Language & Grammar

Acronyms & Abbreviations

General rules

Only use abbreviations or acronyms (abbreviations pronounced as words) that your readers would immediately recognize without clarification.


CBC, NATO, SFU, Nabisco, radar, scuba

Unfamiliar abbreviations

For unfamiliar abbreviations, spell out the full name first, followed in brackets by the abbreviation. Use the abbreviation alone for later references. Avoid “alphabet soup.” Find other ways of identifying your subjects instead of repeatedly using acronyms.


The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) is a federal funding agency. NSERC supports post-secondary students and postdoctoral fellows in their studies. The agency promotes discovery and fosters innovation.

Capitalized abbreviations

All-cap abbreviations don’t take periods unless the abbreviation refers to a geographic place name, person or is a single letter.


MBA, RAM, URL, B.C., W.A.C. Bennett, E. (for east)

Lowercase and mixed abbreviations

Lowercase and mixed abbreviations usually take periods, with the exception of SFU academic degrees.


Mrs., Jr., lb., m.p.g., a.m., p.m., BSc

Mixed abbreviations beginning and ending with a capital letter do not take periods.


U of A, PoW

Metric symbols

Metric symbols take periods only at the end of a sentence:


mm, cm, m, km, km/h, g, t, mL, ha, kPa

Provinces, territories and American states

Spell out Canadian provinces and territories and American state names standing alone.

Use periods in abbreviated geographical place names. Eg. B.C., U.S.A.

Yukon and Nunavut are not abbreviated.

Use CP style abbreviations when used with city names in text. Use postal abbreviations only in addresses, not in text.