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Writing Details

Using Abbreviations

An abbreviation is a short form for a word or group of words. Abbreviations can be used for terminology, organizations, and professions. Abbreviations are useful when you are going to use the same information several times throughout your paper.

First Use

For the first use, provide the long form of the term followed by the abbreviation in parentheses.


An early childhood educator (ECE) plays an important role in a child’s development.

Subsequent Uses

After the first use, only use the abbreviation.


With the new Ontario curriculum, ECEs now work alongside kindergarten teachers.

Notice that you can make an abbreviation plural by adding an ‘s’.

Abbreviations and Articles

Use "a" for words that start with a consonant sound and "an" for words that start with a vowel sound. It is the sound, not the spelling, that determines whether you use "a" or "an."

Sometimes the sound of the letter changes from the full word or phrase to the abbreviation.

In the following example, for instance, the sound of the "r" in the word "registered" requires the article  "a"; however,  for RPN, the sound of the R requires the article "an."

Example for Use of Articles

A registered practical nurse (RPN) has many duties. An RPN has many direct care components to consider.