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Acronyms and abbreviations

Acronyms

  • Unless they are instantly recognizable, spell out acronyms in full on first use, and indicate the acronym in parentheses. Use acronyms sparingly unless they are better known than the full term.
    • Examples: AIDS, CD-ROM, laser, NATO, OAC, OSAP, PAC, scuba, MPP, CBC, CP, IBM, MIT, RCMP, YMCA, UN
  • Do not use periods in acronyms.
  • Do not use an apostrophe to form the plural of an acronym.
    • Example: URLs, not URL’s (no apostrophe required)
  • In digital documents and websites, spell out acronyms on first use at every potential point of entry into the content (e.g. on every web page, not just the homepage)

Abbreviations

  • In general, abbreviate words only when the short form is instantly recognizable.
    • Examples: lab, flu, TV
  • In body text, abbreviate place names sparingly. When it is necessary to abbreviate place names, use periods.
  • Do not use periods unless the abbreviation refers to a place or a person.
    • Examples: U.S., P.E.I., C.S. Lewis
  • When abbreviating the name of a University of Waterloo Faculty, do not abbreviate the initial "Faculty of."
    • Examples: Applied Health Sciences (not FoAHS or FAHS), likewise, use Environment (not FoE, not FE) and Engineering (not FoE, not FE), etc.
  • When abbreviating the name of a University of Waterloo department, write the name out in full followed by the abbreviation in parentheses on the first use. Abbreviations familiar to Waterloo people may be unfamiliar to people off campus.
    • Examples: Electrical and Computer Engineering (E&CE), Co-operative Education & Career Action (CECA)
  • However, do not include abbreviations in parentheses after a name unless you plan to use the abbreviation later.
  • In digital documents and websites, use the full name on first use at every potential point of entry into the content (e.g. on every web page, not just the homepage).
  • For course codes and building codes, use the abbreviation HTML tag <abbr> in digital documents and webpages.