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MLA Style Manual


In general, avoid using abbreviations in running text. Many acceptable abbreviations and initialisms and their usage are specified throughout this manual and its appendixes. Check the word or topic in question. See also “initialisms and acronyms” in this section.

Some abbreviations are permitted in MLAConnect and occasional MLA publications that are not permitted in the Journal of the Medical Library Association (JMLA). These include state names (use two-letter postal abbreviations); ordinal numbers greater than nine (such as 17th, 50th); and elements of addresses such as “street,” “building,” and “suite."

Use the following common abbreviations in references only:


Spell these words out in text.

Chapter 10, “Abbreviations,” of CMS17 contains useful lists of abbreviations organized by subject matter and offers additional usage guidelines.

In running text, do not use degrees following a person's name, except for bylines and acknowledgments in JMLA. See also “bylines” in the Names and Terms section.

When setting a person’s academic degrees in initials in a byline, set them close without periods:


Spell out the word when speaking of academic degrees and use lowercase:

a master’s degree in library science
doctor of philosophy

In general, omit “Co.,” “Corp.,” “Inc.,” and “Ltd.” from running text. If they must be included in text, spell them out (“Company,” “Corporation,” “Incorporated,” “Limited”). Always delete them from references.

In a directory or list whose main purpose is to help the reader contact a firm or to highlight MLA sponsors or contributors, the above abbreviations or their spelled-out names should be retained; follow the individual company's preference. Otherwise, treat corporation names as trade names; that is, spell them as the corporation spells them, regardless of conformity to MLA style (e.g., retain ampersands and British spellings, do not add serial commas or other internal punctuation)

Credentials such as “AHIP” should be set off by commas after a person’s name, and should not include periods. Credentials are placed after academic and professional degrees. The names of all members of the Academy of Health Information Professionals should be followed by “AHIP,” and the names of all MLA Fellows should be followed by “FMLA.”

In the annual meeting proceedings, use an honorific (“Mr.” or “Ms.”) after the first time a name is used, when the name is repeated within three paragraphs or fewer. Do not use honorifics in other MLA publications, just the person‘s last name.

Leave a space between two initials in a person’s name.

B. B. Dyer
J. E. B. Stuart

Some abbreviations of trade names, organizations, or innovations function as initialisms or acronyms (e.g., UMLS, NLM, TQM), using the initial capital letters or parts of individual elements of the name as a shortened version of the name itself. See Appendix D for a list of abbreviations, initialisms, and acronyms common to MLA publications.

In text, spell out most initialisms and acronyms the first time they appear, followed by the initialism or acronym in parentheses; use the initialism or acronym alone thereafter. If no second reference appears, spell out the full name only and do not provide the acronym or initialism.

If the first occurrence of an acronym or initialism is in the headline of an MLAConnect article, it does not need to be spelled out. It should still be spelled out in the text of the article.

Do not use “the” in front of the initalism MLA, unless MLA is an adjective. Use “the” with the full name, Medical Library Association.

MLA has members around the world.
The Medical Library Association has members around the world.
The MLA Board of Directors meets three times a year.

Do not use a comma between the name and “Jr.” or “Sr.,” but do use a comma between these abbreviations and any degrees or titles that follow in JMLA bylines. Do not use a comma to separate a name from the titles “II,” “III,” or “IV.”

John Smith Jr.
Frederick Henderson III, MLS

Use the singular form for most common abbreviations even when they refer to more than one item (e.g., “p. 5–10,” “v. 1 and 2”).

Plurals of initialisms and acronyms are formed by adding an “s” (without an apostrophe):