7 Important Rules for Correct Abbreviations

The seven important rules for using abbreviations will help you write abbreviations correctly. The rules and examples to help you follow.

Abbreviation Rule 1

Always Spell Out First Names

Example

Incorrect

  1. Wm. Taft
  2. Geo. Washington
  3. Chas. Attwater

Correct

  1. William Taft
  2. George Washington
  3. Charles Attwater

Abbreviation Rule 2

Abbreviations of Titles

  1. Spell out titles when they appear with the last name only.
  2. Titles may be abbreviated when both the first and last names appear together.
  3. Abbreviate academic degrees and professional designations following names.
  4. Do not abbreviate a position title in a letter address.

Incorrect

  1. Sen. Proxmire
  2. Gen. Powell
  3. Atty. Bryant
  4. Mr. Franklin Pierce, Treas. Barrister Implements 378 East Belmont Avenue Fresno, CA 93701-1603

Correct

  1. Senator Proxmire or Sen. James Proxmire
  2. General Powell or Gen. Colin Powell.
  3. Attorney Bryant or Atty. Greg Bryant
  4. Mr. Franklin Pierce, Treasurer Barrister Implements 378 East Belmont Avenue Fresno, CA 93701-1603

Abbreviation Rule 3

Abbreviations of Group Names and Organizations

Write abbreviations without periods for agency names, broadcasting companies, unions, and other similar groups.

Example

Incorrect

  1. A.A.A.
  2. F.B.I.
  3. I.R.S.
  4. A.M.A.
  5. N.A.A.C.P.

Correct

  1. AAA
  2. FBI
  3. IRS
  4. AMA
  5. NAACP

Abbreviation Rule 4

Abbreviations of Time Designations

  1. Abbreviate time designations with periods.
  2. Abbreviate standard time zones without periods.
  3. Do not abbreviate days and months except in limited spaces such as tables or business forms.

Example

Incorrect

  1. AD
  2. am
  3. E.S.T.
  4. BC
  5. PM
  6. Their Grand Opening was held on Mon., Aug. 19, 1999.

Correct

  1. A.D.
  2. a.m.
  3. EST
  4. B.C.
  5. p.m.
  6. Their Grand Opening was held on Monday, August 19, 1999.

Abbreviation Rule 5

Abbreviations in Addresses

  1. Spell out street addresses (Chicago Manual of Style).
  2. With zip codes, use state abbreviations in all capital letters without periods. Do not use the two-letter state abbreviations without zip codes.

The AP Stylebook suggests that you may use abbreviations for compass points (N., E., S., W.) when the compass point follows an address number (house at 743 N. 40th Street), but not when the address number is missing house on North 40th Street).

Spell out “Street” in addresses.

Example

Incorrect

  1. 2310 Lee Ave., Northwest
  2. on S. Main St.
  3. San Diego, CA

Correct

  1. 2310 Lee Avenue, NW
  2. on South Main Street (or at 200 S. Main Street: AP Stylebook)
  3. San Diego, California or San Diego, CA 92101-7006

Abbreviation Rule 6

Abbreviations of Weights and Measures

Example

Incorrect

  1. The amount used was 3 oz.
  2. Total loss was 368 gals.
  3. The underwriter weighed 268 lbs.

Correct

  1. The amount used was 3 ounces.
  2. Total loss was 368 gallons.
  3. The underwriter weighed 268 pounds.

Abbreviation Rule 7

Abbreviations of Commonly Used Expressions

Commonly used expressions may be abbreviated in text in informal and standard business writing (but not formal business writing).

Example

Correct

  • ASAP as soon as possible
  • RSVP répondez s’il vous plaît
  • CEO chief executive officer
  • SASE self-addressed stamped envelope

Other commonly used expressions may be abbreviated, but only in business forms, tables, and statistics.

Abbreviated Words in Company Names

You may abbreviate a word such as “Brothers” in a company name if the company has the abbreviation in its name in all of its legal documents.

Common Words

Common words such as “info” or “subj”. Do not abbreviate words such as “info” or “subj” in business writing.

Example

Correct

  • acct. account
  • km/h kilometers per hour
  • att. attachment
  • mph miles per hour
  • doz. dozen
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