Periods in Abbreviations

Why is abbreviation such a long word?

Periods in abbreviations can be a controversial subject. There are no hard and fast rules, and often the style manual used by the editor or publisher will prevail, so know your audience. Following are some general guidelines.

  • Businesses and corporationsdo not use a period (examples: IBM, NBC)
  • Compass directionsdo not use a period (examples: SE, NNW)
  • Countriesdo not use a period (examples: USA, UK), though USA is often written as U.S.
  • Latin phrases — use a period (examples: e.g., i.e., etc.)
  • Measurementsdo not use a period (examples: American units: in., ft, yd, lb, mph; Metric units: kg, cm, kph); general units: rpm)
  • Months — use a period (example: Feb. for February)
  • Organizations written in all upper-case lettersdo not use a period (examples: UNESCO, CNN)
  • Personal names — use a period for initials (examples: J.R. Brown, John R. Brown)
  • Time — use a period (examples: a.m., p.m.)
  • Time periods — use a period (examples: B.C, A.D.); however, these are often written as BC and AD; B.C.E and C.E. are also used (meaning Before the Common Era, Common Era), which are also written as BCE and CE
  • Titles BEFORE personal names — use a period (examples: Mr., Mrs., Ms., Dr., Gen., Sen.)
  • Titles AFTER personal names — use a period (examples: Sr., Jr., Ph.D., M.A., B.A., M.D., R.N.); however, some style manuals do not use periods for degrees or professional titles (PhD, MA, BA, MD, RN); CPA is usually written without periods


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