Abbreviations and symbols. Abbreviations and grammar

    The content of these guidelines is taken from the third edition of the Vives University Network’s Interuniversity Style Guide for Writing Institutional Texts, an interuniversity project in which the UPC participates with the support of the Secretariat for Universities and Research of the Government of Catalonia.


    Abbreviations and articles

    • Acronyms that abbreviate the names (proper nouns) of organisations and systems do not take the definite article the even if their full forms do.

      OPEC (the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries)
      UNTERM (the United Nations Multilingual Terminology Database)

    • But when they abbreviate common nouns, they take the or a(n) as necessary.

      the MD (managing director)
      a CMS (content management system)

    • Initialisms generally take the definite article if the full form does.

      the ERA (the European Research Area)
      the OECD (the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development)

    • This rule can be applied to the abbreviations of the names of Catalan-speaking universities because the full forms always begin with the definite article la (la Universitat Jaume I, la Universitat Rovira i Virgili, la Universitat de València).

      the UJI the URV the UV

      • Universities may establish other norms, however. For example, the University of Vic is known as UVic (without the) in its English abbreviated form. In English, many universities prefer this usage.

        USC is the University of Southern California.

      • Remember that the article is not necessary when the full term is hardly ever used (HIV, for human immunodeficiency virus), when it describes a general notion (VET, for vocational education and training) or when we consider the abbreviation to be a name in its own right (IBM, for International Business Machines Corporation).

      • To choose between a or an, apply the rule 'a before a consonant sound, an before a vowel sound' (as if the abbreviation following the article were being spoken).

        a LERU decision
        an Erasmus grant
        a PAS representative
        an EHEA guideline
        a UJI student
        an NBA player


      Abbreviations and plurals

      • Plurals of abbreviations are formed in the same way as the regular plurals of common nouns: simply by adding the letter s. Note that there is no apostrophe before s, which is written in lower case.

        FAQs (frequently asked questions)
        SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises)
        VLEs (virtual learning environments)

      • When the singular form of the abbreviation ends in -s, that form can also be used to refer to a plural group. This avoids the uncomfortable effect of seeing an s repeated.

        DoS (director of studies)
        DoS (directors of studies)


      Abbreviations as adjectives

      • As indicated in the examples in Abbreviations and articles, abbreviations can also be used as adjectives, in either a simple or compound form.

        PDI salaries
        R&D contracts

        UAB-specific degree courses
        EHEA-recognised qualification