Abbreviations, contractions and acronyms

Don’t use full stops after any abbreviations


  • these are formed by omitting letters from the end of a word
    Medical Sciences ⇒ Med Sci
    Doctorate of Philosophy ⇒ DPhil
    ante meridiem ⇒ am
    post meridiem ⇒ pm


  • these are formed by omitting letters from the middle of a word
    Mister ⇒ Mr
    Doctor ⇒ Dr
    The Reverend ⇒ The Revd
    Saint ⇒ St


  • these are formed from the initial letters of words (whether the result is pronounceable as a word or as a series of letters)
    British Broadcasting Corporation ⇒ BBC
    Master of Arts ⇒ MA
    Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome ⇒ AIDS
    Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences ⇒ MPLS
    Planning and Resource Allocation Committee ⇒ PRAC
    Pro-Vice-Chancellor ⇒ PVC
  • when using an acronym that may be unfamiliar, spell it out in full the first time it is mentioned, with the acronym following in brackets; thereafter, use the acronym alone
    The decision was made by the Planning and Resource Allocation Committee (PRAC). There are several meetings of PRAC every term.


  • whether you consider ‘St’ to be an abbreviation or a contraction, don’t use a full stop after it
    Saint Ebbe’s Street ⇒ St Ebbe’s St

Specific abbreviations

People’s initials

  • use a space to separate each initial (eg J R R Tolkien, C S Lewis)


  • when discussing large numbers in text, it is fine to use k/m/bn as shorter ways of spelling out 1,000/1,000,000/1,000,000,000 (or writing out 'one thousand'/'one million'/'one billion') as long as you are consistent throughout the document

Names of universities

  • awarding bodies in lists of qualifications can be abbreviated to shorter forms if it is clear what university you are referring to: Camb, Oxf, UCL etc. Use English names, not Latin ones, as not all universities have a Latin name (eg Oxf instead of Oxon)

Latin abbreviations

  • if you are using Latin abbreviations, make sure you know what they mean and when to use them (and do not use full stops after them)
    • eg [exempli gratia] – means 'such as'; use with examples which are not exhaustive (and do not follow with a comma):
      Oxford offers many language courses, eg Russian, French, Spanish [those are some, but not all, of the language courses offered].
    • ie [id est] – means 'that is'; use with definitions or lists which are exhaustive (and do not follow with a comma):
      Catch a Blackbird Leys bus, ie numbers 1 or 5 [those are the only buses which go to Blackbird Leys].
    • ibid [ibidem] – means 'the same'; use when making a subsequent reference/citation to a publication or other source mentioned in the immediately preceding note (ie no references to anything else have appeared in between)
      For a fuller explanation of telepathy, see Brown [Speaking with the Mind, Chicago (1945) p 125]; also in Brown is further information on cats and telepathy [ibid, p 229].