Editorial style guide

Abbreviations

Abbreviations, acronyms and contractions are shorter ways to write words. For accessibility reasons, you should be careful when and how much you use them. When writing for digital content, you should follow our guidance on tagging.

  • An abbreviation is a shortened form of a word or phrase.
  • A contraction is a word resulting from a word or phrase that has been shortened in the middle (I'm, can't).
  • An initialism is pronounced as the individual letters (LGBTQIA+, IT)
  • An acronym is a set of initials from other words but pronounced as a word (EUCLID, UCAS).

Tagging

For accessibility reasons, it's very important that you tag abbreviations where appropriate.

Tagging is where an abbreviation, contraction or acronym used on the web is marked with special code so that users know what it means.

The additional text contained in the tag is revealed when the user hovers over the tagged item with their cursor. This often shows what letters in an acronym stand for - but this is not always the case.

Tagging - full details on the Website Support wiki [login needed]

Abbreviations

Avoid abbreviations where you can. If you do use one, format it without punctuation and make sure it's appropriately tagged.

Punctuation

As a general principle, abbreviations should not use punctuation, including full stops.

Is an abbreviation appropriate?

Abbreviations can be confusing. It's often better to write the word out in full. In particular, avoid abbreviations of terms that aren't standard British English, such as 'e.g.' or 'RSVP'.

Acronyms

Acronyms which you know your audience will recognise do not need to be written out in full, but they usually need to be tagged.

Others should be written out the first time they are used (on every page), with the tagged acronym coming after in brackets. After this the tagged acronym can be used alone. Don’t put full stops between letters.

Example

  • Edinburgh University Students' Association (EUSA)

Contractions

A contraction results from letters being missed out (an abbreviation is a shortened version). Mr is a contraction of M-iste-r.

Don’t use full stops in contractions or abbreviations. 

Example

  • Mr rather than Mr.
  • eg and ie rather than e.g. and i.e.

Contracted words

Some types of contracted words can cause issues with usability. Simple contractions may be fine.

Example

  • you’ll - for you will
  • we’ll - for we will

University abbreviations

The A-Z of abbreviations shows what many common University abbreviations stand for.