. Plain language is communication your audience can understand the first time they read or hear it. It's easy to read, understand, and use.

Check back often, as we are continually refining this guide to clarify terminology and correct inconsistencies. If you have not found a term or standard in this listing that should be here, please email further.marketing@hellofurther.com so that we can research it for entry.

Health Savings Account

health savings account (HSA) -- All words lowercase. Spell out the first time, using acronym in parens, then use acronym only thereafter

  • She opened a health savings account (HSA) today.

FreeSaver HSA, ThriftSaver HSA, BasicSaver HSA, SelectSaver HSA, PremiumSaver HSA

No change. Just use consistently.

Health Reimbursement Account and Health Reimbursement Arrangement

health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) – All words lowercase. Spell out the first time, using acronym in parens, then use acronym only thereafter

Flexible Spending Account

flexible spending account (FSA) – All words lowercase. Spell out the first time, using acronym in parens, then use acronym only thereafter

Voluntary Employees’ Beneficiary Association Account (VEBA)

voluntary employees’ beneficiary association account (VEBA) – All words lowercase. Spell out the first time, using acronym in parens, then use acronym only thereafter

e-Vault

No longer use this term. This document storage feature is now known as My Records and Receipts. 

Online Member Service Center, Member online service center, Account Holder Online Service Center

  • member portal
  • Third person B2B (like in RFPs): Further® member portal
    • (B2B): When members sign into their account on the member portal, they’ll find more information.
  • First person, when addressing user: Your online account or Your account at Further®.com
    • (B2C): Sign into your account at Further®.com

Online Group Service Center, Group portal, Employer online service center

  • employer portal
  • Third person (like in RFPs): The employer portal has several features available.

-First person (when addressing the user): Sign into your employer account at Further®.com.

  • When you sign into your employer account, you’ll find…
    • Further® employer portal

Referring to the Further® website:

  • hellofurther.com – (no caps, no www – unless there needs to be a www for the url to work)

Group/client/employer phone line and name of representative

  • When referring to the employer phone line call it the employer service center (no cap.)
    • Our customer service center is open.
  • When referring to people who help the member, refer to them as a customer advocate.
    • Call to speak with a customer advocate today.

Agency services/broker phone line and name of representative

  • When referring to the agency services phone line, call it the agent service center.
    • Our agent service center is open.
  • When referring to people who help the agent (broker), refer to them as a customer advocate.
    • Call to speak with a customer advocate.

a HSA, a FSA, a HRA

  • Use “an HSA,” “an HRA,” “an FSA”

Do not use high deductible health plan (HDHP)

  • HSA-qualified plan
  • Plan that meets IRS guidelines

Consumer driven, Consumer-directed

  • Consumer-driven (AP Style)

Consumerism

  • Don’t use, especially in B2C.
  • Help consumers shop and save wisely.
  • Shopping tools, consumer tools

How you describe Further® (who are we):

  • Health care spending and savings account administrator
  • Custodian
  • Nonbank trustee
  • Health care banking – no
  • Medical banking reimbursement specialist – no
  • Health savings administrator – no

Dependent Care Assistance Program (DCAP)

  • Never use acronym with consumers – test with b2b audiences
  • DC-FSA, FSA-dependent care

Transportation Reimbursement Account (TRA)

  • Never use acronym with consumers – test with b2b audiences
  • TC-FSA, FSA-travel

Department names

e.g., Member services vs. customer service, client advocate services, group leader services, client advocates, etc.

e.g., Audit Department, Customer Advocate Team, Customer Solutions Team, HSA Asset Transition Transfer team, etc.

  • Use consistently. Refer to phone lines and phone descriptors above. When Use below in bold:
    • Technology group or IT
    • Claims (aka medical reimbursement specialists, claims examiners, priority research)
    • Quality assurance (aka audit)
    • Digital and consumer experience (aka website or online consumer experience)
    • National sales and account management (aka account management, sales, etc.)
    • Marketing (aka communications, sales and marketing)

Job titles for people who are client-facing

  • The sales team is comprised of:
    • sales executives
    • account executives
    • sales and account specialists
    • implementation and contract managers
    • sales technology administration (Salesforce)
  • The following roles are part of the operations team:
    • client operations manager
    • account administration specialist
    • contribution management specialist
  • Do not capitalize unless using before a name.
    • Chief Executive Office, Matt Marek, said…
    • Matt Marek, chief executive officer, said…
    • Matt Marek is our chief executive officer.

Healthcare

  • Two words: health care

Reports such as Participant Activity Report, HSA Contribution Report

  • Do not capitalize.
    • Our participant activity report shows you how many people registered for an account.

Health care reform, aka Affordable Health Care Act

  • Don’t use Obamacare. If using ACA, spell out acronym.

HIPAA Privacy and Security Regulations

  • Common. Don’t spell out. Just use HIPAA.

Plan design guide

  • Client implementation guide

SSO (single sign on)

  • AP: Hyphenate sign-on as a modifier.
    • We have a single sign-on feature.

First Call Resolution

  • When using this term, be sure to define it, since it isn’t common language. A better approach would be to use simple language:
    • The percent of calls where we resolve the problem on the first call in.

Mobile-enabled, mobile optimized

  • Use mobile optimized

Member, account holder, employee, participant, etc.

  • Member
  • Can use account holder or employee depending on audience

Form names such as Verification Form, Explanation of Payment form

  • Do not capitalize

Crossover

  • This is an unfamiliar term to the average consumer or B2B buyer, and rarely used outside of Further® and Blue Cross Blue Shield of MN. Instead, refer to automatic payments.

Small-group market

  • The market for health insurance offered to small businesses, usually 1-100 employees.

Large-group market

  • The market for health insurance offered to large businesses, usually 100 or more employees.

Individual market

  • The market for health insurance offered to individuals who are not signing up or utilizing an HSA through an employer
  • Within a health plan it also means an individual who doesn’t purchase their health insurance through an employer.

Section 125

  • Allows companies to give employees the opportunity to pay for benefits on a pretax basis. Pretax benefits lower payroll-related taxes for both the employer and the employee. Section 125 offers several alternatives: three of the most common are premium-only plans, flexible spending accounts and cafeteria plans.

Further® registered trademarks

  • Further®sm name and logo, owned by MII, Life.
  • Use trademark symbol in first use in a document only.

Debit card

Further®’s debit card platform is a Visa card for our HSAs, medical FSAs, limited FSAs, HRAs and VEBAs. Generally, you should just refer to it as the debit card:

  • e.g. Your medical spending account debit card is a convenient way to pay for medical expenses and to access your account, whenever and wherever, you need it.
  • When there is a need to refer to Visa, it needs to include a trademark symbol:
  • Visa® debit card

Auto-substantiate

  • DO NOT USE auto-substantiate. This isn’t approved by the IRS.
  • Use “electronic substantiation,” which is approved by the IRS.
    • Example: The claims were electronically substantiated at point of sale.

Tax-free, pretax

  • Tax-free, tax-exempt, tax-sheltered, etc. should be hyphenated as modifiers in all uses.
    • Your money will grow tax-free.
    • Earn tax-free interest on your account balance.
  • Do not hyphenate pretax. (The only time “pre” uses a hyphen is if a prefix ends in a vowel and the word that follows begins with the same vowel, e.g., post-tax, pre-election, etc. )
    • Pretax income.
    • Bonds earning 12 percent pretax.

Writing well at Further®

Further®’s mission is to empower people to navigate the complexity of health and finances. Clear, informative communications with our customers and fellow employees helps accomplish this. With every piece of content we write or publish, our goal is to be:

  • Honest. Understand Further®’s place in people’s lives. Be transparent. Focus on our real strengths. Our voice is honest, smart and caring.
  • Customer-focused. Foster trust and be informative. Focus on the real-world value that the employer group, member or participant will experience. Avoid technical jargon. Tell people what they need to know, not just what we want to say.
  • Useful. Before you start writing, ask yourself: What purpose does this serve? Who is going to read it? What do they need to know?
  • Friendly. We speak conversationally. We use contractions and speak to people in a familiar way.
  • Respectful: Treat readers with the respect they deserve. Put yourself in their shoes. Be considerate and inclusive. Don’t market at people; communicate with them.
  • Direct. Talk the language of your audience. Always look for the simplest way to say what you want to say. Our editorial voice must contain life and compel a reaction. Use an active tense when writing. Remove all passive sentences if possible.
  • Brief and concise. Make content easy to skim whenever possible. Use bullets rather than full paragraphs. Whenever it is possible to cut out a word, always cut it out.

Grammar basics

Abbreviations and acronyms

  • Do not use abbreviations or acronyms that the reader would not quickly recognize.
  • Abbreviations and most acronyms should be avoided in headings.
    • Minute, not min.
    • Number, not no.
  • Spell out an acronym at the first usage in a document and follow with abbreviation in parentheses.
    • This new Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) is now available.
  • Exceptions include organizations and government agencies that are widely recognized by their initials.
    • CIA, FBI, GOP.

Active voice

  • Use active voice. Avoid passive voice.
  • In active voice, the subject of the sentence does the action. In passive voice, the subject of the sentence has the action done to
  • Words like “was” and “by” may indicate that you’re writing in passive voice. Scan for these words and rework sentences where they appear.
    • Active: Marti logged into the account.
    • Passive: The account was logged into by Marti.
  • One exception is when you want to specifically emphasize the action over the subject. In some cases, this is fine.
    • Your account was flagged by our abuse team.

Addresses

  • Use the abbreviations Ave., Blvd., and St. only with a numbered address. Spell out when part of a formal street id without a number. Don’t use a comma between the state id and the zip code.
    • 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
    • Pennsylvania Avenue.
    • 2300 Shady Island Trail, Shorewood, Minn. 55364.
  • All similar words are always spelled out.
    • Alley, drive, road, terrace, etc
  • Addressing cover letters:

Capitalization

  • Headings: Use sentence case (capitalize the first letter of only the first word and proper ids or unique, trademarked product ids), no punctuation for headings and subheadings
    • Making the most of your account
    • Spending and commuter options for you
  • Titles: In general, titles that come before ids are capitalized, and titles that come after ids are lowercase.
    • We asked Pope Francis to join us at the meeting.
    • Vice President John Jones was born in Iowa.
    • Pete Smith, the deputy vice president, spoke.
    • Nate Cortez, senior managing director at the Baskin Group, helped with the meeting.
  • Job descriptions and informal titles are lowercase
    • coach John Calipari; forward Alex Morgan; general manager John Elway.
  • Use lowercase at all times for terms that are job descriptions rather than formal titles.

Contractions

  • Use them often. They give your writing an informal, friendly tone. In most cases, use them as you see fit. Ok to override spell check.
    • No: You are an important reason they are loyal.
    • Yes: You’re an important reason they’re loyal.

Numbers

  • Spell out one through nine.
  • Use figures for 10 or above and whenever preceding a unit of measure or referring to ages of people, animals, events or things
    • She bought 5 pounds of meat, three hats and two cars.
  • Spell out numbers when they are placed at the beginning of a sentence. If the number is too long, you should re-order the sentence.
    • Yes: Fifty people showed up.
    • No: Fifty two thousand people showed up. Re-order to: An estimated 52,000 people showed up.

Dates: months, years

  • Always use numerical figures, without _st, nd, rd_ or _th_
    • Jan. 2 was the coldest day of the month (not Jan. 2nd was…)

Months

  • Capitalize ids of months in all uses.
  • When a month is used with a specific date, abbreviate only Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec.
  • Use comma after range of dates, prior to year
  • Spell out when using alone or with a year alone.
    • June through December
    • Nov. 1 ­- 15, 2015
    • She testified that it was Friday, Dec. 3 when the accident occurred.
    • January 2016 was a cold month.

Years

  • Use figures, without commas. When a phrase refers to a month, day and year, set off the year with a comma.
  • Use an _s_ without an apostrophe to indicate spans of decades or centuries.
  • Years are the lone exception to the general rule in numerals that a figure is not used to start a sentence.
    • 2013 was a very good year.
    • 14, 2025, is the target date.
    • The 1890s, the 1800s.

Days of the week

  • Days of the week should be capitalized and never abbreviated.
    • Monday, Tuesday, etc.

Directional

  • Lowercase north, south, northeast, northern, etc. when they indicate compass directions; capital when they designate regions.
    • He drove west.
    • A storm system that developed in the Midwest is spreading eastward.

Fractions

  • Generally spell out amounts less than 1, using hyphens between the words
    • Two-thirds, four-fifths

Its vs. it’s

  • Its: possessive form for it
    • The cat ate its food.
  • It’s contraction for the words it is or it has
    • It’s almost as if the cat hated its food.

Percentages

  • Spell out percent, don’t use %.
  • Use figures for percent and percentages
    • 1 percent, 2.5 percent, 10 percent, etc.

Ranges and spans

  • Use a hyphen for date range
    • Jan. 5-8.
  • Don’t drop million or billion in the first figure of a range.
    • $12 million to $14 million. Not: $12 to $14 million.
  • For percents, hyphen OR “between…and” is acceptable
    • A pay increase of 12-15 percent.
    • A pay increase of between 12 and 15 percent.
  • For full calendar years, hyphenated 2015-16 is acceptable.

Money

  • Spell out the word “cents” in lowercase and use numerals for amounts less than a dollar
    • 12 cents
  • Use the $ sign and decimal system for larger amounts
    • $1.01

More than, over

  • Either are acceptable in all uses to indicate numerical value.
    • Salaries went up more than $20 per week.
    • Salaries went up over $20 per week.

Telephone numbers

  • Use hyphens, not periods. If extension numbers are needed, use a comma to separate the extension number.
  • Do not add space between hyphens
    • 212-621-1500, ext. 2

Times

  • Use figures except for noon and midnight. Use a colon to separate hours from minutes
    • 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3:30 p.m.
    • 9-11 a.m., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • For time zones, use EST, CST, etc.
    • The kidnappers set a 9 a.m. EST deadline.
    • The conference call was scheduled for Monday, Feb. 8, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. CST.

Punctuation

Apostrophes

  • Most commonly used to make a word possessive. If the word already ends in an s and it’s singular, add an ‘s. If the word ends in an s and is plural, just add an apostrophe.
    • The donut thief ate Sam’s donut.
    • The donut thief ate Chris’s donut.
    • The donut thief ate the various managers’ donuts.

Colons

  • Use a colon (rather than an ellipsis, em dash, or comma) to offset a list.
    • Erin ordered three kinds of donuts: glazed, chocolate, and pumpkin.
  • You can also use a colon to join two related phrases. If a complete sentence follows the colon, capitalize the first word.
    • I was faced with a dilemma: I wanted a donut, but I’d just eaten a bagel.

Commas

As with all punctuation, clarity is the biggest rule. If a comma does not help make clear what is being said, it should not be there.

  • When writing a list, use the serial comma before “and” (also known as the Oxford comma)
    • Yes: David admires his parents, Oprah, and Justin Timberlake.
    • No: David admires his parents, Oprah and Justin Timberlake. _(sounds like David’s parents are Oprah and Justin Timberlake.)_
  • In quotations, use a comma at the end of the quote when it is followed by attribution. Commas always go inside quotation marks.
    • “Write clearly and concisely,” she said.
  • Use a comma for most figures greater than 999 with the exception of street addresses, room numbers, telephone numbers and years.
    • He ate 1,345 donuts.
    • He lives at 1234 Main St.
  • Commas are used when a phrase refers to a month, day and year.
    • Feb. 14, 2020, is the target date.

Hyphens

  • Use a hyphen (-) between words when they are combined to modify the word that follows
    • Near-term contract
    • Five-year period
    • High-level discussion
    • I walked the much-loved dog
    • The dog was much loved.
    • We use a low-cost fuel
    • That fuel is low cost.
  • Use en dash (a short dash, half the length of an em dash) to indicate a range (space, hyphen, space)
    • Pages 11 – 19
    • Nov. 1 – 20
  • Use em dash to indicate a pause (two hyphens, word(s), space)
    • Plans – like those of Further®’s – simplify investing.

Italics

  • Avoid italicizing; use quotation marks or re-work sentence structure if emphasis is needed.

Indefinite articles (“a” vs. “an”)

  • The rule to always use _a_ before consonants and _an_ before vowels is no longer the general rule. The rule now is how it would sound in spoken English.
    • An HSA, an FSA
    • A HIPPA form
    • An ox
    • An honor
    • He received an F in chemistry class
    • A FASB rule
    • An FOB airfield

i.e. vs. e.g.

  • i.e.: Meaning _that is to say,_ is always followed by a comma. A finite list of things or clarification of the first half of the sentence.
  • i.e. = clarification
    • Further® has several reimbursement options, e., a debit card, online withdrawal and crossover.
    • The best way to open an HSA account is online, i.e., logging into Further®.com.
  • e.g.: Meaning _for example_, is always followed by a comma. A list of things that could go on and on, other examples are out there. Could end with “etc.”
  • e.g. = examples
    • Further® allows you to enroll in many different plans while maintaining your HSA eligibility, e.g., accident coverage, disability coverage, dental and vision care, etc.

Parentheses

  • In general, be sparing with them. They are jarring to the reader. If a sentence must contain incidental material, then commas or two dashes can be more effective. Or try re-writing the sentence.
  • Within quotations: put period outside a closing parenthesis if the material inside is not a sentence.
  • Period goes inside a closing parenthesis if it is a complete sentence.
    • She did not want to open an HSA account (but she did anyway).
    • (An independent parenthetical sentence such as this takes a period before the closing parens.)

Periods

  • Use a single (not double) space after a period at the end of a sentence.
  • Use periods for U.S.
  • Use periods for a.m. and p.m.
    • She was there from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m.
  • Periods go outside a parenthesis if the content is a phrase
    • I ate a donut (and I ate a bagel, too).
  • Periods go inside the parentheses if the content is a complete sentence.
    • I ate a donut and a bagel. (The donut was Sam’s.)
  • Periods go inside quotation marks.
    • Franklin said, “A penny saved is a penny earned.”

Sentence case for headings and sub-heads

  • Use sentence case writing for all headlines and subheads, capitalizing the same way a sentence is (capitalize only the first word and proper nouns.)
    • Saving for retirement with your HSA
    • Contributing to your HSA

Question marks

  • A question mark supersedes the comma that normally is used when supplying attribution for a quote
    • “Who is there?” she asked.
  • Question marks can go inside or outside quotation marks, depending on whether they’re part of the quote
    • Who wrote “Gone with the Wind”?
    • He asked, “How long will it take?”

Exclamation points

  • Avoid. The copy should speak for itself.

Quotation marks

  • The period and the comma always go within the quotation marks.
    • “I do not object,” he said, “to the tenor of the report.”
  • The dash, the semicolon, the question mark and the exclamation point go within the quotation marks when they apply to the quoted matter only. They go outside when they apply to the whole sentence.
    • Who said, “A picture is worth a thousand words”?
    • He asked, “How did the incident occur?”

Semicolons

  • Use the semicolon to indicate a greater separation of thought and information than a comma can convey but less than the separation that a period implies.
    • He is survived by a son, John Smith, of Chicago; three daughters, Jane Smith, of Wichita, Kansas, March Smith of Denver, and Susan, of Boston; and a sister, Martha, of Omaha, Nebraska.

Ampersands (&)

  • Avoid. Use “and” unless it is part of a proper name.
    • Ben & Jerry’s

Bullets

  • Use bullets to show a group of similar or related ideas
  • Use a complete sentence as a lead-in, along with a colon
  • Capitalize the first word of each bullet, even if the listed items are not sentences.
    • You may enroll in a variety of plans while maintaining your HSA eligibility:
      • Accident coverage
      • Disability coverage
      • Dental and vision care
      • Long-term care insurance
  • Listed items require no end punctuation unless they are complete sentences.
  • Don’t put commas or semicolons after the bullets, and don’t put “and” before the last item.
    • There are many financial advantages to owning an HSA:
      • Employer contributions and employee pretax contributions via a cafeteria plan are not taxable income.
      • Post-tax contributions are tax deductible even if you do not itemize deductions on Form 1040.
  • Use parallel structure for each item in the list
    • Correct: There are many reasons to contribute to your HSA:
      • Funds can be withdrawn tax-free to pay for eligible health care expenses.
      • HSAs belongs to you no matter where you work.
      • HSA funds are a great way to pay for medical expenses after you retire.
    • Incorrect: There are many reasons to contribute to your HSA:
      • Saving for health care expenses
      • You own the HSA no matter where you work
      • Avoid financial problems when you retire

Point of view: first, second or third person

Point of view

  • In general, we suggest using a mix of first and third person, which offers a more congenial tone.
  • Be sure to keep the company name prominent by using its name often.
    • Acme Training offers in-house online writing classes. Based in Seattle, Wash., we travel to client companies and training facilities all over the country. At Acme Training, we’re committed to helping you, our valued customer.

Names and titles

Titles

  • In general, confine capitalization to formal titles used directly before names (a formal title is one that denotes a scope of authority, professional activity or academic activity).
  • Titles that come after names are lowercase.
    • We asked Pope Francis to join us at the meeting.
    • Vice President John Jones was born in Iowa.
    • Dianne Feinstein, Dr. Benjamin Spock.Nate Cortez, senior managing director at the Baskin Group, helped with the meeting.
    • Pete Smith, the deputy vice president, spoke.

Occupational titles

  • In general, confine capitalization to formal titles used directly before names (a formal title is one that denotes a scope of authority, professional activity or academic activity).
  • Titles that come after names are lowercase.
    • We asked Pope Francis to join us at the meeting.
    • Vice President John Jones was born in Iowa.
    • Dianne Feinstein, Dr. Benjamin Spock.Nate Cortez, senior managing director at the Baskin Group, helped with the meeting.
    • Pete Smith, the deputy vice president, spoke.

Academic titles, degrees

  • Capitalize title before name
  • When possible, use description for academic degree
  • Use apostrophe in bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, etc. but no possessive in Bachelor of Art or Master of Science
  • Master of Arts, Master of Science, Master of Business Administration is abbreviated M.A., M.S., but MBA. A master’s degree or a master’s is acceptable in any reference.
    • Southwestern Illinois College President Bob Smith
    • Bachelor’s degree in business administration; master’s degree in accounting; bachelor’s in nursing
    • Jane Doe holds a Master of Science (or master’s) in clinical nutrition and counseling

Courtesy titles

  • Don’t use Mr., Mrs., Miss, unless you are writing a direct quote. Exceptions for formal communications, e.g., correspondence to state or federal officials.
  • Use the first and last name, and then the first name.
    • Bob and Joan Smith came to the party. Bob later left early.
    • Bob Smith, Minnesota State Attorney General
    • Bob Smith opened an HSA. By the time he turned 40, Bob was a millionaire.

States and cities

State names

  • The names of all U.S. states should be spelled out when used standalone. Abbreviate when followed by a city name, EXCEPT for the following states: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas, Utah
    • She drove all the way to Minneapolis, Minn.
    • She drove to Minnesota.
    • She drove to Austin, Texas.
  • In conjunction with a city, abbreviate states the following way: Ala. Md. N.D. Ariz. Mass. Okla. Ark. Mich. Ore.Calif. Minn. Pa. Colo. Miss. R.I. Conn. Mo. S.C. Del. Mont. S.D. Fla. Neb. Tenn. Ga. Nev. Vt. Ill. N.H. Va. Ind. N.J. Wash.Kan. N.M. W.Va. Ky. N.Y. Wis. La. N.C. Wyo.
    • She was from Billings, Mont.
    • The conference will be in Miami, Fla.
    • When we traveled through Boulder, Colo., I saw the mountains.
  • To address a letter or envelope, use the two-letter postal code abbreviations (in parens) with full addresses, including ZIP code: Ala. (AL), Md. (MD), N.D. (ND), Ariz. (AZ), Mass. (MA), Okla. (OK), Ark. (AR), Mich. (MI), Ore. (OR), Calif. (CA), Minn. (MN), Pa. (PA), Colo. (CO), Miss. (MS), R.I. (RI), Conn. (CT), Mo. (MO), S.C. (SC), Del. (DE), Mont. (MT), S.D. (SD), Fla. (FL), Neb. (NE), Tenn. (TN), Ga. (GA), Nev. (NV), Vt. (VT), Ill. (IL), N.H. (NH), Va. (VA), Ind. (IN), N.J. (NJ), Wash. (WA), Kan. (KS), N.M. (NM), W.Va. (WV), Ky. (KY), N.Y. (NY), Wis. (WI), La. (LA), N.C. (NC), Wyo. (WY)
  • 5120 Shady Island Trail, Shorewood, MN 55364

URLs, web references

Further®.com

  • Refer to the URL as Further®.com: Don’t add “www”. Always boldface when used in communications materials. Don’t italicize
    • Further®.com

Website references

  • Drop the “www” before all website references. Boldface all websites when referenced in written communications.
    • “Visit usatoday.com.

Internet

  • Never capitalize. internet, website, webcast, webmaster: One word, lowercase “w” but capital “W” when referred to generally (“the Web”)
    • internet
    • website
    • I found these socks while shopping on the Web.

Fullscreen

  • One word, lowercase, when referring to the view mode of the browser; use “entire screen,” “whole screen” or similar formulation in other cases

http://; https://

  • This should generally not appear before a URL in communications unless directing users to access a website over SSL (secure connection).

left-click, right-click

  • hyphenated in all forms and uses

Mobile

  • lowercase
    • Firefox for mobile
  • mobile device: In general, use phone or tablet, not mobile device

URL

  • all uppercase, no periods, but URLs themselves are lowercase
    • mozilla.org, firefox.com, etc.

Website:

  • one word, lowercase
    • website

Rules for linking

Be explicit

  • Be as explicit as you can – make the link text ‘work’ – do NOT use “click here” or “more”
    • Do: “Please log into your account for more information.”

Don’t turn product or program names into links

  • Don’t turn new product/program names into links by themselves. No: Here is the site.
    • Yes: “Would you like access to the site? Sign up today!” Or, For more information on the new guide, email us.

Take Action!

  • Link action phrases – rather than a word. Instead of just ‘see your account,’ use ‘see your account’
    • Do: Log in now
    • Don’t: Log in.

Be consistent

  • Be consistent with link style – for example, whether “(PDF)” is part of the link text or not
    • Do: Discover more resources (PDF) with this guide.

Writing about Further®

  • Full company office name and address
    • MII Life, Inc., d.b.a. Further®

      1750 Yankee Doodle Road

      Eagan, Minn. 55121

  • Parent or holding company
    • Further® is a privately-owned C-Corp of Aware Integrated, Inc.
  • Further® ownership structure

    Further® is owned by Aware, Integrated, Inc. Aware, Inc. also owns Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota as an affiliate business. Operating as an independent business, Further® retains unique board oversight, leadership and business functions. Further® shares human resources, security, legal and network management functions with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, which allows us to offer the industry’s best practices with security, protection and infrastructure capabilities.

    • Optional to add: Further® offers spending account administration services for flexible spending accounts, health reimbursement arrangements, health savings accounts, transportation reimbursement accounts and VEBA plans.
  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota: Use full name for first reference, then “Blue Cross” after that; avoid use of BCBSM, BCBS, BCBSMN

Email: before you hit send

Email is the most frequently used communications tool in the workplace, and Further® is no exception. Here are some email best practices to help you use email to its best advantage for business correspondence.

Best practices for business emails (external):

  • Use the subject line, be informative, clear and concise.
  • Keep it short. A good rule of thumb is to keep your email to 250 words maximum.
  • Be clear about what action is required and by when, reiterate what you have used in the subject line.
  • Make it readable: Use bullets if that will help. Break paragraphs with a line of space.
  • Put important information in bold.
  • Be careful with pasting: remember if you are pasting content in your email, the formatting from the original content may or may not carry through.
  • Avoid attachments when possible: For short messages, place the text directly into your email; it’s faster and easier for the reader than opening an attachment.
  • Include/check links: Use links to supplement your message, give recipients easy access to any material you reference and protect the security of the documents. Always click them after pasting to be sure they will take the reader to the right place.
  • Use emoticons sparingly: These are informal and best reserved for one-to-one messages.

Be formal in formal email

  • If you’re using email for formal correspondence, apply the same standards you would to other written communications (find them all in this style guide)!

Be appropriate with greetings

  • Err on the side of formality if you’re unsure
  • External: Use Dear Mr. Kazmi
  • Use colon rather than comma
  • Avoid starting business emails without a greeting

Sign off

  • Make sure you sign off with your name in business correspondence
  • Include a closing like Best regards, Best, Regards, etc. for external
  • Don’t use P.S.

Be smart about email

  • Spellcheck
  • Proof at least twice
  • Avoid emotional emails: Messages written in anger or haste often can exacerbate a tense situation. When time permits, draft difficult emails and review them again several hours later or even the next day
  • Don’t shout: writing in all capitals is considered shouting in email
  • Refrain from using exclamation points in formal emails

Acronym fun at Further®!

ABHP – Account-based health plan

ACA – Affordable Care Act

ACH – Automatic clearinghouse

API – Application Program Interface

CCStpa – d.b.a. name used by Comprehensive Care Services, Inc. Should be boldface type and the “tpa” should be in italics for brochures, letterhead, website, advertising, etc.

CDHP – Consumer-directed health plan (use consumer-driven)

CMS – Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

COBRA – Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act

COE – Center of Excellence

CPI – Center for Program Integrity

DCAP – Dependent Care Assistance Program

DHS – Department of Human Services

DME – Durable Medical Equipment

EAP – Employee Assistance Program

EFT – Electronic funds transfer

EOB – Explanation of Health Care Benefits

EPO – Exclusive Provider Organization

ERISA – Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1974

FEP – Federal Employee Program

FICA – Federal Insurance Contributions Act

FMLA – Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993

FSA – Flexible spending account (plural FSAs)

FWA – Fraud, Waste, Abuse

HDHP – High-deductible health plan

HIPAA – Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act

HITECH – Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health

HMO – Health Maintenance Organization

HRA – Health reimbursement arrangement (plural HRAs)

HRQ – Health Risk Questionnaire

HSA – Health savings account (plural HSAs)

IVR – Interactive voice response

MDH – Minnesota Department of Health

MTM – Medication Therapy Management

P&P – Policies & Procedures

PBM – Pharmacy Benefit Managers

PCI – Payment Card Industry Information

PCMH – Patient-Centered Medical Home

PEPY – Per Employee Per Year

PHI – Protected Health Information

PII – Personally Identifiable Information

POP – Premium-only plan

POS – Point of service

PPO – Preferred Provider Organization

RFP, RFI – Request for proposal, request for information

SAM – Further® Account Management

SFTP – Secure File Transfer Protocol

SIEM – Security information and event management

SIU – Special Investigations Unit

SLA – Service level agreement

SSO – single sign-on

TPA – third-party administrator

TRA – Transportation Reimbursement Arrangement

TTY – Teletypewriter device used by deaf and hearing-impaired individuals to communicate by telephone; use instead of TDD

VEBA – Voluntary Employees’ Beneficiary Association

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