The following is an excerpt from the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, ed. Joseph Gibaldi and Walter S. Achtert (New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 1977), pp. 122–133.

45  General Remarks

Common sense should guide the use of abbreviations in notes and bibliographies. Economy of space is important, but clarity more so.

46  Abbreviations

In notes and bibliographies, use common abbreviations of dates (Feb., 18th century), of institutions (Acad., Assn., Coll., Dept., Inst., Soc., Univ.), of publications (Bull., Diss., Jour., Mag.), and of [provinces,] states and countries ([Ont. or ON,] Fla. or FL, Eng.). … Abbreviations that end in a small letter are followed by a period. A person’s initials are always spaced. Abbreviations with more than two letters and those omitting periods are never spaced; practice with regard to two-letter abbreviations with periods varies.

H. N. Smith



L. C.


Washington, D.C.

A tendency in documentation is to omit periods in abbreviations consisting of initials of well-known periodicals (TLS for Times Literary Supplement), learned societies and professional organizations (AMA, ACLS), and books (DND, not DNB., although D.N.B. or Dict. Nat. Biog. is equally correct; OED, formerly known as N.E.D.DAB). It should be noted that some journals—among others, ELH and PMLA—have initial letter abbreviations (without periods) as actual titles and also that most journals with single-word titles (Speculum) have no widely accepted abbreviations. Generally speaking, in citing periodicals, abbreviate only those titles likely to be familiar to the reader. Professional scholars in all disciplines tend to refer to journals and reference works within their discipline by acronyms: CBEL for Cambridge Bibliography of English LiteratureJEGP for Journal of English and Germanic Philology. (…) Unless your intended audience is familiar with these acronyms, do not use them. Instead, abbreviate common words in order to save space.

47   Use of Italics in Abbreviations

As noted above (§10h), accepted style has long been to [italicize] unquoted foreign words and phrases in an English text but not to [italicize] such words when familiarity and continued use have added them to the English stock. This convention has been widely applied to many common abbreviations of Latin words (A.D., p.m., P.S., cf., e.g., etc., i.e., viz., vs.) and by most instructors and scholarly writers to some of the abbreviations used in scholarship (et seq., q.v., s.v.).

48   List of Common Abbreviations and Reference Words

acad.                 academy

A.D.                  anno Domini ‘in the year of the Lord,’ No space between; precedes numerals (A.D. 14). Cf. “B.C.”

ALS                  autograph letter signed

anon.                 anonymous

ante                   ‘before.’ But “before” is preferred.

app.                   appendix

art., arts.            article(s)

assn.                  association

b.                      born (…)

B.C.                  before Christ. No space between; follows numerals (19 B.C.). Cf. “A.D.”

B.C.E.               before Common Era. No space between.

bibliog..             bibliography, bibliographer, bibliographical

biog.                  biography, biographer, biographical

bk., bks.            book(s)

B.M.                 British Museum, London (now British Library). No space between.

B.N.                  Bibliothèque Nationale. No space between.

bull.                   bulletin

©                      copyright (© 1977)

c., ca.                circa ‘about.’ Used with approximate dates (c. 1796)

C.E.                  Common Era. No space between.

cf.                      confer ‘compare.’ Never use “cf.” when “see” is intended. (…)

ch., chs.             chapter(s)

chor., chors.      choreographed by, choreographer(s)

col., cols.           column(s)

coll.                   college

comp., comps.   compiled by, compiler(s)

cond.                 conducted by, conductor

Cong.                Congress

Cong. Rec.        Congressional Record

d.                       died (…)

DADAI            Dissertation AbstractsDissertation Abstracts International

D.A.                  Doctor of Arts. No space between.

DAB                  Dictionary of American English

dept.                  department

dir., dirs.            directed by, director(s)

diss.                   dissertation

DNB                  Dictionary of National Biography

doc., docs.        document(s)

E, Eng.              English

ed., eds.            edited by, editor(s), edition(s). Some prefer “edn.” for “edition.”

ed. cit.               cit.editio citata ‘edition cited.’ Avoid using.

e.g.                    exempli gratia ‘for example.’ Rarely capitalized; no space between; set off by commas. (…)

enl.                    enlarged (as in “rev. and enl. ed.”)

et al.                  et alii ‘and others’

et seq.               et sequenssequential ‘and the following.’ But see “f., ff.”

etc.                    et cetera ‘and so forth.’ Avoid using in text. (…)

ex., exs.             example(s)

f., ff.                  and the following (with a space after a numeral) pages(s) or line(s). But exact references are preferable: pp. 53–58 instead of pp. 53 ff.

facsim., facs.      facsimile

fasc.                  fascicle

fig., figs.             figure(s)

floruit ‘flourished, reached greatest development or influence.’ Used before dates of historical figures when birth and death dates are not known.

fn.                      footnote. “n.” is preferred.

fol., fols.            folio(s)

Fr.                     French

front.                 frontispiece

GPO                 Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.

Ger.                   German

Gk.                    Greek

H. Doc.             [U.S.] House [of Representatives] Document

hist.                   history, historian, historical

HMSO              Her (His) Majesty’s Stationary Office

H.R.                  [U.S.] House of Representative. No space between.

H. Rept.            [U.S.] House [of Representatives] Report

H. Res.             [U.S.] House [of Representatives] Resolution

ibid.                   ibidem ‘in the same place,’ i.e., the single title cited in the note immediately preceding. Not to be introduced by “in.” May be followed by page number(s) preceded by “p.” or “pp.” Avoid using ibid. (…)

i.e.                     id est ‘that is.’ Rarely capitalized; no space between; set off by commas. (…)

illus.                   illustrated (by), illustrator, illustration(s)

infra                   ‘below.’ But “below” is preferred.

inst.                   institute, institution

introd.                (author of) introduction, introduced by, introduction

ips                     inches per second (used in reference to recording tapes)

It.                      Italian

jour.                  journal

l., ll.                   line(s)

lang., langs.        language(s)

L, Lat.               Latin

L. C.                 Library of Congress. Usually a space between.

loc. cit.              loco citato ‘in the place (passage) cited,’ i.e., in the same passage referred to in a recent note. Never follow “loc. cit.” with a page number. (…) Repeating the page is as easy for the writer and more convenient for the reader. Avoid using.

M.A.                 Master of Arts. No space between.

mag.                  magazine

ME                    Middle English

MHG                Middle High German

ms, mss             manuscript(s) (the many mss of Chaucer). Capitalize MS and follow it with a period when referring to a specific manuscript (Bodleian MS. Tanner 43).

M.S.                  Master of Science. No space between.

n., nn.                note(s) (p. 56, n. 3). Preferred to “fn.”; occasionally written without a period and closed up to the page number: p. 56n. (…)

narr., narrs.        narrated by, narrator(s)

N.B.                  nota bene ‘take notice, mark well.’ No space between.

n.d.                    no date (in a book’s imprint). No space between. (…)

N.E.D.              New English Dictionary. No spaces between. Cf. OED.

no., nos.            number(s). Cf. “numb.”

n.p.                    no place (of publication) (…); no publisher. No space between.

n. pag.               no pagination. Space between.

NS (or N.S.)     New Series; New Style (calendar)

numb.                numbered

OE                    Old English

OED                 Oxford English Dictionary. Formerly the New English Dictionary (N.E.D.)

OF, OFr.           Old French

OHG                 Old High German

OIr.                   Old Irish

op.                    opus (work)

op. cit.               opere citato ‘in the work cited.’ The most abused of scholarly abbreviations, it is properly used in citing a passage on a different page (cf. “loc. cit.”) of a work recently noted, but in such instances the author’s name alone may suffice or the name and a short title may be clearer. Avoid using.

OS (or O.S.)     Old Series, Original Series; Old Style (calendar)

p., pp.               page(s). Omit if volume number precedes. (…)

par., pars.          paragraph(s)

passim               ‘throughout the work, here and there’ (as “pp. 78, 111, et passim”)

Ph.D.                 Doctor of Philosophy. No space between.

philol.                philological

philos.                philosophical

pl., pls.              plate(s)

post                   ‘after.’ But “after” is preferred.

pref.                  preface (“by” understood in context)

proc.                 proceedings

prod. prods.      produced by, producer(s)

Prov.                 Provençal

pseud.               pseudonym

pt., pts.              part(s)

pub., pubs.        published by, publication(s)

q.v.                    quod vide ‘which see.’ No space between.

r                                 recto ‘right-hand page’ (as B4 r); or, when describing a single sheet, the front. See “v” and §32v.

reg.                    registered

rept., repts.        reported by, report(s)

res.                    resolution

resp.                  respectively (pp. 56, 17, 89, 6, resp.)

rev.                    revised (by), revision; review, reviewed (by). It is better to spell out “review” if there is any possibility of ambiguity.

rpm                   revolutions per minute (used of recordings)

rpt.                    reprinted (by), reprint

S.                       Senate

sc.                     scene (…)

S. Doc.              Senate Document

Sec., secs.          section(s)

ser.                    series

sess.                  Session

sic                     ‘thus, so.’ Between square brackets when used as an editorial interpolation (see §14e); otherwise within parentheses. Avoid using with an exclamation mark.

sig., sigs.            signature(s)

soc.                   society

Sp.                    Spanish

S. Rept.              Senate Report

S. Res.               Senate Resolution

st., sts.               stanza(s)

St., Sts.             Saint(s) (…)

sup.                   supra ‘above.’ But “above” is preferred.

supp., supps.     supplement(s)

s.v.                    sub verbo or voce ‘under the word or heading.’ No space between.

TLS                   typed letter signed

trans. (or tr.)      translated by, translator, translation

univ.                  university

v                                verso ‘left-hand page’ (as B4v); or, when describing a single sheet, the back. See “r” and §32v.

v.                         vide ‘see’

v., vs.                versus ‘against.’ Cf. “v., vv.”

v., vv.                verse(s). Cf. “v., vs.”

v.d.                    various dates. No space between. Avoid using.

viz.                    videlicet ‘namely.’ With or without a period; usage varies. Avoid using.

vol., vols.           volume(s) (Vol. II of 3 vols.). Omit “Vol.” and “p.” when both items are supplied. (…)

50   b.  Common correction symbols and abbreviations.

Ab       Faulty abbreviation

Adj      Improper use of adjective

Adv     Improper use of adverb

Agr      Faulty agreement

Amb    Ambiguous

Awk     Awkward expression or construction

Cap     Faulty capitalization

D         Faulty diction

Dgl      Dangling construction

Frag    Fragment

lc         Use lower case

Num    Error in use of numbers

||           Lack of parallelism

P          Faulty punctuation

Ref      Unclear pronoun reference

Rep     Unnecessary repetition

R-O     Run-on

Sp        Error in spelling

SS        Faulty sentence structure

T          Wrong tense of verb

Tr        Transpose elements

V         Wrong verb form

Wdy    Wordy