Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Dot gov

The .gov means it’s official.
Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you’re on a federal government site.

Https

The site is secure.
The https:// ensures that you are connecting to the official website and that any information you provide is encrypted and transmitted securely.

Content style guide

Punctuation

We follow standard American English and AP Style on VA.gov. Areas where we differ are listed below.

Ampersands

Don’t use ampersands (&) in headers or body copy. Spell out “and.” Exceptions are when it’s part of a proper noun such as a program name. Example: VR&E program.

Commas

We use the serial comma, sometimes called the Oxford comma. This is the comma used before a conjunction in a sentence with a series of 3 or more items. Sometimes the sentence can be misread if the serial comma is omitted.

Like this

In his acceptance speech the actor thanked his parents, Martin Scorsese, and Robert De Niro.

Not this

In his acceptance speech the actor thanked his parents, Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro.

Contractions

We use contractions on VA.gov. It supports our conversational, person-to-person voice and tone. Some situations might call for spelling out all the words, like in legal or a warning messages, but in general, we prefer using contractions.

  • Be careful not to mix up “its” and “it’s.”
  • Use “it’s” as a contraction of “it is,” never “it has.”
  • Don’t use non-standard contractions like “would’ve,” “could’ve,” or “should’ve.”

Like this

We’re available 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. CT, Monday through Friday.

Not this

We are available 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. CT, Monday through Friday.

Em and en dashes, hyphens

Em dash

Use the em dash similar to a parenthetical or commas to set off an important clause, when commas might be awkward. Try not to over use them. We don’t use a space on either side of the em dash.

  • Like this: You may be eligible if you have an illness or injury caused—or made worse—by your time in service.

En dash

We use the en dash to indicate a range. We use a space on either side of the en dash.

  • Like this: 9:00 a.m. ‒ 5:30 p.m. CT

Hyphens

This is the short, single dash. We use it to connect words that modify a noun or in names.

  • Like this: active-duty service member; VA-related claim; Merriam-Webster

Exclamation points

Don’t use the exclamation point on VA.gov for any text elements (body copy, headers, subheaders, field labels, CTAs, etc.). It doesn’t align withour voice and tone, which is conversational, helpful, and straightforward. We don’t yell, and we’re not hyperbolic or casual.

Like this

Section header example:

Find out what happens after you apply

Or

After you apply

Not this

Section header example:

You’re enrolled! Now what?

Or

You’ve successfully applied!

Note: Some design components may use the exclamation point as an icon for visual accent—in alert components, for example—but don’t use it in the message copy itself.