I am confused whether to place the acronym before or after the words are spelled out. For example, the first time this organisation is mentioned, which of these alternatives is more correct:

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was established in 1958.


NASA (The National Aeronautics and Space Administration) was established in 1958.

My intuition is that the first seems more correct, but I am not sure. Any ideas? Also, if you could point me to an official style guide or similar which clarifies this, I would be very grateful.

Edit: The website Chicago manual style online has a Q&A section where the following is found:

Q. I work for a technical magazine. I’ve always been taught that when it comes to
acronyms, the rule is you spell out the words first followed by the acronym in parentheses, and then use the acronym for later references in the copy. If there are no other mentions of the acronym later in the copy, then you just spell it out without the acronym in parentheses. Is this correct? My coworker is debating this with me.

A. Yes, that’s a good system. Sometimes it’s helpful to repeat the full name in later chapters as a reminder. Occasionally, too, it makes sense to use the acronym first and put the full name in parentheses, if the acronym in question is so familiar to your expected audience that it almost goes without explication.

Source: http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/qanda/data/faq/topics/Abbreviations/faq0009.html

  • One minor point - if you choose your second option, The should not be capitalised (the abbreviation isn't TNASA). I would say the general preference is for the first, but don't have a style guide to prove it, hence the comment rather than an answer.
    – Chris H
    Oct 11, 2013 at 8:31
  • 2
    There are about 700 000 Google hits for "British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)" and 141 000 for "BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation)" Oct 11, 2013 at 22:26
  • Have checked previous posts on this site as well as writersSE before asking here?
    – Kris
    Oct 13, 2013 at 11:04
  • The info in your edit was most helpful. Basically, it depends! :)
    – chrisco
    Jun 29, 2018 at 12:57

1 Answer 1


The first time you use an acronym in a document, you should it after the words, between parentheses). The second sentence is wrong.

It is what is prescribed ; personally, I don't feel it matters, and suppose the reader to be smart enough to understand anyway.

  • Do you have any sources to back that up? I don't think I've ever seen any style guides say anything on this subject either way—i should like to see what they do in fact say. Oct 11, 2013 at 9:09
  • There are some interesting returns for "NASA – The North American" on Google. The North American Sommelier Association. The North American Saxophone Alliance. The North American Squirrel Association. NASA (The North American Sqwurl- Muoss Association). I feel that putting the punchline first wouldn't have the same effect. Seriously, it's probable that the Q&A Section is my favourite resource at CMoS. And far more authoritative than a personal preference. Oct 11, 2013 at 11:05
  • @Janus Bahs Jacquet You may contact Scribendi, a private firm in Ontario, Canada, specialized in proofreading. (We have no common interest). Oct 11, 2013 at 13:38
  • I’m not sure contacting a proofreader will do much good here, since this is a matter of style guides, not ‘right and wrong’. Saying that the second sentence is wrong is quite simply wrong. CMoS 10.3 does have Full Title (FT) as the preferred format, but also have examples of the opposite, and as their answer in the Q&A found by the asker shows, the opposite is sometimes the preferred order, even. Oct 11, 2013 at 15:53

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