APA Formatting & Style: Abbreviations
Last updated 3/12/2020
Video Length: 2:42
Visual: Screen opens to a background image with a person typing on a laptop and a notebook and pencil, along with the Walden University Writing Center logo. The title Walden University Writing Center and tagline “Your writing, grammar, and APA experts” appears on the screen. The screen changes to show the series title “Formatting & Style” and the video title “Abbreviations.”
Audio: Guitar music
Visual: Video changes to new slide titled, “Abbreviations." Below the title are two rules for acronyms. The rules are in blue boxes with large text, and examples for these rules are in small grey boxes to the right of the blue boxes. These rules and examples are as follows:
Introduce once within parenthesis
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- English language learners (ELLs)
Combine abbreviations and a citation
- The Department of Education (DOE; 2012)
- (The Department of Education [DOE], 2012)
- (DOE, 2012)
Audio: Abbreviations can be a helpful way of shortening phrases or names when you use them repeatedly in your writing. This can help you with concision in your writing. However, at the same time, you also want to be clear in your writing, and so it’s important that you introduce abbreviations and use them consistently when you do use them. Additionally, you don’t want to overuse abbreviations, because then you may be asking the reader to keep track of multiple abbreviations in their head at the same time, and your writing could then become difficult for a reader to follow.
All of this is to say, you should work towards a balanced use of abbreviations, using them to help you achieve concision but not using them so much that they become difficult for your reader.
To use abbreviations, you’ll first want to spell out the phrase or name, followed by the abbreviation in parentheses. Then, in any subsequent use of that phrase or name, only use the abbreviation. Let’s look at our examples. In each case, we’ve written out the full phrase or name, and then we have introduced the abbreviation in parentheses. The “Center for Disease Control and Prevention” becomes the “CDC” and the phrase “English language learners” becomes “ELLs”.
Another situation you might encounter is the need to introduce an abbreviation as part of a citation when you’d like to shorten a group author. How you introduce the abbreviation will depend on whether you’re using a narrative or parenthetical citation. With a narrative citation, introduce the abbreviation in parentheses with the publication year. In a parenthetical citation, introduce the abbreviation in brackets. Then, for any subsequent citations, simply use the abbreviation in place of the group author’s full name.
Visual: Video transitions to new slide still titled, “Abbreviations,” with three examples of what not to do when referring to an acronym or abbreviation. Lines are drawn from each example with a note about why each is wrong (listed in a). The following samples and explanations are provided, and as the speaker continues, each correction is displayed.
- The ELLs (English Language Learners) in my class give a different perspective.
- Abbreviation should be in parentheses.
- Correction: The English language learners (ELLs) in my class give a different perspective.
- Often ELL students have different experiences they can expose other students to.
- Repetition of learner and students.
- Correction: Often ELLs have different experiences they can expose other students to.”
- English language learners are thus a valuable addition to classes.
- No needs to spell out phrase.
- Correction: ELLs are thus a valuable addition to classes.
Audio: Abbreviations can take some practice to get used to, so let’s look at a few common errors when using abbreviations. In this first example, the way the abbreviation is introduced is switched; the abbreviation should be in parentheses, rather than the other way around.
In this second example, the abbreviation includes a word that is then repeated (as a synonym) in the sentence. If we read this sentence with the abbreviation spelled out, it would read as, “Often English language learners students…” Instead, the repeated noun “students” should be removed.
Finally, in our third example, the abbreviation wasn’t used at all, even though it had already been introduced. Instead, a simple solution is to swap out the phrase for the abbreviation.
Now you’re prepared to use abbreviations appropriately in your writing and avoid these common abbreviation mistakes.
Visual: The screen changes to an ending slide with a person typing on a laptop and a notebook and pencil, along with the Walden University Writing Center logo. The email address email@example.com appears on the screen.