Uses of articles before the abbreviations / acronyms

Writing Tips >> Uses of articles before the abbreviations / acronyms

An abbreviation is a short form composed of the first letters of a multi-word term (GPS, DNA, GMO) that is used to avoid repetition and help to reduce the word count. However, using too many abbreviations in one sentence can create problems for the reader. The author should consider only abbreviating the terms which are used most frequently (more than five times).

For abbreviated forms that may not be widely understood, the full term should be written followed by the abbreviation in brackets the first time it is mentioned. For plural forms of an abbreviation, a small case ā€œsā€ is added, for example CPUs.


Example 1

Online social network services (SNSs) have become an increasingly popular channel for mass communication.

In this example, SNS is pluralized and a small case ā€œsā€ is added to show this.

For longer texts, such as a thesis, if there are many abbreviations, the author may include a Nomenclature (list of abbreviations) in the opening pages before the Introduction for easy reference clarification.

For abbreviated terms which are widely understood by the target audience, such as IEEE and DNA, it is not usually necessary to provide a definition. If the writer is unsure about how well known the term is, or if there may be multiple meanings for an abbreviation, then at its first appearance, the full term can be included in brackets after the abbreviation. The writer should check with the target journal or their supervisor for the preferred format.


Example 2

LPG (liquid petroleum gas) is commonly used in Hong Kong for powering cookers and vehicles.

An acronym is an abbreviation of a key term that sounds like a word (OSAWEC, NASA, CEPA). Acronyms appear less frequently than abbreviations and follow the same rules for use as abbreviations.


Example 3

The outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003 led to the deaths of hundreds of people in Hong Kong.

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