Abbreviations should be restricted to situations where they enhance comprehension, that is, when your copy refers repeatedly to a lengthy name or term that has a commonly accepted abbreviation.
Use abbreviations sparingly unless your readership is familiar with them. Spell out the full entity or term on its first occurrence and follow with the abbreviation in parentheses to prepare readers for your subsequent use of only the abbreviation. Avoid using periods in abbreviations, unless confusion might result (e.g., write VP rather than V.P.)
Acronyms and Initialisms
Acronyms are abbreviations that are pronounced as a word, such as NASA, CIRES and INSTAAR. Initialisms are abbreviations that are pronounced as a series of letters, such as ATM, DNA and UMC.
Articles (a, an, and the) With Abbreviations
Use the appropriate article (a, an, or the) with abbreviations when you would use that article in speech. The choice between using a or an is determined by how the abbreviation is pronounced. You generally do not need an article when an abbreviation is used as a noun.
- She is enrolled in an MBA program.
- They may be eligible for a HUD grant.
- LASP researchers designed and built an $88 million satellite for NASA.
Abbreviations That Stand Alone
GPA and SAT are not spelled out. In fact, SAT is no longer an abbreviation; it is a trademark.
Do not use the ampersand (&) as an abbreviation for and. Use the ampersand only when it is part of an official name of a company, product or other proper noun or on covers and display matter, at the discretion of the designer.
The names of the 50 U.S. states should be spelled out when used in the body of a story, whether standing alone or in conjunction with a city, town, village or military base. Note the third example below needs semicolons between entries because individual items in the list include commas. Use the U.S. Postal Service format (two letters, no periods) only when you list a full address including the ZIP code. Do not put a comma between the state name and the ZIP code.
- The class of 12 included students from Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Montana and Minnesota.
- The scientists gathered in Mesa, Arizona, to conduct their research.
- Those responding to the call for special funds included alumni from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Fargo, North Dakota; and Miami, Florida.
- Please mail your form to University Communications, University of Colorado Boulder, 584 UCB, Boulder, CO 80309.
Use periods with the two-letter abbreviation for United States. Do not use periods with the three-letter abbreviation for United States of America.
- The U.S. government is one of the nation’s largest employers.
- Most of their products were made in the USA.