Acronyms and initials: apostrophes and plurals
Acronyms and initials are used in many fields as short forms for titles, so it's important to know when and how to use apostrophes with them.
Although you can also use apostrophes in contractions like 'isn’t' and 'don’t', you should avoid using contractions in formal academic writing.
Differences between initials and acronyms
Acronyms and initials describe when the first letter, or letters, of words in a phrase or title make a shorter series of letters to stand for the item. If a short form can be read as a word, it is an acronym. If the short form doesn't make a word, the letters are initials.
Examples of acronyms:
- TES: Times Educational Supplement
- UFO: Unidentified Flying Object
Examples of initials:
- BA: Bachelor of Arts
- BST: British Summer Time
Both acronyms and initials use apostrophes in the same way.
When there is more than one of an item or acronym, you don't need an apostrophe.
- Those UFOs are huge.
When you use an apostrophe to show ownership of something, you need to know how many items there are.
When an item belongs to one item/acronym (singular), you add an apostrophe and an 's' to the acronym. For example:
- The TES’s story about the UFOs was interesting.
- There is a UFO overhead. The UFO’s lights are very bright.
When something belongs to multiple items or acronyms (plural), you add an apostrophe to the plural word of the acronym. For example:
- There are five UFOs over there. The UFOs’ lights are different colours.