Using Abbreviations and Acronyms

Acronyms are letters or phrases that are used the same way as words are used. For example, NASA (The National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and NATO (The North Atlantic Treaty Organization) are acronyms. As, they are read as they stand. But not always all the acronyms are read as words. For example, the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India), or IBM (The International Business Machines), each word of BCCI or IBM will be pronounced separately.

Besides, acronyms are also composed of syllables, for example, “Benelux.” Benelux stands for three countries: Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg, and it contains the beginning two letters of each country, thereby making it an acronym. Then there are a mixture of the two words, as in radar (Radio Detection And Ranging), etc.

Moreover, abbreviations and acronyms are different. In a layman’s language we can say that acronyms and abbreviations are the short form of word (s) or phrase (s), but still both the two are different and are used differently. Abbreviations are actually the short form of words and are read as the word itself. For instance, “street” can be abbreviated as “St.” or “doctor” as “Dr.” The letters when abbreviated they don’t stand for distinct words as they do with acronyms.

Besides being used in formal writing, abbreviations and acronyms are also used in academic writing. Abbreviations and acronyms are used in academic writing in order to avoid repetition of the particular words and make the whole text easily readable and appealing.

Here in this article we are sharing with you the 8 best tips to use abbreviations and acronyms in academic writing.

1. First things first, titles of doctors are always abbreviated in an academic writing. And their professional qualifications are used as acronym. But, abbreviations and acronyms should not be used together. For instance, if we want to talk about a particular doctor in the academic writing, it can either be mentioned as Dr. Paul Richard or Paul Richard, M.D. You can never mention it as Dr. Paul Richard, M.D. Similarly, in case of nonmedical doctors, the ones who hold Ph.D. degrees, write either Dr. Anita Kadam or Anita Kadam, PhD, but not Dr. Anita Kadam, Ph.D.

2. Another important point that one should keep in mind while using abbreviations in an academic writing is – an abbreviation should be followed by a period. An abbreviation that consists of the first and last letters of a single word, for instance Doctor or Mister, is usually followed by a period (Dr. or Mr.).

3. Using indefinite articles (“a” and “an”) before abbreviations and acronyms. However, the use of indefinite articles will be determined by the sound of the first letter in the abbreviation. It means, the indefinite article “a” should be used before a consonant sound, for example, “a U.S. official”. And the indefinite article “an” should be used before a vowel sound, for example, “an MBA grad” or “an MRI”.

4. While using common abbreviations, one should follow common rules. For instance, one should us small letter or small case for a.m. and p.m. While, for B.C. and A.D. you should only use capital letters. Also, using periods is optional, if you want to use, you can use or you can simply avoid using periods after these abbreviations.

5. Month when either preceded or followed by a date or numeral, for example, Feb. 14 or14 Feb. should end with a period. Remember that not all the months can be abbreviated, only months like Jan., Feb., Mar., Apr., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., and Dec. are abbreviated, and May, June, and July should not be abbreviated at all. Also, month that appear only once or along with the year in the text should not be abbreviated. Similarly, in case of the days of the week, one should abbreviate them only if they appear in charts, tables, or slides.

6. Another rule for using abbreviation in an academic writing is – you can omit a period after each letter in an Acronym, for example BCCI needs not to be mentioned as B.C.C.I. it is not wrong though, but it’s not required also.

7. The Latin abbreviation etc., which is a short form of et cetera that means “and others” should never be used at the end of a list that is started with “such as” or “including.” Also, and should never be used before etc. for example, “and etc.”

8. Never use an extra period when a sentence ends with an abbreviation. Because your abbreviation already has a period, thus there is no need to use an extra period. For example, Apple Computer, Inc. As per the rule the period that ends the abbreviation also ends the sentence.

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By Bizhan Romani

Dr. Bizhan Romani has a PhD in medical virology. When it comes to writing an article about science and research, he is one of our best writers. He is also an expert in blogging about writing styles, proofreading methods, and literature.

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