Style Guide: Abbreviations
As a general rule, “when in doubt, spell it out.” It is always better to be clear than to leave the reader wondering what a certain abbreviation means.
Titles/ Degrees (also see Academic Degrees and Honors entry)
Abbreviate the following titles when they precede a name and are written outside direct quotations: Dr., Mr., Mrs., Gov., Lt. Gov., Rep., Sen., and all military titles.
The plural use of these titles is also abbreviated when used before more than one name, such as Drs., Reps., Sens., and Govs.
Spell out these titles when included in a direct quote or when used without a name.
Academic titles such as professor, chair and dean should be spelled out.
Academic degrees should be spelled out on first reference whenever possible, unless the need to identify individuals by degree on first reference would make the preferred form cumbersome. Degrees may be abbreviated thereafter as long as it is clear to the reader what these abbreviations mean. If needed, the abbreviation can be included in parentheses after the degree. However, this should be done on first reference only.
- Union College offers a bachelor of arts (B.A.) degree in psychology.
- The director of Communications holds a B.A. in this field of study.
Most academic degrees include periods after the initials: B.A., M.A., Ph.D. and Ed.D.
Honorary degrees are not capitalized:
- Award-winning broadcast journalist Judy Woodruff will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters.
See Titles/Degrees entry.
The religious titles of Brother, Sister, Cardinal, Archbishop and Bishop should be spelled out. The title of Reverend should also be spelled out on first reference. On second reference, if used along with the person’s name, Rev. is the preferred style. Reverend should not be abbreviated when used by itself.
- Reverend Viki Brooks is the director of religious and spiritual life at Union.
Following the first reference, religious titles may be used before the person’s name as a courtesy. However, the person’s last name may also be used alone on second reference and thereafter as appropriate.
Related Rules (regarding Titles/Degrees)
The title of Dr. should not be used in conjunction with Ph.D., Ed.D or other academic degrees. Use one or the other. However, academic degrees can be used after the names of individuals who hold religious titles:
- Correct: Sister Mary Grace Williams, Ph.D.
- Incorrect: Dr. Joe Smith, Ph.D.
Academic degrees should be used only once (usually on first reference) in conjunction with the person’s full name.
The title of Dr. as well as most religious titles (Sister, Reverend, etc.) may be used on all references as a form of courtesy, but is not required after the first reference. The last name of the person may be used alone on second reference if deemed appropriate.
- Reverend Viki Brooks spoke to the crowd. Brooks, the director of religious and spiritual life, discussed recent curriculum changes.
When using the title of Dr. in materials for public/media distribution, it is important to identify early on the person’s credentials, i.e. whether he or she is a doctor of medicine or holds a doctoral degree in specific areas of study. Often, including a person’s official occupational title will help to clarify this matter. To further clarify, information about the person’s educational/occupational background can be included where appropriate.
Family Lineage (Junior, Senior)
Abbreviate junior (Jr.) and senior (Sr.) only with full names of persons as it refers to that individual’s family lineage. This abbreviation should be preceded by a comma.
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The notation II or 2nd may be used if it is the person’s preference. Note, however, that II and 2nd are not necessarily the equivalent of junior. They are often used by a grandson or nephew. II or 2nd are not preceded by a comma.
Abbreviate the word Saint as St. in the names of saints, cities and other geographic locations, with the exception of the founder of the De La Salle Christian Brothers, Saint John Baptist de La Salle.
- St. Lawrence Seaway
The names of certain states and the United States are abbreviated with periods in some circumstances. (see States entry.)
Time (also see Dates and Times)
Use a.m. and p.m. in conjunction with specific times. Do not capitalize. Do not exclude periods.
- Incorrect: Early this a.m., he went to the doctor.
- Correct: Early this morning, he went to the doctor.
- Correct: At 8: 30 a.m., he went to the doctor.
This abbreviation for television is acceptable as an adjective or in such constructions as cable TV. But it generally should not be used as a noun unless part of a quotation.
United Nations, U.N.
Spell out United Nations when used as a noun. Use the abbreviation U.N. (no spaces) only as an adjective and only when the acronym is understood.
Abbreviate as vs. in all uses, except when spelled out as part of a formal title or as part of quoted material.
Do not abbreviate
Spell out the word Christmas. Do not use forms of abbreviation such X-mas or Xmas.
Spell out names of cities (Los Angeles, not L.A.), unless in direct quotes.
For major cities, such as Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco, no state is needed.)
Spell out the names of countries other than U.S.A.
U.S., referring to the United States, may only be used as an adjective.
- U.S. currency
Days of the Week (see Dates and Times)
Capitalize the days of the week. Do not abbreviate them except when used in tables where space limitations exist. Abbreviations to be used for the days of the week are Mon., Tues., Wed., Thurs., Fri., Sat., and Sun. If additional abbreviation is needed due to space constraints, tabular format may be used where periods are removed and Tues. may be abbreviated further to Tue and Thurs. to Thu to facilitate composition.
Do not abbreviate parts of geographic names such as Fort Wayne and South Dakota. However, cities and other geographic locations that include the word Saint may use St. as an abbreviation for this word. (see Saint above.)
Months Without Dates/Years Only (see Dates and Times)
Names of months without a specific date, or with a year alone should be spelled out. When a month is used with a specific date, abbreviate only Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec. Spell out all other months.
- March 2011, was a cold month.
- March 13, 2011, was a snowy day.
Do not abbreviate the word percent. In scientific, technical and statistical copy, use the symbol %. In all other copy, spell out. Never use pct.
Union CollegeNever abbreviate Union College in any reference. Union or the College may be used on second reference. College should always be capitalized when referring to Union College