Abbreviation with Names and of Titles
This post outlines major conventions regarding the use of initials and abbreviations in association with people’s names.
Periods are used with initials in names (“W. E. B. Du Bois”) unless someone is referred to exclusively by his or her initials (“FDR”). Note, too, that in formal writing, a space separates each initial used in a full name, as shown in the first example here, though periodicals and other less formal publications generally omit the spaces (“W.E.B. Du Bois”).
Civil or military titles are often abbreviated before a full name but not before a surname alone (“Sen. Elizabeth Warren,” but “Senator Warren”), although inclusion of the title with the surname is generally not necessary. (In this case, Warren alone is suitable for subsequent references to the person after the introduction of her by her full name.) In situations in which space is at a premium, as in a chart or table, abbreviation can be applied more liberally, and in that case it’s best to be consistent within the graphic element even if sufficient space is available with some names but not others.
Social titles such as Mr. and Ms. are rarely used in published writing anymore, except in quoted material, and are redundant when initials designating an academic degree or professional attainment follow a name. (For example, in the phrase “Dr. Jane Smith, MD,” Dr. and MD are two ways of expressing the same information.) Note that such references as MD, or CPA (for “certified public accountant”), are appended to a name enclosed between commas, but when abbreviations such as Jr. and III follow a name, no intervening punctuation is necessary (as in “John Smith Jr. was honored at the ceremony”).
In narrative, spell out titles such as “the Reverend” and “the Honorable” before a full name (and do use the article), but they can be abbreviated as Rev. or Hon. (without the article) in a list. When referring to a saint, spell out that word unless space is limited; St. is the correct abbreviation. (When the word or abbreviation appears in a person’s name, honor the style that person uses.)
Most titles specifying one’s role in a company or organization are generally not abbreviated, but one exception is often made for the most senior executive, the CEO (“chief executive officer”). That title is often abbreviated without a full spelling on first reference, though titles for others, such as “chief operating officer,” who work in what is known as the C-suite (because the first word of the job titles for these people is chief, abbreviated with a capital c) are usually spelled out. (Specialized publications catering to an audience familiar with such titles often abbreviate them on first reference, however.)
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