Rules on Abbreviations

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The style for abbreviations has gone through a series of changes in the past few decades. The trend today is to drop the periods from most abbreviations used in writing. Within a document, however, periods may be used or omitted if the writer is consistent. For example, if AM appears without periods in one sentence, do not use A.M. in another.

General Guidelines

Here are some general guidelines for using abbreviations.

  1. Forformalandbusinesswriting, internal periods are omitted for most abbreviations related to time, academic degrees, metric measures, organizations, institutions, and government agencies.

  2. Exceptforpersonalnamesandtitles, abbreviations with internal periods (e.g., N.W.) should not have a space after the first period.

  3. Forabbreviationsofpersonalnamesandtitles, insert space after the first period. (H. G. Wells, Lt. Col. Brice)

  4. Whenindoubtabouthowtostyleabbreviationsofpersonalor company names, always check with the individual or firm to see how they prefer the abbreviation to be written.

Personal Names and Titles

This section presents some general rules for the abbreviation of personal names and titles.

Personal Names. Avoid using abbreviations for given names except when transcribing a signature.

    • Dorothy Brandt not Dor. Brandt
    • Charles Villiard not Chas. Villiard

If the signature is written with abbreviations, follow the style of the author.

    • Yours truly, Geo. C. Kelly
    • Sincerely yours, L. K. Geng

Some publications and business writers omit the periods following initials. However, for convenience and clarity it is usually good practice to use periods with all initials given with names.

    • Caroline S. Wilson
    • Robert J. Edwards
    • T. J. Warshell
    • A. Teresa Valdez

If the person is referred to by initials only, no periods are used.

    • FDR (Franklin Delano Roosevelt)
    • LBJ (Lyndon Baines Johnson)
    • HD (Hilda Doolittle)

Titles Before Names. Social titles are always abbreviated whether used with the surname only or the full name. Notice which titles are used with or without periods. If you are in doubt about when to use periods with a social title, consult an up-to-date dictionary.

    • Mrs. Gloria Greenberg
    • Ms. Barbara Walnum
    • Mme Cecilia Payne
    • Messrs. Paul Mori and Norman Zuefle
    • Mr. Valentine Cancilleri
    • M. Tricia (Thomas) Benton
    • Mlle Jane Tild
    • Dr. Evelyn Veach

When a civil or military title is used with the surname alone, it is spelled out. When the full name is used, the title is abbreviated.

Senator Obama

Sen. Barack Obama

Alderperson Abuelos

Ald. Yvonne Abuelos

Representative Rush

Rep. Carlton J. Rush

The military now uses all capitals and no periods to abbreviate titles. However, the conventional spelling of military titles is still used in most forms of civilian writing. Notice that there is a space after the first period in an abbreviated title.

Lieutenant Colonel Claire

LT COL Ruth Claire or Lt. Col. Ruth Claire

Staff Sergeant Oltman

SSG Frank Oltman or S. Sgt. Frank

Oltman

The titles Reverend and Honorable are spelled out if they are preceded by the. They may also be used with social titles. Reverend is never used with the surname alone, but the title may be abbreviated when used with the person’s full name.

the Reverend Betty J. Dell

Rev. Betty J. Dell

the Right Reverend Monsignor Carl L. Bernard

Rt. Rev. Msr. Carl L. Bernard

the Honorable Wilson O. Justman

Hon. Wilson O. Justman

Titles After Names. Titles, degrees, affiliations, or the designation Jr. (junior), Sr. (senior), or II, III (or 2d, 3d) following a person’s name are considered part of that name. While the abbreviations Jr. and Sr. are set off from the name by commas, the designations II, III, 2d, or 3d are not set off by commas. These abbreviations are used only with the full name, never just the surname (Mr. Gregory Young, Jr., not Mr. Young, Jr.).

    • Njoki Salumbe, PhD
    • Richard Butzen, LLD
    • Daniel Cronon III, MA
    • Whitney Rune, Sr.

The abbreviation Esq. (esquire) refers to someone who is a lawyer and is never used when another title is given, whether before or after the name.

    • Sue Allen, Esq. not Ms. Sue Allen, Esq.
    • Carl Hanson, Esq. not Carl Hanson, Esq, PhD

Social titles are also dropped if another title is used following the name.

    • Harriet Long, MFA not Miss Harriet Long, MFA

Names with Saint. When Saint precedes the person’s name, it is often abbreviated St., although many prefer to spell the word out.

    • St. Catherine de Sienna or Saint Catherine de Sienna

Saint is generally omitted before the names of apostles, evangelists, and church founders.

    • Matthew
    • John
    • Luke
    • Mark
    • Paul
    • John the Baptist
    • Augustine
    • Jerome

When Saint is used as part of a personal name, follow the style preferred by the individual.

    • Ruth St. Denis
    • Adele St. Claire Hutchins
    • Alfred George Saint-Augustine

Company Names

The following abbreviations are commonly used as part of firm names.

& (and)

Inc. (incorporated)

Assoc. (association, associates, associated)

Ltd. (limited)

Bro., Bros. (brothers)

Mfg. (manufacturing)

Co. (company)

RR, Ry (railroad)

Corp. (corporation)

Abbreviations of company names may or may not use periods. Make sure you determine how the company itself prefers to spell its name. Some of the more common abbreviations include the following:

IBM

Ford Motor Co.

Warner Bros.

MCI

Gor-Tex, Inc.

ATT

AOL

Canada NewsWire Ltd.

Agencies and Organizations

The names of government agencies, network broadcasting companies, associations, fraternal and service organizations, unions, and other groups are usually abbreviated without periods. However, some publications such as The New York Times still print them with periods. Whichever style you use, be sure you are consistent.

Unions

AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor—Congress of Industrial Organizations)

UMW (United Mine Workers)

UAW (United Auto Workers)

Government Agencies

HHS (Department of Health and Human Services)

DOT (Department of Transportation)

CIA (Central Intelligence Agency)

Social Organizations

BSA (Boy Scouts of America)

YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association)

DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution)

VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars)

Professional Organizations

PEN (Poets, Editors, and Novelists)

AMA (American Medical Association)

Geographic Terms

In some cases, geographic terms may be abbreviated in more than one way. As always, the key is to be consistent.

Address and State Abbreviations. Address abbreviations may be used with or without periods and may be set in all capitals or in initial capitals only. The U.S. Postal Service recommends using all capitals without periods for address abbreviations. Following is a list of the most common abbreviations used in addresses.

Avenue

Expressway

Hospital

Heights

Institute

Junction

Lake

Lakes

Lane

Meadows

Mountains

Palms

Park

Parkway

AVE, Ave.

EXPY, Expy.

HOSP, Hosp.

HTS, Hts.

INST, Inst.

JCT,Jct.

LK, Lk.

LKS, Lks.

LN, Ln.

MDWS, Mdws.

MT, Mt.

PLMS, Plms.

PK, Pk.

PKY, Pky.

Point

Ridge

River

Road

Rural

Shore

Square

Station

Terrace

Turnpike

Union

View

Village

PT, Pt.

RDG, Rdg.

RV, Rv.

RD, Rd.

R, R.

SH, Sh.

SQ, Sq.

STA, Sta.

TER, Ter.

TPKE, Tpke.

UN, Un.

VW, Vw.

VLG, Vlg.

Points of the compass following a street name are used without periods. If they precede the name, periods are used.

    • 147 Eastwood NW
    • 1737 Fifth Street SE
    • 6 N. Michigan
    • 2320 E. Grand

Use the postal zip code abbreviations for states, territories, and the Canadian provinces. The abbreviations are capitalized and contain no punctuation.

STATE ABBREVIATIONS

Alabama

Alaska

Arizona

Arkansas

California

Colorado

Connecticut

Delaware

Florida

Georgia

Hawaii

Idaho

Illinois

Indiana

Iowa

Kansas

Kentucky

Louisiana

Maine

Maryland

Massachusetts

Michigan

Minnesota

Mississippi

Missouri

Montana

Nebraska

Nevada

New Hampshire

New Jersey

New Mexico

New York

North Carolina

North Dakota

Ohio

Oklahoma

Oregon

Pennsylvania

Rhode Island

South Carolina

South Dakota

Tennessee

Texas

Utah

Vermont

Virginia

Washington

West Virginia

Wisconsin

AL

AK

AZ

AR

CA

CO

CT

DE

FL

GA

HI

ID

IL

IN

IA

KS

KY

LA

ME

MD

MA

MI

MN

MS

MO

MT

NE

NV

NH

NJ

NM

NY

NC

ND

OH

OK

OR

PA

Ri

SC

SD

TN

TX

UT

VT

VA

WA

WV

WI

FOREIGN ABBREVIATIONS

Puerto Rico

Alberta

Manitoba

Newfoundland

Nova Scotia

Prince Edward Island

Saskatchewan

Labrador

Guam

Virgin Islands

British Columbia

New Brunswick

Northwest Territories

Ontario

Quebec

Yukon Territory

PR

AB

MB

NF

NS

PE

SK

LB

GU

VI

BC

NB

NT

ON

PQ

YT

Names of Countries. The names of countries should be spelled out whenever possible. When abbreviated, however, periods should be used after each part of the name. There is generally no space after the first period.

England

France

Germany

Italy

Philippines

Russia

Spain

Sweden

United Kingdom

United States

Engl.

Fr.

Ger.

It.

PH or Phil.

Rus.

Sp.

Swe.

U.K. or G.B. (Great Britain)

U.S.

For the correct abbreviations for other countries, consult a good dictionary or world atlas.

Place Names. Prefixes such as Fort, Mount, Point, and the like used with geographic names should not be abbreviated unless space must be saved in the text.

Fort Wayne

Mount Everest

Point Townsend

South Orange

Ft. Wayne

Mt. Everest

Pt. Townsend

S. Orange

Many grammarians make an exception for names beginning with Saint and abbreviate the prefix in all cases. However, the prefixes San and Santa are not abbreviated.

San Cristobal

St. Lawrence Seaway

Santa Barbara

St. Louis

Points of the Compass. The following symbols are used to abbreviate points of the compass.

    • N,S,E,W
    • NE, SE, NW, SW
    • S by SE
    • N by NW

Latitude and longitude are never abbreviated when used alone or in non-technical text. In technical notation, the terms are abbreviated without periods, and the compass symbols inserted following the degrees of latitude and longitude.

    • the equatorial latitudes
    • longitude 22° west
    • lat 42°573 N
    • long 90°275 W

Time

Time designations may be abbreviated in more than one way. Remember to be consistent.

Time of Day. Abbreviations that indicate time of day or night may be set in all capitals or lowercase (or as small capitals).

AM, am

(ante meridiem)

before noon

M

(meridian)

noon

PM, pm

(post meridiem)

after noon

Days of the Week, Months of the Year. The names of the days of the week can be abbreviated in the following ways:

Monday

Mon. or M

Tuesday

Tues. or Tu

Wednesday

Wed. or W

Thursday

Thurs. or Th

Friday

Fri. or F

Saturday

Sat. or Sa

Sunday

Sun. or Su

Months of the year are abbreviated as follows:

January

Jan. or Jan or Ja

February

Feb. or Feb or F

March

Mar. or Mar or Mr

April

Apr. or Apr or Ap

May

May or My

June

June or Jun or Je

July

July or Jul or Jl

August

Aug. or Aug or Ag

September

Sept. or Sept or S

October

Oct. or Oct or O

November

Nov. or Nov or N

December

Dec. or Dec or D

Years. Accepted abbreviations mark the years before and after the birth of Christ.

The abbreviation AD (anno Domini—means in the year of the Lord) precedes the year.

    • William the Conqueror landed on British shores in AD 1066.

BC (before Christ) follows the year.

    • Alexander the Great died in the summer of 323 BC.

Scholarly Abbreviations

The rules for use of abbreviations in scholarship are widely agreed upon and include the following:

  1. Abbreviations should be kept out of the body of the text as much as possible, except in technical matters.

  2. Abbreviations such as e.g., i.e., and etc. should be used primarily in parenthetical material.

  3. Scholarly abbreviations such as ibid., cf., s.v., and op. cit. should be used only in footnotes, bibliographical material, and general notes to the text.

Following is a partial list of some of the more familiar scholarly abbreviations. For a complete list, consult a dictionary, scholarly handbook, or more detailed grammar text.

anon.

anonymous

biog.

biography

cf.

confer, compare

cont.

continued

def.

definition, definite

div.

division

e.g.

exempli gratia, for example

esp.

especially

hdqrs.

headquar ters

i.e.

id est, that is

lit.

literally

mgr.

manager

ms.

manuscript

n.a.

not applicable, not available

pp.

pages

rev.

review, revised, revision

subj.

subject

trans.

translation, translated

vol.

volume

yr.

your, year

Measures

Abbreviations for units of measure are the same whether the unit is singular or plural.

English Measure. The abbreviations for length, area, and volume are followed by periods in nonscientific writing. The abbreviations are as follows:

Length

Area

Volume

in.

[inch]

sq. in.

[square inch]

cu. in.

[cubic inch]

ft.

[foot, feet]

sq. ft.

[square foot]

cu. ft.

[cubic foot]

yd.

[yard]

sq. yd.

[square yard]

cu. yd.

[cubic yard]

rd.

[rod]

sq. rd.

[square rod]

mi.

[mile]

sq. mi.

[square mile]

a.

[acre]

Abbreviations for weight and capacity reflect the complicated English system of measures. There are three systems in use: avoirdupois, the common system; troy, used by jewelers; and apothecaries’ measure. Although the metric system is being adopted in the United States, these other systems are still in use. The abbreviations are as follows:

Weight

Dry Measure

Liquid Measure

gr.

[grain]

pt.

[pint]

min.

[minim]

s.

[scruple]

qt.

[quart]

fl. dr.

[fluid dram]

dr.

[dram]

pk.

[peck]

fl. oz.

[fluid ounce]

dwt.

[pennyweight]

bu.

[bushel]

gi.

[gill]

oz.

[ounce]

c.

[cup]

pt.

[pint]

lb.

[pound]

tsp.

[teaspoon]

qt.

[quart]

cwt.

[hundredweight]

tbl.

[tablespoon]

gal.

[gallon]

tn.

[ton]

bbl.

[barrel]


English abbreviations for the standard units of time are as follows:

sec.

second

h., hr.

hour

min.

minute

d.

day

mo.

month

yr.

year

Metric System. The metric system, long used in scientific publications, is gradually becoming the national system of weights and measures. The basic units of measure are the liter, gram, and meter. The following abbreviations are used with metric measurements:

Length

Area

Volume

mm

millimeter

sq. mm

square millimeter

mm(3)

cubic millimeter

cm

centimeter

sq. cm

square centimeter

cc

cubic centimeter

dm

decimeter

sq. dm

square decimeter

dm(3)

cubic decimeter

m

meter

sq. m

square meter

m(3)

cubic meter

dam

dekameter

sq. dam

square dekameter


ca

centare

sq. ca

square centare


ha

hectare

sq. ha

square hectare


km

kilometer

sq. km

square kilometer


Capacity

Weight

ml

milliliter

mg

milligram

cl

centiliter

cg

centigram

dl

deciliter

dg

decagram

l

liter

g

gram

dal

dekaliter

dag

dekagram

hl

hectoliter

hg

hectogram

ha

hectare

kg

kilogram

kl

kiloliter


Science and Technology

The International System of Units (SI) is generally used by scientists around the world to label measurements. SI is roughly equivalent to the metric system. In some cases, however, the method of forming abbreviations differs among the various disciplines of science. For a full listing of scientific abbreviations, consult a technical handbook or scientific style book.

Following are the seven fundamental SI units, termed base units, that serve as the foundation terms in science.

Term

Unit

Abbreviation

length

meter

m

mass

kilogram

kg

time

second

s

electric current

ampere

A

thermodynamic temperature

kelvin

K

amount of substance

mole

mol

luminous intensity

candela

cd

The abbreviations used by various branches of science may or may not be related to the International System. Following is a partial list of the more commonly used abbreviations. Notice that they are set without periods.

Abbreviation

Meaning

AC

alternating current

AU

astronomic unit

cal

calorie

CPS

cycles per second

FM

frequency modulation

kw

kilowatt

pH

acidity of alkalinity

std

standard

UT, UTC

universal time

AM

amplitude modulation

BP

boiling point

CP

candle power

DC

direct current

HP

horsepower

MPG

miles per gallon

RPM

revolutions per minute

temp

temperature

Commercial Abbreviations

Abbreviations used in business and commerce follow a varied style. The most commonly used abbreviations and their accepted styles are given here.

Abbreviation

Meaning

acct.

account

a/v

ad valorem

bbl.

barrel

bu.

bushel

COD

cash on delivery

cwt.

hundredweight

dr.

debit, debitor

f.o.b., FOB

free on board

agt.

agent

bal.

balance

bdl.

bundle

c.l.

carload

cr.

credit, creditor

doz.

dozen

ea.

each

gro.

gross

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