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15:5 Use Abbreviations Sparingly

Relative Importance:

Relative Importance rating of 4 out of 5

Strength of Evidence:

Strength of Evidence rating of 2 out of 5

Document Type: Guideline


Web Content - Writing


Show complete words rather than abbreviations whenever possible.


The only times to use abbreviations are when they are significantly shorter, save needed space, and will be readily understood by typical users. If users must read abbreviations, choose only common abbreviations.


  • Ahlstrom, V. & Longo, K. (2001). Human factors design guide update (Report number DOT/FAA/CT-96/01): A revision to chapter 8 - computer human interface guidelines. Retrieved November 2005, from http://acb220.tc.faa.gov/technotes/dot_faa_ct-01_08.pdf.
  • Engel, S.E. & Granda, R.E. (1975). Guidelines for Man/Display Interfaces (Technical Report TR 00.2720). Poughkeepsie, NY: IBM.
  • Evans, M. (1998). Web Design: An Empiricist’s Guide. Unpublished master’s thesis. Seattle: University of Washington. Retrieved May 2003, from http://response.restoration.noaa.gov/webmastr/webdesgn.pdf.
  • Smith, S.L. & Mosier, J.N. (1986, August). Guidelines for designing user interface software. The MITRE Corporation Technical Report (ESD-TR-86-278).

Good Example:

If abbreviations are in common usage (DoD) then it is acceptable to use them. However, if an abbreviation is not in common usage (DARS, DFARS, AKSS), the complete title should be used.