Abbreviations and Acronyms

In General

  • Acronyms are abbreviations that are pronounced as a word, such as NASA, CAD, etc.
  • The general trend is away from using periods in abbreviations, unless confusion might result. Thus, COB rather than C.O.B.
  • Use abbreviations and acronyms sparingly unless your readership is familiar with them.
  • Spell out the abbreviation or acronym on the first use and follow with the abbreviation in parentheses to prepare readers for subsequent use.
  • Do not use abbreviations or acronyms for subsequent references if they follow at a great distance from the spelled-out version. If the piece is lengthy enough to have chapters or sections, a good rule of thumb is to spell out the abbreviation or acronym upon first use in each section.
  • Do not replace and with an ampersand (&). Use the ampersand only when part of an official name of a company, product, or other proper noun, or on covers at the discretion of a designer.
  • Abbreviations and acronyms should be restricted to situations in which they enhance comprehension: i.e., when your copy refers repeatedly to a lengthy name or term that has a commonly accepted abbreviation.
  • GPA and SAT are not spelled out. (In fact, SAT is no longer an acronym.)


  • Use apostrophe when talking about degree
    • bachelor’s degree
    • master’s degree
  • No apostrophe in complete degree name
    • Bachelor of Arts
    • Master of Science

Graduation Year with Degree

When including a graduation or expected graduation year with a degree, abbreviate the year with an apostrophe and include a space between the year and the degree. Be sure to use an apostrophe (’83) and not a single open quote mark (‘83).

  • Eric Sadek (’04 B.A.) or (’04 COB)
  • Farah Harb (’10 B.A.) or (’10 CASL)
  • Mary Ann Wright (’84 B.A., ’96 M.S.E.)

Plurals of Abbreviations and Acronyms

Form the plurals of abbreviations and acronyms by adding s alone (no apostrophe).

  • All of the department’s MAs, PhDs, and GSIs spent several hours at the seminar.

State and City Abbreviations

Spell out state and city names in running text (especially if your audience might include international readers). Do not use city abbreviations such as NYC, L.A., Chi., etc. The exception is the use of St. for Saint, such as St. Louis or St. Paul.

  • The class included students from Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, Montana, and West Virginia.
  • Alumni in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and St. Paul, Minnesota, gave the largest bequests.

United States

The two-letter abbreviation for the United States of America uses periods. The three-letter abbreviation (and, customarily, other abbreviations of more than two letters) does not use periods.

  • The U.S. Senate bill guarantees health insurance for all U.S. children living in poverty.
  • Products made in the USA have become a rarity due to increased global manufacturing.

Abbreviate the United States only when used as an adjective. Spell it out whenever it is used as a noun.

  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics began calculating the Consumer Price Index in 1913.
  • The government of the United States is one of the nation’s largest employers.


  • Spell out first entry, abbreviation okay after
    • University of Michigan-Dearborn
    • UM-Dearborn
    • University (when talking about UM-Dearborn)
    • School/College (when talking about a specific school/college at UM-Dearborn)
    • UMD or UM-D (never)

University of Michigan

  • Spell out first entry, abbreviation okay after
    • University of Michigan
    • U-M
    • Because it can cause confusion with the state of Michigan, avoid referring to U-M as “Michigan” unless the context is obvious.


  • Spell out first entry, abbreviation okay after
    • College of Business (COB)
    • College of Engineering and Computer Science (CECS)
    • College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters (CASL)
    • College of Education, Health, and Human Services (CEHHS)

Academic Titles

  • Don’t include Dr. – only include for medical doctors
    • Not - Dr. Edward Silver
    • If necessary – Edward Silver, Ph.D


  • Alumni – (plural masculine – also used for a group of men and women)
  • Alumnae – (plural feminine)
  • Alumnus – (singular male)
  • Alumna – (singular female)
  • Alums – not preferred, usually only in very casual communication