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A tip about writing abbreviations.

Have you ever thought about how you write abbreviations?

Accountants and auditors will often find themselves using technical terms and long titles that it is best to abbreviate after their first use. Some abbreviations, such as BBC, UK and USA, are so well-known they can be used without ever writing the full term.

Maybe you have seen or heard the abbreviation “TLA” (three letter acronym) because so many terms are reduced to 3 letters. Strictly speaking, TLA is an initialism, because it is pronounced as separate letters: T-L-A.

An acronym is an abbreviation that is pronounced as a word. Radar and NASA are acronyms.

The problem is, how does your reader know when an abbreviation is pronounced as letters and when is it a word?

This is where you could help them. You could adopt the style used by, for example The Guardian newspaper, where initialisms are written in capital letters, and acronyms are written with an initial capital only, except where they have become so commonplace that they are all lower case (such as awol).

In my own field, this would mean VAT, IFRS, SDG and NAO would be all capitals. However, it would mean writing Cipfa, Ipsas, Issai, and Ifac.

This is not how those organisations write their abbreviated names but it does make it clear to readers who are not familiar with them how to pronounce the abbreviation.

I’m not telling you to make a change. The most important thing of all is consistency. Switching from CIPFA to Cipfa in the same document will confuse the reader.

Gary Bandy Limited is a company registered in Cardiff, number 5660437.

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