With the limited characters available on platforms like Twitter, we\u2019re used to using acronyms and abbreviations in communication. After all, \u201cIMO ppl uz 2 mNE lng wrds\u201d is much more concise than \u201cIn my opinion, people use too many long words.\u201d\n\nHowever, in academic writing, improper use of acronyms can detract from the clarity of your writing. In this post, we cover how to use acronyms in a college paper.\nWhat Are Acronyms and Abbreviations?\nAcronyms and abbreviations are both shortened forms of long terms or phrases. However, while all acronyms are abbreviations, there is an important difference:\n\n \tAbbreviations are shortened versions of words (e.g., when \u201cJan\u201d is used in place of \u201cJanuary\u201d).\n \tAcronyms are abbreviations where the first letters from each word in a phrase spell out a new term (e.g., when "National Aeronautics and Space Administration" is shortened to \u201cNASA\u201d).\n\nIn addition, there is a difference between an \u201cacronym\u201d and an \u201cinitialism\u201d. Acronyms are pronounced as a single word (e.g., NASA). But each letter in an initialism is pronounced separately (e.g., FBI).\n\nSince \u201cacronym\u201d is commonly used for both of these, we will continue using this term below. However, it's worth remembering that there is a difference!\nWhen to Use Acronyms\nThe main consideration is clarity. To be specific, we shorten long technical terms to make our work easier to read, especially if they're used repeatedly.\n\nFor instance, writing \u201cMRI\u201d instead of \u201cmagnetic resonance imaging\u201d is a good idea if using this term a lot, since it\u2019s easier to read.\n\nIf a term is only used once or twice, there\u2019s usually no need to use an acronym. You should also avoid using too many abbreviations since text dense with acronyms and technical jargon can be difficult to read.\nIntroducing Acronyms\nIf using an acronym, you must introduce it with full terminology in the first instance so your reader knows what it means. You can do this by giving the full term first and the shortened version in parentheses:\nThe North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has existed since 1949.\nOnce introduced, you can use the shortened version in place of the full term:\nThe idea of NATO is to ensure security via a system of collective defense.\nTo ensure clarity, try to use the acronym consistently throughout your document. This means you should not switch between the full and abbreviated versions of the same term unless there is a reason to do so (e.g., you have not used the abbreviation in a long time and need to remind the reader).\n\nIntroducing an acronym isn\u2019t necessary if the term is in common use, such as with \u201claser\u201d (originally short for \u201clight amplification by stimulated emission of radiation\u201d).\n\nHowever, even with well-known terms, providing a definition can be helpful, since many acronyms have more than one meaning. One example is the long-running battle for use of \u201cWWF\u201d, in which the conservation group grappled (pun fully intended) with the professional wrestling organization now known as the \u201cWWE.\u201d\n\nAlthough \u201cWWF\u201d is a recognizable term, defining it in the first use would remove ambiguity. It would then be clear that you\u2019re discussing the \u201cWorld Wildlife Fund\u201d and not the former employers of Stone Cold Steve Austin.\n\n[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="268"] "I will open a can of whoop-ass on any panda that gets in my way."[\/caption]\n\nAn important distinction, we're sure you'll agree.\nCapitalizing Acronyms and Initialisms\nAs a rule, American English capitalizes every letter in acronyms and initialisms:\nThe country joined NATO in 1968.\nThe CIA has investigated the claims twice.\nHowever, some style guides (mostly those that focus on British English) recommend only capitalizing the first letter of acronyms (i.e., abbreviations pronounced as a single word). For instance:\nThe country joined Nato in 1968.\nLook out for this if you're reading (or writing for) a British publication.\nPunctuating Abbreviations\nMost acronyms and abbreviations are written without punctuation, as shown in the examples above. However, some style guides recommend using a period between letters in short initialisms, such as "U.S.A." and "U.K." It is also common to use periods in lowercase abbreviations, such as "a.m.," "p.m.," "e.g.," and "i.e."\n\nUnless you're using a style guide that suggests adding periods to certain abbreviations, this is usually a matter of preference. But make sure to apply a consistent style! For example, either of the following would be acceptable:\nHe was born in the UK, but he lives in the USA now. \u2714\nHe was born in the U.K., but he lives in the U.S.A. now. \u2714\n\nBut mixing these punctuation styles would be incorrect:\nHe was born in the UK, but he lives in the U.S.A. now. \u2718\n\nMake sure to think about how to punctuate abbreviations in your own writing.\nExpert Proofreading Services\nThe rules for using acronyms can vary slightly. As such, if you are using a style guide, you should check what it says about abbreviations and acronyms.\n\nWhichever style you're using, though, our expert editors can help! Make sure your writing is always error-free by getting it checked with Proofed. Upload a free trial document today to find out more.