Tips on Using Abbreviations in Academic Writing

Abbreviations are shortened phrases and words. There are many kinds of abbreviations, and most often, they are used in academic writing. In this article, Writers-house will tell you what abbreviations are, and how to use them properly.

Initialisms and Acronyms

Initialisms and acronyms are abbreviations that contain first letters of each word, for example, BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund). Abbreviations allow you to avoid repetition of long terms.

When using an initialism or acronym for the first time in a document, you should start with the full terminology followed by the abbreviation in parentheses.

Latin Abbreviations

There are many Latin abbreviations used in everyday English, such as “etc.,” “e.g.,” “i.e.,” and “N.B.” However, there are also many other Latin abbreviations in academic writing. For example, there are such abbreviations as “op cit.” (“in the work cited”), “ibid.” (“in the same place”), and “et al.” (“and others”). The main thing is to know what abbreviations are used in your field of study. For instance, disciplines like law have many Latin abbreviations.

Dates, Titles, and Measurements

There are many common abbreviations for measurements, titles, and dates. Usually, titles are abbreviated when used before a name, for example: “Dr. Brown.” Units of measurement are usually written out in full. Nevertheless, they are shortened in scientific and technical works. For example, “three inches” becomes “3 in.” In contrast, dates are usually written in full in formal writing. However, you can also abbreviate them in other types of papers. For example, “Tuesday, April 4th” becomes “Tue., Apr. 4.”

Punctuating Abbreviations

Many students have hard times understanding where to put a full stop when using abbreviations, as there are many different rules. In the United States, full stops are used after all abbreviations, except metric units of measurement. In the U.K., full stops are used only if an abbreviation contains the first part of a word (e.g. “Apr.” for April). However, if an abbreviation contains the first and the last letters, full stops are not used (e.g. “Dr” for “Doctor”).


Contractions combine two words. A good example of a contraction is “don’t,” which combines “do” and “not.” Contractions are widely used in speech but shouldn’t be used in formal writing.

Listing Abbreviations

Dissertations often include a list of abbreviations. It helps readers understand initialisms, acronyms, and abbreviations they are unfamiliar with.

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