Helpful Tips on Using Abbreviations in Academic & Scientific Writing
Abbreviations of various kinds are common features of academic and scientific papers, but the guidelines of many journals will ask authors to keep their use to a bare minimum or restrict their use to standard abbreviations for measures only. Such standard abbreviations rarely present difficulties as long as the appropriate form of each is used consistently throughout a paper. Those journals that do allow more abbreviations tend to provide specific instructions on how they should be introduced, defined and used with consistency, and it is essential for these instructions to be followed both to maintain a professional standard and to communicate clearly with the readers. As a general rule, all non-standard abbreviations/acronyms should be written out in full on first use (in both the abstract and the paper itself) and followed by the abbreviated form in parentheses, as in ‘the American Psychological Association (APA)’. Latin abbreviations, such as ‘etc.’, ‘i.e.’, ‘e.g.’ and ‘cf.’, do not require definition, but they should take a correct and consistent form throughout a paper and be used only in parenthetical and supplementary material (such as tables, notes or lists); in the running text of an article, their English equivalents in complete words should be used instead.
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If you are in the process of preparing an article for an academic or scientific journal, or planning one for the near future, you may well be interested in a new book, Guide to Journal Publication, which is available on our Tips and Advice on Publishing Research in Journals website.