Answered By: Theresa Bell
Last Updated: Dec 07, 2017     Views: 282

Please see pages 106-111 in the APA manual for the full explanation of how to use abbreviations, including details on scientific abbreviations, pluralizing abbreviations, and abbreviations beginning a sentence. The APA's advice on using abbreviations is that, "to maximize clarity, use abbreviations sparingly. Although abbreviations are sometimes useful for long, technical terms in scientific writing, communication is usually garbled rather than clarified if, for example, an abbreviation is unfamiliar to the reader" (American Psychological Association, 2010, p. 106). Abbreviations should be used because they make understanding the text easier for the reader, versus to save the author from having to type out the full text every time:

Abbreviations introduced on first mention of a term and used fewer than three times thereafter, particularly in a long paper, may be difficult for a reader to remember, and you probably serve the reader best if you write them out each time. (p. 107)

When you're deciding whether or not to use an abbreviation, the recommendation from the APA is to

use an abbreviation only (a) if it is conventional and if the reader is more familiar with the abbreviation than with the complete form or (b) if considerable space can be saved and cumbersome repetition avoided. In short, use only those abbreviations that will help you communicate with your reader. Remember, they have not had the same experience with your abbreviations as you have. (p. 107)

For more information on using abbreviations to cite a group author, please see "How do I cite a group author in-text in APA style?". Also, please visit "An Abbreviations FAQ" in the APA Style Blog.


American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.