Accessible version | Skip to content | Change your text size

Table of contents

Previous pageNext page

Use of acronyms and abbreviations

Explain any terminology which you think may not be familiar to the reader – or which they may not necessarily know you know.

Always write a long name in full the first time you use it, regardless of how well known it is.

For example

  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) is affiliated with the United Nations (UN). The UN provides funds which help the WHO perform its role effectively.
  • Research into weapons of mass destruction (WMD) has increased the potential risks from bioterrorism. Agencies involved in the development of WMD have on occasion failed to maintain adequate levels of security, and this has led to potentially hazardous materials falling into the wrong hands.

Abbreviations should generally be avoided. However, it is appropriate to use standard abbreviations sometimes in scientific writing. For the first reference to a term in the text, the term should be used in full with the abbreviation included in brackets. For the remainder of the text the abbreviation should be used. However, abbreviations should not be used in the abstract or in the title.

For example

  • Where the patient exhibits these symptoms it is appropriate for the doctor to request an electrocardiagram (ECG). An ECG may help to establish…

Adapted from Peat, J et al, (2002) Scientific writing, London: BMJ.

Note that, in academic writing usually the full form is used rather than contractions, as follows

Avoid abbreviations in academic writing
Full form Contraction
do not don't
cannot can't
will not won't
must not mustn't
he would he'd
word outputDownload a printable version of this page (.doc)
Problems? Questions? Comments? Please provide us feedback.