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Writing Details

Abbreviations, Lists, Numbers

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The information found on this page is based on an older version of APA. If you are not sure which version of APA you should use, please ask your professor.

This section of the website will provide guidelines about writing style in your paper.  This section covers

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 a number of times throughout your paper.

The first time a word or group of words is mentioned, use the long form and put the abbreviation in round brackets directly after.

For subsequent mentions, use only the abbreviation.

Examples of Abbreviations for Terminology

Even for common terminology abbreviations, do not use the abbreviation without first giving the long form to show your reader that you know the full term.

First Use

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


The study concludes that Intelligence Quotient (IQ) can be enhanced through 	
early intervention.

Subsequent Uses

After the first use, only use the abbreviation.


Early intervention programs need to be expanded to optimize children’s IQ.

Examples of Abbreviations for Organizations

First Use

The first time you mention an organization, use the full name followed by a familiar abbreviation in parentheses.


Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) works to raise awareness of the dangers 	
of driving under the influence of alcohol.

Subsequent Uses

After the first time you mention the organization and provide an abbreviation, only use the abbreviation for subsequent mentions of the organization.


MADD is an influential organization.

Examples of Abbreviations for Professions

Notice that the name of the profession does not need to be capitalized although the abbreviation is in capital letters.

First Use

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


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

Subsequent Uses

After the first use, only use the abbreviation.


With the new Ontario curriculum, ECEs now work alongside kindergarten 	

Abbreviations and Articles

Sometimes you will need to change an indefinite article (a or an) when using an abbreviation.

The rule for articles is that you 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.

Lists of Items Using Bullet Points

If you want to list three or more items, you can use bullet points to make them clear to your reader. Here are two ways to use bullet points:

  1. The points may be items that are part of, but listed below, the main sentence.

  2. Points may be each a separate sentence that gives more information about the main sentence.

Regardless of which format you use, make sure that bullet points are in parallel structure. For more information, see our Parallelism document.

Bullets points that are part of, but listed below, the main sentence

To use bullet points for items that are all part of a main sentence, punctuate and capitalize just as you would without the bullet points.


There are many things to consider when preparing for exams:
		• knowing what material will be covered,
		• planning your study time,
		• eating healthy food, and
		• getting enough rest.

Bullet points that are each a sentence giving more information about the main sentence

When the items in a bulleted list are separate sentences, put a capital letter on the first word of each one, and end each one with a period or with the appropriate punctuation for that sentence.


There are many things to consider when preparing for exams:
		• Find out what course material will be covered.
		• Plan your study time.
		• Eat healthy food and get enough sleep.
		• Use active learning strategies.

Lists of Items Within a Sentence

Punctuation for lists of items within a sentence

Use commas after each item in a list of three or more items.


Nurses monitor a patient’s vital signs including temperature, blood pressure, 
respiratory rate, and pulse.

Use semi-colons after each item in a list if one or more items already includes a comma.


Included in the case conference were Dr. Andrew Smith, director; Dr. Harriet 	
Clemens, cardiologist; and Charlotte Jackson, registered nurse.

Using lowercase letters to separate items within a sentence

To list items within a sentence without using bullet points, use lowercase letters in parentheses to identify each item. Use the correct punctuation  — either commas or semi-colons — to separate the items in a list.


The study participants were divided into three groups: (a) elementary school 	
students, (b) high school students, and (c) post-secondary students.

Key Terms and Invented Phrases

There are two formats for introducing key terms and invented phrases:

  1. italics and

  2. double quotation marks which looks like this: "..."

They are used for different purposes as indicated below.


Use italics when first mentioning

After the first use, do not use italics.


The term hypocaust refers to a raised floor structure which allows heated air to
circulate beneath the flooring. Hypocausts originated in the…

Double Quotation Marks

Use double quotation marks " " when first mentioning

After the first use, do not use quotation marks.


The verb “unfriend” has become popular due to its use on online social
networking sites. People unfriend each other when…

Mentioning Titles in Your Writing

Sometimes you want to mention the title of a source in the text of your assignment. Different types of sources are formatted differently when referred to in text.

Referring to Stand-Alone Documents in Text

Use italics and Title Case Capitalization for the following stand-alone documents:


Both children and adults enjoy Where the Sidewalk Ends: The Poems and 	
Drawings of Shel Silverstein.

Documents That Are Part of a Larger Source

Use double quotation marks and Title Case Capitalization for documents which are part of a larger source:


“How the Hare Lost to the Tortoise: A Review” is a new interpretation of an old 	

Numbers Format

Numbers are formatted using either numerals or words depending on what they are conveying.

Two General Rules

There are two general rules for using numbers in your text.

1) Write out numbers from one to nine.

There were four cars in the driveway.

2) Use numerals for 10 and above.

There were 10 cars parked at the side of the road.

Exceptions to the Rules for Number Formatting

There are exceptions to the general rule.

When comparing things with values above and below 10, choose one form — either numbers or numerals.

For 8 of the 12 courses…       OR       For eight of the twelve courses…

Use numerals for age, time, statistical functions, and dates.

a 6-year-old boy      11:45      8%      May 7, 2014

Always use words to start a sentence.

There were 15 children in the class. Eleven of those children were painting.


Use the Writing Details Checklist to guide you through the steps listed above.  This checklist can be downloaded and printed.

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