Abbreviations, acronyms, and initialisms


Avoid abbreviations in general text.

department rather than dept
telephone or phone rather than tel. or ph.

You can use abbreviations in tables and contact boxes.

Latin abbreviations

Latin abbreviations take full stops. Do not use a comma before ‘etc’. You can use a comma after ‘etc’. Follow it with a full stop at the end of a sentence.

Fertilizers can be organic (i.e. carbon based) or inorganic.
Please bring your documents, e.g. your photo ID, application form etc.

Keep the ‘v’ in ‘versus’ lowercase.

Acronyms and initialisms

An acronym is word formed out of the initial letters of a phrase. Usually, you do not need to spell out the acronym in full.


Initialisms are, usually, a shortened form of a title using the first letter of each word.

The Centre for Drug Candidate Optimisation (CDCO)

The general rule is to spell out the phrase in full in the first instance, and then follow with the initialism in brackets. In subsequent references, you can use the initialism only.

The Centre for Drug Candidate Optimisation (CDCO) is an innovative collaborative research centre. The CDCO…

Don’t use full stops in initialisms or acronyms.

NSW, not N.S.W.
ANZAC, not A.N.Z.A.C.

Don’t use an apostrophe to make an initialism or acronym plural.

There were seven CEOs in the room.

Use an apostrophe to show possession, however, as per normal.

The CEO’s biggest regret was the third quarter budget deficit.
The CEOs’ meeting was attended by…

When referring to an acronym, use the appropriate article for the way the term is spoken, not spelled.

an FBI agent
an RACV member


However, clarity trumps pedantry. If a document contains a lot of acronyms, and looks messy or confusing, use alternative shortened forms like ‘the centre’. If the document is long, spell out the acronym a couple of times to remind readers what you’re talking about.

Sometimes good writing reduces the need to explain acronyms.

In 1971, Ray Tomlinson was a 29-year-old computer engineer working for the consulting firm Bolt, Beranek and Newman. Founded just over two decades previously, BBN had recently been awarded a contract by the US government’s Advanced Research Projects Agency to undertake an ambitious project to connect computers all over America. The so-called ‘ARPANET’ would go on to provide the foundations for the modern internet...

In this case, it’s easy to understand what ‘BBN’ and ‘ARPANET’ stand for.