Answered By: Theresa Bell
Last Updated: Dec 20, 2019     Views: 1617

APA 6th Edition

Please see pages 106-111 in the APA Style manual for the full explanation of how to use abbreviations, including details on scientific abbreviations, pluralizing abbreviations, and abbreviations beginning a sentence. The American Psychological Association’s (APA) 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" (APA, 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 example, the abbreviations i.e. or e.g. are conventional in academic writing, and some readers may be more familiar with these abbreviations than their full (latin) form: id est and exempli gratia. Please see “I.e. isn’t the same as e.g.” for information on using the abbreviations i.e. and e.g. in your writing.

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.

Reference

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

APA 7th Edition

Please see pages 172-177 in the APA Style manual for the full explanation of how to use abbreviations, including details on scientific abbreviations, pluralizing abbreviations, and abbreviations beginning a sentence. For an abridged version of that information, see Abbreviations, which is a resource by the APA. The APA’s advice on using abbreviations is that "although abbreviations can be useful for long, technical terms in scholarly writing, communication is often garbled rather than clarified if an abbreviation is unfamiliar to readers" (APA, 2020, p. 172).  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:

In general, if you abbreviate a term, use the abbreviation at least three times in a paper. If you use the abbreviation only one or two times, readers may have difficulty remembering what it means, so writing the term out each time aids comprehension. However, a standard abbreviation for a long, familiar term is clearer and more concise even if it is used fewer than three time. (APA, 2020, p. 172)

When you're deciding whether or not to use an abbreviation,

use an abbreviation only if (a) if it is conventional and readers are likely to be more familiar with the abbreviation than with the complete form and (b) considerable space can be saved and cumbersome repetition avoided. . .. Although there is no absolute limit for the use of abbreviations, writing is generally easier to understand when most words are written out rather than when overflowing with abbreviations (APA, 2020, p. 172)

For example, the abbreviations i.e. or e.g. are conventional in academic writing, and some readers may be more familiar with these abbreviations than their full (latin) form: id est and exempli gratia. Please see I.e. isn’t the same as e.g. for information on using the abbreviations i.e. and e.g. in your writing.

For information on using abbreviations to cite a group author, please see How do I cite a group author in-text in APA style?.

Reference

American Psychological Association. (2020). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.). https://doi.org/10.1037/0000165-000