Research Writing

Using abbreviations in academic writing/shortenings/Acronym

How to use abbreviations correctly in academic writing?

Writing well in the academic world is essential for communication and understanding of results that can be crucial for the advancement of knowledge. The correct use of abbreviations in academic documents is important so that they are formal and help a more fluent reading and a better understanding of the content. Using abbreviations in academic writing

In English the contraction of words in informal language is common although it should not be done in professional writing. In Spanish it is not so much a problem since it only has two accepted contractions that must be used all the time as we will see later. Although the use of acronyms is allowed in academic writing, shortening of words is not advised.

So which abbreviations can and cannot be used when writing an academic text?

The use of abbreviations

Finding documents with abbreviated words is very common in academia. When reviewing articles in the different research areas, one finds terms that are generally known to a certain community. In a medical record, for example, doctors may abbreviate chest x-ray as RX TX even though no one else understands it. For a community to handle the same terms,  glossaries of abbreviations are used.

The Abbreviations generally are reduced words representing words or other complex sets of words by eliminating certain letters. Abbreviations include abbreviations, shortenings, acronyms, and acronyms. Although there is a tendency to abbreviate when writing, not all abbreviations are necessarily valid in academic writing as they can harm some communication rather than help it. However, using abbreviations correctly can help to make a document more fluent and, on the other hand, its usefulness can lie in shielding content that becomes incomprehensible to non-specialists. Using abbreviations in academic writing

Abbreviations and shortenings

In every language in the world there are abbreviations recognized by the linguistic institutions of the different languages. In Spanish, the abbreviation is a reduced representation of a word and there are some that are widely known and accepted. The forms “Mr.” or “Mrs.”, for example, are used to abbreviate the words “sir” and “madam”, respectively, but there are many more abbreviations that are in common use . In both Spanish and English, the language in which Spanish-speaking academics also publish, it is accepted without problem and it is advised that abbreviations in common use be written but those that are not used should not be abused.

In the language spoken in English it is very customary to use contractions of words as in expressions such as ” we’re ” or ” I don’t know ” which in Spanish mean, respectively, “we are” and “I don’t know”. respectively, although in formal written English they should not be contracted so they should be written as “ we are ” and “ I do not know ”. In Spanish, as we know, nouns can be omitted and just “we are” and “I don’t know”. In Spanish the only valid contractions(for both formal and informal language) there are two: “from” and “to” whose non-contracted forms are incorrect (“from him” and “to him”). Any other contraction is not valid for academic language although there are also shortening of words. Using abbreviations in academic writing

A shortening is the reduction of a word by eliminating its initial or final part such as, for example, “car”, “bus” and “info” instead of “car”, “bus” and “information”. However, these terms, among other shortenings , should not be written in the body of a formal text. However, the use of shortened or abbreviated words (according to the author’s criteria) is allowed in visual resources such as diagrams or graphs or in formulas for reasons of space or to avoid reading complexity. In this sense, abbreviations or shortenings must always be defined in the text or in the figure caption. Examples of these cases can be: T Calwhere “T” is used to designate “temperature” and the subscript “cal” refers to “calorimeter” or “valv. ent. ” which can be referred to as “inlet valve.”

In many academic writings in English there are abbreviations that come from Latin such as “eg” ( exemple gratia ) and “ie” ( id est ) which mean “for example” and “that is to say”. Although in Spanish it is preferred to use the abbreviations of the language, there are some well-known Latinisms that can be used without problem in academic writing such as vs., in vivo and in vitro .


The acronym is an abbreviation that is formed by the initial letters of a set of words or by certain chosen letters (which are called, in turn, acronyms). The acronym WHO, for example, is used to abbreviate “World Health Organization” and in English WHO (which abbreviates the name World Health Organization ). Using abbreviations in academic writing

If these words form a sequence of consonants and vowels that can be read as one word, it is called an acronym . In several languages, there are acronyms that are already everyday words such as “ sonar ” from the English term “ so (und) n (avigation) a (nd) r (anging)” (sound navigation range), “ bit “of the English term b (inary) d (igit) (bit) or” UFO “o (bject) v (dildo) n (o) i (dentificado) or its English equivalent” UFO “of u (Nknown ) f (lying) or (bject) .

The use of acronyms is accepted in all types of writing, including academic ones. In the world there are well-known acronyms such as NASA which abbreviates to “(The) N (ational) A (eronautics) (and) S (pace) A (administration)” (the North American Space Agency) or DNA for “d (eoxyribo) n (ucleic) a (cid) ” which in Spanish is written as DNA by“ á (acid) d (esoxirribo) n (ucleico) ”. Although they are popular, it is best to clarify the meaning of any acronym at the beginning of the document.

The usefulness of acronyms is to make the reading of academic writing more fluent. DNA is much easier to read than deoxyribonucleic acid, especially if it appears multiple times in a text. In this sense, acronyms can also be written at the convenience of each author. Acronyms such as GE1 and GE2 could come up to abbreviate “study group 1” and “study group 2” or any other term that constantly comes up in writing. How much should acronyms be used? Well, it is advisable that if the term appears less than four times, it should not be abbreviated, but if its appearance is greater throughout the text, consider whether it should be abbreviated. Using abbreviations in academic writing

Finally, consider including a glossary of terms when various abbreviations have been used throughout the academic writing and do not hesitate to turn to a professional service that can review your document in both Spanish and English. Share with us your academic writing questions.

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