Last reviewed: 9 Sept 2021

Content guidelines

Abbreviations, acronyms and initialisms

Abbreviations, acronyms and initialisms are shortened forms of words that can make content more concise.

Guidelines

An abbreviation is a shortened form of a word or phrase, like ‘Co-op’, short for ‘co-operative’.

An acronym is an abbreviation made up of the initial letters of other words and pronounced as a word, like ‘Nisa', short for the National Independent Supermarket Association.

An initialism is an abbreviation made up of initial letters that are pronounced separately, for example ‘BBC’, short for British Broadcasting Corporation.

Any of these can be confusing and exclude people. Only use them where necessary, for example if:

  • you’re repeating the same term multiple times in a short space
  • they are more well known than the explanation

Explain abbreviations at least the first time you use them, unless they’re well known, like Co-op, UK, or HR.

Consider whether it’s helpful to explain them more than once, for example, if people might only read a certain section of the page.

When you explain the term in full, add the abbreviation in brackets after it. For example, ‘Customer Relationship Management (CRM)’. You can then refer to it by the initials and using the ‘abbreviation’ tag in the code. This tag code means that the explanation’s displayed as hover text.

Do not use full stops within abbreviations, for example ‘CRM’ not ‘C.R.M.’

For more information on abbreviations, acronyms and initialisms go to the Content Design London Readability Guidelines section on Abbreviations and acronyms.

Examples

Facilities Management Services (also known as 'Facilities').

Explanation of an abbreviation with the abbreviation in brackets.

National Independent Supermarket Association (Nisa)

Explanation of an acronym with the acronym in brackets.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

Explanation of an initialism with the initialism in brackets.

Changelog for this page

Date Notes
9 Sept 2021 First version of page published

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