Style Guide

What's the difference?
Both acronyms and initialisms are groups of letters that stand for a group of words. The distinction has to do with the way they are pronounced: True acronyms are pronounced as words (ERIC, JAAL, and UNESCO are good examples). Properly speaking, groups of letters that are pronounced separately (e.g., ILA, DNA, FBI) are initialisms. In common usage the distinction is ignored, and all such letter groups are referred to as acronyms. References to acronyms in this guide hold true for initialisms, as well.

Acronyms, general rules

  1. In most cases, spell out the word in full the first time it appears in an author's work, and follow the full spelling with the acronym in parentheses. (If the acronym is better known than the full form, use the acronym first and follow with the full spelling in parentheses.) Thereafter, use the acronym only. (In edited books, spell out the word the first time it appears in each chapter.)
  2. As a general rule, do not use an acronym unless it will be used again in the written piece (in the case of a short work, used at least one more time; in the case of a longer work, used several times). The advantage of using the acronym is lost if the reader has to spend a lot of time hunting down its meaning.
  3. More obscure acronyms and abbreviations are listed in Bonk, M. R. (ed.), (1997), Acronyms, Initialisms, & Abbreviations Dictionary, Detroit, MI: Gale Research. Acronyms and abbreviations from many fields may also be found on The World Wide Web Acronym and Abbreviation Server.
  4. Acronyms are acceptable in headings if they have already been spelled out prior to the heading and can be used on a case-by-case basis if not spelled out prior to heading (with this exception noted on style sheet).
  5. Acronym rules should be followed for front matter of books and abstracts of journals and for book or journal text. That is, for an acronym to appear in an abstract or front matter, it should appear at least one additional time in the abstract or front matter. First mention of the acronym in subsequent text should be spelled out.

Common acronyms and initialisms

ACT American College Test
ADD attention-deficit disorder
ADHD attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder
AFT American Federation of Teachers
ALA American Library Association
ALSC Association for Library Service to Children (a division of ALA)
a.m. ante meridiem (morning) (lowercase or small caps, with periods)
AMS Association Management System
AO Association Office
APA American Psychological Association
ARA* Alabama Reading Association*
ASCD Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
ASL American Sign Language
BOCES Board of Cooperative Educational Service
CBC Children's Book Council
CCIRA Colorado Council of the International Reading Association
CCSSO Council of Chief State School Officers
CD-ROM Compact Disk – Read-Only Memory
CIERA Center for the Improvement of Early Reading Achievement
CIS Commonwealth of Independent States
CISD Consolidated Independent School District
CMS Chicago Manual of Style
CRA California Reading Association, Connecticut Reading Association
DEAR Drop Everything And Read
DL-TA (also DLTA) = Directed Listening– Activity
DOE Department of Education, Department of Energy
DR-TA Directed Reading–Thinking Activity
DSRA Diamond State Reading Association (Delaware)
EL English learner (preferred over English-language learner, or ELL)
ERIC Educational Resources Information Center (at NIE, OERI, Washington, DC)
ERR Evocation–Realization of Meaning–Reflection (comprehension strategy associated with OSI)
ESEA Elementary and Secondary Education Act
ESL English as a Second Language
ESOL English for Speakers of Other Languages
EST eastern standard time
FAQs frequently asked questions
FRA Florida Reading Association
FTP File Transfer Protocol
HIV Human immunodeficiencey virus
GRE Graduate Record Examination
H.R. 1234 House Resolution 1234 (a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives)
H. Rept. 1234 House Report 1234
HTML Hypertext Markup Language
HTTP Hypertext Transfer Protocol
HUD (Department of) Housing and Urban Development
IBBY International Board on Books for Young People
ICT information and communication technology
IDEA Individuals With Disabilities Education Act
IERI Interagency Education Research Initiative
ILC International Leadership Conference
IQ Intelligence quotient
ILN International Literacy Network
IRC Illinois Reading Council
ISP Internet service provider
ISD Independent School District
IT information technology
ITBS Iowa Test of Basic Skills
JAAL the Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy
JR Journal of Reading
KRA Kansas Reading Association
KSRA Keystone State (Pennsylvania) Reading Association
K-W-L (What I know, what I want to learn; what I have learned) strategy for increasing comprehension of expository text; must be credited to Donna Ogle.
LAN local area network
LEA Language Experience Approach
LEAs local education agencies (compare SEAs, state education agencies)
LyV Lectura y Vida
LEP Limited English Proficiency
LSAT Law School Admission Test
LVA Literacy Volunteers of America, Inc.
MBD minimal brain dysfunction
MUD multi-user domain
NAA Newspaper Association of America
NAEP National Assessment of Educational Progress
NAESP National Association of Elementary School Principals
NALS National Adult Literacy Survey (1992)
NAEYC National Association for the Education of Young Children
NAS National Academy of Sciences
NBPTS National Board for Professional Teaching Standards
NCAL National Center on Adult Literacy
NCATE National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education
NCES National Center for Education Statistics
NCLB No Child Left Behind
NCLD National Center for Learning Disabilities
NCTE National Council of Teachers of English
NEA National Education Association
NGO nongovernmental organization
NICHD National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
NIE National Institute of Education (of U.S. Dept. of Education)
NIEW Newspapers in Education Week
NIFL National Institute for Literacy
NIH National Institutes of Health
NRC National Research Council (an arm of the National Academy of Sciences)
NRC National Reading Conference
NRRC National Reading Research Center
NYU New York University
OCIRA Ohio Council of the International Reading Association
ODBC Open Database Connectivity
OCLC Online Computer Library Center (information / cataloging system)
OECD Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
OERI Office of Educational Research and Improvement (of U.S. Dept. of Education)
OISE Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
ORA Oklahoma Reading Association or Oregon Reading Association
OSI Open Society Institute (Soros organization)
PASS Program of Assisted Studies and Support (program in New York state public schools)
PDF portable document format
PhD (Upper–lower–upper case. No periods)
p.m. post meridiem (afternoon, evening, night) (lowercase or small caps, with periods)
PORPE Predict, Organize, Rehearse, Practice, Evaluate
PISA Programme for International Student Assessment (study sponsored by OECD)
PTA Parent Teacher Association
PTO Parent Teacher Organization
PTSA Parent Teacher Student Association
RAM random-access memory
REAL Raising Early Achievement in Literacy (program of University of Sheffield, England)
RFP request for proposals
RIF Reading Is Fundamental, Inc.
ROL Reading Online
ROM read-only memory
RPM revolutions per minute
RRQ Reading Research Quarterly
RS Running Start, a program associated with RIF
RSVP Retired and Senior Volunteer Program
RT The Reading Teacher
RTF rich text format
RTI Response to Intervention
RTy Reading Today
RTy Online Reading Today Online
RWCT Reading and Writing for Critical Thinking
S. 1234 Senate bill #1234
SAT formerly, Scholastic Aptitude Test; more recently, Scholastic Assessment Test
SCIRA South Carolina State Council of IRA, or Swedish Council of IRA
SD standard deviation
SEAs state education agencies (compare LEAs, local education agencies)
SIG Special Interest Group
SQ3R a study technique (survey-question-read-recite-review)
SSR Sustained Silent Reading
SSRW Sing, Spell, Read & Write (K–3 program)
STEM Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math
STM short-term memory
SUNY State University of New York
TC Thinking Classroom
TC/P Thinking Classroom/Peremena
TCP/IP Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol
TESOL Teachers of English as a Second Language
UKRA United Kingdom Reading Association
UNESCO United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization
UNICEF United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund
UPU Universal Postal Union
URL Uniform Resource Locator
USD Unified School District
USPS United States Postal Service
USSR uninterrupted sustained silent reading
WISC Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children
WISC-R (revised) Use a hyphen, rather than an en-dash.
WJ-R Woodcock–Johnson Psycho-Educational Battery–Revised
WNWD Webster's New World Dictionary
XML Extensible Markup Language
YALS Young Adult Literacy Survey (1985)
YALSA Young Adult Library Services Association, a division of the American Library Association (ALA)
ZPD Zone of Proximal Development (term associated with L. Vygotsky)

*also, Arizona Reading Association; Arkansas Reading Association; Austrian Reading Association. (Use the acronym only when the context makes clear which organization is meant.)