Abbreviations

Editorial Style

How to use and punctuate acronyms, contractions and suspensions.

For guidance on how to abbreviate specific terms, refer to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary or the Oxford Dictionaries website.

Unless an abbreviation is universally recognised (such as USA, UN, Mr, Dr), spell out the words/phrase in full on first use, with the shortened form following in parentheses.

  • This law applies to both domestic firms and multinational corporations (MNCs).
  • Since the least developed country (LDC) category was initiated, only three LCD countries have graduated to developing country status.

Acronyms

Write an acronym as a single string of uppercase letters without full stops. This applies whether the result is pronounced as a word or as a series of letters. (See the note below.) For the plural form of an acronym, add a lowercase “s” (without an apostrophe).

  • UNU, UNESCO, UNICEF
  • USA, UK, ROK
  • CITES, GATT
  • NGOs, LDCs

  • [not] U.N.U., U.K., C.I.T.E.S., L.D.C.
  • [not] NGO’s, LDC’s

Note: The GOSG specifies using all capitals if an acronym is pronounced as the individual letters (BBC, FBI, UNDP), but using an initial capital only if the acronym is pronounced as a word (Nasa, Nato, Unicef). This diverges from the COED; since this can be considered a spelling issue, we will follow the COED style.


Contractions

Write a contraction (an abbreviation that retains the first and last letters of a word while omitting some or all of the intervening letters) without a full stop.

  • Mr, Ms, Dr
  • eds, vols

Suspensions

Write a suspension (an abbreviation formed by omitting letters from the end of a word) with a full stop.

  • Prof., Rev.
  • ed., vol., ch.

Academic degrees

The abbreviation of academic degrees is an exception to the above set of rules. Although they are properly classified as suspensions (which normally would be written with full stops), degree abbreviations should be written as listed in the COED: a single string (no spaces), with lowercase for non-initial letters and no full stops.

  • MSc, PhD, DPhil, MJur

Latin abbreviations

Some readers may not be familiar with Latin abbreviations, or with the terms they stand for. Whenever feasible, use the English long form in place of a Latin abbreviation: “for example” or “such as” rather than “e.g.”(exempli gratia); “that is” or “in other words” rather than “i.e.” (id est); “and others” rather than “et al.” (et allii); “and so forth” or “and more” rather than “etc.” (et cetera).

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