Abbreviations and acronyms

Do not use full points in abbreviations, or spaces between initials, including those in proper names: IMF, mph, eg, 4am, M&S, No 10, AN Wilson, WH Smith, etc.

Use all capitals if an abbreviation is pronounced as the individual letters (an initialism): BBC, CEO, US, VAT, etc; if it is an acronym (pronounced as a word) spell out with initial capital, eg Nasa, Nato, Unicef, unless it can be considered to have entered the language as an everyday word, such as awol, laser and, more recently, asbo, pin number and sim card. Note that pdf and plc are lowercase.

If an abbreviation or acronym is to be used more than once in a piece, put it in brackets at first mention: so Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), seasonal affective disorder (Sad); alternatively, use the abbreviation with a brief description, eg the conservation charity the RSPB. Remember that our international online readership will not necessarily be aware of even well-known UK abbreviations. If an organisation is mentioned only once, it is not necessary to give its abbreviation or acronym.

Cap up single letters in such expressions as C-list, F-word, “the word assassin contains four Ss”, etc

Taken from:

For comparison:


Explain sets of initials when they first occur on a page or a section, normally in parentheses. Don’t assume that ‘everyone knows’ what an acronym means – they don’t. With a well-known acronym give the acronym first. Reverse the order with a less-familiar acronym. So NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) but Reading Borough Council (RBC).

Taken from: a Text Matters style guide.

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