Wikipedia:Acronym overkill

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Many organizations including companies, universities, and non-profits as well as the products and services they provide make use of acronyms in their names. Well-known examples include IBM, UNICEF and NASA. It can be much easier to refer to the longer name with the shorter acronym form, especially if the acronym is used many times in an article.

However, those acronyms should be used in Wikipedia articles only when they are in common use beyond that company or organization. That is, if the reliable third party sources used to create the article use the acronym, then it is appropriate to use it in the article. If the organization is the only source using the acronym, that acronym is likely jargon that will not improve the article; an alphabet soup of meaningless acronyms will only confuse the reader. Additionally, the spelling and capitalization of the acronym should match its use by the organization and third party sources.



Acronyms can help improve an article as a short form to more easily refer to a longer title. Manuals of style (Chicago, MLA, AP, etc.) recommend spelling out the acronym along with its first use, placing the acronym in parenthesis and then referring to it by its acronym throughout the rest of the article. It is not appropriate to define the acronym for a term if the acronym is not used again.


Wikipedia guidelines for article titles call acronyms "ambiguous" and recommend avoiding them. Only when the subject is primarily known by the acronym rather than the longer name (e.g. NATO, laser, scuba, etc.) should an article be titled by its acronym. Parenthesis in article titles are for disambiguation, making the specific subject of the article clear. Including an organization's acronym in parenthesis in the title doesn't make the title clearer nor does it enhance the notability of the topic (read on).

Acronyms don't impart notability[edit]

Some editors may see acronyms as imparting importance or notability to the subject. This is understandable as editors emulate other articles of very notable subjects that include acronyms. Editors should avoid this temptation. Including an acronym in the title, introduction or other part of the article will not make the subject more notable. In fact, this practice can bring more scrutiny from experienced editors that see this as a form of puffery.

If the organization itself and the references used to create the article don't make use of the acronym, it should not be used in the article.

See also[edit]