Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Abbreviations

This guideline covers the use of abbreviations—including acronyms and initialisms, contractions, and other shortenings—in the English Wikipedia.

Maintaining a consistent abbreviation style allows Wikipedia to be read, written, edited, and navigated more easily by readers and editors. The style should always be consistent within a page. If a guideline conflicts with the correct usage of a proper name, ignore it. Abbreviations in quotations from written sources should always be written exactly as in the source, unless it is a Wikipedia-made translation.

Always consider whether it is better to write a word or phrase out in full, thus avoiding potential confusion for those not familiar with its abbreviation. Remember that Wikipedia does not have the same space constraints as paper.

Use sourceable abbreviations Edit

Avoid making up new abbreviations, especially acronyms. For example, "International Feline Federation" is good as a translation of Fédération Internationale Féline, but neither the anglicisation nor the reduction IFF is used by the organisation; use the original name and its official abbreviation, FIFe.

If it is necessary to abbreviate in small spaces (infoboxes, navboxes and tables), use widely recognised abbreviations. As an example, for New Zealand gross national product, use NZ and GNP, with a link if the term has not already been written out: NZ GNP; do not use the made-up initialism NZGNP).

Full points (periods) Edit

Modern style is to use a full point (period) after a shortening (see § Exceptions) but no full point with an acronym. In the case of an acronym containing full points between letters, it should also have a full point after the final letter. If an abbreviation ending in a full point ends a sentence, do not use an extra full point (e.g. They lived near Courtyard Sq., not They lived near Courtyard Sq..).

Contractions that contain an apostrophe (don't, shouldn't, she'd) never take a period (except at the end of a sentence, of course). They are also not used in encyclopedia content except in quotations or titles of works, as noted below. Contractions that do not contain an apostrophe almost always take a period in North American English, but not in British English when the contraction ends with the same letter as the full term: Doctor can be abbreviated Dr. in American and Canadian English, but is Dr in British English. If the dot-less usage could be confusing in the context, use the point. Exceptions are symbols of units of measurement, which never use periods (see WP:Manual of Style/Dates and numbers).

Expanded forms Edit

Do not apply initial capitals—or any other form of emphasis—in a full term that is a common-noun phrase just because capitals are used in its abbreviation:

Incorrect  (not a proper name):    uses Digital Scanning (DS) technology
Correct:   uses digital scanning (DS) technology
Correct (proper name): produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)

Similarly, when showing the source of an acronym, initialism, or syllabic abbreviation, emphasizing the letters in the expansion that make up the acronym is undesirable (it insults the intelligence of the reader):

  • Incorrect: FOREX (FOReign EXchange)
  • Incorrect: FOREX (foreign exchange)
  • Incorrect: FOREX (foreign exchange)
  • Correct: FOREX (foreign exchange)

Acronyms Edit

Acronyms are abbreviations formed, usually, from the initial letters of words in a phrase.

Terminology Edit

An initialism is usually formed from some or all of the initial letters of words in a phrase. An acronym is sometimes considered to be an initialism that is pronounced as a word (e.g. NATO), as distinct from the case where the initialism is said as a string of individual letters (e.g. "UN" for the United Nations); a more precise term is word acronym, since acronym by itself is also frequently inclusive of initialisms. Herein, the term acronym applies collectively to initialisms.

Do not edit-war over these terms. When using more precise terms like word acronym and initialism, please link to Acronym § Nomenclature, where they are explained for readers.

Formation and usage Edit

  • Capitalisation: Some acronyms are written with all capital letters, some with a mixture of capitals and lower-case letters and some are written as common nouns (e.g., laser). Acronyms whose letters are pronounced individually (initialisms) are always written in capitals (e.g., FBI). (For more guidance on the capitalisation of acronyms, see Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Capital letters#Acronyms.)
  • Spacing: The letters of acronyms should not be spaced.
  • Plurals: Plural acronyms are written with a lower-case s after the abbreviation, without an apostrophe, unless full points are used between the letters (e.g. ABCs or A.B.C.'s). Note that Wikipedia generally avoids using full point in upper-case acronyms.
  • Emphasis: Do not apply special style, such as SMALL CAPS, to acronyms. Do not apply italics, boldfacing, underlining, or other highlighting to the letters in the expansion of an acronym that correspond to the letters in the acronym, as in BX (Base Exchange). It is not necessary to state that an acronym is an acronym. Our readers should not be browbeaten with the obvious.

If there is an article about the subject of an acronym (e.g. NATO), then other articles referring to or using the acronym should use the same style (capitalisation and punctuation) that has been used within the main article. If no article exists for the subject acronym, then style should be resolved by considering consistent usage in source material.

Unless specified in the "Exceptions" section below, an acronym should be written out in full the first time it is used on a page, followed by the abbreviation in parentheses, e.g. maximum transmission unit (MTU) if it is used later in the article. Common exceptions to this rule are post-nominal initials because writing them out in full would cause clutter. Another exception is when something is most commonly known by its acronym, in which case the expansion can be omitted (except in the lead of its own article) or be in parentheses—e.g. according to the CIA (U.S. Central Intelligence Agency).[a]

To save space in small spaces (see § Use sourceable abbreviations), acronyms do not need to be written out in full. When not written out in full on the first use on a page, an acronym should be linked. An unambiguous acronym can be linked as-is, but an ambiguous acronym should be linked to its expansion. Upon later re-use in a long article, the template {{abbr}} can be used to provide a mouse-over tooltip giving the meaning of the acronym again without having to redundantly link it or spell it out again in the main text: {{abbr|CIA|Central Intelligence Agency}}, giving: CIA.

For partial acronyms formed using the now-rare convention of including whole short words in them, do not blindly "normalise" them to typical current style, but write each as found in the majority of modern reliable sources. Examples: "Commander-in-Chief" is generally abbreviated CinC on its own, but may appear in all-caps when used in a longer acronym (especially a US government one) like CINCFLEET and CINCAIR. The Billiard Association of America was known as BA of A; while this should not be written as unsourceable variations like BAofA or BAA, the awkwardness of the abbreviation to modern eyes can be reduced by replacing the full-width spaces with thin-space characters: BA{{thinsp}}of{{thinsp}}A or BA of A gives BA of A, which better groups the letters into a unit.

Exceptions Edit

Countries and multinational unions Edit

For these commonly-referred-to entities, the full name does not need to be written out in full on first use, nor provided on first use in parentheses after the full name if written out.

Acronym Expansion Notes
EU European Union
NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization
UAE United Arab Emirates
UK United Kingdom
UN United Nations Similarly for UN organisations such as UNESCO and UNICEF.
US or U.S. United States Both variants are used, but avoid mixing dotted and undotted within the same article; use "US" in articles with other national abbreviations (e.g., "UK", "UAE", "USSR"). Using United States instead of an acronym is often better formal writing style, and is an opportunity for commonality. USA, U.S.A. and U.S. of A. are generally not used except in quoted material (see WP:Manual of Style#US and U.S.).
USSR Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

Ship names Edit

Ship name prefixes like HMS and USS should not be written out in full.

Time zones Edit

Abbreviations for time zones (e.g. GMT and UTC) should not be written out in full in times.

Miscellanea Edit

Acronyms in this table do not need to be written out in full upon first use, except in their own articles or where not doing so would cause ambiguity.

Acronym Expansion Notes
AD anno Domini ("in the year of our Lord") Should not be written out in full in dates and does not need to be linked. Do not use in the year of our Lord or any other translation of Anno Domini.
AIDS acquired immunodeficiency syndrome
a.k.a. or AKA also known as Should only be used in small spaces, otherwise use the full phrase. It does not need to be linked. Use the {{a.k.a.}} template on first occurrence on the page to provide a mouse-over tooltip explaining the meaning: a.k.a. Should not be written aka.
AM amplitude modulation
am or a.m. ante meridiem Should not be written out in full for clock time, and does not need to be linked. It should not be written AM or A.M.
BBC British Broadcasting Corporation
BC before Christ Should not be written out in full in dates and does not need to be linked.
BCE Before Common Era Should not be written out in full in dates.
CD compact disc
CE Common Era Should not be written out in full in dates.
DVD digital versatile disc
(or digital video disc)
Should not be written out in full and should not be linked to its expansion.
e.g. exempli gratia ("for example") Should not be italicised, linked, or written out in full in normal usage.
FM frequency modulation
HDMI high-definition multimedia interface
HIV human immunodeficiency virus
i.e. id est ("that is" / "in other words") Should not be italicised, linked, or written out in full in normal usage.
laser light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation
n/a or N/A not applicable Should not be written n.a., N.A., NA or na.
NASA National Aeronautics and Space Administration
PC personal computer Does not need to be written out in full on first use, nor provided on first use in parentheses after the full term if written out.
pm or p.m. post meridiem Should not be written out in full in times and does not need to be linked. It should not be written PM or P.M.
radar radio detection and ranging
scuba self-contained underwater breathing apparatus
sonar sound navigation and ranging
TV television Generally use "TV" in most articles except historic articles and cultural or scholarly discussions, e.g. "TV show", "TV cameras", "the effects of television on speech patterns". Do not link or explain in normal usage.
USB universal serial bus

Acronyms in page titles Edit

Acronyms should be used in a page name if the subject is known primarily by its abbreviation and that abbreviation is primarily associated with the subject (e.g. NASA; in contrast, consensus has rejected moving Central Intelligence Agency to its acronym, in view of arguments that the full name is used in professional and academic publications). In general, if readers somewhat familiar with the subject are likely to only recognise the name by its acronym, then the acronym should be used as a title.

One general exception to this rule deals with our strong preference for natural disambiguation. Many acronyms are used for several things; naming a page with the full name helps to avoid clashes. For instance, multiple TV/radio broadcasting companies share the initials ABC; even though some may be far better known by that acronym, our articles on those companies are found at, for example, American Broadcasting Company rather than ABC (American TV network).[b] A useful test to determine what an abbreviation usually refers to can be done by checking Acronym Finder or and finding the relative usage. If it is found that a particular subject is overwhelmingly denoted by an unambiguous acronym, the article title on that subject can be expressed as the acronym and a disambiguation page can be used for the other subjects.

In many cases, no decision is necessary because a given acronym has several expansions, none of which is the most prominent. Under such circumstances, an article should be named with the spelled-out phrase and the acronym should be a disambiguation page providing descriptive links to all of them. See, for example, AJAR, which disambiguates between African Journal of AIDS Research" and Australian Journal of Agricultural Research. A title like AJAR (African journal) should be avoided if at all possible.[c] If the acronym and the full name are both in common use, both pages should exist, with one (usually the abbreviation) redirecting to the other or being a disambiguation page.

Acronyms as disambiguators Edit

To save space, acronyms should be used as disambiguators, when necessary. For example, "Georgia (U.S. state)", "Great Northern Railway (U.S.)" and "Labour Party (UK)". The abbreviations are preferred over United States and United Kingdom, for brevity. In running text, more natural wording is often better ("the US state of Georgia", "US-based Great Northern Railway", "the Labour Party of the UK"), though this may depend on context.

To help navigation to article titles with these United States abbreviations, please create a redirect that contains (U.S.) or (US) as needed. For example, "Great Northern Railway (US)" should redirect to "Great Northern Railway (U.S.)" (or the other way around). Wikipedia does not use USA, except in proper names and in standardized codes (e.g. FIFA's) that use it.

Acronyms in category names Edit

Contractions Edit

A contraction is an abbreviation of one or more words that has some or all of the middle letters removed but retains the first and final letters (e.g. Mr and aren't). Missing letters are replaced by an apostrophe in most multiple-word contractions. Contractions such as aren't should not be used in Wikipedia, except in quoted material; use the full wording (e.g., are not) instead. The contraction o'clock is an exception, as it is standard in all registers of writing. Certain placenames may use particular contractions (see § Special considerations, below).

Per the guideline on titles of people, prefix titles such as Mr, Dr, and Prof. should not be used. Prefixes of royalty and nobility often should be used, but not in abbreviated form. (For article titles, see: Wikipedia:Naming conventions (people) § Titles and styles; and Wikipedia:Naming conventions (royalty and nobility) § Notes.)

Initials Edit

For initials in biographical names, see Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Biographies § Initials.

Shortenings Edit

A shortening is an abbreviation formed by removing at least the last letter of a word (e.g. etc. and rhino), and sometimes also containing letters not present in the full form (e.g. bike). As a general rule, use a full point after a shortening that only exists in writing (e.g. etc.) but not for a shortening that is used in speech (e.g. rhino). In general, a full form is as acceptable as a shortened form, but there are exceptions e.g. etc. should be used over et cetera. Uncommon, non-obvious shortenings should be explained or linked on first use on a page.

Songwriting credits Edit

Outside of prose, trad. and arr. may be used in songwriting credits to save space. On first usage, use {{trad.}} and {{arr.}}, which will display a mouse-over tooltip expanding the abbreviation. Similarly, feat. for featuring has become common in modern music, and may appear in song or album credits, or in actual song titles, depending on the specific work. The template {{feat.}} exists for it. Avoid using the ambiguous hyper-abbreviation ft. except in verbatim material such as titles and quotations.

Miscellaneous shortenings Edit

Shortening Expansion Notes
approx. approximately It should only be used in small spaces. It does not need to be linked.
c. circa ('around') In dates, to indicate around, approximately, or about. In text the unitalicised abbreviation c. is preferred over circa, ca, ca., approximately, or approx. It should not be italicised in normal usage. The template {{circa}} should be used at first occurrence. In a table or otherwise where space is limited there may be less context and approx. may be clearer or if space is really tight ~ might be used instead.
cf. confer ('compare' / 'consult') It should be linked on first use.
Co. Company It should only be used in the names of companies (like: "PLC", "LLC", "Inc.", "Ltd.", "GmbH", etc.), and can usually be omitted unless an ambiguity would result. It does not need to be linked.
ed. (eds.) edition/editor (editions/editors) This shortening (and its plural contraction) should only be used in references. It does not need to be linked.
et al. et alii ('and others') It should normally only be used in references (see the |display-authors= feature of the citation templates), and where it is part of a name, such as of a legal case, e.g. United States v. Thompson et al. It need not be linked.
fl. floruit ('flourished') Use template {{floruit}} on first use. Do not use flor. or flr.
lit. literal, or literal translation It should be linked (usually to Literal translation, unless some other meaning is meant) on first use, unless {{abbr}} is used to explain it. Many language formatting templates have a parameter that deals with this for you.
rev. revised It should only be used in references. It does not need to be linked.
vs./vs/v./v versus (against / in contrast to) They do not need to be linked or explained with {{abbr}}. The full word should be used in most cases, but it is conventional to use an abbreviation in certain contexts. In sports, it is "vs." or "vs", depending on dialect. In law, the usage is "v." or "v", depending on jurisdiction. In other contexts, use "vs." when abbreviation is necessary (e.g., in a compact table). The word and its abbreviations should not be italicised, since they have long been assimilated into the English language. (However, legal case names are themselves italicised, like book titles, including the "v." or "v".)
viz. videlicet ('that is to say' / 'namely') It should be linked on first use.

Symbols Edit

Unit symbols Edit

Miscellaneous symbols Edit

  • The ampersand (&), a replacement for the word and, should only be used in small spaces such as tables and infoboxes, but, preferably, should be avoided even there. However, it is common in many trademarks and titles of published works, and should be retained when found in them.

Unicode abbreviation ligatures Edit

Do not use Unicode characters that put an abbreviation into a single character (unless the character itself is the subject of the text), e.g.: , , , , , , ™︎. These are not all well-supported in Western fonts. This does not apply to currency symbols, such as and . For more comprehensive lists, see Ligatures in Unicode, Letterlike Symbols, CJK Compatibility, Enclosed CJK Letters and Months, and Enclosed Alphanumeric Supplement.

Latin abbreviations Edit

In normal usage, abbreviations of Latin words and phrases should be italicised, except AD, c., e.g., etc., i.e., and a few others not in italics in the table above; these ones have become ordinary parts of the English language.

The expansions of Latin abbreviations should still be italicised (preferably automatically via the {{lang|la|...}} template), as with most foreign words and phrases: Anno Domini, circa, exempli gratia, et cetera, id est. These are not normally used in article prose. An exception, covered above, is "versus". A few other Latinisms that are sometimes abbreviated (or replaced by symbols) but sometimes written out have become so assimilated they do not need italics, such as "percent" or "per cent". If in doubt, consult some major dictionaries (not Wiktionary) and follow their lead.

Do not use &c. in the place of etc.

Abbreviations widely used in Wikipedia Edit

Wikipedia has found it both practical and efficient to use the following abbreviations in tight quarters such as citations, tables, and lists. Most should be replaced, in regular running text, by unabbreviated expansions or essentially synonymous plain English (that is for i.e., namely for viz., and so on), when space permits or when the material would be clearer to more readers. A common rule of thumb regarding i.e. and e.g. is that they are best used in parentheticals rather than in the main flow of a sentence. Versions of non-acronym abbreviations that do not end in full points (periods) are more common in British than North American English and are always[d] abbreviations that compress a word while retaining its first and last letters (i.e., contractions: Dr, St, Revd) rather than truncation abbreviations (Prof., Co.). That said, US military ranks are often abbreviated without this punctuation (though they should not be given in all-caps, despite that style existing "in the wild" in some publications).

Word(s) Abbreviation
Avenue Ave.
Boulevard Blvd. or Blvd
Court Ct. or Ct (use only for a few houses)
Drive Dr. or Dr
East E. or E (use only in street addresses, coordinates, and other special contexts, not in usual text)
Freeway Fwy. or Fwy (the term is not generally used outside of North America)
Highway Hwy. or Hwy (the term is not generally used outside of North America)
Motorway Mwy (the term is not generally used in North America)
Mountain Mtn. or Mtn
Mount Mt. or Mt
North N. or N (use only in street addresses, coordinates, and other special contexts, not in usual text)
North East or Northeast N.E. or NE (use only in street addresses, coordinates, and other special contexts, not in usual text)
North West or Northwest N.W. or NW (use only in street addresses, coordinates, and other special contexts, not in usual text)
Road Rd. or Rd
South S. or S (use only in street addresses, coordinates, and other special contexts, not in usual text)
South East or Southeast S.E. or SE (use only in street addresses, coordinates, and other special contexts, not in usual text)
South West or Southwest S.W. or SW (use only in street addresses, coordinates, and other special contexts, not in usual text)
Street St. or St
West W. or W (use only in street addresses, coordinates, and other special contexts, not in usual text)
Organisation name elements
Academy Acad.
Association Assn. or Assn
Associates Assoc.
College Coll.
Company Co.
Corporation Corp.
Doing business as d.b.a. or DBA (avoid d/b/a and D/B/A; these are obsolete)
Incorporated Inc.
Institute/Institution Inst.
Limited Ltd. or Ltd
Limited liability company (or partnership) LLC (LLP)
Public limited company plc or PLC
Manufacturing Mfg. or Mfg
Press Pr.
Publications Pub., Pubs., Pubs
Publishing Pubg. or Pubg
University Univ., U., or Uni.
Academic degrees, professional titles, etc., used with personal names
Bachelor of Arts (Artium Baccalaureus) BA or AB
Bachelor of Laws (Legum Baccalaureus) LLB
Bachelor of Science BS or BSc
Master of Arts MA or AM
Master of Science MS or MSc
Doctor Dr. or Dr
Doctor of Medicine (Medicinæ Doctor) MD
Doctor of Philosophy (Philosophiæ Doctor) PhD
Honorable Hon.
Right Honourable Rt. Hon. or Rt Hon.
Junior Jnr (not to be confused with Jr.)
Monsignor Mons., Msgr., or Msgr
Registered nurse RN
Reverend Rev. or Revd
Saint St. or St
Senior Snr (not to be confused with Sr.)
Military ranks
General Gen.
Colonel Col. or Col
Commander Cmdr., Cmdr, Cdr, or Comdr
Major Maj. or Maj
Captain Capt.
Lieutenant Lt. or Lt
Master sergeant MSgt. or MSgt
Technical sergeant TSgt. or TSgt
Staff sergeant SSgt. or SSgt
Sergeant Sgt. or Sgt
Corporal Cpl. or Cpl
Private Pvt. or Pvt
Citation elements
Chapter chap.
No date n.d.

Special considerations Edit

  • Postal codes and abbreviations of place names—e.g., Calif. (California), TX (Texas), Yorks. (Yorkshire)—should not be used to stand for the full names in normal text. They can be used in tables when space is tight but should be marked up with {{abbr}} template on first occurrence. They should not be used in infoboxes. An exception is Washington, D.C., which has been conventionally called so, for reasons of clarity, since long before postal codes were invented. "Washington, D.C." may be used in tables in which other state postal codes appear; never use "Washington D.C."
    • In references and bibliographies, 2-letter United States Postal Service state abbreviations should not be used, but standard abbreviations with period or periods are acceptable: Buffalo, NY, Buffalo, N.Y.; Washington, DC, Washington DC, Washington D.C., Washington, D.C.; Scranton, PA, Scranton, Pa., Salinas, CA, Salinas, Calif.
  • Saint (or Sainte) versus the St and St. (or Ste.) abbreviations in placenames should follow the most common rendering found in reliable sources for that particular locale; this will most often match the official name of the place.

See also Edit

Notes Edit

  1. ^ For whether and when to use "U.S." versus "US", see Wikipedia:Manual of Style § US and U.S.
  2. ^ For television-related articles, use the country adjective. See this RfC for additional information.
  3. ^ There are a small number of cases in which something is known almost exclusively by a name like GLAAD because the original long-form name has been officially abandoned but the acronym has been retained because of its wide recognition; and other cases, such as IKEA, in which the full form was never in public use to begin with.
  4. ^ Some British/Commonwealth news publishers have begun dropping the dots from all abbreviations. This defies the major British style guides on this matter and produces too many ambiguities for encyclopedic writing.